Peter is telling his readers not to return to their former ignorance and to be holy, then quotes Leviticus chapter eleven. What message is he trying to convey? What does it mean to be “holy”?
“Holy”, as quoted in Leviticus, is from Strong’s H6918. “Set apart” is an easy definition to understand. It means one is different.
קדשׁ / קדושׁ
1) sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart
Part of Speech: adjective
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H6942
The seventh day of the week was “set apart” from the other six at creation. Does any man or organization have the authority to make common what the Creator set apart as special?
Gen 2:1 And heaven and earth and all their array were finished.
Gen 2:2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
Gen 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and he sanctified it, because on it he rested from all his work of creating that there was to do.
“Sanctified” is the same root word as H6918 for “holy”, but instead of an adjective it is the verb form.
1) to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate
1a1) to be set apart, be consecrated
1a2) to be hallowed
1a3) consecrated, tabooed
1b1) to show oneself sacred or majestic
1b2) to be honoured, be treated as sacred
1b3) to be holy
1c1) to set apart as sacred, consecrate, dedicate
1c2) to observe as holy, keep sacred
1c3) to honour as sacred, hallow
1c4) to consecrate
We have to ask ourselves what “former ignorance” was Peter talking about, and why did he quote Leviticus chapter eleven? He was referring his readers to the context of the chapter, not making up his own definition of “holy” or “set apart”.
Lev 11:43 You must not defile yourselves with any swarmer that swarms, and you must not make yourselves unclean by them and so be made unclean by them,
Lev 11:44 because I am Yahweh your God, and you must keep yourselves sanctified, so that you shall be holy, because I am holy. And you must not make yourselves unclean with any swarmer that moves along on the land,
Lev 11:45 because I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be for you as God. Thus you shall be holy, because I am holy.
Lev 11:46 “‘This is the regulation of the animals and the birds and all living creatures that move along in the water and concerning all the creatures that swarm on the land,
Lev 11:47 to distinguish between the unclean and the clean and between the animal that is to be eaten and the animal that must not be eaten.'”
Does holiness and sanctification have to do with what we eat? Why would Peter refer back to these scriptures otherwise? Did he think it was just a cool quote and did not consider the context? Perhaps he was quoting Leviticus chapter nineteen.
Lev 19:1 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Lev 19:2 “Speak to all the community of the Israelites, and say to them, ‘You must be holy, because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.
Lev 19:3 Each of you must revere your mother and your father, and you must keep my Sabbaths; I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 19:4 You must not turn to idols, and you must not make for yourselves gods of cast metal; I am Yahweh your God.
Well that doesn’t help; not only is holiness associated with eating set apart animals, but in chapter nineteen it points to sabbath keeping, honouring your mother and father and staying away from idolatry. Being holy and not turning back to our former ignorance sounds a lot like keeping the commandments of God.
Now, we need to discuss the god Tammuz. Tammuz is spoken about in scripture and is the basis for many newer gods. This is what the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, in part, has to say about Tammuz:
The Syriac lexicographer Bar- Bahlul (10th century) gives the legend as it had come down to his time. “Tomuzo was, as they say, a hunter, shepherd, and chaser of wild beasts; who, When Belathi loved him, took her away from her husband. And when her husband went forth to seek her, Tomuzo slew him. And. with regard to Tomuzo also, there met him in the desert a wild boar and slew him. And his father made for him a great lamentation and weeping in the month Tomuz and Belathi, his wife, she, too, made a lamentation and mourning over him. And this tradition was handed down among the heathen people during her lifetime and after her death, which same tradition the Jews received with the rest of the evil festivals of the people, and in that month Tomuz used to make for him a great feast. Tomuz also is the name of one of the months of the Syrians.”
One of the traditions handed down from the legend of Tammuz was eating “wild boar” or ham during the spring festival of Easter. Easter is the Anglo Saxon version of the springtime fertility goddess who would “weep for Tammuz”. The forty days leading up to Easter, “weeping for Tammuz”, is still practiced by many Christians today.
As you celebrate the festival of the goddess Easter, complete with a ham feast this year, consider Peter’s plea: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former desires you used to conform to in your ignorance, but as the one who called you is holy, you yourselves be holy in all your conduct, for it is written, ‘You will be holy, because I am holy.’”. Also, consider the words of the Apostle Paul:
1Co 10:14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
Just as Peter wanted his readers to read the context of the quote, “be holy for I am holy”, please read the entire tenth chapter of first Corinthians.
1Co 10:21 You are not able to drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You are not able to share the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
1Co 10:22 Or are we attempting to provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than he is, are we?
As Passover approaches, consider celebrating this feast as the early church and our Saviour did, rather than the unclean, Sunday ham dinner in honour of the rival, resurrecting sun god Tammuz.
The featured image is by Sofia Borrego on Unsplash.
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