Thursday, March 15, 2012

Holiness and Sanctification: Paul's use of ἁγιασμός

There are several words in Greek that mean both "holiness" and "sanctification".  One of those is ἁγιασμός (hagiasmos).  It's mostly used by Paul in his letters, but is also used in Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:2.  Paul uses it in Romans 6:18; 22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; and 1 Timothy 2:15.  BDAG defines this as "personal dedication to the interests of the deity, holiness, consecration, sanctification; the use in a moral sense for a process or, more often, its result (the state of being made holy) is peculiar to our lit. (New Testament).”  So, depending on the context, ἁγιασμός either relates to the process that Christians go through during their lives, or the initial "setting apart" at conversion/infilling of the Holy Spirit.  I suppose we could assign either "holiness" or "sanctification" to the context.  Here is an example of how I translated 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8:
3 For this is God’s will, your sanctification, for you to abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to master his own vessel in holiness and honor, 5 not in lustful desires as the Gentiles do, who don’t know God; 6 not to overstep and to take advantage of his brother or sister in the task, because the Lord is the avenger concerning all of these things, just as we also spoke to you beforehand and declare solemnly.  7 For God didn’t call us in impurity, but in holiness.  8 For that very reason, the one who rejects this instruction does not reject man, but God who [also] has given his Holy Spirit into you.
In verse three, the context refers to the “process” and in verse 7, I interpreted the use as the initial experience.  Of course, others could interpret this differently.


  1. If in verse 7 hagiasmos was stated as "but in sanctification" would it alter the meaning of verse 3? I don't think so, thus your interpretation in verse 7 using 'holiness' makes sense as in verse 3 hagiasmos is used towards men and verse 7 towards God. Your interpretation gives us an easier bridge to who is being referenced...good job!! Robert Palmer

  2. I believe both Beatty and Palmer are spot on .... We see both the single action origin and the multi action process - and note the 'to whom' the entire subject is being directed. Another interest may be if and how the aorist tense is used referencing the single action and the process ....
    Ed Kozar

  3. Based on brother Ed Kozars statement I checked the verb 'will' as this is the primary intent of the passage. God's will towards men is present and future tense, while God's will towards HIMSELF is past, present and future tense. Thus, your transliteration actually gains more credability...great job my brother!!

  4. It might be said holiness and sanctification go hand in hand. We are made holy when we receive the Holy Spirit and are being made holy by the presence of that same Spirit. We are holy because He is holy.