Friday, February 01, 2008

More Bad Exegesis on Holy Water

Normally, I would reserve comment for after the debate, but given DA has been helping Nick in the Holy Water debate, and that fact that DA has yet to actually, you know, exegete any of the texts in his list of Scriptures allegedly justifying the use of holy water in the NT church, I couldn't resist.

Nick writes, responding to TF:

- Unclean Spirits: If we were trying to make unclean spirits clean, sprinkling holy water on them might make sense. But we are not, so it doesn’t. Ritual uncleanness for which the OT prescribed washing is unlike spiritual uncleanness, for which the OT prescribed sacrifice.
This is not true. Scripture specifically said that the "water for impurity" was used "for the removal of sin" (Num 19:9).

Nick, please exegete this text. How many times does this have to be asked of you?

Since you don't seem to have bothered, I'll do it for you.

1. This text is dealing with ritual uncleanness. This is not spiritual uncleanness due to sin for which sacrifice was made. Rather this is ritual uncleanness which signifies something greater, sin. That' s the point of the ritual law. Disease, death, etc. are all "unclean" things. They are "unclean" because disease and death are inversions of the created order for mankind. The reason they are present is due to the noetic effects of sin. That's why the water is indexed to the heifer.

2. This water in your text is dependent on the ashes of the heifer. Tell us, Nick, why are you selecting this as an example of "holy water," but deselecting the rest of the ritual? Why not sacrifice a red heifer too?

3. From Keil & Delitzch:

The Law concerning Purification from the Uncleanness of Death.—Ch. 19.

Num. 19.In order that a consciousness of the continuance of the covenant relation might be kept alive during the dying out of the race that had fallen under the judgment of God, after the severe stroke with which the Lord had visited the whole nation in consequence of the rebellion of the company of Korah, He gave the law concerning purification from the uncleanness of death, in which first of all the preparation of a sprinkling water is commanded for the removal of this uncleanness (vv. 1-10a);and then, secondly, the use of this purifying water enjoined as an eternal statute (vv. 10b-22). The thought that death, and the putrefaction of death, as being the embodiment of sin, defiled and excluded from fellowship with the holy God, was a view of the fall and its consequences which had been handed down from the primeval age (see p. 558), and which was not only shared by the Israelites with many of the nations of antiquity,but presupposed by the laws given on Sinai as a truth well known in Israel; and at the same time confirmed, both in the prohibition of the priests from defiling themselves with the dead, except in the case of their nearest blood-relations (Lev. 21:1-6, 10-12), and in the command, that every one who was defiled by a corpse should be removed out of the camp (Num. 5:2-4). Now, so long as the mortality within the congregation did not exceed the natural limits, the traditional modes of purification would be quite sufficient. But when it prevailed to a hitherto unheard-of extent, in consequence of the sentence pronounced by God, the defilements would necessarily be so crowded together, that the whole congregation would be in danger of being infected with the defilement of death, and of forfeiting its vocation to be the holy nation of Jehovah, unless God provided it with the means of cleansing itself from this uncleanness, without losing the fellowship of His covenant of grace. The law which follows furnished the means. In v. 2this law is called hattorakhuqqat , a “statute of instruction,”or law-statute. This combination of the two words commonly used for law and statute, which is only met with again in Num. 31:21, and there, as here, in connection with a rule relating to purification from the uncleanness of death, is probably intended to give emphasis to the design of the law about to be given, to point it out as one of great importance, but not as decretum absque ulla ratione,a decree without any reason, as the Rabbins suppose.

Num. 19:2-10a. Preparation of the Purifying Water.—As water is the ordinary means by which all kinds of uncleanness are removed, it was also to be employed in the removal of the uncleanness of death. But as this uncleanness was the strongest of all religious defilements, fresh water alone was not sufficient to remove it; and consequently a certain kind of sprinkling-water was appointed, which was strengthened by the ashes of a sin-offering, and thus formed into a holy alkali. The main point in the law which follows, therefore, was the preparation of the ashes, and these had to be obtained by the sacrifice of a red heifer.

Num. 19:2ff.The sons of Israel were to bring to Moses a red heifer, entirely without blemish, and to give it to Eleazar the priest, that he might have it slaughtered in his presence outside the camp. para is not a cow generally, but a young cow, a heifer, damalis (LXX), juvenca,between the calf and the full-grown cow. adumma, of a red colour, is not to be connected with t'meema in the sense of “quite red,” as the Rabbins interpret it; but t'meema, integra,is to be taken by itself, and the words which follow, “wherein is no blemish,”to be regarded as defining it still more precisely (see Lev. 22:19, 20). The slaying of this heifer is called khattat, a sin-offering, in vv. 9and 17. To remind the congregation that death was the wages of sin, the antidote to the defilement of death was to be taken from a sin-offering. But as the object was not to remove and wipe away sin as such, but simply to cleanse the congregation from the uncleanness which proceeded from death, the curse of sin, it was necessary that the sin-offering should be modified in a peculiar manner to accord with this special design. The sacrificial animal was not to be a bullock, as in the case of the ordinary sin-offerings of the congregation (Lev. 4:14), but a female, because the female sex is the bearer of life (Gen. 3:20), a para, i.e., lit., the fruit-bringing; and of a red colour, not because the blood-red colour points to sin (as Hengstenbergfollows the Rabbins and earlier theologians in supposing), but as the colour of the most “intensive life,” which has its seat in the blood, and shows itself in the red colour of the face (the cheeks and lips); and one “upon which no yoke had ever come,” i.e., whose vital energy had not yet been crippled by labour under the yoke. Lastly, like all the sacrificial animals, it was to be uninjured, and free from faults, inasmuch as the idea of representation, which lay at the foundation of all the sacrifices, but more especially of the sin-offerings, demanded natural sinlessness and original purity, quite as much as imputed sin and transferred uncleanness. Whilst the last-mentioned prerequisite showed that the victim was well fitted for bearing sin, the other attributes indicated the fulness of life and power in their highest forms, and qualified it to form a powerful antidote to death. As thus appointed to furnish a reagent against death and mortal corruption, the sacrificial animal was to possess throughout, viz., in colour, in sex, and in the character of its body, the fulness of life in its greatest freshness and vigour.

Num. 19:3.The sacrifice itself was to be superintended by Eleazar the priest, the eldest son of the high priest, and his presumptive successor in office; because Aaron, or the high priest, whose duty it was to present the sin-offerings for the congregation (Lev. 4:16), could not, according to his official position, which required him to avoid all uncleanness of death (Lev. 21:11, 12), perform such an act as this, which stood in the closest relation to death and the uncleanness of death, and for that very reason had to be performed outside the camp. The subject, to “bring her forth”and “slay her,”is indefinite; since it was not the duty of the priest to slay the sacrificial animal, but of the offerer himself, or in the case before us, of the congregation, which would appoint one of its own number for the purpose. All that the priest had to do was to sprinkle the blood; at the same time the slaying was to take place l'fanayv, before him, i.e., before his eyes. Eleazar was to sprinkle some of the blood seven times “towards the opposite,” i.e., toward the front of the tabernacle (seven times,as in Lev. 4:17). Through this sprinkling of the blood the slaying became a sacrifice, being brought thereby into relation to Jehovah and the sanctuary; whilst the life, which was sacrificed for the sin of the congregation, was given up to the Lord, and offered up in the only way in which a sacrifice, prepared like this, outside the sanctuary, could possibly be offered.

Num. 19:5, 6.After this (vv. 5, 6), they were to burn the cow, with the skin, flesh, blood, and dung, before his (Eleazar’s) eyes, and he was to throw cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool into the fire. The burning of the sacrificial animal outside the camp took place in the case of every sin-offering for the whole congregation, for the reasons expounded on p. 525. But in the case before us, the whole of the sacrificial act had to be performed outside the camp, i.e., outside the sphere of the theocracy; because the design of this sin-offering was not that the congregation might thereby be received through the expiation of its sin into the fellowship of the God and Lord who was present at the altar and in the sanctuary, but simply that an antidote to the infection of death might be provided for the congregation, which had become infected through fellowship with death; and consequently, the victim was to represent, not the living congregation as still associated with the God who was present in His earthly kingdom, but those members of the congregation who had fallen victims to temporal death as the wages of sin, and, as such, were separated from the earthly theocracy (see my Archaeology,i. p. 283). In this sacrifice, the blood, which was generally poured out at the foot of the altar, was burned along with the rest, and the ashes to be obtained were impregnated with the substance thereof. But in order still further to increase the strength of these ashes, which were already well fitted to serve as a powerful antidote to the corruption of death, as being the incorruptible residuum of the sin-offering which had not been destroyed by the fire, cedar-wood was thrown into the fire, as the symbol of the incorruptible continuance of life; and hyssop, as the symbol of purification from the corruption of death; and scarlet wool, the deep red of which shadowed forth the strongest vital energy (see at Lev. 14:6),—so that the ashes might be regarded “as the quintessence of all that purified and strengthened life, refined and sublimated by the fire” (Leyrer).

Num. 19:7-10a, etc. The persons who took part in this—viz., the priest, the man who attended to the burning, and the clean man who gathered the ashes together, and deposited them in a clean place for subsequent use—became unclean till the evening in consequence; not from the fact that they had officiated for unclean persons, and, in a certain sense, had participated in their uncleanness (Knobel),but through the uncleanness of sin and death, which had passed over to the sin-offering; just as the man who led into the wilderness the goat which had been rendered unclean through the imposition of sin, became himself unclean in consequence (Lev. 16:26). Even the sprinkling water prepared from the ashes defiled every one who touched it (v. 21). But when the ashes were regarded in relation to their appointment as the means of purification, they were to be treated as clean. Not only were they to be collected together by a clean man; but they were to be kept for use in a clean place, just as the ashes of the sacrifices that were taken away from the altar were to be carried to a clean place outside the camp (Lev. 6:4). These defilements, like every other which only lasted till the evening, were to be removed by washing (see pp. 569, 570). The ashes thus collected were to serve the congregation niddal'mei , i.e., literally as water of uncleanness; in other words, as water by which uncleanness was to be removed. “Water of uncleanness”is analogous to “water of sin” in Num. 8:7

Now, notice, Nick what the water was used for: ritual uncleanness.

Num. 19:11ff.Whoever touched a corpse, “with regard to all the souls of men,”i.e., the corpse of a person, of whatever age or sex, was unclean for seven days, and on the third and seventh day he was to cleanse himself (hitkhattei, as in Num. 8:21) with the water (bo refers, so far as the sense is concerned, to the water of purification). If he neglected this cleansing, he did not become clean, and he defiled the dwelling of Jehovah (see at Lev. 15:31). Such a man was to be cut off from Israel (vid., at Gen. 17:14).

Num. 19:14-16.Special instructions concerning the defilement. If a man died in a tent, every one who entered it, or who was there at the time, became unclean for seven days. So also did every “open vessel upon which there was not a covering, a string,”i.e., that had not a covering fastened by a string, to prevent the smell of the corpse from penetrating it. pateel, a string, is in apposition to tsameed, a band, or binding (see Ges.§ 113; Ewald,§ 287, e.).This also applied to any one in the open field, who touched a man who had either been slain by the sword or had died a natural death, or even a bone (skeleton), or a grave.

Ceremony of purification.They were to take for the unclean person some of the dust of the burning of the cow, i.e., some of the ashes obtained by burning the cow, and put living, i.e., fresh water (see Lev. 14:5), upon it in a vessel. A clean man was then to take a bunch of hyssop (see Ex. 12:22), on account of its inherent purifying power, and dip it in the water, on the third and seventh day after the defilement had taken place, and to sprinkle the tent, with the vessels and persons in it, as well as every one who had touched a corpse, whether a person slain, or one who had died a natural death, or a grave; after which the persons were to wash their clothes and bathe, that they might be clean in the evening. As the uncleanness in question is held up as the highest grade of uncleanness, by its duration being fixed at seven days, i.e., an entire week, so the appointment of a double purification with the sprinkling water shows the force of the uncleanness to be removed; whilst the selection of the third and seventh days was simply determined by the significance of the numbers themselves. In v. 20, the threat of punishment for the neglect of purification is repeated from v. 13, for the purpose of making it most emphatic.

Num. 19:21, 22.This also was to be an everlasting statute, that he who sprinkled the water of purification, or even touched it (see at vv. 7ff.), and he who was touched by a person defiled (by a corpse), and also the person who touched him, should be unclean till the evening,—a rule which also applied to other forms of uncleanness.

Moving on...

2. It has not been established that “Holy Water” is, in fact, holy.
There's holy water in Scripture (cf. Exo 23:25; Num 5:17; 19:9,13-20; 2 Ki 2:19-22).

Of course, Nick, you never exegeted those texts. I realize you had a word limit, however, so I am willing to extend charity to you in that regard. Now would be a good time for you to exegete these texts as well. Thus far your reasoning seems to be "Look for examples of water being used, assume these are examples of "holy water."


PC says that he is not willing to take John Paul Perrin’s word for the fact that the use of holy water against demons was simply a medieval superstition. Perrin however, documented his claim with an appeal to a Roman Catholic doctor (physician) who testified to that fact.
Physicians do not have authority in theological matters.

In that case, you as a Catholic layperson have no authority in theological matters either, so you have thereby defaulted the debate. You've also just "excommunicated" Dr. Art Sippo from the realm of Catholic apologetics. That's a real timesaver.

a. Nick, TF is not citing a physician's testimony as an authority on "theology." Rather, he is citing him as an authority on history. Does one have to be a theologian to cite history?

b. This is also rhetorical shorthand to keep you from interacting with the material cited in that text. A word to the wise: you should sometimes let some items pass by in concluding a debate. Choose your battles well. If you can't mount an actual argument, don't mount it. Rather, your time would be better spent elsewhere, like, for example, exegeting the Scriptures you cite.


  1. as a general rule, I regard the vestigial ceremonial types and shadows of the levitical/mosaic laws as relatively harmless(so long as they dont become idoloatrous or blasphemous, or otherwise violate scripture.) Incense, pastoral blessings, holy water,transubstantiation, confession, stations of the cross, etc. imho

  2. "...transubstantiation..."

    It's true that transubstantiation alone is not evil. However, there are two issues:

    1.) Because the host actually becomes the body and blood of the God-man, it is only logical that it should be worshipped. Since transubstantiation is false, this is idolatry.

    2.) Because the transubstantiated host is turned into the very essence of deity and given the scale-of-being ontology of Roman Catholicism, the partaking of the host becomes the means of 'elevating nature' and ascending ontologically toward God. This then becomes the means of salvation. Thus, this is a false (i.e. works-driven) gospel.

  3. Transsubstantiation is also an expression of a quasi-Docetist theology, which is heresy. The human body of Christ (which He retains for eternity) is nearly omnipresent; it is certainly present in many millions of locations at the same time if the millions of t-substantiated hosts around the world are indeed Christ's body and blood. How can that be human? This attribute has more in common with the divine than with the human.
    So t-sub has a fair amount more going against it than meets the eye.

  4. Gene,

    Here is my response:

    From now on, if you don't care to leave a comment on my blog whenever you respond to something I write, I would appreciate it. No harm done, I just wanted to request that courtesy.

    Pax Christi,