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V. Influence On Wesleyan Thought

V. Influence On Wesleyan Thought

One possible contribution to Wesleyan thought is a survey of the Hebrew root q-d-sh (“to be holy”) and a host of other words derived from it, plus two other Hebrew verbs ṭ-m-'/ṭ-h-r, (“to be unclean/to be clean”). But especially for the former, the returns are meager. The verb appears but eleven times in Numbers (i.e., less than once every three chapters). The word qodesh is used 57 times (exceeded only by Exodus [70 times] and Leviticus [92 times] and equaled by Ezekiel). In most instances it translates as “the sanctuary” (i.e., the Holy Place). Qadosh (“holy”) is used in connection with the Nazirite (6:5, 8) and three times in the Korah episode (16:3, 5, 17).

The Hebrew words for “to be clean/unclean” appear most often in Exodus-Numbers. Of 212 uses of ṭahor (“to be clean”) in the OT, 93 are in Leviticus-Numbers (= 43.7 percent). Of 283 uses of ṭme' (“to be unclean”) in the OT, 182 are in Leviticus-Numbers (= 64.3 percent). But again, it is not a simple matter to move from Numbers' concern about (physical) purity to Wesleyan concern about moral purity.

It may be that a more promising approach could be discovered by pursuing the thematic lines of Numbers rather than by tracing vocabulary distribution. It is clear that a major concern of Numbers is the formation of a community of believers on the march in whose presence God is pleased to dwell. Every law that is given, every precept that is mandated, emphasizes the nature of separation to God. All of the narratives in Numbers powerfully illustrate what happens to holy people whenever they live in unholy ways.

Wesley's well-known statement is apropos: “Christian religion is essentially a social religion, and . . . to turn it into a solitary religion is indeed to destroy it.” And again, “The Gospel of Christianity knows of no religion, but social religion, no holiness, but social holiness.” Numbers testifies to the challenge of social holiness, not only to love God whom one cannot see, but to love others whom one can see.