Wholly, Holey, Holy

I love words. I like to know where they came from, what they mean, how they’re used, what language they’re derived from. In other words, I like to know their etymology.

The English language in America is so interesting because we’ve taken words from so many languages and made them a part of our own language. Sometimes the words retain their original meanings, and sometimes they take on an entirely new meaning. Phrases we use every day can go back to the Middle Ages and be based on a very literal meaning of the words. All of this really means that I love words, puns included.

When I do a Bible study, I get into the words. I look at different translations and the words they choose to use as a translation for the Hebrew and Greek words. I use a dictionary and look up the meaning of a word, because sometimes we assume we know what a word means, but we only know one definition, and there is a greater depth of understanding when we know more about what the words mean.

So what does this all have to do I with the title of title of this blog entry?

Wholly, Holey, Holy.

Words that sound that same but have different spelling and different meanings are called homonyms. Remember studying those in grade school? So imagine singing that great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” and wondering about the word “holy”. Without going to the dictionary, we can say that roughly speaking, it means set apart for God when it applies to us. When applied to God it speaks of holiness, righteousness, perfection, power and might.

Now imagine singing that hymn and thinking about the song, “Wholly devoted to you”. Again, without a dictionary, wholly means totally, completely, without reservation, undivided. But it sounds like Holy. Wholly devoted to being Holy.

Now make the jump to the Bible verse about being a jar full of holes.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT)

I know it doesn’t say holes, but I’ve often heard the visual of being a jar broken, cracked, full of holes, that God puts back together and uses as a vessel to hold His glory and that in fact these holes let His glory shine out through our earthen vessels for the world to see. So, we are holey.

Webster’s Dictionary gives the origin of many words. Whole, or wholly, comes from the Old English hal, which means healthy or unhurt. Holy is related to the same Old English word for whole. Hole, or holey, on the other hand, derives from the Old English hol which means to conceal or hollow. Interestingly, the word hell comes from the same Old English word! Maybe it is the “holes” in my armor that allow the enemy to attack me?

Remember I love words. So I can use these three homonyms to make a statement that sounds confusing, but is totally meaningful to me:

God is wholly devoted to making me holy and using this imperfect, holey vessel for His glorious purposes!


I wholly serve a Holy God who loves me despite my holey imperfections!

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory!

Awesome God c Becky Jane Davis

Awesome God
c Becky Jane Davis