Consecrate—Sanctify—Set Apart—Made Holy: So Many Choices

“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:19 ESV)

This is another verse in the section in which Jesus prays for his disciples, that is a bit mystifying.  The words “consecrate” and “sanctify” are kind of difficult to understand anyway, and it doesn’t help that if you are a Greek stud you’ll discover that they are the EXACT SAME VERB!  Some translations try and capture this fact, some [as the ESV here] do not.

  • TNIV: For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
  • NLT: And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
  • NET: And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.

The reason the ESV translates the same verb in two different ways is because the translators believed that, in the context, it was used in two different ways, and they are probably correct about that.  Before you start laughing and mocking the translators [You know you want to], you might realize that in English we do the exact same thing.  Consider this sentence from a guy who had a heart attack and was sent promptly to the hospital:

Dude!  My life was saved by this awesome doctor.  She did open heart surgery, had some setbacks in the process, but did not give up heart and eventually was able to  fix my ticker correctly.

The first instance of “heart” in that sentence refers to the pump that beats in the middle of your chest and if it stops you die.  The second instance refers to that quality of pugnaciousness and endurance and fortitude that will not let you quit.

If the ESV is correct, the first use of the word “consecrate” [ἁγιάζω for Greek studs] means: “to dedicate to the service of and to loyalty to deity” [Louw- Nida].  The second instance of “consecrate/sanctify/set apart” means: “to cause someone to have the quality of holiness” [Louw-Nida].

Just remember that this is a judgment call by translators.  John isn’t around so that we can ask him, “John, did you mean the same thing when you used this word twice in a sentence, or did you mean two different [but similar] things?”  We have to look at the context around the sentence, look at how John used that particular word and then look at how other New Testament writers used that word and then we do our best to come to the correct conclusion.

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