Greek Orthodox Holy Water Bottle
My friend Nick Hardesty has made a great biblical argument for holy water, in debate with an anti-Catholic. Some of the input initially came from myself, as he asked my advice on some ways to go about arguing it (particularly from my paper on sacramentalism), but the lion's share is his work, from his opening statement in the debate. Any further words below (apart from Scripture and very minor editing for this version) are his own (Bible verses: RSV).
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God Uses Created Things In Order to Produce Supernatural Effects In Our Lives
There are many examples in Scripture where Jesus and the apostles use created things to produce supernatural effects in the lives of human beings. Jesus’ garment healed the woman with the hemorrhage:
Matthew 9:20-22 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.His saliva mixed with dirt (along with water from the pool of Siloam) gave sight to the blind man:
John 9:6-7 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.Many were healed by being anointed with oil:
Mark 6:13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.Paul’s handkerchiefs cured disease and expelled evil spirits:
James 5:14-15 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Revelation 3:18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Acts 19:11-12 And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.Elijah’s mantle parted the Jordan:
2 Kings 2:8,14 Then Eli'jah took his mantle, and rolled it up, and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. . . . Then he took the mantle of Eli'jah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the LORD, the God of Eli'jah?" And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other; and Eli'sha went over.The bones of his apprentice, Elisha, brought a man back to life:
2 Kings 13:21 And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli'sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli'sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.Of course, the Lord wrought innumerable miracles through the rods of Moses (cf. Exo 4:2-4; 9:23; 10:13; 14:16; 17:9-11; Num 20:11) and Aaron (cf. Exo 7:10-12,20; 8:5-6,17; Num 17:8) as well.
In Scripture, Water is Used to Cleanse, Purify, and Heal Human Beings
Believe it or not, there are examples of holy water in Scripture:
1) Water that has been blessed:
Exodus 23:25 You shall serve the LORD your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.2) Priest using “holy water”:
Numbers 5:17 and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.3) The unclean remain so until the “water for impurity” is sprinkled upon them:
Numbers 19:9,13-20 And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the people of Israel for the water for impurity, for the removal of sin. . . . Whoever touches a dead person, the body of any man who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him. "This is the law when a man dies in a tent: every one who comes into the tent, and every one who is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. And every open vessel, which has no cover fastened upon it, is unclean.4) Elisha makes the water “healed” (KJV) or “purified” (NASB) or "wholesome" (RSV):
Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain with a sword, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and running water shall be added in a vessel; then a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the furnishings, and upon the persons who were there, and upon him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave; and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean. "But the man who is unclean and does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; because the water for impurity has not been thrown upon him, he is unclean.
2 Kings 2:19-22 (KJV) And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
So, the idea of “holy water” and its use is not foreign to Scripture. Notice from the third passage that a person remained unclean until water was sprinkled upon him. This points to an important 3-fold purpose for water in Scripture:
Cleansing: cf. Lev 14:8-9,50-52; 15:5-27; 17:15; Num 8:7; 19:12,18-19; 2 Ki 5:12; Psa 51:7; Ezek 16:4; 36:25; Eph 5:26; Heb 10:22
Purifying: cf. Exo 29:4; 40:12,30-32; Lev 11:32; 16:4,24,26,28; 22:6; Num 19:7-8; 31:23; Deut 23:10-11; 1 Ki 18:33-34; Jn 2:6; Heb 9:19
Healing: cf. 2 Ki 5:14; Isa 35:5-7; Jn 5:4 (KJV); 9:6-7.
This is very significant, considering that demons were considered “unclean spirits” (cf. Mt 10:1; 12:43; Mk 1:23,26-27; 3:11,30; 5:2,8,13; 6:7; 7:25; 9:25; Lk 4:33,36; 6:18; 8:29; 9:42; 11:24; Acts 5:16; 8:7) and any person was unclean if possessed by one. It only makes sense that something that cleanses, purifies, and heals can be put to good use against something as unclean as a demon.