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In Mark 1:24, a demon tells Jesus "I know who you are—the Holy One of God!" This title is surprising since the title "the Son of God" is used to introduce Jesus in 1:1. Obviously the title denotes Jesus' holiness here, but what connotations would it have had? Is it a kingly title? Priestly title? Divine title?

In the New Testament it's used in the parallel passage in Luke 4:34, but also in John 6:69 in a passage reminiscent of Peter's confession in Mark 8 of Jesus as the "Son of God." But I couldn't find other usages of the title in a wider search. Was this a known title at the time? If so, what are its roots?

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I found this very interesting. – John Martin May 19 '14 at 0:51

The Septuagint (LXX) mentions the "the Holy One of Israel" (τοῦ θεοῦ ... τοῦ ἁγίου Ισραηλ) in Isaiah 55:5, and the reference is to King David, who is the anointed one. (Ps 16:10 also mentions "your Holy One," but uses instead "οὐδὲ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν" in reference to the anointed one, who appears to be King David in the immediate context.) The spirits addressing Jesus as the "Holy One" appear to be referring to him as the anointed, because he (Jesus) later admonishes them not to disclose that he is the Christ (Luke 4:41). For those demons who did not heed, their apparent fate included consignment to the torment of the abyss (Luke 8:28-31).

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The Greek word here is hagios, and Strong's concordance defines this as 'set apart', 'holy' or 'sacred'. To this extent, the words of the demon are not unexpected.

The Oxford Annotated Bible, page 1792, says , “Son of God is missing in the earliest manuscripts.” It is, for example, missing in the Sinaiticus manuscript. Also the third-century Church theologian Origen omits the phrase ‘Son of God’ in Mark 1:1. The import of this is that the words 'Son of God' was missing in the original version of Mark 1:1. Thus, there is no incongruity between verses 1:1 and 1:24 (Holy One of God).

I have noted that, in Mark's Gospel, only outsiders ever refer to Jesus as "Son of God," an observation that would be out of place with this as an assertion in verse 1:1. It is as if the gospel's author was being cautious to protect the early Christian community from Jewish claims of blasphemy. The other New Testament gospels, being later, were increasingly willing to ignore Jewish sensitivities.

The overwhelming consensus of modern New Testament scholars is that Luke's Gospel was substantialy based on Mark's Gospel. We see this in Luke 4:34, which is therefore not an independent witness to this event.

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Question Restatement

Why did the demons refer to Jesus as the "Holy One" -- and why would they have associated this with their "judgment"?

Alternative Answer

As an extra-biblical alternative to Psalms 16:10, Habbakuk 3:3, etc ...

References to the Messiah, as "the Holy One", can be found from the very beginning of the First Book of Enoch.

"Holy One/(s)" is used throughout this book, (chapter 25 and 37 esp.).

During that period of time, and in that culture, it was unmistakable as to what was being referred to.

CCEL, Enoch 1:3-5 -

Concerning the elect I said, and took up my parable concerning them: My Holy Great One will come forth from His dwelling, 4 And the eternal God will tread upon the earth, (even) on Mount Sinai, [And appear from His camp] And appear in the strength of His might from the heaven of heavens. 5 And all shall be smitten with fear And the Watchers shall quake, And great fear and trembling shall seize them unto the ends of the earth.

NOTE: CCEL, et al do not use "My", but rather "the" -- although "mou, (Greek Text)" is in the Greek. Either way, I cannot understate the translation questions with this book. Although its dating is certainly before Jesus -- the oldest manuscripts are in Ethiopic and Aramaic.

Enoch, Authenticity:

In order for the reply by the "demons" to make sense -- it has to meet fulfill three requirements: (1.) It has to reference "the holy one of God"; (2.) Has to be in reference to prophecy that predated Jesus; (3.) and it would have had to also prophesy their judgment.

Enoch fulfills all three requirements, (but just the first book of Enoch).

The first Book of Enoch was considered a very important part of Scripture, and cited even in the New Testament.

Because of this, when rereading Isaiah, etc, it raises the question whether "holy one" is actually a distinct identity in all of those passages -- though this would not be understood without the context of Enoch.

One of the translations of the First Book of Enoch

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