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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Perfect; Perfection

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pûr´fekt , pẽr - fek´shun ( שׁלם , shālēm , תּמים , tāmı̄m ; τέλειος , téleios , τελειότης , teleiótēs ):

1. In the Old Testament:

"Perfect" in the Old Testament is the translation of shālēm , "finished," "whole," "complete," used (except in Deuteronomy 25:15 , "perfect weight") of persons, e.g. a "perfect heart," i.e. wholly or completely devoted to Yahweh (1 Kings 8:61 , etc.; 1 Chronicles 12:38; Isaiah 38:3 , etc.); tāmı̄m , "complete," "perfect," "sound or unblemished," is also used of persons and of God, His way, and law ("Noah was a just man and perfect," the Revised Version margin "blameless" (Genesis 6:9 ); "As for God, his way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30 ); "The law of Yahweh is perfect" (Psalm 19:7 ), etc.); tam, with the same, meaning, occurs only in Job, except twice in Psalms (Job 1:1 , Job 1:8; Job 2:3 , etc.; Psalm 37:37; Psalm 64:4 ); kālı̄l , "complete," and various other words are translated "perfect."

Perfection is the translation of various words so translated once only: kālı̄l ( Lamentations 2:15 ); mı̄khlāl , "completeness" (Psalm 50:2 ); minleh , "possession" (Job 15:29 , the King James Version "neither shall the prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth," the American Standard Revised Version "neither shall their possessions be extended on the earth," margin "their produce bend to the earth"; the English Revised Version reverses this text and margin); tikhlāh , "completeness," or "perfection (Psalm 119:96 ); takhlı̄th (twice), "end," "completeness" (Job 11:7 , "Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" Job 28:3 , "searcheth out all the Revised Version (British and American) the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "to the furthest bound"; compare Job 26:10 , "unto the confines of light and darkness"); tōm , "perfect," "completeness" (Isaiah 47:9 , the King James Version "They shall come upon thee in their perfection," the Revised Version (British and American) "in their full measure"). the Revised Version margin gives the meaning of "the Urim and the Thummim " (Exodus 28:30 . etc.) as "the Lights and the Perfections."

2. In the New Testament:

In the New Testament "perfect" is usually the tr of teleios , primarily, "having reached the end," "term," "limit," hence, "complete," "full," "perfect" ( Matthew 5:48 , "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; Matthew 19:21 , "if thou wouldst be perfect; Ephesians 4:13 , the King James Version "till we all come ... unto a perfect man," the Revised Version (British and American) "full-grown"; Philippians 3:15 , "as many as are perfect," the American Revised Version margin "full-grown"; 1 Corinthians 2:6; Colossians 1:28 , "perfect in Christ"; Colossians 4:12; James 3:2 margin, etc.).

Other words are teleióō . "to perfect," "to end," "complete" ( Luke 13:32 , "The third day I am perfected," the Revised Version margin "end my course"; John 17:23 , "perfected into one"; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 3:12 , the Revised Version (British and American) "made perfect"; Hebrews 2:10 , etc.); also epiteléō , "to bring through to an end" (2 Corinthians 7:1 , "perfecting holiness in the fear of God"; Galatians 3:3 , "Are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "perfected in the flesh," margin "Do ye now make an end in the flesh?"); katartı́zō "to make quite ready," "to make complete," is translated "perfect," "to perfect" (Matthew 21:16 , "perfected praise"; Luke 6:40 , "Every one when he is perfected shall be as his teacher"; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11 , "be perfected"; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Peter 5:10 , the Revised Version margin "restore"); akribṓs , "accurately," "diligently," is translated "perfect" (Luke 1:3 , "having had perfect understanding," the Revised Version (British and American) "having traced ... accurately"; Acts 18:26 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "more accurately"). We have also ártios , "fitted," "perfected" (2 Timothy 3:7 , the Revised Version (British and American) "complete"); pleróō , "to fill," "to make full" (Revelation 3:2 , the American Standard Revised Version "perfected," the English Revised Version "fulfilled"); katartismós , "complete adjustment," "perfecting" (Ephesians 4:12 , "for the perfecting of the saints").

Perfection is the translation of katártisis "thorough adjustment," "fitness" ( 2 Corinthians 13:9 , the Revised Version (British and American) "perfecting"); of teleiósı̄s (Hebrews 7:11 ); of teleiotess (Hebrews 6:1 , the Revised Version margin "full growth"); it is translated "perfectness" (Colossians 3:14 ); "perfection" in Luke 8:14 is the translation of telesphoréō , "to bear on to completion or perfection." In Apocrypha "perfect," "perfection," etc., are for the most part the translation of words from télos , "the end," e.g. The Wisdom of Solomon 4:13; Ecclesiasticus 34:8; 44:17; 45:8, suntélia "full end"; 24:28; 50:11.

The Revised Version (British and American) has "perfect" for "upright" (2 Samuel 22:24 , 2 Samuel 22:26 twice); for "sound" ( Psalm 119:80 ); for "perform" (Philippians 1:16 ); for "undefiled" (Psalm 119:1 , margin "upright in way"); for "perfect peace, and at such a time" (Ezra 7:12 ), "perfect and so forth"; for "He maketh my way perfect" (2 Samuel 22:33 ), "He guideth the perfect in his way," margin "or, 'setteth free.' According to another reading, 'guideth my way in perfectness'"; "shall himself perfect," margin "restore," for, "make you perfect" (1 Peter 5:10 ); "perfecter" for "finisher" (Hebrews 12:2 ); "perfectly" is omitted in the Revised Version (British and American) (Matthew 14:36 ); "set your hope perfectly on" for the King James Version "hope to the end for" (1 Peter 1:13 ).

3. The Christian Ideal:

Perfection is the Christian ideal and aim, but inasmuch as that which God has set before us is infinite - "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48 ) - absolute perfection must be forever beyond, not only any human, but any finite, being; it is a divine ideal forever shining before us, calling us upward, and making endless progression possible. As noted above, the perfect man, in the Old Testament phrase, was the man whose heart was truly or wholly devoted to God. Christian perfection must also have its seat in such a heart, but it implies the whole conduct and the whole man, conformed thereto as knowledge grows and opportunity arises, or might be found. There may be, of course, a relative perfection, e.g. of the child as a child compared with that of the man. The Christian ought to be continually moving onward toward perfection, looking to Him who is able to "make you perfect in every good thing (or work) to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen ( Hebrews 13:21 ).

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Perfect; Perfection'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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