Christian Word Definition: Perfect

In the Old Testament:

“Perfect” in the Old Testament is the translation of shālēm, “finished,” “whole,” “complete,” used (except in Deut. 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 Chron. 12:38; Isaiah 38:3, etc.); tāmīm, “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.); tām, with the same, meaning, occurs only in Job, except twice in Psalms (Job 1:1, 8; Job 2:3, etc.; Psalm 37:37; Psalm 64:4); kālīl, “complete,” and various other words are translated “perfect.”

Perfection is the translation of various words so translated once only: kālīl (Lament. 2:15); mikhlāl, “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); takhlīth (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.”

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; Ephes. 4:13, the King James Version “till we all come …. unto a perfect man,” the Revised Version (British and American) “full-grown”; Phil. 3:15, “as many as are perfect,” the American Revised Version margin “full-grown”; 1 Cor. 2:6; Col. 1:28, “perfect in Christ”; 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 Cor. 12:9; Phil. 3:12, the Revised Version (British and American) “made perfect”; Hebrews 2:10, etc.); also epiteléō, “to bring through to an end” (2 Cor. 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?”); katartízō “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 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11, “be perfected”; 1 Thes. 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 Tim. 3:7, the Revised Version (British and American) “complete”); plēróō, “to fill,” “to make full” (Rev. 3:2, the American Standard Revised Version “perfected,” the English Revised Version “fulfilled”); katartismós, “complete adjustment,” “perfecting” (Ephes. 4:12, “for the perfecting of the saints”).

Perfection is the translation of katártisis “thorough adjustment,” “fitness” (2 Cor. 13:9, the Revised Version (British and American) “perfecting”); of teleíōsis (Hebrews 7:11); of teleiótēs (Hebrews 6:1, the Revised Version margin “full growth”); it is translated “perfectness” (Col. 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. Wisdom 4:13; Sirach 34:8; Sirach 44:17; Sirach 45:8, suntéleia “full end”; Sirach 24:28; Sirach 50:11.

The Revised Version (British and American) has “perfect” for “upright” (2 Samuel 22:24, 26 twice); for “sound” (Psalm 119:80); for “perform” (Phil. 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 makes my way perfect” (2 Samuel 22:33), “He guided the perfect in his way,” margin “or, `sets free.’ According to another reading, `guided 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).The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

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