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1. Question:

In 1 Cor 13:10, what does "The Perfect, (τὸ τέλειον)" refer to, and how would it have understood at the time it was written - not 500 years later?

1 Cor. 13:10, NASB - 10 but when "the perfect, (τὸ τέλειον)" comes, the partial will be done away.


2. The Issue:

The "New Testament" Anachronism:

Dave Miller, Ph.D, Apologetics Press : "... the exegete is forced to conclude that Paul’s use of “perfect” referred to the completed revelation or totally revealed New Testament Scriptures."

Causation vs. Correlation:

Robert L. Thomas, Understanding the Spiritual Gifts, pg. 130 - "... a completion of the revelatory gifts coincided1 with the completion of the New Testament".

Footnote 1: Those "eisagetical" and "coincidental" arguments can be reasonably dismissed as Anachronism and Causation vs. Correlation fallacies, respectively. But, what historical or textual bases are there that would have guided the earliest believers' interpretation of this passage, (i.e., the Corinthian Church)? If the Corinthians had no knowledge of the "New Testament" - how would they have interpreted this passage?

Bounty Update: Please feel free to add more! I am awarding a bounty early to an incredible answer, which is not very valid in the exegetical sense, (and could use a lot of improvement). However, it is super valid in the eisagetical / mystical sense: that the "coming of the perfect" and "seeing through a 'lattice'" could be interpreted in analogy with Song of Solomon's bride trying to gaze at her beloved", (It has one significant challenge, in comments). I am positive I will try to revisit this question with another bounty - because (coincidentally) none of these answers seem to address the common/well-known arguments against each of them, (I posted the common objections in comments to each answer).

Closely Related:
- 1 Corinthians 13:10 - What does Paul mean by "Completeness"?
- 1 Corinthians 13:10 - Should "The Perfect" Be Interpreted in an Eschatological Sense?
- 1 Corinthians 13:10 - What Will Cease when "The Perfect" Comes?
- 1 Corinthians 13:8 - What is the Significance of the Intransitive verb "παύσονται"?
- 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 - What Does "ἐκ μέρους" Mean?
- 1 Corinthians 13:9 - How Should "Out Of" Be Translated?

  • The use of presuppositions is not eisegesis but an essential tool of exegesis, for example you are approaching the text with preposition that it can be understood, words have meanings etc. – Jonathan Chell Jun 5 '15 at 13:18
  • @e.s.kohen This is a Very Good Question! Eisegesis(IMO) has been used to justify Cessationism, based on this particular passage. Ryrie and Scofield have both used it, to add credence to their belief, and then created a 'dispensation' of the Church Age. – Tau Jun 6 '15 at 23:55
  • @elika kohen In the bounty description it states "that also relies on the same bases: that provides an alternate solution - and provides a reasonable counter-argument to my own." Now I express in weakness, that after reading the answer you have provided that I do not see how what God gave me argues with your most technical form of explanation. Regardless what God gave me comes from him, and he is perfect. Therefore whether deserving of the bounty or not. Feel comforted that from what I read of your answer aligns much with what God told me. If otherwise, please bring to cognition. – Decrypted Aug 7 '16 at 18:09
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    @Decrypted - A.) Yes, I agree - they are very much aligned; B.) However, You are right: I am requesting a counter-argument: Specifically, one that does not take the position regarding a Completed Body / THE Revelation of Christ. C.) Unfortunately, I cannot edit the bounty - and I did not intend to exclude analysis by the Early Church. When I am able, I will re-update the bounty to clarify; D.) Would love a chat with you about the revelation some time. :) – elika kohen Aug 9 '16 at 1:19
  • @Decrypted - I updated the bounty, and opened it up to any point of view. I wanted to award a bounty, after the first expired, but this is the only way I can do this now - in hopes for a more "Cannonical" answer. I would love to know if you pursued your solution any further. Thanks! – elika kohen Nov 19 '17 at 19:56

14 Answers 14

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There seems to be no theological consensus as to what Paul meant by 'perfect', in 1 Corinthians 13:10. For example:

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers: That which is perfect.—This verse shows, by the emphatic “then,” that the time when the gifts shall cease is the end of this dispensation. The imperfect shall not cease until the perfect is brought in.

Matthew Henry's Commentary ... love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible: But when that which is perfect is come - Does come; or shall come. This proposition is couched in a general form. It means that when anything which is perfect is seen or enjoyed, then that which is imperfect is forgotten, laid aside, or vanishes. Thus, in the full and perfect light of day, the imperfect and feeble light of the stars vanishes. The sense here is, that "in heaven" - a state of absolute perfection - that which is "in part," or which is imperfect, shall be lost in superior brightness. All imperfection will vanish.

Matthew Poole's Commentary: ... our partial and imperfect knowledge shall be swallowed up in a knowledge perfect and complete.

We may be overlooking here, that τέλειον does not always mean 'perfect'. It can also mean 'complete'. Robert L. Thomas (Understanding Spiritual Gifts, page 123) says that as far back as 1974 he proposed the meaning of 'complete' or 'mature', instead of the more usual 'perfect'. He also points out (page 124) that 'perfect' is not a suitable opposite to 'partial' (ἐκ μέρους).

This may lead us some of the way to understanding verse 10, but not all the way. We need to add to this that many scholars acknowledge chapter 13, in its entirety, as a hymn. Hershel Shanks, in Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, page 112, call it a pre-Pauline hymn that Paul would have known, whereas others debate whether the hymn was added some time after Paul wrote the original letter to the Corinthians. Usually, the presence of a totally different style is a clue to later interpolation, but I believe that would not be the case if Paul himself inserted the 'hymn to love'.

Whatever the history of chapter 13, if Paul did not actually write it, we can not look into his mind to establish what he meant by the word used here; we can only speculate what verse 10 meant as part of a hymn. The preceding verse is context for a meaning of 'partial' and the following verse is context for a meaning of 'mature':

1 Corinthans 13:9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
.
1 Corinthans 13:11: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.


Appendix
Chapter 13 has long been recognised as a hymn because of its lyrical nature. It is spiritually uplifting and follows ancient poetic form. The style and vocabulary are entirely different from those that Paul otherwise uses, so he is not the author although he obviously appreciated the quality of this hymn.

Reasons some scholars give for stating that it was Paul who included the hymn of love into 1 Corinthians include that Paul sometimes echoes Old Testament scriptures without always identifying his sources, and that he occasionally incorporates hymn fragments elsewhere in the epistles. A reason some scholars give for stating that it was added to the epistle after the time of Paul is that the hymn interrupts the narrative flow between chapter 12 and chapter 13. I believe that the latter reason is not conclusive, because such a lengthy hymn was always going to interrupt the narrative even though Paul probably did include it.

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8 the love never falls. but whether prophecies, they will be rendered idle; whether tongues, they will stop; whether knowledge, it will be rendered idle. 9 for we know out of part and out of part we prophesy; 10 but when the finished thing should come, the one out of part will be rendered idle. 11 when I was young, I was speaking as young, I was thinking as young, I was reckoning as young; when I have become a man, I have rendered idle the things of the young. 12 for we look just now through a mirror in a riddle, but then face to face; just now I know out of part, but then I will recognize just as I also was recognized. 13 but now stays loyalty, hope, love; these ~ three, but greater of these things the love.

The τέλειον ("finished thing") is expanded on in the same passage by an analogy of youth versus maturity, but then more concretely by two phrases, both hinging on "now" versus "then":

  • now we look through a mirror, then face to face
  • now I know out of a part, then I will recognize/discover just as I also was recognized/discovered.

I'm not aware of any commentator who suggests that the phrase "face to face" refers to anything but humans seeing God, regardless of their doctrinal presuppositions. It then follows that the "finish" is at least contemporaneous with that event, and the "thing" is most likely the history of the world leading up to that event. When we see God face to face, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will not be needed, but love never falls.

  • That would imply Paul used the future tense ("will stop") to refer to past or perfect events, and would mean verses 11 and 12 refer to something else since "will recognize" is also future, wouldn't it? – fumanchu Jul 22 '15 at 15:59
  • Fumanchu - +1; Because, your argument interprets "the perfect" in view of the analogy, "Face to Face", from within the same context. Thank you, this is very helpful! – elika kohen Jul 29 '16 at 22:08
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1. Question Restatement :

What is the Perfect in 1 Corinthians 13:10 referring to?

2. The Answer :

The Perfect is the completed Word that is totally sufficient to help Believers to live thoroughly furnished unto all good works as Jesus commanded to be perfect. The Word and indwelling Spirit is His enablement to us toward that end. James advises continual focus on the perfect Word to maintain this course and Epaphras prays that they be enabled to be "perfect" in this life. Yes, the word Perfect in each of these instances refers to the maturity of the Believer in the here and now and the importance of the perfect word to maintain this state of obedience to Christ fellowship with Christ of the Believer.

3. Adjectival noun:

Paul uses the adjectival noun, teleios, in place of explicitly saying, the Word, because

A) it is already familiar to his audience Jm 1:25 as James referred to the Word in the context of spiritual maturity. Paul frames the context by giving examples of personal maturity to announce the same.

B) it is familiar to his audience as the mirror analog was understood in OT for the perfecting of the priest as the women's mirrors, a precious possession, were melted to make the brazen laver. The priest could look in the water to clean up before going into his holy work.

C) This is further understood as Paul's familiar analog as he again uses the mirror analog regarding the Word being a mirror to the end that Believers will see more Christ likeness as they each will use this tool, the Word, on a frequent basis.

D) Paul used the mirror analog just as James had which serves to identify the Adjectival noun, Teleios, as being the same as James use of Teleios, Perfect Law of Liberty.

E) The James reference to the adjective "teleios" being associated with the Word was clear to the Corinthians because they had already read the book of James.

a) James 1:1 states that the book was addressed to the dispersed 12 tribes... therefore God Himself would have made sure the Jews in Corinth would read the book of James.

b) 1 Cor 15:7 "After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles." Paul name drops a James as though the Corinthian audience would somehow all know this James well enough to be a credible witness to the resurrection of Christ. This James by virtue of being an eye witness to the resurrection of Christ and the whole of Corinth Believers not being originally from the Land it must be understood that Paul considers the Corinthians to have come to know this James via Jame's earlier letter to them.

c) Paul uses the same analogy of a special mirror that helps the Believer in the sanctification process ... just as James used such a mirror, being the Word, to serve the same purpose.

4. Context:

What more appropriate setting than in the middle of discourse to spiritually immature Corinthians than to put in a plug that "It's coming!"... the tool that will help them live teleios as Jesus commanded. A mirror that when you look in It (teleios) it will help you become Teleios. This is the same context that Epaphras was praying for Believers... when he prayed that they become perfect, teleios. (He was not praying that they all kill themselves so that they could become mature by matter of fact of being in the glorified body.)

5. Absence:

So when do things that Paul says will cease or stop happen in the context of the Perfect coming if that event is sometime during the phase of Believers maturing during life on earth?

A) in Peter's ending discourse he alludes to Prophecy having stopped when he writes... 2 Peter 2:1 NKJV But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

B) in Paul's final charge to Timothy he mentions the Word as being the only thing he (Timothy) needs. He does not mention laying on of hands or 4 prophets deciding what prophecy is correct for today's meeting (1Co14)

C) In John's last writing he makes mention that you will know that 'Peter's prediction about only false teachers from now on' is an exception by the two prophets will be slain and rise again. (I don't know of any so called prophet today that carries that "new" proof of authenticity.) Why would John have needed to add that qualifier unless everyone knew what Peter and Paul had written?

6. Better off than Moses:

When God spoke to Moses mouth to mouth He deemed all other forms of communication as "dark" and not admissible when mouth to mouth communication was happening. Refer to His conversation with Miriam before He struck her with leprosy. Now every Believer can enjoy mouth to mouth v. 2.0 with God. Moses had 5 books... now Believers have all 66. Moses had to go to a certain place to communicate with God... now anywhere is possible according to Jesus words to the woman at the well and Heb 4. Moses had to wear a bag because of the fading glory... now each Believer has the indwelling Spirit. Do Believers dare act as Miriam and think that prophecy has not stopped with the completion of the Word? How common are the words... 'I listen to extra Biblical prophecy as long as it does not conflict with the Bible.' I wonder how well that argument worked for Miriam?

So Yes, prophecy has stopped... and it is very reasonable to think that Paul would mention such a future event in such a special way as 1 Cor 13.

7. James and Paul Tense issue:

how could Paul be referring to The Perfect as "coming" when James referred to the Perfect in the "present" if they are both referring to the same ... The Word? Consider the example of a train that has 66 cars. James writes about the revealed Word of God. The cars that are already arrived at the platform. Paul writes about the time when all 66 cars will be available to Believers once the train has totally arrived at the platform. Paul can still be referring to the same train with his adjectival noun use of Perfect. In God's eyes His train has always had 66 cars. ;-) What has always been is revealed once it has all come to the platform. God's Word is always Teleios.

Conclusion: if Moses visited the 21st century he would be jealous of Believers having the completed Word of God. Jesus commanded people to be Teleios... in perfect state of fellowship/obedience with God. Paul wrote in the chapter on Love that the enablement for this type of loving was coming. Epaphras prayed for Believers to engage this state of Teleios. And James wrote that its not happening when we get our eyes off of the Perfect Word that is given to help us live that Perfect mature Christ like life. Who do i see more of when i look in Paul's analogous mirror each day? The confusion only comes in that there are two Teleios'. One that helps the other become teleios.

  • - elika kohen: C.) I added section 3-E above to clarify how Paul understood that the Corinthian church knew about James and his Epistle. – BobAchgill May 30 '17 at 7:22
  • Bobachgill - +1. A.) I have been hoping see this point of view. I had specifically offered a bounty for this point of view. I am going to try figure out how to do this after the fact. Thank you! B.) I have not accepted this answer - because there are many possible objections to the reasoning here, (reliance on "allusions"; appealing to a probability that God had ensured that the "Word" had already been dispersed" - in order to connect "James" to "1 Corinthians"; a claim of authority to declare what "the completed word / cannon" is, etc). C.) Feel free to keep updating! – elika kohen Jun 1 '17 at 18:46
  • BobAchgill - I added another bounty, for a more "Canonical Answer" - to address common objections to this view. 1.) How to account for references to the completed/final "Revelation of Christ", (specifically 1 Corinthians 1:7, defined as the second coming). 2.) Was there actually a concept of "Cannon / Bible" at this time - especially "Christian Cannon" - and would the Corinthians have understood this? 3.) Who had authority to (and did) declare "the Word" complete - and the gifts of the spirit were ended? 4.) Is operating in the gifts "out of order" proof of their cessation? – elika kohen Nov 19 '17 at 19:05
  • @elikakohen FYI, the Christian "Cannon" is what the rebel army used in the US Civil War while the Christian "Canon" was the Latin Vulgate! A common but somewhat humorous misnomer. The concept of a "canon" is extra-biblical (IE: a later invention). – Ruminator Nov 25 '17 at 20:21
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1 Corinthians 13:10 - What does “The Perfect” Refer to?

Paul did not mean the completed Word of God.

Paul had no use for a New Testament other than to tell the Gentile church, in Greek, what the Hebrew apostles knew and were teaching from the Old Testament. He had been taught by Jesus, and most of the NT was his own writing. Also it was not collected as a single book until much later.

When Paul preached in Berea, his own teaching was taken from the Old Testament and was validated by the Bereans, using their existing scriptures.

Ac 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Paul's use of perfect speaks of men being made perfect, not of a book.

Ro 12:2 ... know ... perfect, will of God.

1Co 2:6 ¶ ... them that are perfect: y

1Co 13:10.. that which is perfect

2Co 12:9 ...my strength is made perfect in weakness.

2Co 13:11 ¶ Be perfect,

Ga 3:3 ... are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Eph 4:13 ... unto a perfect man,

Php 3:12 ..I had already attained,..were already perfect:

Php 3:15 ¶ Let us ... as many as be perfect,

Col 1:28 ... may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

Col 4:12 ...ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

1Th 3:10 ... perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

Heb 2:10 ¶ ... to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he ...

Heb 9:9 ... could not make him ... perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

Heb 9:11 But Christ ... by a ...more perfect tabernacle,

Heb 10:1 ¶ ... can never ... make the comers thereunto perfect.

Heb 11:40 ...they without us should not be made perfect.

Heb 12:23 ... the spirits of just men made perfect,

Heb 13:21 Make you perfect ...

And even James:

Jas 1:4 But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

It is clear that Paul is speaking of the maturity of the believer, which is a work of Christ in him. It is something that he declares to be true in the present, based on the promise and work of Christ, even though it is being worked out in the life of the believer now.

Php 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:

What will cease? Prophecy as prediction will cease because they have all been fulfilled.

Prophecy as teaching will end because all will know the Lord. Heb 8:11

Languages will cease because we will know even as we are known. 1Co 13:12

Knowledge will end (as a science) since all will be walking in the truth and we will know with every fiber of our being Christ, the Truth.

The question remains in what way do these things cease when an individual is made perfect. What appears to be equivocation is not when it is understood that perfection is merely attributed while still in the flesh but actualized in resurrection. Until then we still have the old man which we are to put off.

We can speak of BEING perfect even while being made to be perfect.

  • Paul began preaching before he had one (and most of it is his writing) and he was taught directly by Christ. I am sure he talked with other apostles. He was like the householder of Mt 13:52. – Bob Jones Nov 25 '17 at 17:43
  • Bob - +1 for representing the point of view that "The Perfect" could be "the perfection" of "someone" or the "Body". However, the common objection to this answer is the "equivocation" of "personal maturity" - which you point out that some people already had, (Hebrews 12:23, Php 3:15, etc.), as opposed to "perfection of the body" in Ephesians 4:13. I am not sure how the cessation of gifts (like prophecy) could apply to the "perfection of individual people" and also to the "Body" as a whole. It is this ambiguity and confusion (equivocation) that I am objecting to, and how it might be improved. – elika kohen Nov 25 '17 at 17:43
  • I gave you a +1 despite the unsupported assertion that "Paul had no use for a New Testament other than." Surely, Paul would have had use for the testimonies of the gospel writers. It would also be interesting to trace the appearance of the title, "New Covenant" for the collection of apostolic writings, which of course is an allusion to Jeremiah 31. – Dieter Nov 25 '17 at 17:47
  • I think we may find that the New Covenant is the actuality of writing his law upon our hearts rather than writing it in a book which would not be collected for a few generations. – Bob Jones Nov 25 '17 at 17:51
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And the Athersastha told them that they should not eat of the most holy things, until a priest should arise with Lights and Perfections. (Ed 2:63 [LXXE])

​However, we speak wisdom among those that are mature, but not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are being destroyed. (1Co 2:6 [EMTV])

The perfect already existed.

(220) Travel also through the greatest and most perfect being, namely this world, and consider all its parts, how they are separated in respect of place and united in respect of power; and also what is this invisible chain of harmony and unity, which connects all those parts; and if while considering these matters, thou canst not easily comprehend what thou seekest to know, persevere and be not wearied; for these matters are not attainable without a struggle, but they are only found out with difficulty and by means of great labour; Philo: On the Migration of Abraham. Tracing the Evidence: Dinah in Post-Hebrew Bible Literature, Mary Anna Bader 2008, pg 148, Lang, Peter Publishing, Incorporated, 2008.

(81) Therefore, God, removing out of his sacred legislation all such impious deification of undeserving objects, has invited men to the honour of the one true and living God; not indeed that he has any need himself to be honoured; for being all-sufficient for himself, he has no need of any one else; but he has done so, because he wished to lead the race of mankind, hitherto wandering about in trackless deserts, into a road from which they should not stray, that so by following nature it might find the best and end of all things, namely, the knowledge of the true and living God, who is the first and most perfect of all good things; from whom, as from a fountain, all particular blessings are showered upon the world, and upon the things are people in it. The Works of Philo Judaeus, by Philo,C.D. Yonge, pg 155, date 1885, London.

  • And when become a mature man, the partially preserved will be done ineffective in force. Mature = Complete, of benign character. Prophecies, tongues, knowledge, ... partially preserved, of according 1 Cor 13:8 – Betho Jul 31 '16 at 22:55
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Greek language has a feature of creating substantives out of adjectives by simply adding an article in neutrum case and putting the adjective, accordingly, into a neutrum case: like ἀγαθός is “good”, but τὸ ἀγαθόν – the Good, or Goodness; or, λαμπρός is “bright”, “brilliant”, whereas τὸ λαμπρόν – “the brightness”, “the brilliance”. Similarly here, in 1 Cor. 13:10 τὸ τέλειον is a substantive from the τέλειος, “fulfilled”, “perfect”, and thus can be translated as “the perfect”, or simply, “the perfection”. So, it denotes here an abstract noun, the abstract concept, rather than a person.

However, how are we to interpret it?

The context of the passage is related to the very essence of the Christian life, or a believer's life in Christ (ἐν ᾧ /Eph. 1:7/), or Christ’s life in a believer (ἐν ἐμοί /Gal. 2:20/).

But what is this life? - It is a process, it is a growth, as beautifully expressed in the parable of the “new wine”, that is to say, a young, boiling or sparkling wine, and wine-skins (Mark 2:22), for a Christian is constantly "boiling", that is to say, growing and due to this reason of growth necessitated to change his life-styles as wine-skins according to the spiritual measure attained, as also Paul indicates, by promising that he will give a solid food only after they will become perfected – τελείοι – but as yet they are only ready for taking “milk” (Heb. 5:14).

Thus, a Christian life is a process, a growth, a journey and an adventure, from spiritual childhood, to a spiritual adulthood, when you put away the childish things (1 Cor. 13:11). And it is not a haphazard process, or a growth to some haphazard end, but a God-guided process, through the Good Spirit that guides us to the land of uprightness (Psalm 143: 10), that is to say, to the firmness of cognition of the Eternal Father, through the Logos, through whose asking this guiding Spirit and Comforter came to the disciples and all Christians from the Father (John 14:16). Thus, the life of a Christian is to know how to worship the Father with Spirit and Truth (John 4:23), that is to say, through and together with the Spirit and the Logos, who said “I am the Truth” (John 14:6); for since the other Two are absolutely necessary for cognition of the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 2:11; Matt 11:27), that means that they are also absolutely of the same eternal reality with the Father, the one divine reality, the one divine life, the one divine immutable existence of the Three - the Father and the Logos and the Spirit.

And so, on the level of anthropology, this theology implies that a created human person will gradually, in a process, come to the understanding of God, will become a partaker of the divine life, of the very divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

And what is the divine life? It is the life of the Trinity, the life of mutual love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Christian growth in faith and knowledge amounts to growth to the ultimate aim of one's becoming a partaker and a co-worker of the divine Trinitarian love (1 Cor. 3:9), starting to loving his neighbors not as himself, as before, as in accordance to the not-yet-perfect commandment of the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18), but, already in accordance to the new and perfect commandment (John 13:34): as Christ - the Incarnate Logos of the Father – loved His disciples, that is to say, loved more than Himself, giving out of love everything of Himself to their salvation, even His life, teaching that there is no greater love than that (John 15:13).

Thus, perfection means attaining this life through Christ and in Christ: the life of the selfless love, to which also Paul offers his hymn in 1 Cor. 13, saying that all the rest, all the other bestowals of God – miracle-working, speaking in tongues, gaining of knowledge, committing ascetic feats etc. – serve to this ultimate aim, which is called in the apostle's words here τὸ τέλειον, "the perfect", "the perfection".

In fact, in Paul's vision of history of salvation a drastic ontological change was introduced in mankind through the advent of Christ, which grand theological-historical event abolished the previous subjection to the works prescribed by law (Rom.7:6), which was not enough for salvation, that is to say, from delivering humans from the tyranny of the sin and death (Rom. 3:20; 7:24). Thus all the epoch of Law before the advent of Jesus was for Paul just a shadow cast to the past by the future of the advent of Jesus, who is thus, metaphorically, "the body", or the fulfillment which this shadow refers to and towards which this shadow leads (1 Cor. 12:12), as a servant leads a child to a teacher (Gal. 3:24). However, even after the advent of Christ a growth of a Christian did not cease, for Christ is perfect, who in virtue of being Himself the God carries within Himself the entirety of fullness of God the Father (Col. 2:9), but we, Christians, do not have this entirety in us, and we do not have the limitless presence of God-Spirit in us, as does Jesus (John 3:34), but only according to a portion of grace that we are able to bear and contain (Romans 12:6). Therefore, also Jesus dispenses and apportions His words to His disciples in accordance to their preparation, for they are not yet grown enough to contain all He has to say to them (John 16:21). Therefore, the actual infinity and perfection is only in the Father the Logos and the Spirit of Truth, whereas in humans and in angels it is a dynamic and processual infinity, the perspective of infinite growth in and towards God. Thus, only that Christian is perfect, whose heart is divinely infected by an infinite striving towards the infinitely perfect Deity. Any Christian who will say that he has reached perfection without this infection of the infinite striving has, in fact, lapsed into an idolatry and from him will be taken even that, which he thinks he possesses (Matt. 13:12).

To sum it up, as said above, because the neutrum τὸ τέλειον is used instead of the masculine (ὁ τέλειος), this does not mean a person of Christ, but rather the consequence of a Christian’s growth in Christ, and this consequence is having been grown into “a perfect man (εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον), unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). And when this is reached, the ultimate aim, all those other mentioned things will be already useless and abolished (καταργηθήσεται) (1 Cor. 13:11), as the silkworm having transfigured gradually into a butterfly (cf. τὸ τέλειον) does not need any more the cocoon of the silk that it used for growing and strengthening of wings, but abandons it; similarly, the prophesies, learning of scripture and speaking in tongues, that were useful for growing the wings of divine love, will be abandoned and abolished (1 Cor. 13:8).

Ηowever, of course, it implies that this “perfect man”(Eph. 4:13) will be in a full and blissful and loveful communion with Christ, which is so desirable an aim for Paul, that he even longingly moans for being dissolved in body and be always with Him (Phil. 1:23); and therefore, also in 1 Cor. 13: 12 Paul says that the teleology or the final aim will be to know (i.e. to know Christ and through Him and through His Spirit – the Father), as he (Paul) is himself known (i.e. is known by the Logos, the Spirit and the Father).

And again, of course, this should not be taken that Paul will become God himself so as to know the Father in His absolute fullness, which is the feature alone of the Logos (John 10:15) and the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10), but Paul means that he will be in the infinite blissful growth from "glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18), in the infinity of epektasis (cf. Phil. 3:18), guided by the Perfection of God who does not grudge anything from humans, even up to making them - the creatures and temporal beings – paradoxically, the heirs of His uncreated and eternal Kingdom, the co-heirs of His only-begotten and uncreated Son, divinizing or deifying them, that is to say, making them gods and co-rulers with Him for all eternity to come; for, in fact, was not it that the one who is eternally perfect (Hebrews 7:28) commanded also humans to become as perfect as Himself (Matt 10:25) and the Father (Matt 5:48), as living temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19)?

That is the τὸ τέλειον (the perfection) and the τὸ ἄπειρον (the infinity) of human life in Christ.

  • Levan: +1; A.) I feel there are three key premises behind this answer: I have no problem attributing the Book of Hebrews to Paul, and correlating "Telion" in both contexts, (Hebrews 5:14 and 1 Cor 13:7); However - if it is true that the Book of Hebrews was translated to Greek, (or written concurrently as I have suggested), then it stands to reason that Paul - a Pharisee - would have been referring to an abstract idea about "perfection" that would have been present in Pharasaic Judaism. Is there such an idea? This might answer a WHOLE lot of questions about Hebrews, and 1 Corinthians; – elika kohen Nov 20 '17 at 22:19
  • Levan: B.) The second idea you point out is Paul's common idea of pursuing maturity, and his own desire from moving from "Glory to Glory"; But, the challenge here is that it doesn't seem to sit well with the eschatological sense felt at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, and that sense of finality, not "process"; C.) Thirdly, if it is true that "Telion" speaks of the perfection a believer grows into - then what is it that is "being done away". Does this mean that it is the "immature exercise" of gifts being done away, or the gifts themselves? D.) Thank you for this great point of view. – elika kohen Nov 20 '17 at 22:22
  • elika kohen: Dear Elika, thanks for reading, the comments&the questions. 1. I am yet inapt to answer the question on the Pharisaic Judaism - a great and most relevant theme: Paul was a pharisee, in fact. 2. As to the dichotomy between Paul's idea of fulfillment and his idea of infinite growth: this is a grand philosophical problem and must have to do with the idea of a dynamic infinity, or a processual/potential infinity of man as different from actual infinity of God. A grand issue! 3. What is done away? If you already can write poetry in English, you do away with a book on English grammar! – Levan Gigineishvili Nov 20 '17 at 23:58
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+500

Stack Exchange, quite rightly, does not tolerate overt criticism of stated points of view but in this case I am invited by the OP to analyse, and to affirm or destruct, the argument of an answer. I shall therefore do exactly that and address my remarks to the answer itself, not to the answerer.

Also, at the outset, I want to make it clear that I wholly agree with James Strong who states, in his concordance entry for teleios, perfect, the following :-

Teleios Strong 5046 :

the perfect state of all things, to be ushered in by the return of Christ from heaven, 1 Corinthians 13:10;

The answer takes an adjective ’perfect’ from James’s phrase ’the perfect law of liberty’ and then proceeds also to take the definite article (which belongs to the noun ’law’). In so doing, an attempt is made to turn ’perfect’ into a noun. This is neither agreeable to the English language nor is it agreeable to what James has stated in Greek.

‘The perfect’ is a proper way to speak of persons, personifying the adjective as though it were the people it describes. The saying actually means ‘the perfect persons’ and the ellipsis (the missing word) is permissible. Blessed are the perfect, one might say. But it is definitely not alright to noun an adjective as though it were a thing, in and of itself. It must attach to something. That is to say, someone must attach it, using grammar.

The nomos of liberty is what James is saying is perfect. He does not say anything else is perfect. Nor is he using that adjective as a thing. He is describing another thing - the law, nomos. To wrench the adjective away, then rip away also the article, and to then pretend that one has carried away a thing that James was describing is just wrong. One has left the thing he was describing, which was nomos.

Nomos has a great breadth of meaning as BDB, Thayer, Liddel & Scott and Young all attest to. ‘Ordinance, law, custom’ and even a mere attribution, that is to say, something that simply belongs, are all covered by the word. So demonstrate the lexicons - especially my thousand page, 1864 American edition of Liddel & Scott - in more detail than I can here report.

Liberty is what James draws attention to. The dependability of liberty. The constancy of liberty. The customary state of liberty. He is not drawing attention to a system of regulation, a book of words, a collection of ideals and exhortations and standards and requirements - all catalogued into an archive of statements.

No, quite the opposite. He states the nomos, the custom, the regularity, the dependability of liberty itself. Given liberty, one needs no other law. One is free. That, argues James, is how liberty works, in a dependable fashion. If the Son shall make you free, John 8:36, ye shall be free indeed, says also Jesus.

And Paul affirms it, Romans 8:2, for the nomos of the Spirit (that of life in Christ Jesus) hath made me free from the nomos of sin and death.

And this way of liberty, this custom of being free, this attribute of being unencumbered, is perfect. Whoso observes it, closely, and continues in such a sabbath of rest (not erring into a way of legal works) shall be blessed in his deeds (of faith and love).


So the answer, blinkered to anything other than legalities, has absconded with ‘perfect’ and ‘the’ thinking that it has encapsulated James’s concept, because the answer saw ‘law’ and assumed there was a code of conduct embedded in it.

Having wrenched away the adjective and torn away the article, the answer thinks that the concept ‘stated code of conduct’ came with it. But that concept wasn’t there in the first place. For that is not perfect which the answer has attempted to imply was in James’s words.

The writer to the Hebrews makes that plain, for the law (that is, in context, the commandments delivered by Moses in the old covenant) made nothing perfect, Hebrews 7:19, but [effected] the bringing in of a better hope. No, and it never will perfect anything which is why it was superseded by a better Testament. Nor is that what James is implying - the perfecting (supposedly) of humanity by a stated, organised and structured system of administered commandments.


So the answer is left holding ‘the’ and ‘perfect’. Ever so vaguely embarrassed, by what the answer now realises is inadequate, the answer throws up some bullet points to try and convince us that this whole thing is legitimate.

James/resurrection; mirror/glass darkly/brasen sea/priests ; . . . Etc.

But first would have to be proved that James, the brother of John, wrote the epistle titled ‘James’ some time after the Diaspora and some time before Herod executed him. Otherwise it is James of Alpheus, brother of Jude, who was not the principle witness of the resurrection.

And the looking glasses of the women were chosen because glass had not been invented - yet - and the concept observed in Revelation 15:2 - of a sea of transparent glass - had to be demonstrated on earth, somehow, so brass was used instead and the concept of transparency was implied by the women seeing, in the midst of “glass“, the image of . . . . a woman. Gold like glass, are such feminine counterparts of the Lamb.

But if the answer thinks that priests must stop, on their way to minister to Almighty God, to check their outward appearance and hairstyle in a mirrored surface, then the answer has completely missed all four of my own bullet points . . . .

1) of worship to him who looketh not on the outward appearance, I Samuel 16:7, nor needs any to brush up at a mirror before approaching him who is invisible, for he looketh on the heart of the would-be worshipper and offerer of priestly service

2) of abounding wisdom that foresees the invention of glass before men on earth got round to it

3) of the delightful aspect of the Bride, now seeing in a glass darkly, with whom the Lamb shall be forever in loving union, but only after he returns to perfectly complete all things

4) and of the transparency of those who are without guilt before the throne (and therefore who are without guile) who are plain and honest in all that they do

. . . . missed it all completely, and now left standing, holding ‘the’ and ‘perfect’ without a sentence with which to convey them and without a concept to which to attach them.


Thus follows an attempt to attach said items (pilfered from James) to something pilfered from John.

To wrench away the capital letter ‘W’ from John 1:1-4, and to apply it to ordinary ‘word’ is, well, I must refrain from comment.

Logos is that which was in the beginning. It is an aspect of Person. It is not the whole Person, just one aspect. Then the aspect is personified. But that still is not the whole Person. The algorithm, if one might be permitted to say, by which all things were made, is something that is within - and is part of - a Person. Further revelation reveals that the order of creation, the structure of creation, the layers and cyclical movements of creation - that which is clearly observable in everything about it and in it - is all within Him.

The whole creation is what it is - because He is whom He is. And God was the Logos.

To wrench away ‘W’ from him who is The Word; and then to apply it to a rule, a standard, a code of conduct, a system of doctrine, a catalogue of words which defines how men must behave - is just an appalling misunderstanding of what logos means usually and of what Logos means especially.

This whole effort attempts to merge, as did the Serpent, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with the Tree of Life, such that Eve could not discern one from another and was deceived into thinking that only one existed. Thus is Christ made distant and thus is a code of conduct placed in the midst of Eden.

The answer then invites us to follow a code of conduct ‘in the here and now’ - specifically in ‘the here and now’ - not only detracting from the hopeful looking for Christ in the future, but also detracting from following him presently, preferring to draw attention to a code of conduct dressed up as something other than it really is (legal works) by means of a misplaced capital W.


What is perfect ? What is the ‘that’ to which Paul refers ? What do they long for who see, now, through a glass darkly ?

Do they long to be face to face with a code of conduct ‘in the here and now’ ?

Does that even make any sense ?

Let the Bride speak, she who longingly observes (not fully, but partially) the face of the Bridegroom (she in the house of habitation, he outside, not yet resident) watching from her window, Song of Solomon 2:9, as she sees him spying at her through the outside lattice (through a glass, darkly). Oh how lovely is the way of a man with a maid ! Proverbs 30:19.

He watches her, through the lattice, letting her know he is there that she may catch just a glimpse of him - just a glimpse, in time, ere they are together for ever. He that loveth me […] I will love him and will manifest myself to him, John 14:21.

But soon there will be no more lattice - and she shall see plainly, face to face.

Those who have loved him not in this life shall cry out to the mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, Revelation 6:16. But the Lamb’s wife, she who saw him, even but ever so dimly, in time, shall see him plainly, face to face, for ever.

Then let the Bride speak (in verse, as is the original Hebrew of Song 8:14) :

Be thou a roe that leaps up high;

make haste, my love, make haste,

as swift young hart on spices’ mounts.

O haste, beloved . . . Haste !

And let the admirable James Strong have the last word :

the perfect state of all things, to be ushered in by the return of Christ

  • It is interesting that the love-struck girl looking for her lover through the lattice is the source of great anxiety to her father! See verse 11: biblia.com/bible/nrsv/Sirach%2042.9-11 – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 21:52
  • Nijel, +1 - I am awarding this bounty to this answer (though not accepting as the answer). I feel that defining "The Perfect" in terms of romance is a very strong answer, but also invalid in some ways. Clarifying James through Hebrews is a great point against equating "The Law of Liberty" with "The Word of God". But: 1.) Are "lattices" and "mirrors" associated like this, in literature? Weren't mirrors around a long time before? (Is dating necessary for this argument?) 2.) Examples of "The Perfect" referring to "romance" or "lover" would greatly improve this answer. – elika kohen Nov 25 '17 at 17:29
  • @elikakohen Thank you. I have covered the subject more comprehensively (and more adequately) elsewhere. Here, I must respect both the disciplines of the site and the requirements of the OP, so I am a little restricted in fully enlarging on points which do, indeed, warrant more full explanation. Regards. – Nigel J Nov 25 '17 at 23:47
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The context of I Corinthians 13:10 is a section beginning in verse 8 and culminating in verse 13 that compares the partial to the fullness to make the case that the greatest quality is love because it never ceases (ἐκπίπτω, falls off or fades away). Gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge are all needed when there’s a deficit or incompleteness. Also, childish behaviors fade away when someone matures into an adult, the fullness in natural human development.

The point of Paul’s argument here is not that the aforementioned gifts of the Holy Spirit will cease or become unneeded, but rather that love is greater, more enduring, than faith and hope. At some point in the future, faith and hope will no longer be needed, but that time is not now.

Note that Paul makes a parallel argument in Romans 13:9-10 in regard to the fulfillment of Torah in love.

For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (NASB)

Does this mean that Jesus, the Word of God, came to nullify Torah or to fulfill Torah?

Dieter

  • What do you understand "fulfillment" to mean? Obviation? – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 19:12
  • What's important exegetically is what both Matthew in quoting Jesus in Matthew 5:17, and Paul in Romans 13:8 meant by the Greek word translated "fulfill" (πληρῶσαι and πληρόω). The word is numbered 4137 in Strong's Concordance. – Dieter Nov 24 '17 at 22:52
  • The thing is that both the Greek word (biblehub.com/greek/4137.htm) and the English word (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulfill) have many usages! So just using the word without saying in what sense you intend it doesn't really communicate much. It is like saying "Joe drew" with no context. Did he draw a picture? A card? A gun? A crowd? 1 John 1:4 uses the same word: "We write this to make our joy complete (full)." So it is necessary to specify in what sense you take the word. – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 23:21
  • CORRECTED TEXT Yes, that's why it's important to look at the context of the passages. Certainly Jesus and Paul were trying to communicate an important concept. We can get additional clues from the antonyms that they chose: Matthew chose Καταλύω (Strong's 2647) to represent the suggestion that Jesus rejected, and Paul chose πίπτει (Strong's 4098) and καταργηθήσεται (Strong's 2673) in I Corinthians 13:8 as the opposite of fulfill. – Dieter Nov 25 '17 at 0:25
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1 Corinthians 13 is often called the "love chapter" but his theme is actually teaching about the utilitarian nature of the gifts vs the enduring intrinsic value of love. He compares the gifts to children's toys only temporary, during childhood:

NIV 1 Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

Once an adult, the toys aren't played with anymore.

Also, exercising a gift with no benevolent purpose is merely noise, like banging a drum for no particular purpose and that no one wants to hear:

NIV 1 Cor 13: 1If I speak in the tonguesa of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,b but do not have love, I gain nothing.

So to get up in a meeting and to start speaking mysteries in Korean when no one in the room speaks Korean is just silliness and rudeness:

NIV 1 Cor 14: 1Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2For anyone who speaks in a tonguea does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,b but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,c unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,d say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

Prophetic gifts will become irrelevant in the eschaton because the saints will no longer be walking by faith (in the unseen) but rather by sight (in whom they see):

BSB 1 Corinthians 13: 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways. 12Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love

So in the immediate context the "completeness" to come is being "face to face" and "knowing as we are known" that will be the reality in the eschaton.

  • Regarding your first paragraph, it seems to me that Paul's point focuses on the primacy of love over faith and hope. He uses both the gifts and maturity as examples of the transitory compared to the enduring. As to speaking Korean in an English-speaking assembly, this would make for an interesting topic of its own, specifically in a first-century context. I liked your last two paragraphs. – Dieter Nov 25 '17 at 18:02
  • @Dieter I appreciate your comments very much and the helpful spirit in which they were offered. A child will one day reminisce about "I used to love that wagon" but they will cherish their parent's love all their lives and hopefully beyond and more so over time while as adults they will have little interest in playing with their childhood toys. This is what Paul intends to say about the gifts. When we see face to face what do we want a prophecy for? – Ruminator Nov 25 '17 at 19:03
  • I edited the first paragraph to make my point clearer. – Ruminator Nov 25 '17 at 21:58
  • Yes, it's clearer and has better support now. I would add that the enduring is revealed as the transitory falls off. But this does not make the transitory unimportant. As is commonly recognized, play is important for children (and rejuvenating for adults), and it's important that children not skip any developmental stages. Even Jesus grew, as we read in Luke 2:52, "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Likewise, various gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit should not be shunned. After all, they are functional, needed, and good. – Dieter Nov 26 '17 at 18:49
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When the Perfect/Completeness Comes, The Partial Will be Done Away

1 Corinthians 13:9-10

"9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."(NASB)

1 Corinthians 13:10 .

"10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears."(NIV)

The gifts of knowledge and prophecy were not perfect ( complete). Obviously, these prophecies did not come into detail, and every prophet did not fully portray the future, as he lacked perfect knowledge of what he had foreseen.The prophet Daniel for example did not understand the prophesies that were given to him ,so God said to him:

Daniel 12:4(NASB)

"But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” Peter wrote his first Epistle about 63 C.E., eight years after Paul wrote his Epistle "1 Corinthians." He wrote that the prophets kept on investigating about Christ and the glories involving his saving of man kind.

1 Peter 1:10 ,11

"As made careful searches and inquiries***, 11 [a]seeking to know what person or to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you *** time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories [b]to follow."

(NASB) See Luke 19:11, Acts 1:6-7

1 Corinthians was written 55 C.E., and since then most of the Greek texts were written , the last prophesies being that of John in the book of "Revelation" his epistles and his gospel, about 1900 years elapsed . The Corinthians would not have been able to understand the prophesies fully, like Peter commented , but would have made careful inquiries

Now, however, the understanding of the prophecies is gradually becoming complete. We have now seen many of these prophesies fulfilled,and spiritual knowledge has increased ,so is our understanding of the Bible prophesies. Gradually we are arriving at that perfect knowledge and what is partial will be done away with.

  • Please use the formatting tools at the top of the edit box to highlight the parts you are quoting to make it easier to read. Thanks. – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 10:20
  • So in your view then, eventually all believers will arrive at perfect understanding of all things through better and better commentaries and such? – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 10:22
  • Ruminator: With regards to the use of the formatting tools I am a novice, I know I will have to try harder. The second comment. Many prophesies will not be fully understood until fulfilled. At least I believe that the stars of congregations,that is, the ministers, Bible scholars, and theologians will eventually have complete knowledge and come to perfect / complete understanding of all things. Commentaries based on the scriptures and not suppositions also help. Thanks. – Ozzie Nicolas Nov 24 '17 at 19:41
  • Click "edit" below your post. Highlight the text to highlight. Click the quote button at the top of the edit box. Very simple. – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 19:43
  • It seems to me that the perfect "comes" rather than "the leaders reach". It seems to me to be more like an event, when we are "face to face". – Ruminator Nov 24 '17 at 21:47
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As one accomplished with the gift of Prophecy (in part) he is revealing this answer, and also how to explain it. May understanding rest upon those that receive (all of him).

He shows me first to explain the concept of baptism. For Baptism holds the definition of to dip.

One Spirit

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB)

Now walking through with the explanation that he gave Paul to give, that it Be accepted.

The Gifts represent (Parts of the Spirit)

Now Paul goes to explain the parts throughout 1 Corinthians 12:14-31. Yet simple representation gets summarized with this:

For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-16 NASB)

In Baptism he gave us a Part

If they were all one member, where would the body Be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:19-20 NASB)

When all the parts of the body come together, its the "Full Body"

so that there may Be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:25 NASB)

If there has no divisions in a body, then its a whole body. With each member having "part of the Spirit". If no longer there has a division of those "parts of the Spirit" then "all the parts of the Spirit" will Be present. If all the parts of the Spirit are present, then the Spirit will Be fully present. And when the Spirit is fully present God will Be fully present.

As a Part we see a Part, When the Body gets Whole we see the Whole

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB)

Its important to realize that Paul states "as I also have been fully known". Now its also important to realize that just earlier he states "then I will know fully".

Hear then the understanding of the gift of prophecy. For the gift allows one to speak of the future. As one speaks of the future, they only speak of the part, for indeed the activities of the future will Be many. For instance, the activities that currently (at the time of this writing) occur in this room, the fan blade moves, a lawn mower actively mows grass, and cars drive by. Many events indeed exist in the future, and Spirit speaks of an event, he speaks of "an event" yet many events occur. He may even speak of "many events", yet how many events occur within even one second of time?

Then indeed when the event occurs, the experience of the event, since it was experienced, we gain full cognition of the event. In this the Father the "will Be" (who sits in the Future) delivers to us the Present "The Glorious Gift of our Lord Jesus Christ" The "I IS". Then after the gift occurs He goes to the Past.

Yet the words of the Father continue, bringing countless experiences of the Son, that in each expression of his love to the Son. That we may continually glorify his name! And worship him ever more! And with each occurrence of his blessings that he pours out! That we may see the pure righteousness of the present by turning our eyes to the him the Future, and no longer considering error, freeing us from the knowledge of good and evil, and the emotional shift that occurs from Denial. Leading us to the Faith of Acceptance, and the glory of what he does bring through our words (the Son of Man), that we may worship the Son (the Now) through faith in his name, and the perfect workings of the Laws of Motion that Moses derived his government from.

When "His Body" unites the parts "Of Him" Become fully known

but when the perfect comes, the partial will Be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:10 NASB)

For in Baptism we are given a part, yet when his body completes we are able to see the fullness of him "face to face" and "will know fully".

Question Restatement: What does "The Perfect, (τὸ τέλειον)" refer to?

The Perfect refers to Jesus whole in spirit.

Peace Be with you.

  • Decrypted: A) +1 - Thanks for an answer based from Scriptural references. B.) Clarification? You ended with, "The Perfect refers to Jesus whole in spirit." - but this is not mentioned/explained elsewhere in your answer, C.) Did you mean, "The Body of Christ, whole in Spirit"? Or, were you pointing to "Jesus being whole" - sometime in the future? Or, something else? D.) Either way - would you mind updating the text in the answer? Thanks again! – elika kohen Aug 7 '16 at 23:34
  • Updated, though I hope it still keeps logical flow. – Decrypted Aug 8 '16 at 0:21
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1. Question Restatement:

What is the Perfect in 1 Corinthians 13:10 referring to?


2. Answer - The Wholeness of The Body:

In 1 Corinthians 13:10 - "The Perfect, The Whole | τὸ τέλειον" is a reference to "the wholeness, (or completion) of the Body of Christ" - which cannot occur apart from "The Revelation of Christ".

Defining "The Wholeness of the Body" by the "Revelation of Christ":

Pragmatically - The "Wholeness of the Body" can be interchanged with the "Completed Revelation of Christ" - because they refer to the same event.

Colossians 3:4, NASB - When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

In Scripture, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" Refers to an Event:

NASB, 1 Corinthians 1:7 - so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 17:30, NASB - It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

NASB, Revelation 1:1, NASB - The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,

NASB, Revelation 19:7 - ... for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.

"From a Part | ἐκ μέρους" is referring to a part of the whole:

In these contexts - The "Wholeness of the Body" - is juxtaposed against each "part" - "limbs from a part" of the Body:

Personal Translation, 1 Corinthians 12:27 - Now you are Christ’s body, and limbs from a part | μέρους.

Personal Translation, 1 Corinthians 13:9 - and from a part part | ἐκ μέρους [of the whole] we know, and from a part | ἐκ μέρους we prophecy;

Personal Translation, 1 Corinthians 13:10 and whenever the whole might come, that which is from a part will be nullified.

Note: In 1 Corinthians 12:27, "limbs | μέλη - from a part | ἐκ μέρους" clearly implies "individual members"; and so, "ἐκ μέρους" - if translated consistently - is "from a part" in 1 Corinthians 13:9.


3. Greek Grammar Rules:

3.1. Affirming "τὸ τέλειον" as a Substantive Adjective:

Smyth Grammar 1021: A Substantive Adjective, generally with the article, but without its substantive, (noun), acquires the value of a substantive. This occurs when the substantive may be supplied from the context; when it is a general notion; or when it is omitted in common expressions of a definite character, when the ellipsis [supposedly "Word of God"] is conscious.

Symth Grammar 1028: The context determines the substantive to be applied;

Smyth Grammar 1023: If the context indicates that an abstraction, ("a thing"), is being referred to, then the substantive adjective would be neuter.

Smyth Grammar 1024: May Occur when denoting a collection of persons or facts.

The Body, (τὸ σῶμα) - is the only Substantive in these contexts that "Mature", "Parts from", "Complete", could actually apply too, (1 Cor. 12:12, Ephesians 4:12).

3.2. The Gifts Remain - Explicitly for the Perfection of The Body:

Ephesians 4:11, NASB - And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and ... 12 for the ... building up of the body, [τοῦ σώματος] of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith ... to a mature, [perfect / τέλειον] man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;


4. Context:

The entire book of 1 Corinthians is about maturity and unity in the "Body". More importantly, Paul acknowledged that the Corinthians had the gifts of the Spirit - even though they were being exercised "out of order".

Both "The Unity of the Body" and "Revelation of Christ" are absolutely conscious in the minds of the reader, and provided by the context. Historically, the only other referent suggested that the reader might be conscious of is "the perfect operation of gifts" - a suggestion that falsifies itself via an indirect proof, (i.e., the gifts will cease - when the perfect operation of the gifts come).

It is certainly the case that the "Word of God" is NOT in the conscious mind of the reader - because there is no direct indication from the context about this topic. (Indirect allusions like this are contrary to Paul's writing style - he always seems to feel that explanations are necessary.)

In this context, the Greek word: "τέλειον | Perfect" certainly connotes the "maturity" and "wholeness" - of people, (not a book).

This is proven by the many analogies in the immediate context, (1 Corinthians 13:11, the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14, the entire book of 1 Corinthians addressing unity, and the context of Ephesians 4:13).


5. Ruling out Rival Hypotheses:

5.1. Ruling out Idiomatic Usage of: "τὸ τέλειον" -

"The Perfect" is not used Idiomatically among New Testament writers, and doesn't consistently indicate the same thing: (A.) The Perfect Will of God, (Romans 12:2); (B.) the Perfect Work, (James 1:4); (C.) the Perfect Gift, (James 1:17); (D.) the Perfect Law of Liberty, (James 1:25); etc ...

5.2. Ruling out: The Eisegetical Interpretation as "The Word of God":

This Eisegetical argument suggests an a-textual interpretation of what "Revelation" means: specifically: "Revelation of the New Testament texts, the Bible".

Interjected into 1 Corinthians 1:7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the [completed] revelation, of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the The New Testament, The Bible, τὸ βιβλίον].

Begging the Question: This interpretation could not even be postulated - if not for the Circular Presupposition that "Spiritual Gifts are not for today". Because the verse has no prior context - "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" must be understood as Paul's audience did - who had no knowledge of, "the completed New Testament".

Self-Contradictory: This doctrine affirms that the purpose of Spiritual Gifts is to validate revelation from God, in Scripture - to mitigate deceptions "crafted in cunning deceit", (Eph. 4:14). But yet - this doctrine appears irrefutable - because it claims those gifts which could either affirm or refute it - are no longer available".

5.3. Ruling Out: "The Perfect" refers to the "Revealed New Testament Scriptures" :

Although Smyth's grammar, (above), does indicate the syntax could refer to a collection [of texts] - the immediate context, the entire book of 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians - are explicitly referring to a collection of members, a collection of parts - the "Body".

In Prophetic texts, "The Book", (in Revelation 22:19) is used in reference to a specific book, not a collection; (cf. Greek Septuagint / Daniel 12:4, "τὸ βιβλίον").

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    I’m not David, but I’m sure you realize this referent has been the subject of much debate. The interpretation you offer is one among several, and many smart people have argued that others are more plausible. To say that it is “certain” and “conclusively proven” fails to acknowledge the depth of scholarship on the topic. (Also, incidentally, pronouns and other substantives with a “pronominal” sense are marked for case according to their function within the local syntax, not according to their referent.) – Susan Jun 25 '15 at 1:47
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    Re. “referent” comment: no different conclusion (that’s why it was “incidental” ;-) ), just that the “nominative” part of “Pointing to some Noun, that is Nominative, Neuter, Single...” isn’t relevant. If it is pointing, the object (used loosely!) need not be nominative. – Susan Jun 25 '15 at 2:36
  • @Susan -A.) I removed the portions about nominative, neuter, etc. - and I agree. B.) Respectfully - depth of scholarship should be acknowledged when actual scholarship is present. Historically - this topic has been very toxic and "conclusory"; C.) In my opinion, a hermeneutic, academic, response should have a better form than my own - appealing to texts; D.) I suppose the only other possible argument could only be from a prophet or apostle, actually affirmed by God himself - which obviously excludes early Catholicism, (which appealed to tradition instead, like Rabbinicism). – elika kohen Nov 19 '17 at 19:41
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If we look at this chapter in perspective by putting ourselves in their shoes, in the time and place of the first century AD then we may understand "that which is perfect" a little better.

The book of 1 Corinthians was most probably written about 55 AD. (See Dating The New Testament here.) That makes it one of the earliest letters to the churches, if not the first.

The gospels had not yet been written, or circulated. That would happen closer to AD 60 - 65. The other letters were also written during the late 50's to early 60's, with the latest dates about AD 66-67. Revelation slides in the late 60's.. 66 - 68 AD. (Again, see Dating the New Testament.)

It is not likely that "the perfect" or complete would refer to "parts" of the gospel or NT books when only one or two of them may have actually been in existence at the time 1 Cor. was written.

1 Cor. c. 13 is in the middle of a discussion of the spiritual gifts which the first century (AD) Christians were learning to use properly. They were not born with these gifts, and they were only human. It is not hard to imagine how some may have become puffed up (1. Cor. 13:4), or proud. Some began to assign priorities, thinking that speaking in tongues / a foreign language was a more important gift than prophesy (vs. 1-2).

In order to bring them down from their "spiritual highs", Paul was pointing out that those spiritual gifts were "parts" of something better, something more important: love (vs. 1-8)

The spiritual gifts were not going to last. They had been poured out at a promised time (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:16-18). The promise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was for a purpose, and for a time.

Acts 2:38-39,

"38 and Peter said unto them, `Reform, and be baptized each of you on the name of Jesus Christ, to remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,

39 for to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.'" (YLT)

Joel had prophesied of this pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Peter told those standing before the temple on the day of Pentecost, on the day that they were assembled, on the day that the church of Christ came into existence in Acts 2:16

"But this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel:" (YLT)

And then he restated that prophesy from Joel c. 2 in verses 17-21 of Acts 2.

The "ye" of verse 38 above were those standing there on the day of Pentecost. The pouring out of the Spirit occurred at Pentecost, and was given through the laying on of hands by the apostles after the people had repented, confessed, and been immersed (baptized) in water for the forgiveness of sins.

That means they had been put into Christ, been added to the church before the spiritual gift was transmitted through the apostles physically touching, or laying on of their hands (Acts 8:18; 19:5-6; 1 Tim. 5:22; Heb. 6:2).

And, the promise was to them, to those standing there on the day of Pentecost; to their generation, and to their children, and to those far off - meaning the other nations (gentiles) which had not yet been brought close to be grafted in. The gentiles would be grafted in first at the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 in the same manner / process as the Jews had on the day of Pentecost.

These spiritual gifts were poured out in order to confirm the authority of the word; so that the people could know for a certainty the words spoken by the Apostles were from God. By imparting those spiritual gifts to those who were baptized into Christ, they could then teach others and confirm that same word was from God.

Acts 2:22,

"`Men, Israelites! hear these words, Jesus the Nazarene, a man approved of God among you by mighty works, and wonders, and signs, that God did through him in the midst of you, according as also ye yourselves have known;"

The miracles - the works, wonders and signs - were to confirm the word that was spoken came from and was approved by God. The gifts were a tool so that others could know and believe in Christ.

Remember that they did not yet have the gospels or the letters in written form. The word was being transmitted through oral teaching. It had to be confirmed with signs, and wonders, and miracles authorized by God.

1 Cor. 13:8-9,

"8 The love doth never fail; and whether [there be] prophecies, they shall become useless; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge, it shall become useless;

9 for in part we know, and in part we prophecy;" (YLT)

The spiritual gifts were a part, a piece of something that was going to fade away. The background is of the establishment of the knowledge of the gospel during the first century AD.

They had received the promise of salvation through the baptism into Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. They were being added to the church / assembly of Christ daily. They already had the promise of spiritual resurrection from the moment they came up out of that baptismal grave.

What else then had not yet come? What other promise were they still waiting for?

They were still waiting for the promised land...the everlasting kingdom of Christ. The OT law had not yet fully passed away (Heb. 8:13), because Christ told them it would not until all "these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34).

Christ entered the scene in the fullness of time telling them that the kingdom was "at hand" (Matt. 4:17). All of the gospels relate His constant promise and warning of the coming of His kingdom. He had told them that He was going to bring the kingdom with Him when He returned (Matt. 10:7,23; 16:28; 25:31; Mark 1:15; 9:1; Luke 9:27), and Christ had told them He was returning to them in their lifetime, in that generation (Matt. 23:36; 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 11:50-51; 21:32).

So, 1 Cor. 13:10, that which was still to come,

" But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (KJV)

Paul had just stated the gifts were "in part". They were still looking for the kingdom to come.. the spiritual promised land which was the anti-type of the earthly promised land form the OT exodus.

Then, we rephrase by decoding what was still to come...

But when the everlasting kingdom - "that which is perfect" - is come, then the spiritual gifts - "that which is in part" - will cease - "shall be done away with".

This is the same meaning we can understand in 1 Pet 5:10,

"'10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (KJV)

Glory and dominion... kingdom language. They were still facing the suffering of the persecution - the tribulation of Dan 12:1 and Matt. 24:15-21 were still out in front of them during Nero's reign, and the Jewish-Roman war of AD 67-70.

So, "after that ye have suffered a while" was the when that Christ would establish His kindgom, and make them "perfect," "stablish" them, "strengthen" them, and "settle" them in their new spiritual home - the promised kingdom; the promised land.

When Christ returned in judgment against those wicked who had crucified Him, and persecuted His saints in the destruction of Jerusalem and that OT Mosaic sacrificial temple, He brought the kingdom with Him, and established it in full glory. At that time, the spiritual gifts were no longer needed, and they ceased.

At the destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of that old temple, the OT law was completely filled up, and it passed away. That was the time His everlasting kingdom was perfected, completed, and established in full glory.

They did not need to prophesy any longer after AD 70, because He had already finished the work. Neither were any other miraculous spiritual gifts required. What remained was the love (1 Cor. 13:13).

The process of becoming a Christian had been established. By AD 70, the books had been written. The record of Revelation was complete, and was preserved by the Holy Spirit for our edification so that we could have the assurance that He kept His word, and did everything He said He would do.

We have been given all things pertaining unto life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3) through the everlasting gospel of Christ (Rev. 14:6) to become worthy of that home in the promised land, the everlasting kingdom of Christ (Dan. 7:14, 27; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 12:10).

That which is perfect - the kingdom of God - has already come, and those that are in Christ are already home in the perfect promised land of our spiritual kingdom. Every Christian of every generation since AD 70 has had the Spirit through the word. The Holy Spirit works through His word to help us grow in knowledge of God, and in His truth, and in His love.

For more on the spiritual promised land of the kingdom, see my post "The Promised Land: Between the Cross and the Kingdom" here.

All bold emphasis is mine.

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THE COMPLETE FACE (PRESENCE) of JESUS CHRIST.

1 Corinthians 13:10.

But when that which is perfect (τὸ τέλειον) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face (πρόσωπον): now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

τὸ τέλειον at verse 10, refer to πρόσωπον (face, presence) at verse 12.

πρόσωπον neuter singular. πρόσωπον is translated as: 1. face (Matt 17:2, Mark 1:2, 1 Peter 3:2, etc), 2. presence (Acts 3:19, Acts 5:41, 2 Th 1:9, etc).

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of THE KNOWLEDGE of the glory of God in THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST.

Face to face. We will look at the complete face (presence) of Jesus Christ, and will have the complete knowledge of the glory of God. No more "I know in part".

Note: τὸ τέλειον (neuter) CAN NOT refer to the complete Scripture (γραφή, feminine), or the complete written Revelation (ἀποκάλυψις, feminine), or the complete Word (λόγος, masculine), or the complete New Testament (διαθήκη, feminine), or the complete book (βίβλος, feminine). βιβλίον?? βιβλίον is just a diminutive of βίβλος (Strong; Thayer), strip of βίβλος (LSJ), relatively short statements in written form (Abbott-Smith 1937; Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957; Louw & Nida 1988).

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