1

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (τελεῖται) in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)

Marva J. Dawn states the verb [τελέω] means "to end, finish" and [τελειόω] means "to perfect, to make genuine, to complete, to succeed fully, to initiate, to make happen, to become." 1 This difference is reflected in the only place Paul uses τελειόω:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect (τετελείωμαι), but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12 ESV)

She notes R.C.H. Lenski suggested the proper translation in 2 Corinthians is "for the power is brought to its finish in weakness." In other words, Paul is describing something which is to be brought to an end and not something which is to be made perfect.

She also notes there is no pronoun in connection with power and offers this translation: 2

My grace is sufficient for you, for [your] power is brought to it end in weakness.

Is her analysis sound and if so why is the verb τελέω usually treated as if were τελειόω in this case?


1. Marva J. Dawn, Powers, Weaknesses, and the Tabernacling of God, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001, p. 38
2. Ibid, p. 41

2
  • There is no such word as "teleiou".
    – fdb
    Sep 15 '17 at 23:16
  • Do you mean τελειόω?
    – fdb
    Sep 15 '17 at 23:44
1

The τελεῖται from the τελέω means "to bring to an end","complete", "fulfill", so semantically it is quite close and akin to the τελειόω "bring to an end", "complete", "make perfect", "initiate" [as into pagan mysteries]; therefore, in some NT manuscripts there stays τελειούται (from τελειόω). In fact, those two terms were so close that even in antiquity they were used interchangeably, so that the τέλεω can be used with the identical semantics with the τελειόω, in the sense of "making perfect", that is to say, initiate in the mysteries (Liddle and Scott dictionary mentions passages from Plato, Aristotle and Demosthenes where the τέλεω is used in the same "make perfect", "initiate" sense as the τελειόω).

In the context of Pauline doctrine that Jesus Christ's Intellect (or Spirit) (according to some fathers the Holy Spirit is implied here) is immanently present in every believer (1 Cor. 2:16), it means that this Intellect/Spirit educates and nourishes our intellects to a perfection, that we may "attain the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature/perfect [τέλειον] manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). Now, Paul says that this perfecting activity of God's Spirit is carried out in our [physical, intellectual, economical, political etc.] weakness.

Thus, either you put there τέλεω or τελειόω the semantics is identical: God's immanent presence in us through His Spirit, through His energy (Col. 1:29) performs a perfecting work within us, through our co-action with and imitation of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), to the end that we be perfected even as to "know Him as we are known by Him" (1 Cor. 13:12).

In translation I would prefer "made perfect", just for the reason that it gives a deservedly salutary major tone to this very deep theological phrase and to a short time ago pagan audience of Paul's time would suggest a substitution of pagan perfecting mysteries, that did not bring real initiation and real perfection of man, but only a semblance of it, by a true mystery of perfecting initiation in Christ.

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