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Ezekiel 28:15 New International Version

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

New King James Version

You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

Which word choice is better?

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  • This is a question for theological dictionaries. If you have access to TDOT, read the article on Tammim to see it means all of these as well as other positive meanings: blameless, complete, perfect, based on the context.
    – Robert
    Jul 15 at 15:25
  • Thanks for the pointer. Sorry I have no access to TDOT. Can you expand into an answer?
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 15 at 15:28
  • You can derive exactly the same information from the on-line version of BDB as listed here >> biblehub.com/hebrew/8549.htm
    – Dottard
    Jul 15 at 22:14
  • Thanks for the pointer. BDB does not mention "perfect".
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 16 at 13:56
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From the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, we see that Tammim comes from the root tmm, used throughout the ANE (both semitic and Egyptian) with meanings of "come or bring to an absolute end".

From this, the word when used as a noun or adjective, it would mean fulfilling one's purpose or design perfectly/completely/fully, but when used as a verb it could mean to "utterly destroy" or "brought to a complete end".

A specific case of the noun-adjective form is in cultic practices (e.g. animal sacrifice, priestly rituals) where it means "unblemished":

with very few exceptions, the verbal forms denote the observable fact that something has come or been brought to an end (often with negative connotations), whereas the noun and adjective (apart from the cultic term tāmîm describing a sacrificial animal as “unblemished”) belong to the psychological and moral realm and refer to the positive attribute of “uprightness.” This observation explains why the nominal forms appear primarily in wisdom literature and texts influenced by it.

The broad semantic range can be attested by LXX translations of this word[1]:

For the subst. form tāmîm (tām) with its positive connotation, the LXX generally uses forms with an alpha privative. The adj. ámōnos, “without blemish” (ca. 50 instances)—supported by Lev. 22:21: “(the sacrificial animal) must be perfect [Gk. ámōnos]; it shall have no blemish [meʾum; Gk. mṓnos]”—can also denote moral blamelessness. Other, less common, privative forms refer only to the latter and appear primarily in theological texts that deal with ethical conduct (Psalms, Job, Proverbs): ákakos, “innocent” (ca. 15 instances); ámemptos, “blameless”; athaṓ̧s, “not subject to prosecution.” Among the nonprivative forms, the most common is téleios (7 times), which means “perfect” in both the physical and the moral sense; others include hósios, “devout” (5 times), katharós, “pure” (bis), díkaios, “righteous,” and alēthinós, “true.” All these translations emphasize various nuances of the Hebrew root.

In the case of Ezekiel 28.15, it is an adjective, and "perfect", "blameless", "righteous", "guiltless" would all be reasonable translations as the word has a broad semantic range.

[1]Kedar-Kopfstein, B. (2006). תָּמַם. G. J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, & H.-J. Fabry (Eds.), D. E. Green (Trans.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Revised Edition, Vol. 15, p. 700). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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  • Compare heavens שמים and 'perfect' תמים . Heaven is the Spirit ש on the face of the waters מים. Perfect is the prefix imperative ת (which has the sense of being complete before it is begun) for waters. Waters are the water above מי and the waters below ים. OR Creation יbetween the Father מ and the Son ם. 'Perfect' also is translated 'coupled' in Exodus 26:24. When you are perfect or flawless, you are coupled to God. The Urim and Thummim are the Holy (lights) and the perfect.
    – Bob Jones
    Aug 11 at 3:51

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