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Context: 1 Cor 13:8-12 (ESV)

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

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The answer to "what is partial" in 1 Cor 13:10 is found in 1 Cor 13:9 -

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

That is, the partial refers to incomplete and imperfect knowledge/prophecy. As the Cambridge commentary succinctly observes:

  1. and we prophesy in part All inspired utterances are but partial revelations of Divine Truth.

Similarly, Poole observes:

For we know in part; it was truly said, as to things human, that the greatest part of those things that we know, is the least part of those things which we are ignorant of. A great measure of Divine things is also unknown to us, and the knowledge of them reserved for thr resurrection and day of judgment, John 14:20.

And we prophesy in part; nor can the communication of our knowledge to that, be larger than what we by prophecy communicate; we having ourselves but a short and imperfect communication of Divine things, we can communicate but an imperfect degree of knowledge to others.

While ever we are still human and have imperfect human minds and bodies (as distinct from the heavenly bodies promised in 1 Cor 15:39-51), nothing can be complete or perfect. We have imperfect knowledge, imperfect/incomplete revelation of God, imperfect/partial understanding of spiritual things, etc, etc.

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