Re: TO TELION / Cor. 13:10

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Nov 06 1995 - 11:43:25 EST

At 8:51 AM 11/6/95, wrote:
>To those who a schooled in literature beyond the New Testament:
> Is there any way to specifically determine what TO TELEION refers to in
>this passage?
> I come from a minority position/tradition that interpret this as the
>completed scriptures. There are doctrinal/traditional reasons for being on
>either side of this argument, so attempting to put that aside (I am often
>wrong and may be in this case also), How far are we really able to go with
>TO TELEION from the texts themselves?

I am frankly puzzled by this. While I can see how TO TELEION by itself or
in a context suggesting a contrast between completed and uncompleted
scriptures could in fact refer to completed scriptures, what I cannot see
is how that sense can be derived from the use of the phrase in the context
in which it appears, wherein nothing (so far as I can see) even suggests

Verse 8 starts a new sequence of thought which contrasts AGAPH as something
that doesn't cease to be efficacious (I think that must be the meaning of
PIPTEI in this context) with other XARISMATA which will pass out of use
(KATARGHQHSETAI). Verse 9 clarifies that proposition by asserting that two
of these XARISMATA, namely GNWSIS and PROFHTEIA, are XARISMATA that (at
best) are "partial" (EK MEROUS)--limited in efficacy. Then in verse 10, the
"partial" (EK MEROUS) is contrasted with the "complete" (TO TELEION), and
the proposition of verse 8 is repeated, only here instead of
PIPTEI/KATARGHQHSETAI with subjects referring to enduring and
temporally-limited XARISMATA, it is TO EK MEROUS that KATARGHQHSETAI. Why
should TO EK MEROUS here refer to something other than what it referred to
in verse 8?

On the other hand, it must be granted that hH AGAPH cannot be directly
equated in verse 10 with TO TELEION. So what is it about the remainder of
these verses that suggests that TO TELEION should refer to eschatological

Verse 11 sets forth an analogy of growth from childhood to adulthood; it
refers specifically, however, to modes of speaking and apprehending
(ELALOUN, EFRONOUN, ELOGIZOMHN); presumably these should be seen as
analogous to those XARISMATA which, it was said in verse 8, KATARGHQHSETAI.
It seems to me that the use of the same verb in verse 11, KATHRGHKA,
constates this judgment.

Verse 12a reformulates the analogy which in verse 11 was cast in terms of a
past childhood and accomplished ("full-grown"--TELEIOS) adulthood, in terms
of present and future, and speaks, rather like Plato in his figure of the
Divided Line, of recognition in terms of reflected images as opposed to a
future recognition in terms of direct interactive vision. Verse 12b returns
yet once more to the subject of GNWSIS--with a significant pun added in the
notion of EPIGNWSIS--and also brings back for a last time the EK MEROUS of
verse 8 which has been contrasted with TO TELEION. Must not this future
GNWSIS be qualitatively different from the GNWSIS previously characterized
as being EK MEROUS?

I'm sorry if all this seems redundant. Perhaps it actually is. I'm just
trying to solve the problem of TO TELEION in terms of how it's used within
the context of our passage, because I don't see how "literature beyond the
New Testament" can shed any light on this passage beyond what the context
itself sheds. And, while I'll admit that the future to which Paul points
does seem to me to be the eschatological consummation, I'll grant that one
could suppose he's referring to some other fulfilment in the future that
contrasts to the present functioning of the XARISMATA in a "partial"
fashion. I just don't see, however, how anything within the text itself
suggests "fulfilment of scripture." That's what seems to me to be imported
from doctrinal/traditional perspectives. I've not tried to apply here any
faith perspective at all but rather I've tried to work out what
possibilities of interpretation are suggested as most likely by the context

I apologize for the length of this post. I probably ought to have been able
to express this more economically, but I couldn't. And I don't know whether
this has really been very helpful toward elucidation of the problems of the
text, but it's an effort.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:32 EDT