Re: TO TELEION / 1 Cor. 13:10

From: Bruce Terry (
Date: Wed Nov 22 1995 - 15:49:55 EST

I apologize for the lateness of this post, but perhaps I can blame the loss
of the b-greek list by majordomo in part.

On Mon, 6 Nov 1995, Byron T. Bezdek 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?

One thing that has not been discussed on this question is the fact that a
neuter singular adjective modified by an article but itself filling a noun
slot in a clause is often used as an abstract noun (see A.T. Robertson's
big grammar, p. 654). This means that TO TELEION can be correctly
translated "completion," "perfection," or "maturity." So the NIV correctly

On Mon, 6 Nov 1995, Carl W. Conrad replied:

>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

Carl, I believe this understanding comes from two sources:
1) Prophecy is one of the things that are "in part"; the idea that TO TELEION
is the scriptures comes from the concept of their being the result of
completed prophecy.
2) There is a historical dimension to this as well. For the most part, the
CARISMATA that were obvious miraculous in nature ceased around the end of the
first century or beginning of the second. Their absence was often noted by
commentators through the centuries. Then around 1830, Edward Irving, a noted
Presbyterian preacher in London, began preaching that I Cor. 13:10 (When the
perfect comes, the thing in part will be done away) implies that these gifts
should still be in use today since Jesus had not yet come again. To counter
this argument, some changed their exposition of TO TELEION from perfection at
the second coming to completion when all prophecy was finished. In a 1976
lecture here at Abilene Christian, Carroll Osburn noted that the earliest that
he had been able to find this revised argument (which both Byron and I grew up
hearing) was in the 1878 commentary by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown. I
suppose that was in reaction to Irving's position some 50 years before.

For me, a more crucial question than the meaning of TO TELEION is the
significance of hOTAN in verse 10. Edward Irving argued that this implied
that TO EK MEROUS "the thing in part" would not cease (except for times of
corruption in the church) *until* TO TELEION should come. I no longer believe
this follows. In verse 11, Paul says, hOTE GEGONA ANHR, KATHRGHKA TA TOU
NHPIOU "When I became a man [NRSV adult], I put away the things of the child."
Paul did not retain all his childish speech, thinking, and reasoning until the
age of manhood. Those things gradually passed away as they were no longer
needed or appropriate. I see no real difference between hOTE in verse 11 and
hOTAN in verse 10 as regards this; he uses hOTAN in verse 10 because the time
of the coming of TO TELEION was indefinite and hOTE in verse 11 because he
knew when he had become a man. But neither means "At the time of and not a
whit before" as oft imagined both by Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals alike.

Bruce Terry E-MAIL:
Box 8426, ACU Station Phone: 915/674-3759
Abilene, Texas 79699 Fax: 915/674-3769

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