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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xxii. ὁλόκληρος, τέλειος, ἄρτιος.

Ὁλόκληρος and τέλειος occur together, though their order is reversed, at Jam. 1:4, —“perfect and entire” (cf. Philo, De Sac. Ab. et Cain. 33: ἔμπλεα καὶ ὁλόκληρα καὶ τέλεια: Dio Chrysostom, Orat. 12, p. 203); ὁλοκληρος only once besides in the N. T. (1 Thess. 5:23); ὁλοκληρία also, but in a physical not an ethical sense, once (Acts 3:16; cf. Isai. 1:6). Ὁλόκληρος signifies first, as its etymology declares, that which retains all which was allotted to it at the first (Ezek. 15:5), being thus whole and entire in all its parts (ὁλόκληρος καὶ παντελής, Philo, De Merc. Meret. 1); with nothing necessary for its completeness wanting. Thus Darius would have been well pleased not to have taken Babylon if only Zopyrus, who had maimed himself to carry out the stratagem by which it fell, were ὁλόκληρος still (Plutarch, Reg. et Imper. Apoph.). Again, unhewn stones, as having lost nothing in the process of shaping and polishing, are ὁλόκληροι (Deut. 27:6; 1 Macc. 4:47); perfect weeks are ἑβδομάδες ὁλόκληροι (Lev. 23:15); and a man ἐν ὁλοκλήρῳ δέρματι is ‘in a whole skin’ (Lucian, Philops. 8). We next find ὁλόκληρος expressing that integrity of body, with nothing redundant, nothing deficient (cf. Lev. 21:17-23), which was required of the Levitical priests as a condition of their ministering at the altar, which also might not be wanting in the sacrifices they offered. In both these senses Josephus uses it (Antt. iii. 12. 2); as does Philo continually. It is with him the standing word for this integrity of the priests and of the sacrifice, to the necessity of which he often recurs, seeing in it, and rightly, a mystical significance, and that these are ὁλόκληροι θυσίαι ὁλοκλήρῳ Θεῷ (De Vict. 2; De Vict. Off. 1, ὁλόκληρον καὶ παντελῶς μώμων ἀμέτοχον: De Agricul. 29; De Cherub. 28; cf. Plato, Legg. vi. 759 c). Τέλειος is used by Homer (Il. 1. 66) in the same sense.

It is not long before ὁλόκληρος and ὁλοκληρία, like the Latin ‘integer’ and ‘integritas,’ are transferred from bodily to mental and moral entireness (Suetonius, Claud. 4). The only approach to this in the Apocrypha is Wisd. xv. 3, ὁλόκληρος δικαιοσύνη: but in an interesting and important passage in the Phoedrus of Plato (250 c; cf. Tim. 44 c), ὁλόκληρος expresses the perfection of man before the Fall; I mean, of course, the Fall as Plato contemplated it; when to men, as yet ὁλόκληροι καὶ ἀπαθεῖς κακῶν, were vouchsafed ὁλόκληρα φάσματα, as contrasted with those weak partial glimpses of the Eternal Beauty, which are all that to most men are now vouchsafed. That person then or thing is ὁλόκληρος, which is ‘omnibus numeris absolutus,’ or ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενος, as St. James himself (1:4) explains the word.

The various applications of τέλειος are all referable to the τέλος, which is its ground. In a natural sense the τέλειοι are the adult, who, having attained the full limits of stature, strength, and mental power within their reach, have in these respects attained their τέλος, as distinguished from the νέοι or παῖδες, young men or boys (Plato, Legg. xi. 929 c; Xenophon, Cyr. viii. 7. 6; Polybius, v. 29. 2). This image of full completed growth, as contrasted with infancy and childhood, underlies the ethical use of τέλειοι by St. Paul, he setting these over against the νήπιοι ἐν Χριστῷ (1 Cor. 2:6; 14:20; Ephes. 4:13, 14; Phil. 3:15; Heb. 5:14; cf. Philo, De Agricul. 2); they correspond in fact to the πατέρες of 1 John 2:13, 14, as distinct from the νεανίσκοι and παιδία. Nor is this ethical use of τέλειος confined to Scripture. The Stoics distinguished the τέλειος in philosophy from the προκόπτων, just as at 1 Chron. 25:8 the τέλειοι are set over against the μανθάνοντες. With the heathen, those also were τέλειοι who had been initiated into the mysteries; for just as the Lord’s Supper was called τὸ τέλειον (Bingham, Christ. Antiquities, i. 4. 3), because there was nothing beyond it, no privilege into which the Christian has not entered, so these τέλειοι of heathen initiation obtained their name as having been now introduced into the latest and crowning mysteries of all.

It will be seen that there is a certain ambiguity in our word ‘perfect,’ which, indeed, it shares with τέλειος itself; this, namely, that they are both employed now in a relative, now in an absolute sense; for only so could our Lord have said, “Be ye therefore perfect (τέλειοι), as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (τέλειος), Matt. 5:48; cf. 19:21. The Christian shall be ‘perfect,’ yet not in the sense in which some of the sects preach the doctrine of perfection, who, as soon as their words are looked into, are found either to mean nothing which they could not have expressed by a word less liable to misunderstanding; or to mean something which no man in this life shall attain, and which he who affirms he has attained is deceiving himself, or others, or both. The faithful man shall be ‘perfect,’ that is, aiming by the grace of God to be fully furnished and firmly established in the knowledge and practice of the things of God (Jam. 3:2; Col. 4:12: τέλειος καὶ πεπληροφορημένος); not a babe in Christ to the end, ‘not always employed in the elements, and infant propositions and practices of religion, but doing noble actions, well skilled in the deepest mysteries of faith and holiness.’1 In this sense St. Paul claimed to be τέλειος, even while almost in the same breath he disclaimed the being τετελειωμένος (Phil. 3:12, 15).

The distinction then is plain. The ὁλόκληρος is one who has preserved, or who, having once lost, has now regained, his completeness: the τέλειος is one who has attained his moral end, that for which he was intended, namely, to be a man in Christ; however it may be true that, having reached this, other and higher ends will open out before him, to have Christ formed in him more and more.2 In the ὁλόκληρος no grace which ought to be in a Christian man is deficient; in the τέλειος no grace is merely in its weak imperfect beginnings, but all have reached a certain ripeness and maturity. Ὁλοτελής, occurring once in the N. T. (1 Thess. 5:23; cf. Plutarch, De Plac. Phil. v. 21), forms a connecting link between the two, holding on to ὁλόκληρος in its first half, to τέλειος in its second.

Ἄρτιος, occurring only once in the N. T. (2 Tim. 3:17), and there presently explained more fully as ἐξηρτισμένος, approximates in meaning more closely to ὁλόκληρος, with which we find it joined by Philo (De plant. 29), than to τέλειος. It is explained by Calvin, ‘in quo nihil est mutilum,’—see further the quotation from Theodoret in Suicer, s.v.,—and is found opposed to χωλός (Chrysostom), to κολοβός (Olympiodorus), to ἀνάπηρος (Theodoret). Vulcan in Lucian (Sacrif. 6) is οὐκ ἄρτιος τὼ πόδε. If we ask ourselves under what special aspects completeness is contemplated in ἄρτιος, it would be safe to answer that it is not as the presence only of all the parts which are necessary for that completeness, but involves further the adaptation and aptitude of these parts for the ends which they were designed to serve. The man of God, St. Paul would say (2 Tim. 3:17), should be furnished and accomplished with all which is necessary for the carrying out of the work to which he is appointed.


1 On the sense in which ‘perfection’ is demanded of the Christian, there is a discussion at large by Jeremy Taylor, Doctrine and Practice of Repentance, i. 3. 40– 56, from which this quotation is drawn.

2 Seneca (Ep. 120) says of one, ‘Habebat perfectum animum, ad summam sui adductus.’

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G3648,G5046,G739.]

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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