Is Jesus or God Perfect?

This entry is part 8 of 57 in the series Mysteries

Question Eight

Is Jesus or God Perfect?

This is another one of those traditional beliefs, not supported by the Bible, but by tradition, that is bolstered by fear of offending God.  What if you were to teach that God is not perfect in every detail and then after death you are confronted by a being that is perfect and is annoyed at you for the insult? Why, you just might be sent to the nether regions of outer darkness.

On the other hand, it seems safe to teach that God is perfect.  If God is perfect and a strong authoritarian then he is likely to be pleased at your complements. But, if he is not perfect he may still be pleased that you gave him the benefit of the doubt. The idea of promoting the perfection of God seems to be a good insurance policy.

There are several problems with attributing perfection to any being, even God.

(1) Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

(2) The Bible doesn’t say that God is perfect.

Let us start with the first one. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder just as beauty is.

There are many creations that the majority will admit are beautiful, but none that appeal to all.  There is no work of art, a human being, an animal, a flower or a diamond that all will agree to be the most beautiful of its kind.

The same judgment goes into perfection. What is the perfect work of art, the perfect poem, the perfect crystal, the perfect planet, ruler, king, president, man, woman, etc.?

The Buddhists in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan thought that their world’s largest, 180 foot tall statue of Buddha, represented beauty and perfection.  In peaceful times people came from all around the world to see it. But the Taliban had a different opinion. To their eyes it was an ugly abomination so they took high explosives and blew to smithereens the great work that had existed there for 1400 years.

This sad account of ignorant action illustrates the point that both beauty and perfection is in the eye of the beholder and not a thing we can earmark for everyone.

Therefore, a person’s view of a perfect God may be much different than his neighbor’s.  My view of a perfect God may be your view of the devil himself.

Now let us move on to the second statement that the Bible doesn’t say that God is perfect.

“That’s blasphemy and untrue,” says the fundamentalist. “Let me give you two statements from the Bible that prove you wrong.

“Here is one about God: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect.’” Matt 5:48

“And here is one about Jesus: ‘And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.’” Heb 5:9

“Obviously, the Bible says both Jesus and God are perfect.”

Not so fast, my friend.  Those words were not written in English, but translated from the Greek.  An examination of the meaning of the Greek words reveals that believers have been relying on a gross mistranslation over the centuries.

There are two words in the Biblical Greek from whence the word “perfect” is translated. The first is AKRIBELA and the second is TELEIOO.

The word AKRIBELA corresponds to the modern usage.  If a person or thing is AKRIBELA then it functions flawlessly with no imperfections. The religious leaders in the days of Jesus placed great emphasis in following the laws of Moses with this type of perfection.  They placed particular attention on the Sabbath Day and condemned Jesus for not being perfect in honoring it. They thought that if one were perfect (AKRIBELA) that he would do no work on the Sabbath Day as was written in the law, but Jesus labored tirelessly on this day healing and teaching. They even criticized him and his apostles for picking some grain to eat on the Sabbath.

In the end they crucified him because they thought he was far from perfect and thus could not be the messiah.

The other word translated as “perfect” is TELEIOO. “Perfect” is a poor translation, not correctly representing the meaning. This, or the adjective form, TELEIOS, does not imply that one has functioned without flaw but that he has finished a job or completed a work. Let us therefore interpret from the Greek and retranslated the above two verses.

Instead of, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect.” It should read, “Finish your work to completion even as God does his.”

That makes a lot more sense doesn’t it? After all, who can expect any mortal to be as perfect as the infallible omnipotent, omniscient God that is envisioned by many religions?

Now let us look at the one about Jesus which reads, ‘And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation…”

A much better translation is, “Having finished his work he became the author of eternal salvation…”

Conclusion: It was the enemies of Jesus who placed great emphasis on flawless perfection, whereas Jesus placed emphasis on getting the job done successfully, even if he had to use flawed fishermen to help him.

God brings his works to wonderful and beautiful conclusions, but that which happens as the work progresses may be far from perfect. That which is to be the beautiful butterfly was once a repulsive caterpillar.

Copyright by J J Dewey 2014

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