The "Perfect" Translation (Part 1)

One of the most commonly discussed Greek words in the New Testament corresponds to the English word for “perfect.” When we search through the New Testament (AV), we find several different instances and forms of the word “perfect” (perfect, perfected, perfectly, perfectness, perfection). As is often the case, the Greek language contains several words that are translated with just one English word or a form thereof. In this case, there are several Greek words that have been translated “perfect.” They are: TELEIOS, TELEIOW, TELEIOTHS, TELEIWSIS, TELESFOREW, EPITELEW, DIASOZW, ARTIOS, KATARTIZW, KATARTISIS, KATARTISMOS, AKRIBWS, AKRIBESTERON, AKRIBEIA, HOLOKLHRIA, and PLHROW. In the chart below they are divided by the “root” element in the word.


Since there are so many words to discuss, we’ll talk about them in a multi-part series of articles. In the remainder of this article, let’s consider the AKRIB- family of words.
AKRIBEIA is the noun form in this family of words. The idea behind this word is “exactness.” Acts 22:3 is the only time AKRIBEIA is used in the New Testament. Paul said that he was taught according to the “exact” or “perfect” manner of the law by Gamaliel. We understand him to mean a rigorous and exacting standard; perfection was the goal here.
In Acts 18:26, 23:15, 20, and 24:22 we have the word AKRIBESTERON. This word is the comparative form of AKRIBEIA. So when Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos, they taught him “more perfectly” or “more exactly” the way of the Lord. So also, when Paul was under examination in Acts 23:15, 20, the Jews wanted to learn more details concerning his ordeal and so inquired of him “more perfectly” or “more exactly” (or “with more detail” in this context). Finally, in Acts 24:22 it is said that Felix had a “more perfect” knowledge of Christianity. The idea here is that Felix had more exact information than the others about Christianity. So he was in a better position to judge.
AKRIBWS is the adverb form of this word. So it is going to have the same meaning only in reference to modifying verbs. Typically, English adds the suffix ?ly to the end of the word to get the adverb form. So we have “exactly” or “perfectly” or the word may mean “carefully” or “diligently” in some verses. It is only translated “perfect” in Luke 1:3 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2. In Luke 1:3 it is in Luke’s prologue to describe his “understanding of all things.” Luke claimed to understand things “exactly” or with sufficient detail, that is “accurately.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:2 Paul tells the brethren that they know “exactly” that “the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night.” (This seems to be a play on words. The whole point is that we don’t know when the Lord will return. So, in essence, Paul says, “You know exactly that you don’t know!”) This word is also found in Matthew 2:8 and Acts 18:25, translated as “diligently.” The idea in these verses is that the action was to be done “thoroughly.” Finally, in Ephesians 5:15 it is translated “circumspectly.” We might say “analyzingly,” to coin a new word, or we might translate it “with scrutiny.” The idea is that we are to examine our life in sufficient detail to ensure that we are walking in wisdom.
There are two more words not translated “perfect” in this word family. They are AKRIBESTATOS which is the superlative form of the word (see Acts 26:5 perhaps “most exacting” here) and AKRIBOW which is the verb form (see Matthew 2:7, 16). It should be sufficiently obvious how these words work in their context at this point.
What can we conclude from the AKRIB- family of words? This word best represents our modern day concept of “perfection.” It is the word to use when one wants to get across the idea of leaving no stone unturned, so to speak. It is the word that indicates exactness, detail, scrutiny, or perfection. Next week we’ll turn our thoughts to ARTIOS!

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