The Perfect Translation (Part 4)

In this last part of our study, we will look at some additional words translated “perfect” in some of our versions. These words are DIASOZW, hOLOKLHRIA, and PLHROW./1
We find the word “perfect” in English associated with DIASOZW in Matthew 14:36 in the KJV. The translation reads, “?and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.” The word DIASOZW is a compound word comprised of the preposition DIA (which means “through”) and SOZW (which is a verb meaning “to save). When DIA is compounded with a verb, the action of the verb takes on the additional quality of being thoroughly or completely done./2 In other words, the action is done, through and through. The word has the primary meaning, “to be completely saved”. The KJV translators were trying to capture the significance of the preposition DIA when they translated Matthew 14:36 “perfectly whole.” The expression is somewhat redundant in that if something is whole, it is already “perfect” in the sense of complete. Thus the ASV simply has, “?and as many as touched were made whole” without the adverb “perfectly.”
The adjective hOLOKLHROS (hOLOKLHRIA, feminine noun) is a true synonym of TELEIOS and ARTIOS./3 The noun form is found in Acts 3:16, “?the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” “Perfect soundness” is the translation of the one word hOLOKLHRIA. The word means complete health or wholeness. The word is another one of these compound words with which Greek is so abundant. It originates from the Greek word hOLOS meaning “complete, whole, all” and from the word KLHROS meaning “a part or portion.” So the complete meaning is “a whole or full portion.” In reference to health, that would indicate complete wellness. The adjective form of the word is found in only two places in the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and James 1:4. In the James passage it is synonymously used alongside of TELEIOS. The text reads, “?that you may be perfect (TELEIOS) and entire (hOLOKLHROS), lacking in nothing.” The passage aptly defines the two concepts.
Finally we come to PLHROW which really isn’t a snynonym of any of the above words, through it is translated “perfect” in the KJV in Revelation 3:2: “?for I have not found thy works perfect [ESV translates “complete”] before God.” In the context, the word is a perfect passive participle. The perfect tense indicates completed action with ongoing results. In other words, the works of Sardis were lacking and they continued to be lacking; they were not whole, full, or complete. This indicates a deficiency on their part of some things that they needed to do, hence, they are exhorted to repent. PLHROW really means “filled” or “fulfilled.” It has within it the idea of taking something that is empty and filling it to the top. It is found frequently in the New Testament in this sense. It is only translated “complete” in Colossians 2:10 and Colossians 4:12. It is also translated “accomplished” in Luke 9:31.
Thus we come to the end of the words which are translated “perfect” in the KJV of the New Testament. The Greek language is very colorful and has many different words to express various nuances of meaning. We have seen that the word “perfect” can mean “flawless,” “fitting,” “mature,” “complete,” “whole,” and “full.” It is important that we recognize which of these words is being used so that we can glean the appropriate meaning from the context and not jump to any exegetical conclusions. I hope this study has been beneficial to many to see the various different flavors of these words.
/1 All statistics taken from George V. Wigram and Jay P. Green, Sr., eds. The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance and Lexicon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1982).
/2 For example, the word DIASPEIRW means to scatter throughout or disperse (see Acts 8:1,4, 11:19). The word DIALALEW means to talk thoroughly or discuss (Luke 1:65). DIABLEPW means to look at something completely or clearly (Matthew 7:5, Luke 6:42). There are many more examples. Consult your lexicon.
/3 R. C. Trench, Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2000), 89.

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