the meaning of to teleion in 1 corinthians 13:10

Gary S. Shogren gshogren at sol.racsa.co.cr
Wed Jan 13 22:25:23 EST 1999


This is about interpretation, and thus a bit off-topic, but you pushed my 
button with this one! I'm publishing an article in Journal of Pentecostal 
Studies (Sheffield) this year on patristic exegesis of 1 Cor 13:8-12. I 
cover 500 years of exegesis by the fathers. The cessationist approach in 
fact sparked my interest originally.

My conclusion: with the exception of Tertullian (sort of a quasi-Montanist 
view), the Manicheans, the Montanists, maybe some Gnostics, maybe the 
Marcionites...to a man they all took the passage to be referring to 
eschatological perfection: either the Parousia, death and the soul's entry 
into heaven, the beatific vision, whatever, but not in this life.

There was a strong tension between the catholic church and the groups 
mentioned above. It was a common theme in the catholics that heretics, 
claiming new revelation or special knowledge, would appeal to "to teleion" 
as a reference to the new light brought by their founder (Mani, Montanus, 
etc) or their reception of gnosis. The church consistently argued back that 
the catholic church follows the full revelation brought by Christ, that 
it's univerally available to all comers, that no Mani or Montanus knows 
more than Paul knew, that we need to practice humility in light of the 
partial knowledge in this age.

Chrysostom was a cessationist, but he split off verse 8: tongues have 
ceased, but the perfect has not yet come. He's the only one that I know of 
who did that in antiquity.

_To teleion_ was always eschatological "perfection". No-one in antiquity, 
BTW, is on record as thinking its referent is the canon.

I used the standard indices, but also played around with TLG and tried out 
some new forms for searching the Greek fathers. I assumed that they might 
not be quoting precisely or fully; thus, I ran searches on (I think) five 
pairs of words; that is, looking for PROFH AND GLWSSA, TELEION AND AGAPH, 
etc. This yielded lots of false leads, but many heretofore undocumented 
allusions to that passage. Fun, but tedious! I found hundreds of 
references, and analyzed a couple hundred in detail.

Copies available on request (many footnotes, I'm afraid, and you'll have to 
take it as an attachment; mail from Costa Rica goes by "tortuga").

Be Greek,
Gary Shogren



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