The Glossary of Terms

perfect, perfection


Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

by W.R.F. Browning (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996)

perfection In the OT perfection is ascribed to God (Job 37:26) and in the NT to persons, signifying maturity (1 Cor. 2:6). The command in the Sermon on the Mount to be perfect (Matt. 5:48) is changed in Luke 6:36 to 'be merciful'. In Matt. it is part of the new ethic of the kingdom, such as non-retaliation, in which the conditions of the kingdom are set out as ideals.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

perfect, perfection, the English translation of words signifying, respectively, ‘being complete, sound, upright, or blameless’ and ‘the attainment of maturity.’ In the ot, the most common Hebrew term for ‘perfect’ can be applied to God as perfect in knowledge, justice, fidelity, and promise keeping (Job 37:16; Deut. 32:4; 2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30); his law is perfect (Ps. 19:7). Applied to persons, the same term means ‘blameless’ (Gen. 6:9; Deut. 18:13), ‘upright’ (Prov. 2:21), and observant of the law (Ps. 119:1). The nt Greek term for ‘perfect’ can mean ‘mature’ (1 Cor. 2:6; 14:20; Heb. 5:14), and the noun means ‘maturity’ (Heb. 6:1). The command to be ‘perfect’ in Matt. 5:48 (‘merciful’ in Luke 6:36) means to be complete or inclusive in love. Christ became perfect through his sufferings (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). Nowhere are humans considered perfect, but readers are exhorted to be perfect (or whole) by steadfast faith (James 1:4). Paul says that he has not yet attained perfection (Phil. 3:12); that will be realized only in the life to come (Phil. 3:8-21). Perfection is a gift bestowed by Christ (Heb. 10:14).

To explore additional references on "perfect, perfection" from the Bible and other writings, browse "PERFECT" at

See also "Characteristics of the earliest Christians: What they practiced & taught, & what they did not do & discouraged" at


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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