PERFECT: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
[C E Scofield, NIV Scofield Study Bible, p. 1245]:
"The word 'perfect,' as the Bible uses it of men, does not refer to sinless perfection. Old Testament characters described as 'blameless,' or 'wholly devoted' were obviously not sinless (cp. Gen 6:9; 1 Ki 15:14; 2 Ki 20:3; 1 Chr 12:38; Job 1:1, 8; Ps 37:37). Although a number of Hebrew and Greek words are translated 'perfect, ' the thought is usually either completeness in all details (Heb tamam, Gk katartizO), or to reach a goal or to reach a goal or achieve a purpose(Gk teleioO). Three stages of perfection are revealed:
(1) Positional perfection, already possessed by every believer in Christ (Heb 10:14).
(2) Relative perfection, i.e., spiritual maturity (Phil 3:15), especially in such aspects as the will of God (Col 4:12), love (1 Jn 4:17-18), holiness (2 Cor 7:1), patience (Jas 1:4), 'everything good' (Heb 13:21). Maturity is achieved progressively, as in 2 Cor 7:1, 'perfecting holiness,' and Gal 3:3, lit., 'are you now being made perfect?' and is accomplished through gifts of ministry bestowed to 'prepare God's people' (Eph 4:12). And (3) ultimate perfection, i.e., perfection in sould, spirit, and body, which Paul denies he has attained (Phil 3:12) but which will be realized at the time of the resurrection of the dead (Phil 3:11). For the Christian nothing short of the moral perfection of God is always the absolute standard of conduct, but Scripture recognizes that Christians do not attain sinless perfection in this life (cp. 1 Pet 1:15-16; 1 Jn 1:8-10).
[Compare 1 Cor 13:10]:
"But when that which is complete comes, the partial will be done away with."
"that which is complete" = "to teleion" = literally, "that which is complete in all its parts" - neuter gender - i.e., the completed Scriptures.
So "to teleion" is not an absolutely perfect thing which is an alternative meaning. It is most likely defined here, considering the context and usual usage, as 'that which is complete" as opposed to that which is classified here as "that which is partial" = the miraculous spiritual gifts of Prophecy and Word of Knowledge, which it replaces.
[Dr. Robert L. Thomas states, Professor of New Testament, TMSJ 4/2 (Fall 1993) 187-201http://www.mastersem.edu/journal/j4th2.htm op. cit.]:
'''The most common definitions of the English word "perfect" applied to 1 Cor 13:10 would probably include:
(a) being entirely without fault or defect
(b) corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept
(c) the soundness and the excellence of every part, element, or quality of a thing frequently as an unattainable or theoretical state.
Either of these three or a combination of them is the usual notion the average person attaches to the word. All three are qualitative in nature, a characteristic that renders them unsatisfactory renderings of to teleion. Four reasons demonstrate this:
(i) No other use of teleios in Paul can possibly mean "perfection" in the sense of the absence of all imperfection. In fact, the meaning of "perfection" in Greek philosophers that of a "perfect" man is absent from the NT. Utopian perfection was a philosophical notion, not a NT idea, for this word. Elsewhere in Paul the adjective is figurative and refers almost exclusively to a grown man (cf. 1 Cor 2:6; 14:20; Phil 3:15; Eph 4:13; Col 1:28; cf. also Heb 5:14). One other time, in Col 4:12, it means "mature" in the OT sense of wholeness and obedience to God's will, and picks up on his ambition for every man as stated in Col 1:28. So six out of the other seven times Paul uses the word, it means "mature." The remaining use is in Rom 12:1 where its meaning is "complete.
This pattern of usage establishes a strong probability that the word includes the sense of maturity [or completeness] in 1 Cor 13:10, especially since its other two uses in 1 Corinthians have that sense.
(ii) In the immediate context of 1 Cor 13:8-13, a qualitative word is unsuitable in light of the apodosis of the sentence in 13:10. "Perfect" is not a suitable opposite to...ek merous, ("partial"). A better meaning would be "whole" or "complete" as antithetical to ek merous.
(iii) The terminology of 13:11 is most conclusive, however, because it is an analogy with the stages of human life (i.e.,...npios = "child" and anr = "child").
(aa) This analogy directly impacts the meaning of to teleion in 13:10, because it sets up a teleios/npios antithesis in vv. 10-11 that is relative, not absolute, and therefore incompatible with the concept of perfection. The difference between childhood and adulthood is a matter of degree, not one of mutually exclusive differentiation.
(bb) The npios/anr antithesis in v. 11 has the same conbackgrdal effect of ruling out the notion of an ideal state as denoted by the translation "perfect."
(iv) The terminology of 13:12 requires an allusion to degrees of revelatory understanding, not perfection or freedom from imperfection. The verbs blpomen (blepomen, "I see") and ginskv (ginsk, "I know") correlate with the gifts of prophecy and knowledge...
[with their partial provision of understanding of the NT doctrines as compared to the complete provision of the NT doctrines through the completed canonmaking full understanding available in the future for the NT believer]
...This is quantitative, not qualitative, so to teleion must have the same quantitative connotation. Hence both etymological and conbackgrdal considerations argue emphatically against the meaning "perfect" for to teleion.'''