Perfection and Eschatology in Hebrews -- By: Moisés Silva

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 39:1 (Fall 1976)
Article: Perfection and Eschatology in Hebrews
Author: Moisés Silva


Perfection and Eschatology in Hebrews

Moisés Silva

[This article is an expanded version of part of a paper read before the Evangelical Theological Society, Far Western Region, in November, 1975.]

The verb τελειοῦν and its derivatives occur fourteen times in the Epistle to the Hebrews (an average of more than one occurrence per chapter); indeed, about a third of the New Testament occurrences are found in this epistle. This high frequency, which can hardly be explained as a mannerism, suggests that the concept referred to by the terms was of more than average importance for the author. The suspicion is confirmed by even a cursory examination of the contexts where the words are found: Old Testament saints are perfected only with us (11:40; cf. 12:23), for only the divine arrangement mediated by Christ, who is the perfecter of our faith (12:2), may be called perfect (7:11, 19; cf. 9:11), and consequently only his blood can perfect the conscience (9:9; 10:1, 14); further, the author calls Christians to perfection (5:14; 6:1), and even Jesus, we are told, experienced perfection through his sufferings (2:10, 5:9; 7:28).

The modern reader (who, to complicate matters, naturally associates perfection with moral and ethical qualities) feels less than comfortable with this lumping together of quite disparate items. What possible experience is there common to Jesus, to divine-human arrangements, and to sinful men which may be described as the undergoing of perfection? Can we define the word(s), or formulate the concept, in a way that is consistent with these various occurrences?

F. F. Bruce, commenting on 2:10, defines perfection in Hebrews as “unimpeded access to God.”1 To be perfect, in other words, constitutes inward fitness to approach God. Presumably,

Bruce bases his interpretation on the Septuagintal use of τελειοῦν

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