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Showing posts from February 19, 2014

"Be perfect" -- a horrible translation, and even more horrible theology

This Sunday, we hear a couple more "tough saying" of Jesus in a continuation of Jesus' "sermon on the mount."   Unfortunately, the Gospel lesson concludes with our hearing Jesus saying -- seeming to say -- "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."    The reason I say that's unfortunate (and that Jesus is only seeming to say "be perfect") is that "be perfect" is a terrible translation -- one of the worst in the whole English Bible -- of what was being said. Biblical scholars point out that the word Jesus is using here (in Hebrew, tam ) means "be whole" (or "be wholesome"), or "be mature," or "be complete."    We tend to think, however, of "perfection" as "without blemish" or "completely free from faults or defects," such as when we say a student a "perfect score" or when a pitcher pitches a "perfect game.