Feast upon the Word Blog

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Sunday School Lesson #8

Posted by Jim F. on February 20, 2007

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Lesson 8: Matthew 5

The lesson this week picks out the first part of a longer sermon. Matthew 5-7 give us Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Even if preparing for only the Sunday School lesson, it is probably best to read the entire sermon to see the context of this part.

At the time of Jesus there seems to have been considerable controversy over who was “in” and who was “out” when it came to being the children of God. This controversy had been on-going for some time, at least since the time of the return from exile. The Samaritan community was one of the earliest to be excluded, but they were not the only ones. We know of other groups, such as the Essenes who lived in Qumran and who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls. They thought of themselves as “in,” in other words as true to Israel’s covenant, and everyone else as “out.”

The controversy centered on a number of things, but perhaps most prominent among them were who had the right to be the temple high priest, whether the temple ritual had been corrupted, and what lineage had to do with being one of God’s people. Besides the Essenes, this controversy had resulted in a several overlapping, more dominant groups (those supporting the temple priests, the Sadducees; the scribes, those who taught the Law; and the Pharisees, those who sought to reform Judaism by strict obedience to the Law and who rejected the Roman and Greek influences on Jewish culture). Though these groups were at odds with each other over such things as the resurrection and the importance of the temple, each claimed to be the authority on who would be saved and who would not.

According to the Gospels, Jesus seems most often to have found himself at odds with the Pharisees. Contrary to what we sometimes hear, the Pharisees were not, as such, the leaders of the Jews, though some of them were among the leaders of the Sanhedrin and other leaders. The Pharisees were more or less comparable to a modern political party or lobby group, influencing those who govern. There were other parties also influential in Palestinian life, particulalry the Sadducees. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary has excellent entries on the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Sanhedrin.) Many contemporary Jews consider the Pharisees to have been the forerunners of what became rabbinic Judaism, the kind of Judaism that most of us are most familiar with.

The Pharisees’s answer to “Who’s in?” was: “Those who have the right lineage and who keep the Law as we interpret it.” You can easily see why Jesus was often in conflict with these parties, particularly the Pharisees: he who had given the Law to Moses was now being told what it meant by the scribes and Pharisees. I think that this also makes more clear John the Baptist’s rebuke of the Pharisees: “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father” (Matthew 3:8-9). The Pharisees were preaching the Law and birthright rather than repentance. I think this also explains Jesus’ ministry to so many of those who were excluded: those the Pharisees had decreed to be sinners, Samaritans, etc.

Verse 1: In Matthew’s Gospel, mountains are places where important things happen. (See Matthew 4:8; 17:1; and 28:16.) As he tells the story, Jesus seems deliberately to give the Sermon on the Mount in a way that compares him to Moses: he goes up on a mountain and delivers a “new” law for a multitude who are gathered at the base of the mountain waiting for his return. In Matthew 4:23, Matthew tells us “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew 5-7 is the gospel that he preached.

Joseph Smith’s inspired emendation of Matthew 5:1 adds an interesting prologue to the Sermon (with thanks to Art Bassett):

            KJV*                                                       JST
   [1] And seeing the multitudes, he went          1] And Jesus, seeing the multitudes, went up into
   up into a mountain: and when he was             a mountain; and when he was set down, his
   set, his disciples came unto him: [2]           disciples came unto him; [2] And he opened his
   And he opened his mouth, and taught              mouth, and taught them, saying,
   them, saying,                                   [3] Blessed are they who shall believe on me; and
                                                   again, more blessed are they who shall believe on
                                                   your words, when ye shall testify that ye have seen
                                                   me and that I am. [4] Yea, blessed are they who
                                                   shall believe on your words, and come down into
                                                   the depth of humility, and be baptized in my name;
                                                   for they shall be visited with fire, and the Holy
                                                   Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.
   [3] Blessed are the poor in spirit:             [5] Yea blessed are the poor in spirit, who come
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.            unto me; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Joseph Smith’s addition makes it even more clear that the Sermon on the Mount is an exposition of the gospel. It also changes the way we can understand verse three: it becomes a summary of the gospel. Rather than the first in the list of beatitudes, it is the summary of the gospel, followed by the beatitudes.

Seeing the Sermon this way creates a chiasm, with mercy at its center:

     A     They that mourn shall be comforted (verse 4)
          B     The meek shall inherit the earth (verse 5)
               C     Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled [with the Holy
                     Ghost] (verse 6; compare 3 Nephi 12:6)
                    D     The merciful will obtain mercy (verse 7)
               C'     The pure in heart will see God (verse 8 )
          B'     Peacemakers will be the children of God? (verse 9)
     A'     Those who are persecuted for righteousness will receive a great reward, the
              kingdom of heaven (verses 10-12)

Why might the Beatitudes center on mercy? How is the theme of mercy related to the additions that Joseph Smith made to the beginning of the Sermon? How is Jesus’ message of mercy a challenge to the Pharisees and scribes? What would that message have meant to Jesus’ audience? What does it mean to us today?

Verse 3: The word translated “blessed” is a poetic word that can also be translated “happy.” In Greek literature, it was used to describe the happy state in which the gods lived. What word in the Book of Mormon might be equivalent to blessed? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? It cannot mean that one has a spirit that is poor or wanting, so what does it mean? Compare this verse to Isaiah 61:1. Does that comparison give you any ideas about how to understand this beatitude? The Greek of this verse is usually translated as the King James translator’s have translated it: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” However, it could also be translated “for the kingdom of heaven is made up of them.” Does this different translation add any meaning?

Verse 4: Compare this verse to Isaiah 61:2. What does that comparison suggest?

Verse 5: Notice the footnote in your Bible for the word “meek,” footnote 5a. The meek and the poor in spirit seem to me to be the same people. Later in the Sermon, Jesus will give examples of meekness. (See Matthew 5:39-42.) Note, too, that this verse is a quotation of Psalm 37:11 (in the Greek version of first-century Judaism). Why would Jesus quote from the Old Testament so much in this explication of his gospel?

Verse 6: The word translated “righteousness” could also have been translated “justice.” One way to think about what it means to be righteous is to ask, “What would it mean for me to be just?” How does changing the question in that way change our thinking? As the word translated “righteousness” is used in Greek, it most often refers to one who has right relations with God. What did the Pharisees believe was required for righteousness? What does Jesus teach about righteousness?

Verse 7: Is it significant that the previous beatitudes had focused on something like attitude and that this beatitude begins a focus that is more on action? What does “mercy” mean? What does it take to be merciful? How are the requirement to desire justice (verse 6) and the requirement to be merciful related to each other?

Verse 8: The word translated “pure” could also have been translated “cleansed.” What does it mean to have a heart that has been cleansed? Is Jesus contrasting the cleansing of the heart with the various kinds of cleansing that the Pharisees required? How do the two differ? What does it mean to see God?

Verse 9: Who do you think that Jesus has in mind when he speaks of the peacemakers? Do verses 23-26 give us an idea of what he means? What does it mean that the peacemakers will be called the children of God? Aren’t we already his children? Why might Jesus have associated being a peacemaker with being a child of God? In what senses is Godthe peacemaker?

Verses 10-12: Verse 10 speaks of being persecuted “for righteousness’ sake.” Verse 11 speaks of being persecuted “for my sake.” What do you make of the identification of righteousness and Jesus, a person? How does that contrast with the Pharisaic understanding of righteousness as obedience? Is the beginning of verse 12, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad” parallel to “Blessed are [. . .]” in the previous beatitudes? Does it help us understand what it means to be blessed?

We can see a division in the Sermon at verse 11: The Beatitudes give us the general description of the gospel and the verses that follow expand on that general description.

Verses 13-16: Verse 16 explains the other verses in this group. Compare 3 Nephi 18:24. What does verse 16 teach us about good works? What is their purpose?

Verses 17-20: What does it mean to say that Jesus did not come to annul the Law? What does it mean to say that he came to fulfill it, to bring it to perfection? How does Jesus’ understanding of perfect obedience to the Law differ from the Pharisees’ understanding? Verses 21-48 seem to be illustrations of the point that Jesus is making in verse 20: he gives concrete illustrations of how our righteousness ought to go beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees. How are we tempted to be Pharisaical? How can we go beyond, exceed, or overflow our own Pharisaism?

Verses 21-26: Jesus seems to me to be giving examples of what he meant when he spoke of peacemakers in verse 9. The word translated “judgment” in verse 21 means “to be cast off.” Notice that the Book of Mormon and the JST omit “without a cause” in verse 22—as do almost all Greek manuscripts. How does that change our understanding of the verse? In verse 22, the word “raca” means the same thing as the Greek word translated “fool” at the end of the verse. It isn’t any stronger than the kinds of things we sometimes say to each other when we are angry, such as “You idiot!” What does Jesus mean, then, when he says, paraphrasing, “Whoever calls his brother a fool is in danger of the community’s judgment, but whoever says “You fool” is in danger of hell fire”? Does it make a difference that the first case is about anger towards a brother and no one is specified in the second? What is the point of verses 21-22? To a Jew, worship was the most sacred duty that one could have. So, what is Jesus saying about reconciliation in verses 23-24? Notice that we begin with the prohibition of murder in verse 21, move to the prohibition of anger in verse 22, and in verse 23 we find a prohibition of hard feelings. Can you think of particular adversaries that Jesus might have in mind in verses 25-26? How do these examples apply to us?

Verse 28: What does this teach us about going beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees?

Verses 29-30: Jesus is obviously speaking hyperbolically. What is the point of his hyperbole?

Verses 31-32: The scripture to which Jesus refers (Deuteronomy 24:1) is unclear about the grounds for divorce. It says that a man can put away his wife if he finds something shameful in her (“some uncleanness” in the King James translation). The rabbis debated that phrase, some arguing that it meant only adultery, others arguing that could be something as trivial as bad cooking. It also isn’t easy to know how to understand the exception that Jesus allows here because it isn’t clear what Matthew means by the word translated “fornication.” The Greek word that he uses literally means “prostitution.” How do you understand these verses? Are they a higher standard than we presently are required to live, or has the standard changed?

Verses 33-37: The part of the Law that Jesus has in mind here seems to be that found in places such as Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:3, and Deuteronomy 23:22. How does the teaching in these verses go beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees? How does the teaching of these verses apply to us?

Verses 38-42: It appears that the Mosaic Law, “an eye for an eye,” was not a directive as to how much punishment to inflict, but a limitation on the retribution one could seek: if someone puts out your eye, you have no right to demand more than the recompense for that eye. A more accurate translation of the first part of verse 39 might be “resist not the one who troubles you (or ‘the one who defies you’).” What do these verses teach us about how we are to respond to physical violence? How does this teaching compare to what we find in D&C 98:16-48? How does it compare to the way that the Book of Mormon prophets dealt with violence? What do these verses teach us about how we should deal with others in legal contention? The demand of verse 41 is one dictated by Roman law: a Roman soldier could compel others to carry his baggage a mile, so the general topic seems to be something like “the demands of the government.” How would people in Jesus’ day have understood this part of his message? What does these verses teach us about how we should respond to the demands of government? Compare verse 42 to Mosiah 4:16-23. What obligation is Jesus giving us in verse 42?

Verses 43-47: The Old Testament teaches that we must love our neighbor. (See Leviticus 19:18.) But nowhere does it teach that we should hate our enemies. However, it is not difficult to imagine that many believed that the command to love our neighbors (those close to us) implies the need to hate our enemies. What particular enemies does verse 44 suggest that Jesus may have had in mind? What reason does verse 45 give for loving our enemies? What does verse 45 suggest that it means to be one of God’s children?

Verse 48: This verse marks a significant break in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the culmination of the Sermon to this point. As such perhaps we should understand it as a restatement of verse 3—as well as a followup to verses 43-47. Can you think of ways in which those verses mean the same? How does the commandment in the final sentence of this verse sum up the teaching that we should love our enemies?

Notice the footnote that explains what “perfect” means: whole, complete, finished, developed. Is the perfection of which Jesus speaks here a perfection of love? A better translation of the verse might be: “Be ye therefore whole, even as your Father in heaven is whole.” I wonder whether Jesus is quoting or paraphrasing Leviticus 19:2 here: “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” What does it mean to be holy? The Hebrew word in Leviticus means “sacred” or “set apart.” What does that suggest about what it means for us to be holy? For us to be whole? How has Jesus been teaching the answer to that question in the preceding verses?

James speaks of the double-minded person (James 1:8). What does it mean to be double-minded? In contrast, what does it mean to be whole? Can we be whole in this life? If not, then why has Jesus commanded us to be whole? Is wholeness something that pertains only to myself—I must be undivided—or is it something that also pertains to my relation with others, including God—my relations with others must be whole? What would it mean for a relation not to be whole?

How does the Sermon on the Mount as a whole teach us to be perfect? Does the chiasm that centers on verse 7 suggest anything about how we are to be perfect, about what constitutes our wholeness? Is it possible to use the concept of mercy to restate or rethink each of the specific discussions that we saw in verses 11-47?

*My apologies for the ugliness of the formatting of this comparison, as well as that of the chiasmus that follows. Given my limited knowledge of html, it’s the best I’m going to be able to do.

17 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #8”

  1. Cheryl said

    Jim F.
    Excellent discussion. I especially appreciate your emphasis at the beginning on the many judaisms of the period. I think the Pharisees got a bad rap in the gospels – were demonized actually.

    And I’m going back to my notes and D&C 98 to include v. 16 ff. I love that section of the D&C. It gives me hope. I have long felt that this theology and peace-making expressed in this section is the highest explanation of what God expects of us to date. This section also presents an evolution of doctrine and/or understanding of what God wants – it is a long way from an eye for an eye! and even further along the spectrum of peace than some of the justified violence in the BOM. Yet: I have only heard that section taught once in my entire time in the church. So little understood, yet so necessary and so profound. Yet also counter-intuitive for the natural man, and so very difficult to live.

    Regarding the chiasm – I’m thinking about this. At first I wasn’t sure I bought it, but the parallels are strong – aa, bb, cc. So maybe. But I think the Beatitudes work progressively as well. But what you’ve done is interesting.

    v. 3: “The kingdom of heaven is made up of them.” This is lovely.

    v.38-42 It’s interesting that there doesn’t really seem to be any record of people taking an eye for an eye or anything like that, so I like the explanation you’ve given here.

    Thanks for this –


  2. Cheryl said

    Jim F
    I also meant to add something about being perfect also meaning being whole. While generally I very much dislike the order of the lessons as presented in the manual, feeling that a student could get through the entire manual and still have no real sense of the NT, it is interesting to me that while discussing the miracles last week my class really focused on the healings creating a wholeness, a whole person returning to family or society at large, just as we are alienated human beings who need to be made whole in order to return to God. So the idea of being perfect, being whole, resonates with me today.


  3. Robert C. said

    Wow, great notes Jim, as always.

    I really like this chiasmus idea, though I’d like some help in feeling more comfortable with it. Here’s my first reaction as to the main linkages, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts, esp. in helping me perhaps see more links in this chiastic structure:

    A and A’ are linked by mourn and persecuted. To me that seems not super-obvious, but pretty sensible–persecution is one reason (but one reason among many, it seems to me) that someone might mourn.

    B and B’ are linked by children and inherit. This seems the least controversial in the structure to me: an obvious and much-cited-in-scripture benefit of being a child is the right of inheritance.

    C and C’ are linked by filled [with the Holy Ghost] and seeing God. This seems the biggest stretch to me, though the more I think about it the more comfortable I am with it: both are an encounter with the Godhead.

    I recognize that there are other parallels that can be drawn, though they seem more like implications of the chiastic structure, not supporting evidence per se. (I think the other parallels are like to be the most interesting part of this chiastic structure, but I’m still trying to convince myself that this is really a chiasm–I’m not very practiced at analyzing structure like this.) But I think I’m likely missing a lot here, so I plan to keep rereading and studying, and I look forward to reading comments from others.

  4. Matt W. said

    I have a question:

    I have two weeks to prepare for this lesson thanks to stake conference, and I was going through a preliminary investigation into the greek of it, and was interested to see that the greek teleo is the root for both “perfect” as in “be ye therefore perfect” and “finished” as in “It is finished.” Am I correct that there are the same word, and am I just being silly to make a correlation?

  5. Cheryl said

    Regarding the JST of the beginning of Matthew 5, this certainly begs the question: who decided what part of the JST was “in” and what part was “out?” as footnotes in our Bibles?


  6. Robert C. said

    Matt W. #4, I really like this tie-in. Indeed, “tello” is the root for both telos, meaning “end or completion,” and teleios, meaning “bring to completion, or perfect.” So these words are all very closely related in Greek. Notice, also, that teleios can also be translated “integrity” which I think is a common word among Mormons which might help cast a different light on Matt 5:48.

  7. Jim, thank you for your work here. This is wonderful. The chiastic reading especially intrigues me, since I’ve always felt mildly uncomfortable with a simplistic “progressive” reading of the beatitudes. There does seem to be something about the last three over against the first three, and this chiastic reading opens the possibility of thinking about that more clearly.

    I once had some fun exploring the Greek and English for “blessed” with a seminary class. I imagine it was rather speculative…, but anyway. “Bless” comes from a contraction of two words in Old English that, put together, mean: “to consecrate with blood.” One can easily read the pagan culture behind the word. The Greek word behind the translation has, at least in Classical Greek, an emphasis on a kind of transcendence, a being beyond (the dead, the gods, etc.). Whether or not one needs to read “blood” into “blessing,” the idea of transcendence and consecration coming up against each other intrigues me. There may be more there.

    Matt W, thanks for the connection there. That is very interesting, and I think it is very relevant. I’m trying to think about the interpretive consequences of that linguistic connection….

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the meaning of “fulfillment” as used in the Sermon, mostly because I’ve been doing some work on 3 Nephi 15 for mine own purposes. I’d like to hear some further discussion on this point from other points of view (Robert at least, and Jim too I’m sure, can guess that my own thoughts are very wrapped up in questions of typology, Old Testament hermeneutics, and the possibilities of a uniquely LDS theology).

  8. Robert C. said

    I noticed this interesting post by Russell Arben Fox at T&S regarding the “powerlessness” embedded in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s somewhat long (by blog standards), so here’s the summarizing paragraph which I think captures the main idea reasonably well:

    Still, it is perhaps worth reflecting upon just how much the church has done over the last 20 years to make certain that grace, and the love of Jesus, and His suffering, are on our minds and in our curricula and thus hopefully in our hearts. In today’s work-hard-and-play-hard-to-get-ahead world, reminders of powerlessness–or, rather, the power of powerlessness, of passivity, the power manifest by a Savior who, once He made His choice, truly did give Himself over to be acted upon by His Father as well as His enemies–are probably much needed. And if a cross can serve as such a reminder…well, let’s just say, it works for me.

  9. robf said

    We’ll probably bring this up again in the lesson material for Matt 6-7, but in the past I’ve seen this idea of being perfect as being a godlike ability to give perfect gifts. Matt 5 outlines how some divine blessings come because of who we are or what we do (the Beatitudes), while other behaviors bring condemnation. However, near the end of Matt 5 we are led to consider how God gives some gifts freely–love for enemies, blessing for those that curse him, and the sun to rising on the just and unjust. At which point we are commanded to be like that. Perfect givers.

    Matt 6 then takes on that theme by elaborating on how to give good gifts. Do it in secret. We are taught how to ask for gifts in the Lord’s prayer. We are taught about asking for the right gifts–treasures in heaven. The whole sermon is about giving and getting in appropriate ways. Not just how to act, but how to give and to get.

  10. Jim F. said

    Lots of great comments here. Thanks.

    I think that the only question that still doesn’t have an answer is “Who decided what part of the JST was “in” and what part was “out?” as footnotes in our Bibles?” I don’t know, but I suspect it was the same committee that did the other footnotes, or a similar one. That was composed of a number of members of the Church, many of them BYU faculty from Religious Education.

  11. Does anyone know whether the Church has any plans with the JST, now that we have had full access to the original manuscripts? The RSC has published them in an indispensable volume, but is the Church itself planning to do anything in the future? I was interested to note in the most recent JBMS that… who was it now?… suggested rather boldly that the Church ought to rework the Book of Mormon for publication in the wake of Skousen’s work on the critical text. With all that has been surfacing, and the increasing obsoletion of the historical notes in the D&C, the obvious and all-too-often pointed out failures in the BD, TG, etc., are coming to the point of needing to produce another edition of the scriptures? Any thoughts?

  12. nhilton said

    Joe, what is the “RSC indispensable volume”? I have the RLDS volume, complete with the pictures of the “prophets of the restoration,” including Wllace B. Smith, but is there another volume that is less “reorganized?”

    Jim, I’ve wondered the same thing about the JST. I’ve gone through my KJV & marked it to reflect the JST, using the the Hite’s book showing all textual changes & the gospels in parallel column harmony. In doing so, I’ve noticed significant things that were left out of our LDS KJV that have great import to me. When I first learned this being the case I felt ripped off, or left out of the loop. I’m so grateful for access to the full JST & the Hite’s book that makes it so clear to compare.

  13. Robert C. said

    nhilton #12, see here or here for the Religious Studies Center edition of the JST, edited by Scott Faulring. I can’t bring myself to spring a Franklin for this edition, even though I’d really like to have this b/c I understand it gives a lot more information than the simple Inspired Version does (Joe, can you elaborate a bit on this? what are OT1 and OT2 that you keep referring to again?). I’m thinking I might just wait a few years to see if a cheaper (electronic? package-value-priced?) edition comes out.

    In the meantime, can anyone tell me more about the Hite edition or this version, or any other edition? This latter version seems more bang for my buck (the whole Bible for $25 vs. $10 + shipping used from Amazon for just the NT…), so unless there’s something really handy about the Hite book, I’m going to get this other one (I think it’s an order-on-demand book). But with the Inspired Version available free online (you can easily Google it), I wonder if it’s worth paying anything for just an Inspired Version text, though I think I’ve decided the handiness of having the changes listed side-by-side is ultimately worth it, but then maybe I should just bite the bullet and get the RSC version, although . . . (my wife doesn’t let me go shopping b/c it takes me 10 minutes just to pick out cold cereal!).

  14. Jim F. said

    Joe, I’ve heard that the Church is working on a new Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide. That may suggest that they are working on other changes as well. I know that they have kept a file of suggested changes “for the next edition.”

    I know that one of the worries about Skousen’s work was that it might gain textual authority that the Church doesn’t want to give it. I doubt that we are going to see an edition of the Book of Mormon based on it in the near future.

  15. brianj said

    What’s the “Guide to the Scriptures” I see on lds.org?

  16. nhilton said

    Robert C, I like having the KJV crossed out & the JST added in bold itallic in the Hite book, making it easier to see the differences. I also like the gospel harmony with these markings, making it easier to compare the accounts.

    I don’t know the extent of JS’s changes to the OT to know if I need another reference. As I mentioned I have a RLDS JST but w/o the text crossed out, like in the Hite book, it’s really tough to note differences. I’ve used the Hite book for years & found it adequate, seldom looking at the RLDS JST & shelf it mostly as a “gee whiz” item. (It’s also really fun to take to GD class & read from in class, the students flip! :) )

  17. Pam said

    This might be helpful as we teach…

    Although the meaning has changed somewhat over time, in 1828 Noah Webster defined the word perfect as “finished; complete; . . . complete in moral excellencies” (An American Dictionary of the English Language [1828], “perfect”). Webster cited Matthew 5:48 as an example of the latter usage. The word perfect in the New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible was translated from the Greek word teleios. Another definition of teleios is “complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.).” The root of teleios is telos, which has been defined as “the point aimed at as a limit, i.e. [by implication] the conclusion of an act or state (termination)” (James Strong, “Greek dictionary of the New Testament,” in The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible [1890], 71). The English words telephone and telescope are derived in part from this word. When teleios appeared in the New Testament it was usually translated as end, as in “endure to the end.” In Christ’s great High Priestly
    Prayer, He pleaded with the Father, “That they may be one, even as we are one: . . . that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22–23; italics added). Made perfect is the translation of teleioo, which is a form of the word teleios and means, according to Strong, “to complete, i.e. [literally] accomplish, or [figuratively] consummate (in character)” (“Greek Dictionary,” 71). The final words of Jesus on the cross recorded in John 19:30 were “It is finished.” The word from which finished is derived is a tense of the verb teleo, which also is derived from telos. This verse is rendered “It has been completed” in another translation (Jay P. Green Sr., ed. and trans., The Interlinear Bible, 2nd ed. [1986], 839). Teleios, teleo, teleioo, and their common root convey the idea of a final state or completion. It is significant that Jesus does not include Himself as a model of perfection (completion) in Matthew 5:48, but He does so in
    3 Nephi 12:48, after having been resurrected and glorified. Thus perfection is in reality completion, and is consummated in eternity in our glorification. The question then arises as to what we can do here and now to progress on the path to completion. The Lord helps us understand some aspects of this in Matthew 5.

    (D. Lynn Johnson CES CONFERENCE 2000)

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