Saturday, August 14, 2010

Does Tetelestai mean Paid in Full? No!

In Protestantism, particularly Calvinistic  circles that push the doctrine of “once saved always saved” or the “P” in the Calvinist  TULIP, there is a particular teaching that is passed around that says that when  Christ died and said “It is finished” (John 19:30) what He was really saying  that now every ones sins were “paid in full.”  By this they mean that the punishment of sinners were paid for by Christ  and since this punishment was paid already by Christ it is impossible for those  redeemed by Christ’s shed blood to lose salvation and enter into Hell, in other  words it guarantees a person’s salvation—no matter what they do.

They will point to the word TETLESTAI in Greek and say it really means “paid in full” and they commonly will appeal to something  they heard that says coins were found that carried the meaning “paid in full”. Others, they may substitute this with stamps, seals, or some other kind of legal document.  I have found many reference of such items in Calvinistic writings, but I have never seen one point to a  source that legitimately verifies such a claim.  I have found one that claimed tetelestai was used by lenders to show a person had finished paying off the loan. Others will point to Strong’s  Concordance, in which near the bottom of all the definitions includes “to pay” under tetelestai.

HOWEVER, it is dependent on these people to provide  evidence for their interpretation of the meaning of the word found on these  items, assuming this did occur as they said it did.  And, even if they can verify these claims, they must then demonstrate that John 19:30 uses Tetelestai in this sense.   Also, yes, Strong’s Concordance did list pay as one of the  definitions of tetelestai, however, was Strong fluent in Greek?, what was the depth of  his knowledge?  Most are not aware Strong himself was not even fluent in the languages he made lexicons for.  Regardless, the word is used to refer to paying, but in regards to taxes. (On the occurrence see below)

The true meaning of the word tetelestai is more  likely to just simply mean “accomplished” or “it has been fulfilled.”  This is because the word tetelestai is used only one other time in the New Testament, in fact in the Gospel of St  John, Chapter 19, verse 28—only two verses before the time the Lord Jesus  cried these words on the Cross.  Tetelestai is in the 3rd person perfect passive indicative  singular. This verse hints at the context of Tetelestai, also the root of it is used  also in the verse, τέλος :

Μετὰ τοῦτο εἰδὼς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἤδη πάντα τετέλεσται, ἵνα τελειωθῇ ἡ γραφή, λέγει, Διψῶ.

After  this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished [ τετέλεσται  ], said to fulfil [τελειωθῇ] the scripture, "I thirst."—John 19:28

Now lets compare this this verse in question (30)
ὅτε οὖν ἔλαβεν τὸ ὄξος [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τετέλεσται: καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished [ Τετέλεσται ] : and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.--John 19:30 (KJV)

Since the verse 28 uses tetelestai, spelled in the same exact way as verse 30, is it unreasonable to say they are related? Now, considering the Scriptures here use tetelestai here to refer to the events that passed at the cross, it would seem odd to read the text here as;

After  this Jesus, knowing that all was now PAID IN FULL [ Τετέλεσται ], said to fulfill the  scripture, "I thirst”

Other than John 19:28,30,  the word in conjugated differently in other verses e.g. Luke 2:39, Acts 13:29, Matthew  7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1, Revelation 10:7, 15:1, Matthew 17:24, 2  Corinthians 12:9, Romans 13:6, James 2:8 etc…   Only two of the instances in the New Testament from which I have found telos  simply means “to fulfill” a prophecy, or to “finish” something, or to  accomplish an act, or to end something.  There are two instances where it is used to apply to taxes:

When they came to  Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?"—Matthew 17:24

For because of this you  also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.—Romans 13:6

Other versions translate this as “paid tribute”.

These, however, are not  literal translations, the sense telei is used in these verses is translated by  my interlinear as “is-settling-tribute.”  This does not in any way carry the meaning “paid in full” in the sense  Calvinists will push, especially in John 19 where it would not make sense in verse  28:

After  this Jesus, knowing that all was now PAID TRIBUTE, said to fulfill the  scripture, "I thirst."—John 19:28

It would seem odd to say  “all” if it referred simply to the event of being on the Cross, saying IT IS  FINISHED refers to the EVENTS of the Cross especially in regards to the  fulfillment of Prophecy Is far more reasonable.

One person on paltalk told me:

Berhane, John  19:30 Jesus said "Tetelasthei" IT IS FINISHED; He did not say that we must purge the rest of our sins in purgatory; how deceiving and inaccurate.

His anti purgatory interpretation is based on a  false Calvinistic atonement where Christ paid the “penalty” or “punishment”  for sins, in such a way as to take our ETERNAL punishment on Himself somehow.  The problem with this is that the eternal penalty for sin is eternal damnation, and Christ certainly did not burn  in Hell forever, in fact He never went to the Hell of the Damned.   The Atonement was to appease the wrath of God, so that our sins could be forgiven and so the world could  reconciled to God. His blood was necessary payment to APPEASE the wrath of God, upon this payment, the Mercy of God was made available to man.  Just  because Christ died does not automatically remit our sins, belief and repentance are necessary to  benefit from the propitiation of Christ.

Essentially, purgatory only does damage to the cross if you presuppose a false concept of the Atonement, that is a Calvinist atonement, where  Christ would have mysteriously paid several eternities in Hell for the elect only.

Addendum: Here are some early Greek commentaries on John 19:30


  1. When and in what verse did the LORD speak 'the “penalty” or “punishment” for sins is ETERNAL PUNISHMENT'???

    My Scripture says:

    the wages of Sin are Death. (Romans 6:23)

    But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, LEST YE DIE. (Genesis 3:3)

    It seems to me that it is only when you reject the Gift of God, the Passover Lamb, who tho-our-Sins-be-as-red-as-Crimson, His Righteousness as White as snow that one is given over to the Eternal Separation that is Damnation and Punishment where the werm does not die. This is the reward for one who despises his inheritance, is not a bride of Christ (Matthew 25:1-12), and is left clothed in the garments which are his own:

    Matthew 22:
    11And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Regardless of the veracity of whatever Greek textual nuances you profess, the teaching you promote in ENGLISH itself is wicked and a lie, and worse yet, you have to read all the way to the very end to find this out.

    Leviticus 14:
    49 And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

    50 And he shall kill the one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water: (is this not living water? The Word of God?)

    51 And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times:

    52 And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet:

    53 BUT HE SHALL LET GO THE LIVING BIRD OUT OF THE CITY INTO THE OPEN FIELDS, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean.

    54 This is the law for all manner of plague of leprosy, and scall,

    55 And for the leprosy of a garment, and of a house,

    56 And for a rising, and for a scab, and for a bright spot:

    57 To teach when it is unclean, and when it is clean: this is the law of leprosy.

    And Biblically is not leprosy always symbolic of Sin??

    1. I'm confused, what are you trying to say, at one point you ask where eternal punishment is mentioned, then you seem to say you believe it.

      And if thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire:--Mark 9:42