Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hebrews 10:14 does not prove Calvinism

This article is long overdue.

Calvinism, and a number of other Protestant sects (which descend from Calvinism including "evangelicalism," Baptists, etc) teach that when a person is saved God magically pretends not to see all their sins and filth, pretending they are morally perfect--just like His Son! One of the verses they love to appeal to, the Calvinists especially, is Hebrews 10:14 which is the King James Version says:
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.-Hebrews 10:14 
The Greek text of Hebrews:
μιᾷ γὰρ προσφορᾷ τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους.--Hebrews 10:14
At first glance, it seems to say exactly what the Calvinists say it means, that we are permanently made perfect at the moment of regeneration. But, is Hebrews 10:14 saying that? No!

Hebrews uses the word "perfect" in a special way.  As I show, the word for perfect is τετελείωκεν.
Let's go through all the times Hebrews uses the root word τελειόω ("perfect"), how Hebrews uses it may shock, considering who one of the people that are "made perfect" in Hebrews.
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.--Hebrews 2:10
Ἔπρεπεν γὰρ αὐτῷ, δι' ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ δι' οὗ τὰ πάντα, πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι.--Hebrews 2:10
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;--Hebrews 5:9 
καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου,--Hebrews 5:9
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.--Hebrews 7:19
οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελείωσεν ὁ νόμος, ἐπεισαγωγὴ δὲ κρείττονος ἐλπίδος, δι' ἧς ἐγγίζομεν τῷ θεῷ.--Hebrews 7:19
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.--Hebrews 7:28

ὁ νόμος γὰρ ἀνθρώπους καθίστησιν ἀρχιερεῖς ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν, ὁ λόγος δὲ τῆς ὁρκωμοσίας τῆς μετὰ τὸν νόμον υἱόν, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον.--Hebrews 7:28 
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;--Hebrews 9:9
ἥτις παραβολὴ εἰς τὸν καιρὸν τὸν ἐνεστηκότα, καθ' ἣν δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίαι προσφέρονται μὴ δυνάμεναι κατὰ συνείδησιν τελειῶσαι τὸν λατρεύοντα,--Hebrews 9:9
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.--Hebrews 10:1
Σκιὰν γὰρ ἔχων ὁ νόμος τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν, οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν εἰκόνα τῶν πραγμάτων, κατ' ἐνιαυτὸν ταῖς αὐταῖς θυσίαις ἃς προσφέρουσιν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς οὐδέποτε δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους τελειῶσαι· --Hebrews 10:1
 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.--Hebrews 10:14
 μιᾷ γὰρ προσφορᾷ τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους.--Hebrews 10:14
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.--Hebrews 11:40
τοῦ θεοῦ περὶ ἡμῶν κρεῖττόν τι προβλεψαμένου, ἵνα μὴ χωρὶς ἡμῶν τελειωθῶσιν.--Hebrews 11:40 
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect--Hebrews 12:23
καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς, καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων, καὶ πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων,--Hebrews 12:23
 As we see according to Hebrews 2:10 and Hebrews 5:9 Christ was "made perfect" similar to how Hebrews 10:14 has people "made perfect" because of Christ. If we assume as the Calvinist do, that "made perfect" means that we who were once sinners BECAME perfect through an alien imputation, then Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 5:9 (and Hebrews 7:28) would mean Christ was not always morally perfect, but only became morally perfect! We know this is not the case, because the Holy Scriptures are clear that Christ was always sinless and morally perfect!

When Hebrews says made perfect in these verse, it means "made consecrated" or "ordained." In fact, Hebrews 7:28 as I showed above uses the same Greek root for "perfect" but the KJV translates it in this instance as "consecrated" instead of "perfect." In fact many Protestant lexicons such as Strong's says:
G5048 From G5046; to complete, that is, (literally) accomplish, or (figuratively) consummate (in character): - consecrate, finish, fulfil, (make) perfect. 
I should also mention that many commentaries note that the word "perfect" may have a technical meaning that's related to the Septuagint. τελειόω in this view may be an ellipse for the "filling of hands" used in the Torah for the ordination of priests, since most of the time its followed with the works "the hands [of]"--"τελειώσεις τὰς χεῖρας". The translation I am using says "validate" instead of "perfect", however, another translation I have does use the word perfect for the Greek word τελειώσεις . τελειώσεις is seen in the LXX the following times (generally in relation to the priesthood):
καὶ ζώσεις αὐτοὺς ταῖς ζώναις καὶ περιθήσεις αὐτοῖς τὰς κιδάρεις καὶ ἔσται αὐτοῖς ἱερατεία ἐμοὶ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ τελειώσεις τὰς χεῖρας Ααρων καὶ τὰς χεῖρας τῶν υἱῶν αὐτοῦ--Exodus 29:9 Septuagint (LXX)
"and gird them with the sashes and put on them the turbans, and they shall have a priesthood to me forever. And you shall validate the hands of Aaron and the hands of his sons"--Exodus 29:9 (NETS, LXX translation)
καὶ ἡ στολὴ τοῦ ἁγίου ἥ ἐστιν Ααρων ἔσται τοῖς υἱοῖς αὐτοῦ μετ’ αὐτόν χρισθῆναι αὐτοὺς ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ τελειῶσαι τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν--Exodus 29:29 (LXX)
and the vestment of the holy place that is for Aaron shall be for his sons after him, for them to be anointed in them and to validate their hands.--Exodus 29:29 (NETS, LXX translation)
ἔδονται αὐτά ἐν οἷς ἡγιάσθησαν ἐν αὐτοῖς τελειῶσαι τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν ἁγιάσαι αὐτούς καὶ ἀλλογενὴς οὐκ ἔδεται ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἔστιν γὰρ ἅγια--Exodus 29:33 (LXX)
they shall eat these things that they have been consecrated by, to validate their hands, to consecrate them, and an alien shall not eat from these things, for they are holy--Exodus 29:33 (NETS, LXX translation)
καὶ ποιήσεις Ααρων καὶ τοῖς υἱοῖς αὐτοῦ οὕτως κατὰ πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην σοι ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας τελειώσεις αὐτῶν τὰς χεῖρας--Exodus 29:35 (LXX)
And you shall do to Aaron and his sons thus according to all things I commanded you, For seven days you shall validate their hands--Exodus 29:35 (NETS, LXX translation)
καὶ λαβὼν ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ χριστὸς ὁ τετελειωμένος τὰς χεῖρας ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ μόσχου καὶ εἰσοίσει αὐτὸ ἐπὶ τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου--Leviticus 4:5 (LXX)
and the priest, who has his hands validated, after taking some of the blood of the bull calf, shall then bring it into the tent of witness--Leviticus 4:5 (NETS, LXX translation)
καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς θύρας τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου οὐκ ἐξελεύσεσθε ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας ἕως ἡμέρα πληρωθῇ ἡμέρα τελειώσεως ὑμῶν ἑπτὰ γὰρ ἡμέρας τελειώσει τὰς χεῖρας ὑμῶν--Leviticus 8:33
And you shall not go outside the door of the tent of witness seven days until the day of your validation is completed.  For for seven days he will validate your hands.--Leviticus 8:33 (NETS, LXX translation) 
ἐξιλάσεται ὁ ἱερεύς ὃν ἂν χρίσωσιν αὐτὸν καὶ ὃν ἂν τελειώσουσιν τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῦ ἱερατεύειν μετὰ τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐνδύσεται τὴν στολὴν τὴν λινῆν στολὴν ἁγίαν--Leviticus 16:32 (LXX)
the priest, he whom they shall anoint, and he whose hands they shall validate to serve as priests in his father's place shall make atonement, and they shall put on the linen garment, the holy vestment.--Leviticus 16:32 (NETS, LXX translation) 
καὶ ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ μέγας ἀπὸ τῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἐπικεχυμένου ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν τοῦ ἐλαίου τοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ τετελειωμένου ἐνδύσασθαι τὰ ἱμάτια τὴν κεφαλὴν οὐκ ἀποκιδαρώσει καὶ τὰ ἱμάτια οὐ διαρρήξει--Leviticus 21:10 (LXX) *other version of the LXX add the "the hands" that is "τὰς χεῖρας"
And the priest who is great among his brothers, when the anointing oil has been poured on his head and when he has been validated * to wear the vestments, shall not unbind his head and shall not tear his vestments-Leviticus 21:10 (NETS, LXX translation)  *other version of the LXX add the "the hands" that is "τὰς χεῖρας"
ταῦτα τὰ ὀνόματα τῶν υἱῶν Ααρων οἱ ἱερεῖς οἱ ἠλειμμένοι οὓς ἐτελείωσαν τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν ἱερατεύειν--Numbers 3:3 LXX
These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priest, whose hands they had validated to serve as priests.--Numbers 3:3 (NETS, LXX translation) 
 Anyway, these are times it appears in the Torah. It appears around a half more dozen times elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures.

So, it may be Hebrews is using this meaning, though it lacks the "the hands" part, but this may be because literal hands had nothing to do with Jesus "ordination." Or perhaps it is an ellipse for the whole phrase.

Regardless, the case is when Hebrews 10:14 says "made perfect forever" it does not refer to "imputed righteousness" or anything else of the sort at all, but refers to consecration, a non moral "perfection," perhaps the ordination to the priesthood (of believers) that is the "royal priesthood" mentioned in Exodus 19:6 and 1 Peter 2:8-9.

Finally, I should also note that when reading Hebrews 10:14, Calvinists are awful fond of reading the KJV at this point, and ignoring many translations that read the latter half of the sentence different. The KJV and Calvinists read it as  having all the "sanctification" as if it occurred once and in the past, as we see:
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.-Hebrews 10:14 KJV
However, some other translations state:
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.(NIV)
For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.(NLT)
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.(ESV)
Here is what the NIGTC says on Hebrews 10:14 on the matter that concerns us:
Here, as elsewhere in Hebrews (->2:10), τελειοω implies the fulfillment of the Christian goal, namely an access to God which was formerly open only to the high priest. Hebrews emphasizes the unique priesthood of Jesus. (Vanhoye 1980.242-247), and thus does not speak explicitly of the priesthood of all believers; but he comes close to doing so here, in language which is not only cultic (Bourgin 1959.79-81) but priestly (Zimmermann 1977.116-125, following G. Delling in TDNT 8.83f.) The perfect tense joins with the following phrase to emphasize the permanent effects of Christ’s sacrifice.
Εις το διηωεχες: Christ now has continuous and uninterrupted access (v. 12) to the Father, and shares authority at his right hand.  Because of his one sacrifice, Christians, though still on earth, share in the same permanent access to the Father.
Εις αγιαζομενους: ->2:11. The force of the present participle, in apparent contrast with the perfect ηγιασμενοι in v.10, is disputed (MHT 1.127): is it timeless (so Riggenbach, Bruce), iterative (“those who from time to time receive sanctification”: unlikely in this context), or durative (“those who are in the process of sanctification”; so Michel)? The most likely explanations, not mutually exclusive, are (1) that the author felt that yet another perfect here would be redundant; and (2) that the present was used to balance the previous words and avoid the possible implications that Christians had already reached their goal. “Sanctification has taken place, but it still remains a task” (Braun); “the appropriation of the enduring effects of Christ’s act is an ongoing present reality” (Attridge). ‘Αγιαζω and τελειοω (->2:11).are used interchangeably in Hebrews Ƥ46 reads ανασωζομενουσ**, “who are being saved” (26x LXX). Here by transcriptal error (Attridge. Against Hoskier 27-30).--The New International Greek New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Hebrews, on Hebrews 10:14, p 511, by Paul Ellingworth

Interesting this book was given a positive review by Reformed Theological Review.  According to this commentary Hebrew 10:14 is saying were are always given access to God by Christ's offering and though sanctification was set up by Christ, we still have to go through the process.


  1. Good article. I've found the leading problem with Calvinist theology, or more specifically Calvinist scholarship, is dishonesty/ignorance of the Bible. I'm stunned how often the refuse to analyze words in an open and honest fashion, but it's no surprise that God's Word has a built-in anti-tampering code to it, where if you twist this or that, you'll trap and expose yourself.

    This 'made perfect' language goes along with that of Hebrews 7:25,
    "25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."

    While it says "save to the uttermost," the second half of the verse explains this in terms of Christ's continuous intercession, which is impossible if this 'saving to the uttermost' is a one-time imputation.

  2. Their word analysis is sometimes to appeal to a lexicons listing that is never even used in the NT.

    They like to emphasize that "uttermost" part, as if that somehow made their argument greater, it just means He does not save you from half of your sins. The verse I like the most of the verses on salvation in Hebrews against Calvinists is Hebrews 5:9

    And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who OBEY HIM

    Obedience rules out their imputation nonsense. People like White argue stuff like this is "descriptive" not "conscriptive" as if that changes anything!