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Bible Dictionaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary

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Though we meet with this word but once in the whole Bible, namely, Psalms 139:16, yet, as in the two translations we have of the Psalms, the word in the one is rendered imperfect, which in the other is rendered unperfect, and as the difference is very striking when properly considered, I think it an object of no small moment in a work of this kind, to guard the reader against an error into which he may be apt to fall for want of due attention in this particular. I am well aware that with the generality of readers, the words imperfect, and unperfect, are considered the same. But this is a mistake. For not to remark that though a thing may be said to be unperfect, because unfinished, which when finished would be no longer unperfect; yet imperfect may not simply mean because unfinished, for when finished, it may be imperfect still. So that the words themselves are, in their original sense and meaning, not the same; and can by no rule be used synonimously. But in the instance before us in this Psalm, by the substituting one for the other we are led to a very dangerous conclusion.

Let the reader remember, that Christ, under the Spirit of prophecy, is speaking in this Psalm of his substance, his body, and which in another Scripture, he is introduced as saying to his Father "A body hast thou prepared me," (Hebrews 10:5) compared with (Psalms 40:6) Now in this Psalm also Christ is speaking to the Father, and saith: "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect: and in this book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, (or as the margin of the Bible renders it what days, they should be fashioned,) when as yet there was none of them."

In whatever sense therefore the expressions are taken with respect to this substance, this body of Christ, whether personally of Christ himself, or of his members; the church, whose names are elsewhere said to be written in the book of life, or of both Christ and his church; in either case, and in all, the sense must be the same as to the perfection of this substance. It never could be said to be imperfect. It might be, and indeed it was unperfect, because unfinished: that is, as it was to be finished in the full manifestation of Christ in substance of our flesh in what is called in Scripture language, the fulness of time. (Galatians 4:4) But in point of perfection, it was always perfect to his comprehensive view, before whom, past, present, and to come, forms but one and the same object. And in this one, complete whole of perfection in JEHOVAH'S esteem, hath Christ and his members been beheld from all eternity! Hence, therefore, to read the passage as it now stands in our reading Psalms, imperfect, is an error, and of the greatest kind.

And the word which the Septuagints have made use of in this Psalm, (as the learned cannot but know) implies no more when rendered unperfect than of a substance which though perfect in itself in point of perfection in all its component parts, yet waits the perfection of being all brought into one and compounded together. (A katergaston, from Katergazomai.)

It may not be generally known perhaps by the readers of this Poor Man's Concordance, that the reading Psalms as they are called, and which are used in our churches, are taken from Cranmer's Bible, first published in Henry the Eighth's time, 1539. Whereas the Psalms in our Bibles are from the translation in James the First's days, 1605.

I cannot close this article without expressing my wish that the faithful of the Lord's people may always use the word unperfect, instead of imperfect, when reading this most blessed verse, in this most blessed Psalm. Every thing is perfect in Him who is himself the perfection of beauty, and the praise of all his saints. And oh, for grace to see the church's perfection in him who is the Lord our righteousness, and "who is made of God to us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption: that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:31)

Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Unperfect'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​pmd/​u/unperfect.html. London. 1828.
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