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Hebrew/Greek Word Study-Blameless
Blameless, Part 2
In the English language, we have multiple words that can have similar meanings, and we have single words that have multiple meanings. Hebrew and Greek are the same way, especially when it comes to translating words from Hebrew and Greek to other languages. This week, I want to look more closely at the word “blameless” itself. Of the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “blameless” in the Bible, how are these words translated elsewhere? Sometimes this helps us make connections to other key concepts within the Bible.
Hebrew Word Study
The most common word translated “blameless” in the Old Testament is tāmîm. According to Mounce’s Dictionary, this word is also translated as “without defect” or “perfect.” Interestingly, the three uses of this word are very distinct.
When this word is translated “blameless,” it primarily refers to people, such as Noah, Abraham, and David.
When this word is translated “without defect,” it primarily refers to sacrificial animals. This word is used extensively throughout Leviticus and Numbers when God gives the laws regarding sacrifices. These animals are used for burnt offerings (Leviticus 1), fellowship offerings (Leviticus 3), sin offerings (Leviticus 4), and guilt offerings (Leviticus 5). If any animal offered to God had a defect, it was seen as an unacceptable sacrifice (Leviticus 22:20).
When this word is translated “perfect,” it primarily refers to God. 2 Samuel 22:31 states, “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” Similarly, Psalm 19:7 states, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
Another Hebrew word translated “blameless” is tāmam. Similar to tāmîm, it has several different meanings.
In addition to “blameless,” this word can also be translated “completed” or “finished.” For example, when the Israelites were crossing into the Promised Land, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood in the middle of the Jordan “until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground” (Joshua 3:17).
Another variation of the word tāmam is “completely,” meaning totally or fully. For example, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, God promised that the people who had scoped out the promised land and discouraged the Israelites from entering would not enter the land (Numbers 13–14). Finally, the entire generation of fighting men from that time died. As Deuteronomy 2:15 says, “The Lord’s hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp.”
This word can also be translated “end.” For example, Deuteronomy 31:24 talks about Moses “writing in a book the words of the law from beginning to end.”
Other words translated “blameless” include tām, tōm, and tummâ. These words are primarily used in the books of Job and Psalms and are also sometimes translated as “integrity.”
One verse that intrigued me was Psalm 18:25. Speaking about God, David says, “to the blameless (tāmîm) you show yourself blameless (tāmam).” Why would David use two versions of similar words here, one referring to people and the other to God? Looking at the alternate translations for these words, what are your thoughts on why David might have used two different words for blameless here? Feel free to comment your thoughts below.
Greek Word Study
Several different Greek words are translated “blameless,” and many of them have similar connotations to the Hebrew words we just looked at, particularly tāmîm. Let’s look specifically at translations other than “blameless” for these words to see if this gives us additional insights into the word blameless.
In Colossians 1:22, Paul says, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
Acts 24:16 uses the word aproskopos to talk about having a clear conscience: “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” This term is also used in 1 Corinthians 10:32, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.”
When talking about deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10, Paul uses the word anenklētos to describe the characteristics of a deacon, “They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” This same Greek word is used in Titus 1:6-7 to refer to elders who must be blameless.
When Paul describes himself in Philippians 3:6, he uses the word amemptos to indicate that he is “faultless” based on his ability to follow the law. This term is also used in Hebrews 8:7: “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.”
Several other words used throughout the New Testament are also translated “blameless,” but that is their primary translation with few to no additional translations.
Based on the words translated “blameless” in the Old and New Testaments, we get the picture that blameless is primarily related to people’s moral status—they are seen as upright and righteous before God and others. That comes as no surprise, right? But does it also have the connotation that the person is completely without sin? I’m not sure I’ve quite answered that in my mind yet. Maybe Part 3 about the characteristics of a blameless person will provide us some additional clarity.
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