The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Constructing a document against Universalism

I still don’t follow, and I’m not trying to be belligerent, what’s the explanation as to why “aionios” is commonly translated/understood to mean “eternal”? If either of you (or someone else) could have another crack at it I’d appreciate it!

Luke, Thanks, this sounds like a wonderful project and contribution! Universalist sympathizers like me may look to our sense of the broad themes of the whole Biblical story, but I agree that a more crisp look at the central arguments may be more helpful. My own best attempt at the succint case is found on my page as “Short Case for Universalism,” here Short Case for Universalism

The short answer is that aionios was used to mean ‘eternal’ in classical Greek, but not in Koine Greek. The original bible translators only knew classical Greek, and therefore weren’t aware of the difference in usage.

If I was to lay out an outline for why I believe that Jesus is the savior of all humanity I’d say.


  1. There are many scriptures that seem to affirm that God saves all humanity.
  2. There are a few passages that seem to affirm post-mortem repentance and salvation.
  3. Affirms that the atonement was for all humanity (not limited in scope).
  4. Affirms that salvation is by the Atonement (not limited in effect)
  5. Affirms that faith is a gift, not a choice. (We are responsible to use that gift, but it’s a gift none the less.)
  6. Affirms that punishment is remedial.

Character of God, I believe scripture affirms God to be:

  1. Just/Righteous,
    . a) temporal sins do not warrant endless punishment,
    . b) some sins are worse than others and thus warrant greater penalty,
    . c) scripture indicates people are judged according to the revelation they’ve recieved
    . d) judgment in scripture is consistantly tied with how we actually live not just what we believe
    . e) salvation is by grace for all
    . f) making things right implies reconciliation.
  2. Merciful - (God does not give us what we “deserve”.)
  3. Love - (God desires to save all.)
  4. Sovereign - (God is able to save all.) (Man is not “sovereign” in regards to salvation or otherwise.)

Hell - a tradition of men NOT strongly supported in Scripture

  1. Neither Sheol, Hades, or Gehenna imply specifically ECT.
  2. Tartarus would normally imply ECT but in the “1 and ONLY” place in scripture it is used:
    . a) not used to warn humans though it would have fit well if it were true.
    . b) is spoken of as a present reality, not a future judgment.
    . c) even the sinning angels consigned there are said to suffer there “until” judgment, implying a possible end.
  3. God did not inspire Moses to warn of ECT even once in the Law which established Isreals religion.
  4. Evidence suggests that Gehenna would better be understood as similar to purgatory and was used primarily as a warning for the Pharisees who tried to use it to control and denounce others.
  5. Evidence suggests that Rev’s Lake of Fire is even purgatorial.


  1. Consistantly in scripture is based on works, how we actually live (not on faith alone).
  2. For all humanity, not just unbelievers
  3. Can be understood as Retributive & Rehabilitative.

Scriptural Examples of Post-mortem repentance/salvation.

  1. Jonah, in rebellion, died, in Sheol, soul in torment, repented, turned to God, God heard him, saved him from Sheol.
  2. Paul affirms Baptism for the Dead.
  3. Peter speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison, so that they migh be judged and given life.
  4. Shammai, President of the Sanhedrin during the ministry of Jesus, spoke of Gehenna like Purgatory.
  5. Lake of Fire – nations & kings anti-Christ before, worshipping God after

I actually started studying UR, believing firmly in ECT. The more I studied the pro-UR passages, the more the context of those passages seemed to affirm that “All” really does mean “All”, as in everyone in particular. So I switched to studying Hell in scripture to affirm my traditional beliefs. Problems quickly arose and I saw my seeming “solid” scriptural foundation for believing in ECT crumble like sand before my eyes as I studied what scripture actually indicates concerning judgment and punishment for sin. This then freed me to accept in faith the many passages that affirm the salvation of all humanity, that God loves everyone & Jesus died for everyone. It also gave me a much greater respect of and love for God and a greater fear of judgment. Through faith in Jesus I access the grace and forgiveness of God today and eternal life, but to whom much is given much is required! I’ve also set aside judging others for I do not know what revelation God has opened to them. Instead I simply share my faith in Christ. If God reveals His grace and love to them - awesome. If not, I just pray for them and for me. Well, that’s the short of it.

You know, it seems to me that something so important as ECT would be spoken of specifically and repeatedly in scripture, especially in the Law, specifically named and explained in Hebrew and Greek text of scripture, plainly and repeatedly as it was in Egyptian mythology, Zorastrian (Babylonian) mythology, and Greco-Roman mythology. Shoot, it would be like Hell is in the 1610 Catholic Douay Rheims Bible, specifically mentiond 110 times. But it is not! It would at least be mentioned specifically as much as the 1611 KJV Bible which has Hell in it 64 times. But it is not! In fact, correct modern translations do not even have the word Hell in them!

On the other hand, the love, mercy, and righteousness of God is all over scripture. Spoken of specifically and repeatedly, using a wide variety of literature styles and language. His anger only last for a moment, but His love endures forever. Love never fails. For God so loved the whole world. God is love. The love, mercy of God is renewed every morning. Like God we should even love our enemies. etc. etc. etc.

Thanks Sherman for a strong and concise summary of the best reasons to embrace evangelical universalism.

I’d definitely add the argument of God’s will, and God’s will being done without fail.

In Isaiah 48, God says he will save rebellious Israel through the furnace of affliction. Why? Because God will not be defamed, nor will he yield his glory to another.

So here are two more reasons to reject ECT. It drags God’s good name through the mud, and paints Him as a failure. He cannot manage even his own children.

Isaiah 46:10 telling beforehand the latter events before they come to pass, and they are accomplished together: and I said, all my counsel shall stand, and I will do all things that I have planned:

-Brenton’s translation; The Septuagint

Lamentations 3:31-33 is one of my favourites.

31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone

that’s pretty black and white…it’s rather hard to get around that general “no one” and “forever”.
this is one verse that convinced me, along with everything everyone else has said. my cosmology is alot humbler now, and i am less “worried” about people in some vague sense which could turn to despair, and more trusting of God’s ability to finish what He started.

edit: just noticed that some other translations say “For the Lord will not cast off forever…”
but i think this means the same thing. if God will not cast off forever…then He won’t cast off anyone forever.

also, this may very well include the devil in its scope…and all creation…as saying “no one” implies humans usually. so this may be better!

**Thanks Sherman, **

I extracted a couple of important arguments from that list.


I hadn’t heard that reference used that way before, made me think.


I think I’ve got the guts of that document, I won’t include 1 Cor 15:22 because it think it’s simply a repetition of Rom 5:12-21


Alex is going to try and get the nub of your “Trinity = Universalism” argument, I hope that goes well. Just curious what does Robin Parry (author himself of a book about the Trinity) think of your argument?


So to get this straight, the general consensus among Unviersalists here is that in classical Greek “aionios” originally meant eternal but not in Koine Greek but this forgotten for a while and the classical meaning replaced the Koine meaning until recent scholars such as David Konstan discovered the error. The reason this isn’t commonly known is a basis towards the traditional interpretation. Have I got that correct or is that strawman?

Concerning aionios Luke, I believe that like the English word eternal, it has different meanings and usages with various nuances. Though in scripture it often refers to that realm which is beyond site, transcending time and our understanding. It is the age/realm/world of God. It is now and not yet. Aionios was used in the LXX to translate Olam Haba, the age of the Messiah, the world beyond the horizon, out of site, barely distinquishable and understandable. Aionios is meant to be understood qualitatively, not quantitatively. Eternal Judgment is not judgment that lasts forever, but judgment that comes from God, perfect and fully accomplishing God’s will, accessable now, but not fully yet. That which is beyond, on the horizon, beyond site, beyond understanding, vaguely seen/understood at best. The eternal fire that destroyed Sodom was fire related to God’s judgment, an invasion of the realm/kingdom of God on this earthly realm/kingdom, beyond the “natural” order of things, beyond understanding and thus beyond control.

Believing UR was heretical and groundless, for several weeks I studied the UR passages from a biblical theological perspective, finding their literary contexts to be very compelling in support of a UR understanding of those passages. This was disconcerting because I had always assumed the “truth” of ECT so I turned to studying Hell in scripture to reaffirm my traditional beliefs. But the more I studied what scripture actually says concerning judgment and the punishment of sin, the more I saw the “solid support” for ECT slip through my hands like sand. Ultimately it was finding that Gehenna was thought of as a type of Purgatory with the possibility of annihilation or indefinitely long CT for the most wicked of the wicked only, that freed me to accept in faith the UR passages. I started the study believing that Hell was a firmly established doctrine of scripture, noted all over scripture specifically in multiple passages in both Old and New Testaments, only to find that such is not true when one considers what is written in the Hebrew and Greek text of scripture. For me, it was the testimony of scripture that compelled me to believe Jesus really is the savior of all humanity in deed, not just in title. He doesn’t just “offer” salvation to all; He saves all. He didn’t just redeem some, but redeemed all. The kingdom of darkness will be overwhelmed by the kingdom of light. This present evil age will come to an end and every knee shall bow to the Lord of Glory!

Sadly, the traditional doctrine in reality affirms that there is no end to the kingdom of darkness, but it endlessly oppresses the beloved of God. It teaches that for most or at least some of humanity, the love of God is but a moment and His anger and wrath last forever. Salvation based on grace is null and void, powerless to save those who are ultimately lost. Jesus either fails to save some, most of humanity (Arminianism) or chooses to not save some, most of humanity (Calvinism). Or maybe for Arminianism it’s more accurate to say that Jesus doesn’t really save anyone, He only makes salvation available to some and salvation is ultimately up to them and their choices (no matter how messed up they are in bondage to sin).

But you know what grieves me most is that Loving God, Loving People, Following Jesus, and Righteous Living is NOT enough for one to be an accepted member of most denominations and local fellowships, one must also believe that Jesus will fail to save some/most of humanity, that some/most of humanity will be endlessly tormented. Loving God and loving people, even devotion to Jesus and righteous living is not enough, one must also conform to the groups faith/trust in Hell for “others”.

Though not a universalist, I have been in on the debate for a long time. I have heard it taught that the original meaning of aionios was interpreted differently by some of the early Fathers and that it was changed to mean eternal by Augustine and those in the West. This theory is that the translation as “eternal” is actually the latecomer and not the other way around.

Great post Sherman - you absolutely nailed it as usual!
And thanks Roofus, I believe you are correct.

When all the early English translations were made, as Melchizedek said, they didn’t even know what Koine Greek was. Most of the Greek Lexicons were written before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), which were an enormous contribution to Biblical Greek scholarship. For example, my Thayer’s Greek Lexicon is a respected standard. Even though Thayer was a Unitarian, he was translating Grimm’s Greek Lexicon from, I think, German and Grimm was a conservative Trinitarian. All this work was done before they had a clear understanding of Koine Greek. As a result, many of the translations were coming from earlier, Classical Greek, not Koine. By the time the major translating work was done on the DSS, many of our biblical language aids had several editions already written. As a result, they are simply outdated and in some places incorrect.

In another thread, Luke, you were writing as if aionios had always meant eternal and the universalists were coming up with obscure references to prove otherwise. However, there are many legitimate sources that verify the meaning of aionios as “lasting for an age”. The definition I gave you wasn’t just a website definition, it was the Liddell and Scott definition, a good, respectable source. Vine’s also admits that it can mean lasting for less than eternity. There are also many early writings that show that during the time of Christ, aionios was definitely used in the “lasting for an age” or even less time. There is no doubt that aionios carried the meaning of “lasting for an age” in Koine Greek.

Was there a conspiracy? I don’t think so. By the time the DSS translations had come out, many of our biblical aids were already in later editions. I think they simply went along with tradition. I think new definitions were dismissed. Think about it: what IF it’s true? What if aionios meant “lasting for an age” or simply “lasting” for translations sake, in Koine Greek, and this was discovered after the discovery of the DSS because of the plethora of Greek texts that they supplied us with. How long do you think it would take the church to implement this change, if ever? It would take generations for the change to take place because that’s just the way we are. Change is always very slow. So there are some books that say, “Hey, aionios means “lasting for an age””, not eternal, but for the most part, most of the next editions remain unchanged. Think about it: “lasting for an age” is definitely part of the Koine definition, but yet many don’t even include it, like Strongs. People go with tradition.

I don’t think that is right. In my research on the word, it appears to be a very subtly complex word. If you wanted eternal, without question, you chose aidios. I’ve now read hundreds of sentences with aionios in it where some were obviously trying to convey “eternal” and others where it was obvious they were not. I think if you stressed, as a generalization that aionios generally meant “eternal” in classic Greek (with exceptions, I know Paidon disagrees), and generally meant “lasting (for an age)” in Koine Greek (with exceptions), you would be closer to correct. But it’s not like it always meant eternal and then for a short period of time, in Koine Greek it suddenly meant not eternal–that’s not how it was. It is not a simple word.

But Luke, these aren’t just opinions. Take a look at the word yourself and see. I read where Josephus definitely used it in a non eternal way, along with many other contemporaries of Christ and the apostles such as Philo. I’ve seen it used of a literal prison sentence of approx 10 years, of a period consisting of 3 generations, and many other non eternal situations. This isn’t just theory or conspiracy. The word aionios did mean lasting for an age during the life of Christ as a proven fact.

So when speaking concerning something in this earthly time-oriented realm, aionios – lasting for an “indefinite” period of time. When speaking of the realm beyond time - lasting, or enduring, or possibly having to do with the realm that transcends time, the realm beyond time, site, and understanding.

I suppose, if my beliefs rested upon this one word, aionios, meaning endless or forever, then I’d fight to understand it that way and not recognize its various uses. To me, if ECT was true, it seems that God would have inspired it to be warned of in Eden, all over the Law of Moses and the Prophets, and in both Hebrew and Greek using words that clearly convey the concept of ECT (like Tartarus). But of course, He didn’t!

On the other hand, scripture is repleat with expressions of God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. His mercy endures forever. Love never fails. His wrath lasts but a moment, but His love endures forever. God was in Jesus reconciling all of creation to Himself. The sin of Adam got us all into this mess, but the sacrifice is even greater, not only overcoming the sin of Adam but all of our subsequent sins, resulting in life and righteousness for all! God is like the good shepherd who is not satisfied with 99% success, but only 100%. God is like the faithful father who never gives up looking for his rebellious son until he returns home! etc. etc. etc.

Sadly, ECT affirms that for some/most of humanity love fails. God gives up seeking. 1% saved is acceptable. The sin of Adam got us all into this mess, and the sacrifice of Christ is only powerful enough to get some of us out of it. For some/most of humanity God’s love lasts but a moment, a vapor; but His Wrath lasts forever! God was in Jesus reconciling some of creation to Himself and condemning the rest to endless torments. Jesus didn’t come to save all of humanity, only some of humanity; the rest, well, I’m sorry but it’s torture forever for you.

Thanks everyone,

I’ve taken several ideas and integrated them into document. I’m waiting to see what Alex makes of Jason’s the universalism from the Trinity theory. I’ve done my best to try and understand why Universalists believe the translation of eternal is wrong but still am struggling a little. Please feel free to post something over the next week.

Some more thoughts on aionios:

We wear interpretive lenses when we read the bible. Everyone does. The more learned you are in the scriptures, the stronger those lenses are. That’s not a bad thing, but they can get in the way sometime. Most of the time you don’t even notice them. You can read entire pericopes of scripture that go against your theological framework and not even notice them at all. Luke, I was a conservative, young earth, republican (USA), right wing, evangelical Christian for 40 years when I started looking into this. It took me several months to understand aionios. The problem was that my interpretive glasses were in the way and I really couldn’t see it. It isn’t that it’s too complicated or bizarre. It’s just that interpretive lenses can be very complicated and very difficult to take off or change. When I read The Evangelical Universalist, aionios didn’t make sense to me. It takes a while to see things differently than what you are used to sometimes.
When the bible was put into English the translators only had the classical definition, which was understood to be “eternal”, for the most part. Paidon disagrees and thinks that it has always been “lasting”. I actually agree with him. You can take any sentence with aionios in it and replace it with “lasting” and it makes perfect sense. Paidon says that the words meaning is modified by what it is describing. So when it is describing God, we know how long he is “lasting”. He gives this example:

So the translators translated it to the best of their ability and used “eternal”. When the dead sea scrolls were finally interpreted it was discovered that the primary meaning in Koine Greek was “lasting for an age”. When this new information came out I think that translators looked at verses like Matthew and decided that “eternal” was still the correct fit for it certainly didn’t make sense to say that the sheeps and the goats would be rewarded life and punishment “for an age”. So they stuck with the traditional interpretation.

In order for it to go any differently someone would have needed to look at this in a completely different way. They would need to have their scholarly and theological curiosity piqued, and be willing to take off their theological glasses and look at things differently than they had before. It would require a paradigm shift. They would need to take a new look at redemption, the nature of God, the atonement, righteousness, punishment, justice, heaven, wrath, eternity, heaven, hell, the kingdom of God, and what an “age” is. They would need to do an intensive study on the word aionios in ancient, classical, Koine, etc and learn what the word really means (as well as “justice/righteousness” in Hebrew and Greek). Some people did do this and they became universalists. Most people just stopped at the sheep and the goats and left it at eternal. It was a logical conclusion if you didn’t do hard research on it. It becomes clear that it is the wrong conclusion if you do the hard research on it.

*one more note on aionios. It’s really illogical to have a word mean its opposite. To mean eternal and not eternal in the same word is really crazy. This is why “lasting” makes so much more sense to be determined by what the adjective is describing. This should have been a red flag to language experts. I don’t think words usually do that. The fact that the word could have meant less than eternity should have inspired the type of research that the universalists have been doing.

A few comments:

God is love therefore God would not endlessly torture his loved ones.
God says, “Love your enemies”, therefore God would not endlessly torture His enemies.
God says, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Therefore God would not punish anyone disproportionately.
God is just, therefore God’s judgments result in righteousness. (Ps 99:4, Is 26:9)
God is merciful, therefore God will correct sinners by giving to them according to their deeds. (Ps. 62:12, Ps 145:9)

The Consuming Fire will not spare any torment which is necessary to free us from sin. (Hos 6:1)


What Sonia said :slight_smile:

The last couple days I have been thinking about a little phrase from Romans 13:10.

“Love does no harm”

God IS love

God who IS love does no harm!

Isn’t “eternal conscious torment” harm?

Would I choose neverending torment for my child no matter how far astray he/she went? No.