The Evangelical Universalist Forum

David Bentley Hart's Translation


Jude says that Sodom was destroyed with “eternal fire”. Is that fire still burning today?


My understanding is that the ENGLISH word “eternal” means “everlasting” or “of endless duration.” (Check any reliable English dictionary and that is usually given as the number 1 meaning). However the GREEK word “αιωνιος” (which many translators have rendered as “eternal”), actually means “lasting.”

Duration—short, long, or eternal is NOT part of the meaning of “αιωνιος.” (although the word has been applied both in the New Testament, in the Septuagint, as well as in non-Biblical Greek writings, to that which is of short duration, to that which is of long duration, and to that which is everlasting).


Yehaa… so true! :smiley:

I have been standing in this queue forever.” “I have been standing in this queue for ages.” “I have a lasting love for life” — these qualitative uses moves beyond the strict literal meaning of the term without destroying it simply because such use is based upon and bounces off the literal.


Yes, one can use the word figuratively. But that doesn’t imply that it has no literal meaning or application.


Yes, precisely, which is why I said… “without destroying it simply because such use is based upon and bounces off the literal.


For someone who doesn’t like unintelligible and contradictory thinking, you are surprisingly credulous about the formulation of the oppositional argument about the “six trinitarian claims”; the incoherency of which depends totally on #5 (5b not being an actual claim of the trinitarian doctrinal set) where an adjective is simply swapped out for equivalence to a proper noun when that seems to be convenient to his argument. Consequently, when he goes on to acknowledge that “social trinitarianism” is perfectly valid with all 6 of his representations of our claims, he can do a simple bait-and-switch on terminology via 5b, and so from that tactic deny that ST is perfectly valid with the inclusion of claim 1 after all – despite him acknowledging, not ten seconds earlier, that it is. That tells me he knows he’s rigging his judgment to artificially fail.

You should have given up on Tuggy at that point and moved along. Conveniently oversimplifying a doctrinal set in order to stage a refutation of the oversimplification, is not a refutation of the actual doctrinal set. It just looks conveniently like it.

(This aside from you borrowing ontological claims I’m making which you otherwise reject in distinction between any unitarian and trinitarian theisms, and claiming that this rejected claim is just as applicable to the unitarian theology you accept as with trinitarian theology, which as far as I can tell your posting of the pdf has nothing even slightly to do with, unless it’s a reminder that you do reject the ontological claim I was making which you wanted to accept as theologically indistinguishable from unitarianism when you thought that was convenient for a claim of equal soteriological value. None of your moves along this line have anything to do with Danielle’s topic, so back to that please.)


Ok. You got dat stick.


Why does that statement in Jesus’ prayer to His Father indicate that “αιωνιος” means a “quality” of life?
Why would “αιωνιος” EVER refer to a quality?

What you think of this phrase in Titus 1:2?
προ χρονων αιωνιων (pro chronōn aiōniōn) which literally means “before lasting ages.”

Do you think “aiōniōn” might refer to a QUALITY of the ages in that text?

By the way, I don’t think “αιωνιος” in any of its forms ever MEANS “endless duration” though the word is sometimes APPLIED to that which has endless duration. For example in Romans 16:26, the word is APPLIED to God, who possesses endless duration. But it is also applied to that which has a duration of 3 days or 3 years or to mountains that endure for a very long time, though not eternally of course. So does the word not MEAN “lasting”?


Could be I’m wrong.


I still don’t understand this: plato said you can’t attatch eternity (without beginning or end) to the created, but then he says aionios means eternal when its something God CREATES in perfection.


I’ll ask you again: Is the “eternal fire” that destroyed Sodom still burning?



I always think of Jesus praying, “…and this is aionios life, that they should know You, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” So just “knowing God” IS aionios life. There’s nothing here to suggest duration–much less our modern understanding of “eternal” being timeless. Aionios can be used this way. It doesn’t always mean the same thing, just like “French” doesn’t always tell you what kind of fried potatoes you’re ordering. Sometimes it describes your wine choice. Sometimes it may refer to a language or a country or a person, or a way of cutting your green beans. Aionios is an adjective and it means different things depending on the noun it’s qualifying and the context in which it is doing the qualifying.

Say, for example, you’re talking about Jonah, who was in the great fish “olam” or “forever” as we often translate that word. The LXX translators typically (maybe always–I don’t recall) translated “olam” to the Greek “aionios.” Translators rendering the scriptures to the English language often translate it as “forever,” but only where that makes sense. They don’t do it in Jonah’s case because obviously, he was only in the fish for three days.

The nation of Israel is a middle eastern entity and probably more middle eastern back in Jesus’ day than it is today (again, I don’t know, but I’m guessing the culture there is more western nowadays than it was in Jesus’ day.) They spoke in hyperbole and the middle east STILL speaks in hyperbole. We (many of us) ridiculed them when they threatened us in the USA with “the mother of all battles”. We are accustomed to this sort of diplomatic communication being highly parsed and vetted and most assuredly NOT hyperbolic. Kim Jung Un doesn’t do this kind of uber-polite literalness that we approve of today. Donald Trump doesn’t either, leading to a lot of misunderstanding amongst those accustomed to modern diplomatic-speak.

We (mistakenly) apply this same literal standard to scripture, as if the scriptures were written in accord with OUR expectations toward religious literature. Any other literature (read the Russian classics) can be as hyperbolic as you like. It depends on the author’s style. Paul is typically not highly hyperbolic, but Jonah does make use of hyperbole. The Revelation to John is another animal entirely, being almost completely symbolic (apocryphal) literature. We’re expected, as the adult readers of books written for grown-ups, to be able to discern these things. I say all this to point out that even if aionios’ customary meaning were shown to be “eternal” (in the modern sense of the word), that doesn’t mean it ALWAYS means “having neither beginning nor end”. Sometimes it just means “a really long time” or even something that FEELS like a really long time. Sometimes it may mean “an age or ages” and sometimes it might even have the modern sort of quantum physics sense of “eternal” as being outside of and/or unaffected by time. I have to wonder though, whether even Plato had the ideas of Einstein in mind when he wrote about time–that is to say, that there’s no scientific reason that time should flow in only one direction and that maybe, time isn’t even a thing at all–at least not in the sense that we think of it as a ‘thing.’ Einstein famously said that time is nothing more than an incredibly persistent illusion.

This is a big problem we have with our modern understanding of scripture. Words change through the years. “Eternity” hasn’t always meant what it has come to mean today. Did you know that a “hel” in merry old England meant a hole in the ground where you put your root vegetables and covered them up to keep them as fresh as possible? It referred to a hidden spot, a covered spot. (“Elizabeth, please go to the hel and fill this bowl with turnips for me.”) It was this same period in which the KJV was first produced. That’s very likely where we get our modern word, “Hell.” This is what the changing meaning of words does to scripture interpretation. Eternity as we think of it today is a very modern concept. Whatever the scriptures may or may not “mean” by the word ‘aionios,’ it is certainly not what Einstein meant by association with his view of time as a persistent illusion.

The intent of the word aionios will have varied with its context. Just to take the simple word, “yellow,” as an example: “yellow dog” is very different from a boy taunting another boy saying, “Are you yellow?” or an artist speaking of Asian skin tones as being "yellow,’ or someone saying, “He crossed that intersection on the yellow.” In two of those examples, we’re talking primarily about a color (though a yellow dog is very different from the barely discernible “yellow” skin tone of the Asian person). In one, we’re talking about a derogatory comment concerning the other boy’s courage, and in the last, about possibly pushing legality regarding a traffic regulation. Just as with other adjectives, the meaning of ‘aionios’ will vary depending on the context and on the noun being modified. What is appropriate to God (eternal in the modern sense) is not appropriate to, well, to ANYTHING else. Even if you believe in a never-ending hell, most people will not see hell as having no beginning, especially since Jesus said “aionios fire PREPARED for the devil and his angels.”

For some reason we’ve required of scripture that it be interpreted in the way one might interpret a mathematics text. Everything–every event, every concept, every work of literature–most reasonably should be interpreted according to its context and its original intended meaning and to its genre. That’s not an easy thing to do with ancient works of literature, but if we want to truly understand what the scriptures were intended to convey to us, that’s what we have to do.

Bottom line, “eternal” means whatever the original writer intended it to mean. To guess at that, we don’t really need to know what Plato thought. I doubt any of the apostles had Plato in mind in their gospels or their letters. Paul may or may not have been familiar with Plato, but it’s unlikely Mathew or John were. Maybe Luke, possibly Mark (who may be the rich young ruler–Jason has a post about that somewhere). These men all knew their audiences however, and whether or not they themselves had studied Plato, wouldn’t have expected their readers to be familiar with what was even then ancient Greek philosophy. Many of their audience were struggling just to subsist. When they said “aionios,” they meant the colloquial meaning and the context. If it (as an adjective) modifies God, then it can mean “without beginning or end,” but for anything else, it absolutely means less than eternal–how much less would depend on context and the individual usage. In come cases it COULD mean “without end,” but the mere presence of the word “aionios” doesn’t ESTABLISH a meaning of “without end.” That must (if it is to be at all) be established by some other marker than the word “aionios.”


I think Cindy gets the gist of what I’m saying with regards to the qualitative use of the word…

So it is in THIS qualitative sense of fullness of life that Jesus uses <αἰώνιος> aiōnios Jn 17:3, which pretty much reflects what he was also saying here…

It’s this same quality or fullness of “the life” that the apostle John also speaks of here…

The life IS this <αἰώνιος> aiōnioseternal’ or fullness of LIFE — in these contexts.


Amen, Davo. :slight_smile:


I still maintain that “ζωη αιωνιος” NEVER refers to a quality of life but means “lasting life” in every context—all 26 of them.


Yep… NEVER let learning and growth get in the way of entrenched beliefs!

It’s the difference between literal meaning and applied meaning. Jesus and the NT writers were NOT averse to using figures of speech, i.e., where literal words have or convey a greater applied meaning. Consider the following…


It seems to me that it is the word “life” in the phrase “aionion life” that gives it quality, not the word “aionion”. Remove the word “aionion” from the phrase & the quality remains. Remove the word “life” from the phrase & the quality is removed, while nothing but quantity of duration (i.e. aionion) remains. Jesus said “I am the Life” (Jn.14:6). He never said “this is aionion, to know God”, which would have been total nonsense. But He does say that He is Life. Therefore to know Him is to know Life & vica versa.

Jn.17:2 according as Thou givest Him authority over all flesh, that everything which Thou hast given to Him, He should be giving it to them, even life eonian." 3 Now it is eonian life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou dost commission, Jesus Christ. (CLV)

"The knowledge of God is not given as the definition of eonian life, but eonian life is imparted that they may be knowing Him. " (Concordant Commentary p.167 re John 17:3) … s-account/

Eonian life is obtained after the resurrection from the dead:

Dan.12:2 From those sleeping in the soil of the ground many shall awake, these to eonian life and these to reproach for eonian repulsion."

Which (Dan.12:2) was the only OT verse the Jews had to understand the meaning of aionion life.

The relation between life, eonian life & the resurrection is also confirmed by John’s gospel in the chapters leading up to chapter 17:

Jn.5:29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Jn.6:39 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is My Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have aionion life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
44“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Jn.11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who is believing in Me, even if he should be dying, shall be living.”
Jn.12:50 And I know that his command is the life of the coming age. What I speak, then, is what the father has told me to speak.’ (NTE)

NT Wright’s version/s (The Kingdom New Testament or NTE) says life aionion is “the life of God’s coming age”:

John 17:2 Do this in the same way as you did when you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he could give the life of God’s coming age to everyone you gave him. 3 And by “the life of God’s coming age” I mean this: that they should know you, the only true God, and Jesus the Messiah, the one you sent. (NTE)

Much the same is the version by EO scholar David Bentley Hart & others:

John 17:2b that he might give them life in the Age.
3 And this is life in the Age: that they might know you, the sole true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus the Anointed. (DBH)

Jn.17:3 and this is the life age-during, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and him whom Thou didst send – Jesus Christ; (YLT)
Jn.17:3 And in this consists the Life of the Ages–in knowing Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (WEY)
Jn.17:3 And, this, is the age-abiding life, That they get to know thee, the only real God, and him whom thou didst send, Jesus Christ. (RO)
Jn.17:3 This and is the age-lasting life, that they might know thee the only true God, and whom thou hast sent Jesus Anointed. (DG)

After a believer’s mortal body dies, he has an eonian glory & body in the heavens:

2 Cor.4:17 For the momentary lightness of our affliction is producing for us a transcendently transcendent eonian burden of glory,
18 at our not noting what is being observed, but what is not being observed, for what is being observed is temporary, yet what is not being observed is eonian." 2 Cor.5:1 For we are aware that, if our terrestrial tabernacle house should be demolished, we have a building of God, a house not made by hands, eonian, in the heavens." 2 For in this also we are groaning, longing to be dressed in our habitation which is out of heaven

So eonian life isn’t limited to this mortal life only, but is also for those who have died “in Christ”, e.g. the martyrs Stephen & James in the book of Acts. Believers will obtain “life eonian” in the “coming eon”:

29 Now He said to them, "Verily, I am saying to you that there is no one who leaves house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children on account of the kingdom of God, 30 who may not by all means be getting back manyfold in this era, and in the coming eon, life eonian. (Lk.18:29-30)

29 Jesus averred to him, "Verily, I am saying to you that there is no one who leaves a house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields, on My account and on account of the evangel, 30 who should not be getting back a hundredfold now, in this era, houses and brothers and sisters and mother and father and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming eon, life eonian. (Mk.10:29-30)

Which eon occurs after Christ’s return when life eonian will be obtained:

46 And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian. (Mt.25:46)
41 Then shall He be declaring to those also at His left, 'Go from Me, you cursed, into the fire eonian, made ready for the Adversary and his messengers. (Mt.25:41)

Eonian life is also a hope and a promise:

1 Jn.2:25 this is the promise which He promises us: life eonian
Titus 1:2 In hope of eonian life
Titus 3:7 3: heirs according to the hope of eonian life.
Jude 1:20 Now you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in holy spirit,
21 keep yourselves in the love of God, anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for life eonian.

The willfully disobedient do not have such a promise or hope & will forfeit life eonian:

Jn.3:36 He who is believing in the Son has life eonian, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him."

2 Thess1:4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the ecclesias of God, for your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the afflictions with which you are bearing -" 5 a display of the just judging of God, to deem you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering also, 6 if so be that it is just of God to repay affliction to those afflicting you, 7 and to you who are being afflicted, ease, with us, at the unveiling of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful messengers, 8 in flaming fire, dealing out vengeance to those who are not acquainted with God and those who are not obeying the evangel of our Lord Jesus Christ" 9 who shall incur the justice of eonian destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His strength" 10 whenever He may be coming to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all who believe (seeing that our testimony to you was believed) in that day.

Rom.2:4 Or are you despising the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, being ignorant that the kindness of God is leading you to repentance? 5 Yet, in accord with your hardness and unrepentant heart you are hoarding for yourself indignation in the day of indignation and revelation of the just judgment of God, 6 Who will be paying each one in accord with his acts: 7 to those, indeed, who by endurance in good acts are seeking glory and honor and incorruption, life eonian

16 in the day when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity, according to my evangel, through Jesus Christ


There’s not necessarily a difference between the two. In this case its the literal AND applied meaning.


Thanks everyone for your responses. I’m still so confused though and I’m just trying to find the truth.

Plato said something God creates that extends in perfection from Him is eternal but he also said time has a beginning and timelessness has no beginning. But if something is created it has a beginning, so how can it be timeless?


Consider it as rhetoricall timeless truths started somewhere