Eternal and Aionios -- Comments from a linguist


I have studied this word over the last several months and have read numerous articles, sections of books, entries of lexicons and other word study books, etc to come to this conclusion. I regret now that I didn’t collect these different statements in one place! I’ll look around and see if I can’t gather a few key statements and post them to you. I remember reading a statement by Josephus where he used the exact phrase of Jesus “eternal punishment” but wasn’t using it in an eternal sense. I’ll see if I can find that one and a few others. Give me a little time and I’ll find some interesting statements for you, roof.


Chris, I’ve seen the Josephus and a few others, but not “many, many”. For me it has been “a few”…


What I don’t understand is Hebrews 1:2.

“…thru whom He made the aions” (usually translated “worlds.”)

If “aion” is a period of time, why is it used here (and what does it mean here)?


It literally means “age”. So it would be “through whom He made the ages”.


Something that is significant to me in my understanding of aionios is that it was used to translate the Hebrew “olam” and “olam haba”, which spoke of the age to come, and the Messianic age to come, an age with a radically different quality to it. And then I also consider where judgment and the fire that destroyed Sodom are described by aionios; both of which to me certainly do not speak of endless, quantity of time, but rather of timelessness or time-transcending, and refer to their source and relationship to God.

Considering Matthew was written to the Jew, possibly even written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and written from a Jewish perspective, the “age to come” or “Messianic age to come” seems to fit well. Paul though, wrote in Greek to a Greco-Roman audience and thus it seems that the timeless or time-transcending aspect of aionios seems to fit well, but with a strong tie to the kingdom/rule/reign of God.


But it’s usually translated “through whom He made the worlds” because “through whom He made the ages” doesn’t seem to make much sense.

What would that mean?


Well, what would “worlds” mean?


Look at it this way: God created everything: time and space. Not only did he create time, but he divided it up into special “ages”. To say that “he made the ages” makes just as much sense as “he made the earth”.


Heb. 1.2 is interesting.

“and through the Son he created the universe.” NLT
“and through whom also he made the universe.” TNIV
“through whom also He made the worlds;” NKJV

The context though seems to be more “time” oriented, than cosmos oriented. In times past God spoke through the prophets, but now God has spoken through His Son (better), through whom He poieo (make, do, commit, bring forth, work) the ages.

Poieo is an interesting word. It speaks of doing, bringing forth, making, etc. In this context it would seem to best be interpreted “ordered” to me. God set in order the ages. He had it all planned out from before time, ages, began.

So as for aionas, it seems “ages” is what was intended. The age of Christ is much better than before because it has a much fuller revelation of God’s love for us all, Jew and Gentile alike, all humanity not just the chosen!


To a first century Jew (or Greek) it moght mean the earth, the 1rst, 2nd, and 3rd heaven, and tartarous.

Or it could mean earth, venus, mars, saturn Jupeter, etc., etc.

What would “made (past tense) the ages (segments of time)” mean?


Think of how the Jew saw or understand “the ages”. For example, God was God of Messiah. The Messianic age was a time pre-ordained by God and it was a very special time for the Jews. It was prophecied about. It was planned. They waited for the Messiah, or the Messianic age. There were different ages and each had a special meaning. Each time period was designed by God for specific things. He made the ages. He planned each one and they unfolded just as he planned. He was the God of the ages!


Poieo (made) is an interesting word. It speaks of doing, bringing forth, making, etc. In this context it would seem to best be interpreted “ordered” to me. God set in order the ages. He had it all planned out from before the ages even began. And the “age” in which we live is Better than previous ages. The previous ages had far less of the revelation of God. We now have Jesus, the perfect revelation of God! As dirtboy notes, the Messianic “age” was something the Jews (Hebrews) longed for. The author of Hebrews is saying that the Messianic age has come, it’s at hand, within reach. And it is far better than any age before!

Translating *aionos *as “worlds or universe” muddies the intended meaning of this passage, as does translating *poieo *as “made”.


Thank you dirtboy and Sherman.


Thanks for posting this, Sonia. This very much matches a lot of what I’ve read concerning research on these words from other sources as well.


If it helps any, I notice that Knoch translates it “makes the eons”, not past tense. “through Whom He also makes the eons”.

The online concordant literal Greek at agrees that the tense is active aorist.

It’s the same tense as the other verbs in that verse: “on the last of these days He-speaks [meaning God from v.1] to us in a Son, Whom He-places enjoyer of the allotment * of-all through Whom also the eons He makes.”

The aorist, except when it is in the indicative mood, does not have any temporal significance; but in English we tend to express that as a simple act occurring in past time, even though it may still be happening in present time.

Similarly, someone writing that in Greek wouldn’t think that this necessarily implies that the actions only apply to the past and not to the present (or the future either), nor only to the present and not to the past. It isn’t about relative timing at all, it’s just a fact about an action. Context might qualify that otherwise, but there is no such context here–except insofar as there is more than one age being talked about so it has to apply to at least either the past or the future plus the present age. But the cultural context is about the unique ontological superiority of God as creator and sustainer of all things, in superior comparison to any lesser lord or god; so all ages are meant not only a few of them including the author’s present one.*


Update: this has been revised and better clarified and posted as an article on OBJ’s website.

Time or Character, The Ages or A Time Sequence in aionios: How Words “Mean” in Greek and English



So we first take a step back to look at the cultural or worldview concept. What we do is look at how a word may be used. We honor the language and its cultural integrity. We do not assume in language that there is some objective authoritative “meaning” or “definition” that prescribes what a word can or must mean. That is not how language works.


Can anyone help me? If the Hebrew ‘olam’ means actually means something like, “behind the horizon” or “to conceal’’, what does the Hebrew for ‘from generations to generations’ mean (I think that is ‘dor’ x 2)?


So is he defining aionios as timelessness or is he defining eternity/eternal as timelessness?