The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Platonist, aionos and universalism

I read in one comment that platonist used “aionos” as a sinonym of permanence or eternity. Origen used “aionos punishment” and “aionos fire”, but it seems that Aionos punishment was understood by people as be tortured forever. Origen knew that when he said aionos punishment, people understand ECT.

“They are not in reality liars who use circumlocution 6 because of the oeconomy of salvation.” Origen said that “all that might be said on this theme is not expedient to explain now, or to all. For the mass need no further teaching on account of those who hardly through the fear of æonian punishment restrain their recklessness.” The reader of the patristic literature sees this opinion frequently, and unquestionably it caused many to hold out threats to the multitude in order to restrain them; threats that they did not themselves believe would be executed".

Origen says that people must not be leart about universalism.

My only argumen against this was a phrase of Gregory of Nyssa found in Hanson´s his book, “Aion-aionios - an Excursus on the Greek Work Rendered Everlasting, Eternal, Ect., in the holy Bible”.

“Whoever considers the divine power will plainly perceive that it is able at length to restore by means of the aionion purgation and expiatory sufferings, those who have gone even to this extremity of wickedness.”

But I didn´t found this phrase in he works of Gregory of Nyssa, and Stefcui has said that the author had a mistake and Gregory of Nyssa probably did not say that.

Gregory of Nyssa talked a lot about eternal fire and punishment, but he also said that there are some sinners that will be purified forever:

“We learn as much too in the case of Judas, from the sentence pronounced upon him in the Gospels Matthew 26:24; namely, that when we think of such men, that which never existed is to be preferred to that which has existed in such sin. For, as to the latter, on account of the depth of the ingrained evil, the chastisement in the way of purgation will be extended into infinity”

I´m so confused now

Sopho, I’m not a good one to talk on the finer points of aionion/aionios/aidios. [tag]JasonPratt[/tag] or [tag]Paidion[/tag] would probably be better for that.

Regarding Judas, though, it’s my understanding from reading about Semitic cultures that the saying, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born,” was a sympathetic phrase one might use of a neighbor who had been through terrible misfortune. It isn’t (in my understanding) intended to be taken literally. The early fathers may or may not have known this, many of them being Greek, and of course not having access to the scholarship available to us today. (And what’s more, they couldn’t even look it up on the internet, which is a thing we tend to forget in principle if not in intellectual assent.)

However, if you do have a need to take it literally, it’s also interesting to know that in ancient Hebrew culture, a person’s life was counted from his conception, not from his birth. So a child who dies before he is born is considered not to have been born (his spirit having returned to God who gave it before he could even see the light). Because of this, the statement regarding Judas (either way) isn’t intended to mean that it would be better for him if he had never come to exist.

Hi Sopho,

I really recommend the book by Hosea Ballou, Ancient History of Universalism: From the Time of the Apostles, to the Fifth General Council (download for free here: Another book, too, by David Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. He has a section on universalism under the heading of Salvation.

There is a deep mystery surrounding judgment and punishment. IMO, many of the earliest fathers were aware of this mystery, but they did not spell this out in great depth by way of interpretation. They kept a *public teaching *separate from a church teaching. Origen was the chief agent to be competent enough to communicate these mysteries, and he decided to expose these teachings because confusion was becoming rife. Many other fathers took the easiest path of just quoting the gospels verbatim, which gave no interpretation, and this led to the common view that the flames of hell were literal.

Another source of universalism is found in the Shepherd of Hermas. This book was what made me become aware of universalism, yet, ironically, it is not well known by universalists. Hermas was included in early canons and church teachings as early as the 2nd century, and it is also found within Codex Sinaiticus, so the early christians most definitely were aware of the interpretations of universalism as a secret doctrine. Many things changed as of the 4th century, but there are still universalist there too, such as Gregory of Nyssa (See Ballou’s book).

Hope this helps.


Sopho, the Greek word “αἰωνιος” is the adjectival form of the noun “αἰων” which means “age”.

Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.) wrote in his Homily of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, Homily 4, that the kingdom of Satan “is αἰωνιος (agey), in other words it will cease with the present αἰων (age).” So Chrysostum apparently believed that “αἰωνιος” meant exactly the opposite to “eternal”! ---- that is “ lasting” but in this case also “temporary.”

Consider Matthew 25:46 where the goats are to be sent into “αἰωνιος κολασις”. If we agree that “κολασις” means “correction”, then what would “eternal correction” mean? If a person were corrected eternally, the correction would never be completed, and thus the person would not be corrected at all!

Fortunately “αἰωνιος” DOES NOT mean “eternal”. Indeed, it never means “eternal”. It is the adjectival form of the noun “αἰων”, which means “age”. So, I suppose we could translate “αἰωνιος” as “agey”, but as far as I know, the latter is not an English word.

In my opinion, the word does not have any temporal connotations at all. It was used in koine Greek (the Greek spoken from 300 B.C. to 300 A.D.) to refer to anything which is enduring. The word was used by Diodorus Siculus to describe the stone used to build a wall. The word seems to have been used as meaning “lasting” or “durable”.

Josephus in “The Wars of the Jews” book 6, states that Jonathan was condemned to “αἰωνιος” imprisonment. Yet that prison sentence lasted only three years.

As I see it, the following would be a correct translation of Matthew 25:46
And they [the goats] will go away into lasting correction, but the righteous into lasting life.

Didn’t you bring up a similar matter a couple of years ago, Sopho?

Thanks Cindy for explain the meaning of that phrase.

Paidon: it is true that I started a post similar to this, although that was focused on Origen. I appreciated your examples, but those last that you provided me in this post has convinced me more.

Other thing that who assured me that “aionos punishment” did not last forever is this phrase of Olympiodorus:

But time ago you translated this so different from that translation:

I don´t know what is he saying about the duration of punishment.

Whatever the fathers may say, Tartarus is called by Peter the holding cell for fallen angels. Nowhere in the bible is it called a temporary or permanent destination for humankind. The early middle and late fathers say all sorts of things that contradict one another, so imo while they are certainly worth knowing (for those of a disposition that can study them objectively), they are not a final court for interpreting inconclusive scriptures as they all seem to have opinions independent of and contradicting one another.

Ultimately the nature of our Father is revealed in the meta-narrative of scripture and not in any single or collection of passages and certainly not in the opinion of any one of group of church fathers in whatever era. Ask yourself whether the God and Father who gave to Jesus the Sermon on the Mount, who inspired Paul to write, “While we were yet His enemies, Christ died for us, the righteous for the unrighteous,” who inspired Isaiah to say “He will wipe the tears from every eye,” would torture malefactors forever and ever and ever and ever just for the sake of causing agony. And agony to whom? If to the worst of sinners there MIGHT be come cause, though certainly not sufficient for that duration or severity, but what about the sinner’s mother and sisters and brothers who in at least some cases are good and loving followers of our Lord? Do they deserve to be kept in agony for their loved one for all eternity too?

If we truly love our enemies as Jesus commands us, then we will certainly continue in agony for them as well. After all, if loving your enemies includes desiring the best for them, and if this is the nature of God and we are commanded to do it, will we not continue to do that which is good throughout all the age(s) to come? And will HE stop loving them – His enemies? If the love does not stop and the torture (or extinction) is never-ending (or permanent in the case of extinction), then the agony of loving hearts will also NEVER END. Impossible. This is what prompted the RC church to posit unscriptural and impossibly incoherent ideas such as that there will be no remembrance in heaven.

The very idea of eternal (as in never ending) conscious torment, or even of conditional immortality, is incongruous with any possibility of never ending bliss for either us or for our dear loving Father who wills for all people to believe the gospel and be saved from sin and death. Sopho, you have NOTHING to fear. Father loves you and He loves all those you love so much more than you ever could. Don’t let yourself become mired in the controversies of the early fathers. Trust in your Father who loves you. Be at peace – be still and understand that He is God and that He is truly GOOD.

Love, Cindy

I know that. I once wanted to know how we would feel once we enter to heaven while others go to hell. A person said me that when we enter to heaven, we don´t feel nothing for the damned. He said that God will “wipe our tears” in order to not feel bad about the wicked. I did not feel good about this.

Paidon, i read The War of the Jews, book 6, but I did not found nothing about aionos imprisonement.

You may find this post usefull, I hope the link still works otherwise I search for another file sharer

Also see here:

[tag]Paidion[/tag] I’m trying to track this down for a friend - which chapter of book 6 ( … ws/book-6/) & if the Greek online anywhere?

Another friend pointed out that it’s in the 2nd last sentence of chapter 9.

Paid on,

Where can one access the Greek text for Chrysostom’s fourth Homily on Ephesians? And Josephus in Greek, too perhaps?