The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Re: The Essential Role of Free Will in Universal Reconciliation

Exactly like Israel in the OT; the phraseology is even the same.

But St. Paul (as Tom rightly reports) believes all Israel will be saved anyway, including the ones who stumbled. (And in Rom 9 quotes an important verse from Isaiah where God is retorting against those whose counsel of despair is that God has permanently destroyed rebellious Israel and never intends to reconcile and restore her.)

The destruction isn’t temporally permanent. The destruction (or whole-ruination, to be a bit more literal at 2nd Thess), is from the Everlasting, from God the Age-Transcending. It cannot be escaped from or appealed over about. And, admittedly, if God chose for the destruction to be hopelessly final (whether out to annihilation itself or not), that would be it, the end.

This is why assessing the intentions of God is so important, whether from the standpoint of metaphysical logic, or from the standpoint of scriptural revelation. (Though interpreting the latter tends to depend on decisions made about the former anyway.)


I grant you that St. Paul thought that all of Israel would be saved eventually, but how does this encompass all people? If I remember correctly, Paul said that “once the full number of Gentiles” comes in all of Israel will be saved. I’ve always took this to mean a large number of Gentiles, but by no means all Gentiles.

When it comes to the translation of “everlasting punishment” we come to a stalemate. How would one know to prefer your translation over that of the people who translate all the English Bibles? I can see how we can do so with Jesus’ words because we have Mark 9:49, but how can we know for Paul? You mentioned that aionios is translated ‘from the ages past’ in a passage in Romans, but that was in a different context than this quote in 2nd Thess.

Assesing the intentions of God is more of a matter of scriptural interpretation than metaphysical logic to me. Philosophical arguments on this matter should be based on the scriptures rather than forcing the scriptures into a man-made system, however logical we think it to be. Unless God can speak to us from the scriptures by shattering our worldviews and philosophical opinions, we are not in touch with his Spirit.

Actually, I noted that aionios in that passage from Romans works just fine in the same way that I translate aionios everywhere else: Godly or from-God. I am very consistent about not translating that adjective in terms of time. (I did probably acknowledge that the popular-minority attempt ‘from ages past’ or something of that sort works better in that Romans passage than ‘unending’ or something of that sort; but I can’t imagine saying this without having also stressed how I actually translate the term–not only there but elsewhere in scripture.)

Actually, the scriptures themselves acknowledge that God does not need the scriptures for us to know quite a few real truths about Him. Theologians have long distinguished this as general revelation and special revelation; both of them are products of the Holy Spirit. (Heck, even some of the special revelation doesn’t come as the scriptures. Most of the special revelation in the scriptural narratives themselves doesn’t come that way, for example.)

Be that as it may. I very much sympathize with the complaint about forcing a meaning into the scriptures; but the practical fact is that scriptural interpretation depends on metaphysical principle application, or anway on principles which are not themselves derivable ‘from scripture’. Hebrew and Greek grammar principles are one exceedingly obvious and very mundane example of this.

But to give another less obvious and perhaps more pertinent example: if one prooftext taken by itself looks hopeless (say, a statement by God that He will completely destroy the wicked by burning them up like grass) and one prooftext taken by itself looks hopeful (say, a statement by God that everyone will be salted with the fire of Gehenna which is the best of things and leads to peace in our hearts with each other)–then… what? If you’re reading one text as intepreting the meaning of the other, why are you doing that? If you try to have it both ways, then why are you doing that? There are many ways of considering this case, but I daresay that none of them are some principle you got from scripture. (And if you did, then why does that scripture give the master principle for deciding how to treat those two pieces of scriptural data, and not one of those pieces the principle for treating the third?)

A couple of fast followup notes:

1.) I forgot to mention, Imago, that my analysis of Dr. Bacchiocchi’s argument for annihilationism (which can be found on our forum here) features a primarily exegetical analysis for proper interpretation of the adjective {aio_nios}. I can’t say it’s altogether free from metaphysical rationales (for reasons briefly mentioned in my previous comment), but I can say that most people wouldn’t consider it to be a ‘metaphysical’ argument. Lots of comparative scriptural usage is analyzed.

2.) I’m going to ask James or Gene (who each know more than I do about the mechanics of the board) to port our conversation on this topic over to, say, the “General Discussion on Evangelical Universalism” section. I would ask them to send it somewhere more specific, but I can see at least two disparate topics developing in your comment: ‘how and why do I, Jason, translate aio_nios?’ and, ‘what relationship does-or-should scriptural and metaphysical arguments have with each other’? I wouldn’t be annoyed if they split it into two more discussions, one for Biblical Theology (the aionios discussion) and one for General Theology.

Also, this will keep me from inadvertently swamping Tom in a portion of the board specifically set up for him. :slight_smile:

So, Jason, you translate “αἰωνιος” consistently as “Godly” or “from God”

Let’s see how this would work in Jude 15:

Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back from God.

Okay, it may make sense, but is that what Paul meant to say? Was Onesimus with God for awhile, and now he was to return to his master Philemon? I don’t think so.

I generally translate “αἰωνιος” as “permanent” or in this case “permanently”. I translate Philemon 15 as follows:

Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him permanently.

I think this is what Paul had in mind. He was contrasting Onesimus being parted from Philemon temporarily (for a while) with Philemon having him back permanently.

Sometimes I translate “αἰωνιος” as “going from age to age”. I find that every occurrence makes sense when translated by one of these two renderings.


I’ll look at that link and get part to you on this thread.

You meant Philemon 15, btw.

The contrast between Onesimus being separated from Philemon for an hour that Phil may be collecting him {aio_nios}, is typically taken to mean that Onesimus accepted salvation while with Paul. Consequently, it is in fact God Who is giving back Onesimus to Philemon as a beloved brother, more than a (treacherous) slave.

This is, indeed, precisely the ground on which St. Paul expects Philemon to do the right thing and grant Onesimus his freedom. Onesimus is not supposed to be a slave to Philemon “forever” or “going from age to age”!–nor is the ground for Philemon freeing Onesimus merely that now Onesimus is a “beloved brother” forever: admittedly, that would be contraventive to Philemon keeping Onesimos as a slave, but who has already freed Onesimus? It wasn’t St. Paul!

Of course, in a physical sense Philemon is receiving back Onesimus from Paul, with whom Onesimus has physically been. In that regard, there is also a parallel with Phil receiving Onesi back from a person (namely from Paul). But vastly, incomparably more importantly, Phil is receiving Onesi back from God.

At the same time, there is no reason why St. Paul cannot be making a pun on the contrast between being separated for an hour and being collected “eonian”; in fact he has just made a similar pun a couple of sentences earlier when he said that Onesimus (which means ‘profitable’), who was once useless to Phil, is now useful to both Phil and to Paul. (Again pointing to a change in Onesimus, one wrought by God.) This is all avowedly happening in the Lord (v.16).

Not only does my translation still hold, it also doesn’t necessarily invalidate your translation, but adds a double-meaning to Paul’s statement, just as Paul had built-in a double-meaning on exactly the same topic (though in a different fashion) a couple of sentences earlier.

I like your thoughts Jason

what are your thoughts on cases where God himself is described as “aionios”? Is it redundant? Or do you think those cases should be translated as “age-transcending” (I think you also suggested that translation earlier)

As far as I can tell, going down through the list of the uses of eonian in the NT, there is only one time in the NT (but there might be others in the Greek OT) when the phrase “theos aio_nios” occurs, and that’s Rom 16:26: “from (or perhaps in accord with) the injunction of the eonian God being made known into all nations, into faith-obedience.”

Would it be redundant to translate this “in accord with the injunction of the God from-God”? (or “of the God-essential God” or “of the God-uniquely God”?) Only to someone who denies the divinity of Jesus! :smiley: In that case, yes, the translation would be redundant, and some other translation would be more appropriate. If Jesus is somehow “very God of very God”, though (even in some non-trinitarian ways), then no it isn’t redundant. It might even correspond to “the heralding of Christ Jesus from the revelation of a mystery hushed in times eonian, yet manifested now and through prophetic scriptures” (which was the previous verse in Rom 16.)

That having been said, I should correct myself about the reference of {aio_nios} in Rom 16:25, since it is to “times” not to the “secret”. The doxology there reads (rather confusingly) in Greek: “kata apokalupsin muste_riou chronois aio_niois sesige_menou”, with one prepositional phrase nested inside the other one. (A mystery is always a revealed secret in NT Greek, btw; which certainly fits the context here.) I have a bad habit of thinking that the “eonian” refers to the “mystery”, but strictly speaking it refers to the “times”; otherwise the suffix would match {muste_riou}. (um… I think. :wink: :mrgreen: )

Also note that there isn’t a specific preposition for the prepositional phrase, so we have to make a guess about what the preposition is; unlike {muste_riou sesige_menou} which is a special form of possessive prepositional phrase that practically never needs a Greek preposition. As it happens, the nearest prior preposition is {kata}, which can mean several things including down-from, and I think the suffixes for “times eonian” would synch up with it. (A little fuzzy there.)

So you have a fun translational option set: you can go with something like “from the revelation of a mystery hushed in never-ending times” (except those times did end); or you can go with something like “from the revelation of a mystery hushed in times which endured for an age” (except the times, plural, would seem to be more than one age); or you can go with something like “from the revelation of a mystery hushed in times which kept going for as long as those times” (now there’s some redundancy for you!); or you can go with something like “from the revelation of a mystery hushed from Godly times” or “from God’s own times” or “from times coming from God” or “in God’s own times”. Which are all admittedly kind of clunky, but they get across the idea that those times were set up by God. (And also perhaps the idea that this all has something to do with that which proceeds from God’s own essential reality. Which sounds one way or another like something to do with Christ; whom, or Whom, the revelation just happens to be about!)

To make matters worse, the whole doxology (vv25-27) has a weird habit in textual families of shifting around within Romans or even being omitted outright. So I make a point not to hang too much on this particular doxology anyway, for better or for worse. :laughing: