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I take the position that it is God who authored the Hebrew Scriptures (OT/39 books). Since He knew the future, the end from the beginning, He knew in advance what things would be finite. Therefore, of such things, He wouldn’t use a word that must mean eternal, but a word (aionios) that can refer to a finite duration, even if it can also refer to an eternal duration in other contexts. Otherwise He would make Himself a liar. But that is not possible.

A mere human president, if he knew the future as God does & that something would be of finite duration, would not declare that finite thing to be eternal. Well, not unless he was a liar, as all politicians are.

The resource that was quoted is one of the most popular OT lexicons, abbreviated as TWOT. A more complete quote from my copy actually uses your exact same example in support of its conclusion:

“The LXX generally translates Olam by Aion which essentially has the same meaning. That neither the Hebrew or Greek word in itself contains the idea of endlessness is shown both by the fact that they sometimes refer to events or conditions that occurred at a definite point in the past, and also by the fact that it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying “forever”, but “forever and ever”.”

(Theological Wordbook Of The Old Testament; Harris, Archer, Waltke, c 1980 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, page 673, article by A.A.M., Ph.D., President & Professor of OT, Biblical School of Theology, Hatfield, Pennsylvania).

The author doesn’t explain his example re “forever”, or even cite any Scripture passages, so i can only guess as to how he thinks such an example supports his point.

Literally speaking, “forever and ever” is nonsense. If there is time beyond “forever”, then “forever” must be finite.

In the NT the deceptive English rendering “forever and ever” by the pro ECT hell clubs cloned translations is actually often literally “EIS the ages of the ages”. As such it bears little resemblance to the distortion “forever and ever”. It is not a construction of the type “X1 and X2”, let alone “Amen, amen”, but of “X1 of the X2” like “song of songs”, “Lord of lords”, “King of kings”, “book of books”, “holies of the holies”. None of these (X1 of X2) type of English phrases are repetitions “employed to intensify the given meaning” like “Amen, amen”. Neither do any of them express endlessness. The “holies of the holies” is not an endless succession of holies. Though “ages of the ages” proves there is at least one age that is finite.

Rev.14:9-11 & 20:10 & forever & ever a deceptive translation:

12 points re forever and ever being finite:

I have a feeling that “ages of ages” is nonsense too, strictly speaking. (If it were singular “age of ages,” that’d be much more tolerable. Anyways, more below on this.)

It is not a construction of the type “X1 and X2”, let alone “Amen, amen”, but of “X1 of the X2” like “song of songs”, “Lord of lords”, “King of kings”, “book of books”, “holies of the holies”. None of these (X1 of X2) type of English phrases are repetitions “employed to intensify the given meaning” like “Amen, amen”. Neither do any of them express endlessness. The “holies of the holies” is not an endless succession of holies.

You’re totally missing the point. These Semitic doublets aren’t specifically about a succession or infinite series of these things, but suggest a kind of maximality in relation to whatever category they’re a part of. For example, “king of kings” means the greatest and most magnificent king in existence; “holy of holies” suggests the holiest thing/place possible.

αἰῶνες τῶν αἰώνων or whatever is a little unique because it’s not just this, but almost always the adverbial εἰς (τοὺς) αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.

But I think I’ve suggested or demonstrated that εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα and/or לעולם and לעד already suggest permanence or the greatest amount of time possible. Based on this alone, it’s hard not to think that εἰς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων doesn’t just suggest the greatest amount of time possible (in line with what I said above about maximality and categories, etc.), but is in fact a rhetorical intensification of this. And in fact, we even find a kind of double rhetorical intensification along these lines in LXX Psalm 119:44, where the Psalmist says he will uphold the Law διὰ παντός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος – which I can only imagine being translated “continually/perpetually, forever, and forever and ever.” (The original Hebrew is simply תמיד לעולם ועד, “continually, forever and ever.”) We also find this amplified εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος on a few other occasions, too.

In terms of the singular εἰς (τὸν) αἰῶνα (τοῦ) αἰῶνος, this is a common translation of the simple לעד in the Septuagint Psalms. The plural εἰς τοῦς αἰῶνας translates comparable Semitic plurals, and is particularly common in the Aramaic of Daniel (for לעלמין). But most importantly though, it becomes common in doxologies that praise God – that he and his blessedness/kingship/power/goodness/whatever will endure forever and ever. In this sense, functionally speaking, singular εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα and plural εἰς τοῦς αἰῶνας, as well the expansive forms of these, are all identical.

As for how the genitive/construct “of” in αἰών τοῦ αἰῶνος and αἰῶνες τῶν αἰώνων and their Semitic equivalents entered the picture in the first place: we find this as a translation of עדי עד in Psalm 83:17 (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος) and 92:7, etc. I already mentioned above, though, that this same translation is also found for just לעד alone in LXX Psalms. Another interesting point is that in Psalm 111:8, it says that God’s power/works are established in the world לעד לעולם: “eternally, forever”; and yet LXX actually blends these appositive adverbial clauses into just one clause, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος. Also relevant is that עולמי עולמים is attested in later Hebrew; and I know there’s the doubled Aramaic עלמי עלמין, too. Again in terms of synonymy, לעולם (LXX εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα) in Psalm 44:8’s doxology is rendered in the Aramaic Targum as לעלמי עלמין.

Again this all goes to suggest that functionally, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα and εἰς τοῦς αἰῶνας and all the expansive forms are semantically identical.

One last note here, this also connects back to the phrase γενεαί γενεῶν, e.g. in LXX Isaiah 51:8 as I cited in an earlier post. (And this all brings us back around to αἰώνιος, too: see e.g. the parallel of ὄνομα αἰώνιον and μνημόσυνον γενεῶν γενεαῖς in LXX Exodus 3:15.)

Literally speaking, “forever and ever” is nonsense. If there is time beyond “forever”, then “forever” must be finite.

That’s what I mean by language and idiom not abiding by strict rules of logic though. Again, do you think of when people today use the modern English phrase “forever and ever,” they just mean “a finite time + more”? No, they truly mean forever. (“And ever” functions just to reiterate the gravity of forever, not to really introduce any new element here.)

Interesting. Thanks for sharing that, Stewart. Have you had the chance to express your POV in the blogs where EO scholar David Bentley Hart responds to critiques of his NT translation, including that by N.T. wright here:

By that expression i just meant the body of eternal hell advocates - such as pastors, bible colleges & their students, etc - who are huge book (paper or electronic) purchasers, in this case specifically lexicons & the like. Everything from the relatively inexpensive & unscholarly, like Vine’s, Strong’s or Mounce’s (~$20) lexicons, to the more scholarly & expensive BDAG or LSJ (~$150). There’s lots of money to be made there. But who’s going to buy a lexicon written by a universalist with a universalist bias to it? Even if it’s only bias is regarding a few words - like aion, aionios, kolasis - that’s all it might take to be generally rejected by pro endless punishment advocates.

Thank you for the reference & texts. From the English translation above it says “For the hope in Him is immortal and eternal life” which appears as a pointless redundancy to me. If life is immortal, then it is eternal, so there is no need to add that it is eternal. But perhaps a study of the context would debunk (or confirm) that viewpoint. The quote seems quite similar to Romans 2:7 of the New Testament. At the following post i suggest from the context of Romans 2 that aionios in verse 7 refers to a finite duration:

If you wish to comment on this, feel free to respond either in that thread or here or both.

Much of that entry, in particular biblical references, especially those that relate to the future of the lost, such as Mt.25:41,46, have been addressed in other threads on these forums, and which you are welcome to peruse & critique to your heart’s content, here or there, if you find there is anything worth your scholarly time to address. For a few examples, I’ve commented on some of the above referenced BDAG topics here:

John 3:36, 3:16, 1 Jn.1:2, Dan.12:2, aionios life:


Mark 3:29:

This post is my response to a list of 19 NT passages that allegedly “define/describe αἰών and αἰώνιος” as being eternal, including 2 Cor.4:17-5:1 & others with aionios in them:

According to the ABP Greek-English Interlinear it is not “throughout” their generations, as you emphasize & appear to rely on for your interpretation, but EIS/unto (or, “into”) their generations. A significant difference which allows for aionios to be finite in Lev.6:18 & 10:9.

Moreover, if the NT teaches that such ordinances are abolished forever, then that also weighs against your POV. Though i understand that you do not interpret Scripture in this manner.

I’d have to see the passages you refer to, but don’t reference, in context to comment upon them. Regarding εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα i’d suggest from a verse remarked upon earlier in this thread, Exo.21:6, that it does not mean “forever” in that context, but merely (at most) for the duration of the finite mortal life of the servant:

New International Version
then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

Similarly, in Josephus in “The Wars of the Jews” book 6, it states that Jonathan was condemned to “αἰωνιος” imprisonment." According to TDNT, ed Kittel, author Sasse, Vol 1, p.168, on AIDIOS, Sasse remarks concerning Jude 6 “in everlasting chains” & "Cf. for this expression Jos.Bell.,6,434…“of the lifelong imprisonment of John…”, with “lifelong” being the Greek word aionios. That interpretation seems similar to that in the OT of a slave being his masters for olam, i.e. for life. Here is the Greek & an English translation:

If the preview isn’t available there, a search of these Greek words may find it as it did when i tried it:

ἐφυλάχθη δ᾽ ὁ μὲν [i.e. Simon] τῷ θριάμβῳ σφάγιον, ὁ δ᾽ Ἰωάννης δεσμοῖς αἰωνίοις.

Can you provide the Greek text, an English translation & some context?

BTW, regarding Philo:

“Philo [20 BC - 50 AD, contemporary with Christ] used the exact phraseology we find in Matthew 25:46 - just as Christ used it - in the context of temporal affairs between people of different socio-economic classes:”

" “It is better not to promise than not to give prompt assistance, for no blame follows in the former case, but in the latter there is dissatisfaction from the weaker class, and a deep hatred and everlasting punishment (kolasis aiónios) from such as are more powerful” (Fragmenta, Tom. ii., p. 667)."

“It is better absolutely never to make any promise at all than not to assist another willingly, for no blame attaches to the one, but great dislike on the part of those who are less powerful, and intense hatred and long enduring punishment from those who are more powerful, is the result of the other line of conduct.”

" “It is better not to promise than not to give prompt assistance, for no blame follows in the former case, but in the latter there is dissatisfaction from the weaker class, and a deep hatred and everlasting punishment [kolasis aiónios] from such as are more powerful.” Here we have the exact terms employed by out Lord, to show that aiónion did not mean endless but did mean limited duration in the time of Christ."

Here again at Lev.3:17 it is EIS/unto/into, not “throughout”, your generations:

Lev.3:17 `A statute age-during to your generations in all your dwellings: any fat or any blood ye do not eat.’ (YLT)
17 An age-abiding statute to your generations, in all your dwellings,—none of the fat nor of the blood, shall ye eat. (Ro)

Christians don’t abide by such laws, believing in accord with the NT that they are abolished, hence not eternal, but temporary.

As for:

Isa.51:8 For, as if a garment, eating them is the moth, and, as if wool, eating them is the roach. Yet My righteousness for the eon shall come, and My salvation for the generation of generations (CLV)

this Greek-Interlinear is much the same:

“into the eon…for generations of generations”

In neither case IMO is an interpretation, let alone a translation, of “forever” necessary.

So qaz… why have you ignored the answer I gave to your query HERE?

In response to Origen’s post HERE koine_lingua replied…

Even though on a strict literal basis some time-related bookends can apply to αἰώνιος the sense of… “permanence or the greatest amount of time possible” still works BECAUSE like us moderns the ancient’s were also able to apply QUALITITATIVE meanings to words beyond any strict, straight-jacketed, literal form.

This whole argument gets whacky BECAUSE ‘universalism’ per sé demands trying to defend a certain position (in this case Mt 25:46) via a less than adequate argument; I just think there is a better, logical and less torturing of the text way to the desired end, which I laid out HERE, to which absolutely no one responded; which might suggest either nobody got it or if they did cannot fault it… what say you qaz?

You’re right, no one responded to your previous comment, where you mention John 17:3, etc. That being said, I’ve actually addressed John 17:3 in relation to this issue in particular several times before, e.g. at length here.

In regard to the interpretation of Matthew 25:46 though, one very important thing that I mentioned in one of my more detailed linked posts is that Matthew 18:8 – which was taken over from its source text in the gospel of Mark – substitutes τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον (“the everlasting fire”) for Mark 9:43’s τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἄσβεστον (“the inextinguishable fire”).

Every indication suggests, however, that there’s no real change in meaning here, and that these function more or less as exact synonyms. But the real salient point here is that in so modifying Mark – which, it might be noted, doesn’t use this phrase “everlasting fire” anywhere in the gospel (only using the synonymous “inextinguishable fire”) – Matthew 18:8’s τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον’s can now connected with the other occurrences of this in Matthew, e.g. Matthew 25:41.

And this is important because it helps us understand Matthew 25:46 itself as doubly connected to both Matthew 25:41 and 25:34. More specifically, it helps us identity this “everlasting punishment” in 25:46 as the same punishment in Matthew 25:41 (and consequently that of Matthew 18:8 and Mark 9:43, too).

In other words, to the extent that “inextinguishable” itself points in a quantitative, or at least a clearly temporal direction, this weakens the argument that Matthew 25:46 might be seen in light of traditions like John 17:3 or this suggested abstract qualitative meaning. And, again, in my linked post here, I emphasized just how idiosyncratic things like John 17:3 are, and how difficult they are to correlate with other more traditional eschatological texts like Matthew 25:46. On this note, we can further see the “traditional” eschatological nature of Matthew 25:46 and 18:8 in light of several other considerations – e.g. when we look at other Jewish intertexts which (re)interpret Isaiah 66:24, like Judith 16:17. And incidentally, we might even be able to draw a connection between Matthew 25:46 and Isaiah 66:24, at least if Daniel 12:2 serves as somewhat of a “mediator” between these (in its use of דְּרָאוֹן, etc.).

Finally, it might also be added that Isaiah 66:24 is also related to Isaiah 34:10, which itself is to be directly connected with Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10, etc.

Thanks for your thoughtful response koine_lingua.

I’m not so sure on that… though as I noted in my comment regarding the quantitative aspect “I don’t discount it” and that in terms of the “temporal direction” and nature of that eschatological judgement on their horizon being pertinent to the DoJ of AD70, and as such Mt 25:46 has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the postmortem realities of universalism, ECT or annihilationism.

The destruction of that OC world was total and complete, qualitatively so, i.e., said destruction came in its fullness and NOTHING of any redemptive value from the OC age of death survived into the NC age of life.

Thus those that perished or those who survived experienced the fullness of either ruin or reward in that ‘end of the age’ period according to their heeding to Jesus’ words to get out of Dodge (Lk21:21).

Re: some of the destruction you talk about: it’s certainly possible, and perhaps even intrinsically probable, to see this in texts like Matthew 25:46. After all, annihilationism was the dominant eschatological view in a large amount of Jewish literature that was roughly contemporary with the New Testament.

But we can’t get annihilationism purely from aionios itself.

More importantly, when doing critical exegesis/philology/lexicography, it’s also dangerous to harmonize different texts; and this is especially true when it involves bringing the complex schemata of Revelation and/or Isaiah into the picture.

Also, to the extent that the NT gospels each serve as a sort of “repository” of different early Christian traditions, it can even be dangerous to harmonize these traditions with themselves – sometimes even when it’s material within the same gospel!

In any case, any number of complex scenarios are imaginable. It’s actually possible that, say, some material in Mark plays more in favor of eternal torment, while the same material in Matthew (slightly modified in places, e.g. where the qualifying statement in Mark 9:48 is omitted) is intended to suggest annihilationism.

But of course in either case, whether annihilation or eternal torment, both of these obviously play against universalism; and most importantly here, there’s no warrant for understanding aionios to suggest merely temporary eschatological punishment – whether temporary in effect or duration. (Annihilation is punishment that’s permanent in effect.)

Of course, as for some of the other things you hinted at, if you’re suggesting that the aforementioned texts/traditions in Matthew 25:31-46 should be identified in any way with what happened with the destruction of Jerusalem, I couldn’t disagree more. I certainly think Matthew 25:31-46 envisions a scenario that hasn’t take place yet (and, as a non-believer, that I don’t think will ever take place, for several reasons). But that’s a whole other discussion.

For those of you wanting Jason Pratt to weigh in - I think his contributions earlier in the thread already made the case contra KL .

Also, in one of the recent threads, there was a criticism of Jason’s dense writing style. Yes, I find I have to really concentrate to parse out his arguments, but - gosh - is concentration a bad thing? I have found that the time I spend in understanding what he has to say is more than amply rewarded. As I’ve said before, we are so fortunate to have him (and others too!) here to man the watchtower.

I think you’re better off reading Jason’s posts above and his responses to KL. Also, Ramelli (which I have not yet read).
From what I can gather, the word can be construed differently in context; also for me the doctrine mainly depends on the character of God, not in contested minutiae.

I don’t want to pull the conversation too far off track; but, in short, the earliest Christians (including Jesus himself, if the gospels are to be believed) thought that the event described in Matthew 25:31f., as well as associated events – that is, the eschatological coming of the Son of Man, the universal resurrection and final judgment, etc. – would all take place within the generation (Matthew 16:27-28, etc.). These cannot be identified with any events in the Jewish-Roman war, or anything like that.

I’d advise against anyone actually reading Ramelli. She just isn’t honest or competent enough to accurately represent… well, almost anything here.

Qaz, I know that you can make up your own mind on Ramelli. I’d be glad to hear your take.

If it’s the one on apokatastasis, you didn’t waste your money. It’s a helpful volume on the history of universalism, although not without problems.

If it’s the one specifically on aionios and aidios… well, I guess it’s also helpful in terms of compiling most early references to those terms all in one place; but her translations and general presentation are very sketchy.

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That was me Dave. I appreciate Jason’s writings, but then I also appreciate other’s as well. From my viewpoint, this board is lucky and blessed to have all of it’s members. I don’t particularly believe in putting people on pedestals for the most part. I find that to be an argument of authority (loosely) and really looks more like cheer leading to me.

That said, Jason should be honored for his generosity towards paying the up front costs and maintenance of this forum. That, to me, is a much more praise-worthy type thing than his opinions on specific topics over that of others. I hope that Jason can come up with a good way for us to contribute, as I appreciate what he has done here.

The character of people matters much more to me than the position they hold.


That’s how many people see it. Did God expect everyone to have multiple PHD’s before they could know the truth? No, & Scripture makes that clear. The PHD’s of Jesus day, the Pharisees & scribes, largely missed the boat, while the unlearned disciples of Jesus had the truth revealed to them.

Well said!

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