The Evangelical Universalist Forum

"Terms for Eternity: Aiônios & aïdios" talk part 1

Thanks heaps David. I will read through this over the next couple of days and give you some feedback :slight_smile:

Thanks for joining us David. Appreciate the contributions.

Alex (or David), is there an online article/essay that summarizes the book?


David, thank you for a great historical slice of the terms aionios & aidios. I might have no important comments until you get the part about the New Testament usage, but I’ll carefully read this series in the meantime.

Thanks for the link! I’m on it. Looking forward to it.


Very curious about the report myself!

I am not in any position to critique the paper so far, pro or con, but since he’s here and near the topic :mrgreen: : I do want to ask Dr. Konstan his opinion about the derivation of the term {aïdios}. It seems to be an evolved compound term, but would it be of a-idios (that which cannot be seen) or ai-dios (something to do with God/heaven/height)? Or a pun on both? Or does it have a traceable different derivation in the language than either of those? Perhaps back to Persian languages? (I strongly suspect this is true whether the term has one or some other prior meaning.)

Tom, this paper/talk was intended to summarise the book.

Jason, Aidios seems to derive from the adverb aei (or aiei), meaning “always”; but ancient Greeks themselves already punned on the possible sense of “invisible.” We discuss this briefly in the book.

Thank you, David. You definitely whet my appetite, especially for chapters 2, 3, and 4, the bulk of your book.:slight_smile:

I wonder, on the flip side of eternal punishment, Does your book address whether the New Testament clearly teaches that believers will live literally forever?

We argue that the New Testament seems to distinguish between the afterlife, which is eternal, and punishment in the afterlife, which may last for an eon but will end with the end of time. Eternal life is thus promised – not in this world, but the next. In what form? That’s a big question, which the church fathers considered carefully. We have some information on that, but there are other sources as well.

Excellent!–and such a pun (“always-god” “un-visible”) would be even more appropriate in context of Judaism (as thence into Judeo-Christianity.)

Ok I’d like to simplify all of this. Can anyone help?

  1. David said “It would appear, in sum, that the term of art for eternal things – all that is ungenerated and imperishable – among cosmological thinkers in the period prior to Plato was aïdios, never aiônios.”

Does this mean that we can say, before the time of Plato, the word “aionios” never appears in Greek writings to mean “without end.” Yes/No? Secondly, if “yes,” then how many writings/authors are we talking about approximately?

  1. Before Plato, “Aidios” did appear in Greek writings to mean “without end.” Yes/No? Secondly, if “yes,” then how many writings/authors are we talking about approximately?

  2. Plato was the first to use “aidios” in the sense of “without end.” Before him, we know of no authors who used it in this sense. Yes/No?

  3. Plato used aionios in the sense of “without end” but others used it in this sense before him. Yes/No?

  4. David said “Plato goes on to say that it was the nature of the living thing to be aiônios but that this quality could not be attached to something that was begotten (gennêton).”

So, in this context, does this mean that “aionios” also means “without beginning”?

  1. David said “Plato’s conception of a timeless eternity remained specific to Platonism and closely related schools in antiquity.”

So, again to confirm, does that mean that “timeless eternity” does not appear in any other Greek writings before his time? And, secondly, how many writings before his time do we know of that use this word?

  1. David said “Aristotle, as we have said, seems never to use the term aiônios, though there are nearly 300 instances of aïdios, which is Aristotle’s preferred word to designate things eternal.”

In his writings, does Aristotle consistently use the term “aidios” to mean “without end”?

Yes, aionios is not reliably attested before Plato.

Aidios appears in the sense of eternal before Plato in many presocratic writers.

Plato was NOT the first to use aidios in this sense; that’s how earlier philosophers use it.

Plato uses aionios in a special sense of “timeless.”

Plato uses aionios in a special sense of “timeless.”

Plato seems to have invented the idea of a timeless eternity.

Yes, Aristotle uses aidios precisely in this sense.

By the way, there is now a paperback and much less expensive edition of Terms for Eternity, with a couple of minor corrections as well. So we won that battle, although it’s still not quite as inexpensive as we’d like it.

All the best, David

David, thank you so much. So, if the idea of eternity “without end” appeared before Plato (in the form of aidios), then I am curious what contexts its appeared in such writings, and I am curious in particular if writers before Plato used that word to talk about the afterlife. If you have the time to respond to this, that would be great.

Secondly, how exhaustively do you list all Biblical references to “eternity” and “forever”? In your book, do you cite every verse that it appears?

Third, I see there is a paperback version of your book on Gorgias Press’ website. I intend to buy it for sure, but before I buy it from Gorgias, I want to know - do you also plan to make it available on I only ask for the practical reason that I have a gift card for Amazon and it would be nice to use it there. :slight_smile:

This is where Alex Smith referred me, and I’ll buy it here if you don’t plan to make it available on Amazon: … texts.aspx

P.S. Thank you so much! * Big smile *


Keep in mind that the few times {aidios} is used in the NT, could be construed as “invisible”, too or instead. David concurs that the pun is valid and was recognized (though the Greek philosophers didn’t primarily mean “invisible” by it); so if the NT contexts involve a relation of that which is seen to that which is unseen (where the latter is described by {aidios}), there would be strong grounds for inferring that the authors meant “invisible” (and maybe also “everlasting”, or maybe not, depending on further characteristics of the topic.)

I’ve discussed those contexts in-depth several times here on the forum, though I’ll have to look up where.

David’s second part of his talk can be found here, by the way. I think the notion of invisibility easily solves the problem of the term’s usage in Jude’s epistle.

I’m afraid I don’t know whether the book is available on Amazon, but one could request it and see what happens.

I can say that we do list all references to eternity in the Bible and elsewhere: the book is pretty exhaustive (and exhausting) that way.

As for Plato, he doesn’t speak of a timely eternity in connection with the afterlife, I think; after all, he thinks also of reincarnation, at least in some passages. He was really meditating on the nature of time. Think of the problem that Christian fathers raised, about whether the Son could be younger than the Father (as one would imagine) if the three Persons of God existed before the creation of time!

  I hope this is helpful,

  Very best, David

David, a big thank you to all your help and work. Since your book’s not on Amazon, I went ahead and ordered it from Gorgias Press just a minute ago. I can’t wait to get it in the mail!

Much respect and gratitude.

Jason - Does David address this kind of usage in his book? Or perhaps I need to ask David this (unless you know?)?

If you don’t know the answer, then can you tell me where you learned this? Where in Greek was the word aidios used to mean “invisible”? What documents, literature and contexts specifically?

I ran across it independently, but David confirmed earlier in this thread that the Greeks were aware of the pun and occasionally referred to it themselves. He says he and his co-author briefly discuss it in the book.

I should note that I’m probably wrong, in the comment linked above, about {aei} as “always” being a metaphorical application of a term that also entered our language as “high”–at least, etymologically that English word can be traced back to languages which are not Greco-Mesopotamian in origin, and it originally had a guttural ending (still represented by the now silent “gh” in modern spelling.) However, the origin of {aei} is highly disputed and I don’t think it’s coincidence that a slight variation of the term came to be used in Greek, as subsequently in English, as the word for “air”.

(I still think I’m right about {dios} being a variation of the term {deo}/{deva} from pre-Grecian languages, which is definitely about brightness, a different branch of the root term eventually becoming “day” by route of various terms meaning “hot” not “bright”.)

Jason Pratt - thank you!

I just got the book - Terms for Eternity - in the mail a few minutes ago! So excited!

Would anyone here like to join a Facebook discussion group (perhaps temporary) for the sake of discussing this book? I’m on there more often, that’s why I suggest it.

No need to buy the book: free at:- … _And_Philo %between% … to read this continuously click the rt-facing arrow, top right !!! Hope this is helpful Temple Farrar

Is on Amazon here… … 234&sr=1-1