The Evangelical Universalist Forum

"Terms for Eternity: Aiônios & aïdios" talk part 2

Thanks for the reply, David. I can’t get the grammar for this statement: “He made perfect for the age to come, written as what ‘age to come’ although at the time it was written was a present reality.”

"written as what “age to come”- what does that mean?

Oops. Sorry Roofus.

Let me make a picture.

So from Paul’s perspective when he wrote this, he was looking backward to prior to the One Sacrifice, stating that prior they were looking forward to the Perfect Age. He was explaining a past event that had already come to pass.

He, and so are we, and those to come are presently in the perfect age (which was (Paul’s time), which is (Our present time), and is to come (Our children’s future).

If any of you know David Bradshaw (University of Kentucky), author of Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007), he also has an interesting article on time as understood by the Greek fathers.


Time and Eternity in Greek Fathers (published).pdf (2.47 MB)

I don’t understand why this is an issue. The chains can be eternal, everlasting; but there is no reason to believe that the angels will continue to be bound by the “eternal” chains (meant to be understood as literal or metaphorical?) after the judgment, especially if one understands the judgment to be remedial and reconcilatory in nature and purpose. God’s dealings in His realm, the realm beyond time, sometimes breaks into this realm of time like with the destruction of Sodom by “eternal fire”.

To me, the primary understanding of aionios needs to be based on the Hebrew concept of olam, which is more pictoral and not as linear and specific as the Greek. When we read aionios in the Greek text, it is attempting to communicate the Hebrew concept of olam.

Fascinating and extensive research! I look forward to reading Dr. Konstan’s book when I can. I see that Dr. Konstan has not posted in awhile, but I do have a question for him.

Dr. Konstan, I was wondering what are your thoughts on the idea that ‘aion’ derives from the verb aio (which, I gather, meant “to breathe”), as some scholars have suggested? This particular etymology makes sense to me, for breathing is cyclical, just as the aions are. What do you think?

I’ve just emailed David, as he’s been away in Istanbul and I’m not sure he’s checked here for awhile…

Just because the adjective “αιωνιος” may be used to describe that which is everlasting DOES NOT IMPLY that the word sometimes MEANS “everlasting” — just as the fact that the word “tall” can be used to describe objects over 20 ft. high does not imply that “tall” sometimes MEANS “over 20 ft. high”. The meaning of “αιωνιος” is lasting. In secular Greek literature it was used to describe a stone wall. A stone wall is lasting. It can also be used to describe God. God is lasting. The fact that He also happens to be everlasting is irrelevant as far as the meaning of the word is concerned.

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I don’t know whether aio and aion are related; perhaps so, but that’s a question for linguists, and I fear I’m not the best authority on that.

Below is a brief summary of the aionios question.

Ancient Greek had two words that are common translated as “eternal”: aidios and aionios. The latter of these terms is an adjective clearly deriving from the noun aion, from which we get the English “eon”: it is an old word, appearing already in Homer, where it refers normally to a lifetime, or else some definite period of time. It never suggests an infinite stretch of time, and in later writers it continues to mean, almost always, either a lifetime or some particular period of time.

What, then, about the adjective aionios? Here is where problems arise, since the adjective seems first to occur in Plato, and Plato adapts it to a very special sense. Plato had the idea that time was a moving image of eternity, with the implication that eternity itself does not move or change: it is not an infinite length of time, but a state of timelessness (think of what time must have been like before God created the universe). This is quite different from the common meaning of aidios, which the presocratic philosophers had already used to express precisely an infinite stretch of time, with no beginning and no end; and this is what aidios continued to mean.

So, we have two adjectives in use: one of them clearly means “infinite,” when applied to time; but the other does not, and what is more, it is connected with a common noun – aion – that means simply a lifetime, with no suggestion of eternity. Aionios remains relatively rare in classical Greek, and then we come to the Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, where it occurs very frequently (aidios, by contrast, only appears twice, and those in parts originally written in Greek). Now, aionios here can refer to things that are very old (as we say in English, “old as the hills”), but by no means eternal – what in this world is eternal? This is a very common usage, based on the Hebrew term. But it can also be used in reference to the world to come, and here we face the fundamental issue.

If one speaks of the next life, or something that happens in the next life, as aionios, does it mean simply the next era or eon, or does it carry the further implication of “eternal”? Many of the passages in the Septuagint seem to indicate that the meaning is “of that eon” – and after all, it is a very long, but still finite period of time, that elapses between our death and judgment day and the resurrection, and this could be called an era. What is more, there is some reason to think that, after the resurrection, time itself will come to an end. So, saying that punishment in the afterlife is aionios may just mean “for that eon” or epoch, and not forever.

We argued that this sense was understood by many (or most) of the Church Fathers, and that when they used aionios of punishment in the afterlife, they were not necessarily implying that punishment would be eternal. Of course, one can only show this by careful examination of specific passages in context, and this is what we tried to do in our book. Very often, the evidence is ambiguous; for example, when God is described as aionios, it is very difficult to be sure whether the word means “of the other world” or simply “eternal,” since God is both. We hope readers will decide for themselves, on the basis of the evidence we collected and the interpretations we offered.

A very useful summary. Many thanks.

Indeed, a useful summary.
It is interesting to note that in at least one of the two scriptural incidences of aidios, it is used to refer to “chains” that are in use only until the judgment. So even what is clearly linguistically perpetual (“chains”), can be put to temporary use.


I am not a university-studied linguist, or an educated archeologist, and with just a little bit of original research on my own, I have to say that it feels great to know that I came to the same conclusion as someone who has a professional interest in this field.

Thanks for your hard work and I really enjoyed the above summary.

Aion is not used in this verse; rather, it’s diēnekes. I think a better translation would be “for all time” (see, for example, the NET Bible). My understanding is that the author is saying that believers in Christ living both in the “last days” (when Hebrews was written) and afterwards during the age of the Messianic reign (the age which I believe commenced shortly after the letter was written) have no need of a repetition of the sacrifice that Jesus made “once for all” and have in this sense been “perfected for all time.”

Thanks heaps David for an excellent summary! :slight_smile:

I am very delighted to be able to have the very special joyful satisfaction of finding this forum with such awesome comments and invaluable material to download. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Therefore, I would like to add some comments with all due respect to the brilliant minds here …

In regards to Jude 1.6  or for that matter other pericopes or writings in the NT  
I recall the inerrancy debates in the past  -  and evidentialistic tendencies of myself included...
fast forward to today ...  because of my studies of Early Church History and the heated discussions 
I have been involved with especially concerning the Church Council of Chalcedon --
I have developed a keener appreciation for different perspectives within the "Church" worldwide..
 From Catholic - Protestant - Oriental Orthodox - Eastern Orthodox - and so on ... 

  From memory -- there are approx. 5,000 Greek MSS and 13,000 Latin MSS along with Syriac e.g.
  Thus the reliability of the NT via textual criticism is 99% regarding the existing mss we have ...
  However, there surely must have been a multitude of mss written that have vanished in history ...
  Along with the "Originals" which might have been written in Aramaic or Greek ... 
   Quite possibly the "Original" went thru various revisions itself... 

  Having a "static" perspective or view of the inerrancy or "inspiration" (aka dictation theory which i never held )
   for the creation of the NT created in me a burning zeal to "safeguarding" this position ...
  which in turn motivated me to serious reflective study of textual criticism, origins of the gospels 
(which gospel came first and potential redaction for the others )   the identity of the author of Hebrews.. 
  It took me nearly 20 years to finally resolve a question concerning the situation of splintered factions
   within the "Church " at large...

  Therefore, Jude or Paul or Luke or James or John e.g.  were gifted individuals who wrote with 
    Energetic Passion to influence those who were connected with them ...  
   In communicating with the huge Sea of Chinese that surround me each day for the past 23 years 
    I have rarely taken the same approach I did when I was super zealous for Evidentialism while I 
  was either handing out 'tracts' in downtown Seattle, involved in Apologetic discussions at U of W
   or Online .. or asking controversial questions at Bible College then Seminary ... 

  I surely believe that God truly gifted these early Christian writers... but 
    without living in their cultural milieu during those times... without having the physical opportunity
    of listening to them preach or have discussions ...  as I can notice from Paul's * letters *
    written to various Churches ...  there were enough misunderstandings or conflicts...
   It could be possible that R.F. Capon, Barth, NT Wright, Moltmann, Kreeft, C.S. Lewis
   which come from different perspectives could have similar a similar gift for being creative 
    writers blessed by the perichoretic koinonia which is the ontological essence of Trinitarian fellowship

    In my view I greatly admire various early Church Fathers... especially those who reflective upon
        the perichoretic koinonia of the Trinity ( Cappadocian fathers and memory tugs tugs )...
    but also realize that these exceptionally famous Theologians had more than enough ... 
     skills and characteristics that do not adhere to the typical "halo" effect many have given to them...
    especially during the so called Ecumenical Church Councils and attempts to alienate or excommunicate
   or throw anathemas at each other ..  
     What does this have to do with Jude ?

    I apologize for the long winded beginning ..   
      Jude wrote as a exceptionally gifted individual with Passion in order to communicate 
          a message to a Church ...    

     Which surely must have a dynamic influence in the reader's life in order to promote serious reflective musings for 
         attempting to better understand how God is working in their current sitz im leben ....

      If one takes a static or dogmatic or lexical or concordant perspective then I believe the dynamic 
       presence of the perichoretic koinonia flowing from the Trinitarian fellowship is surely weakened ...
      leading to more factious factions fighting to be the so called "Church" in this World filled with 
         selfish autonomous individuals seeking more consumeristic tendencies or wars or power struggles...

      all debating over a single greek word... that surely has much less chance of being nailed down ... 
        than my Chinese friends and neighbors and the Sea of them that surrounds me
           coming into the Kingdom of God ...

      I am indebted with gleeful joy at being able to read and understand what Dr. David Konstan
         and others wrote here in this forum... 

       Alive... dynamic ..  congenial ...   definitely the presence of the perichoretic koinonia flowing 
         from the Trinitarian fellowship is evident...

       All the best ..  
            ( yes my QQ nickname is hothorse --  passion horse sounds ridiculous.. i was born in the 
                 Chinese year of the horse too ..  QQ has probably more than 500 million users too  ; )

The word only occurs twice in the NT, the first in Romans 1:20 re God’s “eternal power”.

The second is in Jude 6 that speaks of “eternal chains” or bonds keeping beings until judgement day.

I have a theory.

I wonder if “eternal chains” (Jude 6) are just a way of speaking of God’s “eternal power” (Rom.1:20) which is able to chain beings eternally.
Or loose them if and when He desires.

God’s eternal power is able to eternally chain beings, or imprison them, as well as loose them from the same. Hence, “eternal chains”.

God’s eternal power eternally has an eternal chaining ability. His eternal power is able to chain & let go from His chaining.

An eternal prison has an eternal chaining ability, but may also be able to loose prisoners from these “eternal chains”.

That prisoners may be loosed does not deny the eternalness of God’s ability to chain, hence “eternal chains”.

Does this make any sense?