I wonder how Thayer was a universalist with his lexicon definition of aionios:
1.without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be
3.without end, never to cease, everlasting
Or how he can define aionios as above yet say this:
“2. Usage of Greek Authors. The Greek writers constantly employ these words in a way to exclude the idea of endless, and to illustrate the meaning of indefinite time, the duration to be determined by the general scope of the subject.
Plato has the phrase “eternal (aionios) drunkenness;” but one can hardly believe he meant endless drunkenness.
Eusebius, one of the early Christian writers, speaking of the Phoenician philosophy as presented by Sanchoniathon, says of the darkness and chaos which preceded creation: “They continued for a long eternity” – (dia polun aiona). Here the word is qualified by long, showing that eternity means simply age or time indefinite, long or short.
“And these they called aionios, eternal, hearing that they had performed the sacred rites for three entire generations.” In Solom. Parab. This eternity was three generations long, or about one hundred years. “Alter not the eternal boundaries.” If “eternal” implied endless, they could not be altered.
In a poem ascribed to Errina Lesbia there is a similar use of the adjective “greatest” in connection with aion – “the greatest eternity that overturns all things,” &c., ho megistos aion. The greatest eternity implies a less one; and is demonstrative proof that the noun aion and the adjective aionios convey the idea not of strictly endless duration, but only of duration indefinitely continued.
Philo and Josephus wrote in Greek, though Jews by birth. The former uses the very phrase found in Matt. xxv 46, “everlasting punishment” – kolasis aionios – as follows: – Speaking of the manner in which certain persons retaliate an injury, he designates it as “a deep hatred and everlasting punishment.” Of course the everlasting punishment in this case is inflicted by men in this life, and cannot, therefore, last much above “three-score years and ten.”
Josephus employs the word in such phrases as these: “the everlasting name of the patriarchs;” “the everlasting glory of the Jewish nation,” which ended two thousand years ago; “the everlasting reputation” of Herod; “the everlasting worship” in the temple, which also ceased nearly eighteen hundred years ago; “the everlasting imprisonment” to which John, the tyrant, was condemned by the Romans, though it could not continue but a few years at most.
These Jewish-Greek authors were contemporary with the New Testament authors, and are therefore good authority for the usage and meaning of the words in review, embracing both the Greek and Jewish elements. Philo and Josephus, Matthew and Luke, allowing for the difference in education, stood in the same relation to the Greek language, and the Jewish usage of it, and what may be affirmed of one may be affirmed with equal force of the others. And, surely, nothing is more obvious than that the first named did not understand the words aion and aionios as meaning anything more than indefinite time.
Another decisive fact is this: The Sibylline Oracles, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and others of the Christian Fathers, who are acknowledged believers and teachers of the final restoration, often use the phrases “everlasting fire,” “everlasting punishment,” &c., in regard to the wicked. Nothing can more conclusively show that the expressions are not to be taken in the sense of endless; for, though they believed in everlasting punishment, they also believed it would end in the restoration of those who suffered. (aionios.com/study_notes/origin.o … shment.pdf Pg. 70)
- Scripture Usage. The Scripture usage will be found in perfect harmony with the foregoing facts. The Hebrew word, which is the equivalent of the Greek, is thus used: “I will give thee the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.” Gen. xvii 8. And in verse 12, the covenant of circumcision is called “an everlasting covenant.” And yet the Jews were driven from the land of Canaan, and the covenant of circumcision was abolished, eighteen hundred years ago! So the priesthood of Aaron is called “an everlasting priesthood,” and yet it was put aside by God’s authority, and the priesthood of Christ set up in its place. Exod. xl. 15.
Now, did Jehovah use this word “everlasting” to mean endless? If He did, then He has broken His promise to the Jews in three several instances; or, if not this, the priesthood of Christ is an imposture, and the old Covenant of the Law is still in force! See, also, Levit. xvi 34, xxv 46; Exod. xxi 6.
Jonah ii 1-6, is another illustration, where “forever” lasted only three days and three nights! showing the folly of arguing for the endlessness of punishment on the strength of such elastic words as these. The punishment of Jonah is described by the term “forever,” though it lasted only seventy- two hours; and there is no more reason for supposing the term to mean endless in other cases, when applied to punishment, than here. There is no more authority for saying the “everlasting punishment” of Matt. xxv 46, is endless, than for saying the “forever” punishment of Jonah, or the “everlasting priesthood” of Exod. xl. 15, is endless.”
Here is a marvelous quote from Mr. Thayer’s paper that demonstrates thoroughly that the Greek and Hebrew words translated as everlasting without a doubt do not have that meaning in scripture.
“We see the word everlasting applied to God’s covenant with the Jews; to the priesthood of Aaron; to the statutes of Moses; to the time the Jews were to possess the land of Canaan; to the mountains and hills; and to the doors of the Jewish temple. We see the word forever applied to the duration of a man’s earthly existence; to the time a child was to abide in the temple; to the continuance of Gehazi’s leprosy; to the duration of the life of David; to the duration of a king’s life; to the duration of the earth; to the time the Jews were to possess the land of Canaan; to the time they were to dwell in Jerusalem; to the time a servant was to abide with his master; to the time Jerusalem was to remain a city; to the duration of the Jewish temple; to the laws and ordinances of Moses; to the time David was to be king over Israel; to the throne of Solomon; to the stones that were set up at Jordan; to the time the righteous were to inhabit the earth; and to the time Jonah was in the fish’s belly. We find the phrase forever and ever applied to the hosts of heaven, or the sun, moon, and stars; to a writing contained in a book; to the smoke that went up from the burning land of Idumea; and to the time the Jews were to dwell in Judea. We find the word never applied to the time the fire was to burn on the Jewish altar; to the time the sword was to remain in the house of David; to God’s covenant with the Jews; to the time the Jews should not experience shame; to the time the house of David was to reign over Israel; to the time the Jews were not to open their mouths because of their shame; to the time those who fell by death should remain in their fallen state; and to the time judgment was not executed.
But the law covenant is abolished; the priesthood of Aaron and his sons has ceased; the ordinances, and laws, and statutes of Moses are abrogated; the Jews have long since been dispossessed of the land of Canaan, have been driven from Judea, and God has brought upon them a reproach and a shame; the man to the duration of whose life the word forever was applied is dead; David is dead, and has ceased to reign over Israel; the throne of Solomon no longer exists; the Jewish temple is demolished, and Jerusalem has been overthrown, so that there is not left “one stone upon another;” the servants of the Jews have been freed from their masters; Gehazi is dead, and no one believes he carried his leprosy with him into the future world; the stones that were set up at Jordan have been removed, and the smoke that went up from the burning land of Idumea has ceased to ascend; the righteous do not inherit the earth endlessly, and no one believes that the mountains and hills, as such, are indestructible; the fire that burnt on the Jewish altar has long since ceased to burn; judgment has been executed; and no Christian believes that those who fall by death will never be awakened from their slumbers. Now, as these words are used in this limited sense in the Scriptures, why should it be supposed that they express endless duration when applied to punishment?” (aionios.com/study_notes/origin.o … shment.pdf Pg. 70-72)