The Evangelical Universalist Forum

the use of aion in Plato and John of Damascus


Cool, I think we are the same page then.

I’d like to discuss more “quantum philosophy” with you. Do you know the difference between classical information transfer and the result from a measurement on entangled states?

you’ll find my examination in the attachment, I’m not completely done with it yet, but it might contribute to the discussion.

I’m very interested to hear your opinions, wether my conclusions seem to be right or not :question:
The use of aeon by John of Damascus.pdf (132 KB)


I’m reading your paper now.

“For æon is to things eternal (aidioV) just what time is to things temporal.”

Does this not mean that for John of Damascus, aion corresponds to that which is atemporal/timeless?

he gives these definitions:

the life of each man is an aion (I think also Aristotle said so)
1000 years are an aion
the whole present world is an aion
the future world, the world after the ressurection is an aion (endless as he assumes)
aion is for the eternal (aidios) things that which is time (chronos) for temporal (chronikos) things

I think the later refers to Plato’s idea of aion, however this idea of “eternity” is pretty different maybe then the common notion of eternity just as endless duration, this philosophical idea of aion might have nothing to do with duration at all, might aion be understood as the life and the realm of the immortals?

and I had a further thought:

things that belong to time are temporal, but things that are temporal do not last throughout all time, one could say they rather pertain to time.

now even if aionios meant eternal - which I do not believe, it might mean that it pertains to eternity, not that it necessarily lasts throughout all eternity

further, even if the aion to come were an everlasting age, aionios still need not mean everlasting, for it might pertain, but need not last throughout the whole everlasting aion.

I went over Plato’s Timaeus once again and realized somethign I hadn’t before:

When speaking about the gods, Plato employs the Greek word aidios (everlasting, eternal), in one sentence he seems to use aiõnios synonymous, though what he wants to express I cannot conceive. He uses aiõn in a very abstract sense, time he calls an æonian image of that “eternity”, later he says “time, then, came into existence along with the Heaven”, this æonian image at least had a beginning, Plato continues to say “that having been generated together they might also be dissolved together”.

Now if time, the æonian image of Plato’s abstract æon, came into existence with the heaven and might dissolve together with the heaven, this image cannot be eternal for it had a definite beginning; and if it will dissolve and cease with the dissolution of the heaven which Plato seems to consider being possible, it cannot be everlasting or endless. Thus Plato could not have understand aiõnios to mean intrinsically everlasting or endless, when he applied it to something that according to his words had a definite beginning and may have an end.

What do you think?

I didn’t buy the rest of this, but it might be of interest:

I would like to bring this topic back after I came across this book:

I posted this in another forum and will simply paste it here with alterations:

As I understand it, to Plato Aion (whatever he understands thereby) is the ideal model, Chronos (time) is the image of Aion, however as I understand Keizer according to the Greek grammar also the heavens/universe could be understood as the image of Aion (instead of time).

I altered (marked in red) the translation of Platos’ Timaios by the premise that Aion basically meant life, and in the context of Timaios possibly life in its fullness or as a kind of divine life.

Plato seems to use aidios and aionios synonymous, but why should he? - He never calls the eternal gods aionios. I had the idea that maybe aidios is refering to the quantity: everlasting, eternal; while aionios is refering to the quality, the quality of the life of the eternal (aidios) cosmic being, not its duration.

Eternity as we understand it, is individable, you can’t divide Eternity, you can’t make an creature half eternal; concerning life it is different, you can create a living being, but the life of this being might of inferior quality than the life of a god, so I choose to render aionios with abundant of life.

Now I do not know if the following translation makes sense:

Generally it is understood that to Plato, Time is the image of Eternity - does that make sense? I don’t know.

Would it make sense to understand that Time is the image of the divine nature of life? I don’t know either.

Plato seems to depict the heaven/universe as a kind of living being. Would it make sense, to understand the living universe (ouranos) as an image of the divine nature of life (aion), full of life itself, but not to the same degree as the original? Does the Greek grammar even allow this interpretation?

The Greek text has “panta aionos” all Aion, “panta” was omitted in this translation, again, Eternity as we understand it is individable, if there were all Eternity, there must also be half Eternity, this is nonsense.

It makes more sense to speak about a whole life, than a whole Eternity. Again, would it make sense to say that Time imitates the divine nature of life, I guess no more or less than to say it imitates Eternity? If we understand Aion as the life or sphere of god (i.e. eternity), it wouldn’t even make a difference. But then Aion would have the notion of Eternity from god, rather than the way round.

As I said in a post before, both time and heaven have a beginning and a possible end, this means they are not eternal in any sense, yet Plato called them aionios.

Keizer says that diaionios might originate from dia aionos, through life, I rendered it life-lasting.

There is an interesting parallel, the created universe exists through all time, while the original lasts through all Aion. Again Eternity is individable, Aion might be a supra-time, an Uber-time, but this does not say, that it is endless.

What do you think? Is it a valid interpretation to understand Aion here rather as ideal life than Eternity or is it utter nonsense?

Whatever Plato believed about “αιων” and “αιωνιος” does not define how it was used in Hellenistic Greek.

I wonder what you all think of this passage from Chrysostom’s Homily of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, Homily 4. Clearly, Chrysostom believed that “αιωνιος” actually means “temporary.”

Excellent quote Paidion. Thank you. “αιωνιος” here could mean “age-during” or “pertaining to an age” and is certainly temporary as you say, and not eternal.
I would be interested in comments from others on the significance of this quote.

I seem to recall the Chrysostom uses it in the sense of eternal or everlasting elsewhere. Maybe I can find it…

Concerning Plato, I still would be interested what your opinion on my interpretation is, ironically it is Origen who is said to have been a Platonist, yet he used aionios in a limited sense, which he would not have done, if with aionios Plato meant endless.

Concerning Chrysostom, if I remember right he used not aionios but a form of the noun aion, I was not able to find the proper Greek passage.

You’ll find Greek sources of him there: … nctus.html

This might be the writing, but is quite large: … s,_MGR.pdf

One can find the quote in English on the following site—fifth paragraph down.

It seems the translators have rendered “αιωνιος” as “of this age.” I could not find the quote in Greek and so I was unable to verify that the adjective “αιωνιος” (lasting) was used, and not the noun “αιων” (age).

I once checked it in Greek, but its years ago and I think it was aioni, which is a form of the noun?

Hi all, interesting topic. I hope you see this as this topic hasn’t been active for a while but I have a few questions.

“For Plato, forms, such as beauty, are more real than any objects that imitate them. Though the forms are timeless and unchanging, physical things are in a constant change of existence. Where forms are unqualified perfection, physical things are qualified and conditioned.[13]”

Does this mean physical things cannot be timeless?

It’s aionios, an adjective, Strongs # 166, the same word used at Mt.25:46:

“For that his kingdom is of this age,(αἰώνιος) i.e., will cease with the present age(αιώνι) …” (Homily 4 on Ephesians, Chapter II. Verses 1-3).

Where aionios is clearly of finite duration.

See page 137, line 21 of the Greek text here:

For other ancient examples of aionios as a finite duration:

Whoa… what did Plato believe?? That was a trippy description of creation and not as… unbiblical as I expected. Reminds me of how I felt when I read Josephus, as if he were writing commonly known truths at that time that I’d never heard of before but seemed as if they were well known by the ancients of that time. Very cool, I’ll have to read further into this.

“αιωνι” (or “aioni” as you transliterated it) is simply the dative case of the noun. In phrases such as “in the age to come” the dative form must be used to go with the preposition “in.”

Does anyone know of any scholars who believe Plato meant everlasting time by his use of aionios? I thought I read that someone but can’t remember where.

Where does Plato call time and heaven aionios?

This should be the relevant passage, also have a look a few posts above.

When the father creator saw the creature which he had made moving and living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in his joy determined to make the copy still more like the original; and as this was eternal, he sought to make the universe eternal, so far as might be. Now the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, but to bestow this attribute in its fulness upon a creature was impossible. Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity; and this image we call time. For there were no days and nights and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he constructed the heaven he created them also. They are all parts of time, and the past and future are created species of time, which we unconsciously but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence; for we say that he “was,” he “is,” he “will be,” but the truth is that “is” alone is properly attributed to him, and that “was” and “will be” only to be spoken of becoming in time, for they are motions, but that which is immovably the same cannot become older or younger by time, nor ever did or has become, or hereafter will be, older or younger, nor is subject at all to any of those states which affect moving and sensible things and of which generation is the cause. These are the forms of time, which imitates eternity and revolves according to a law of number. Moreover, when we say that what has become is become and what becomes is becoming, and that what will become is about to become and that the non-existent is non-existent-all these are inaccurate modes of expression. But perhaps this whole subject will be more suitably discussed on some other occasion.

Time, then, and the heaven came into being at the same instant in order that, having been created together, if ever there was to be a dissolution of them, they might be dissolved together. It was framed after the pattern of the eternal nature, that it might resemble this as far as was possible; for the pattern exists from eternity, and the created heaven has been, and is, and will be, in all time. Such was the mind and thought of God in the creation of time. The sun and moon and five other stars, which are called the planets, were created by him in order to distinguish and preserve the numbers of time; and when he had made-their several bodies, he placed them in the orbits in which the circle of the other was revolving-in seven orbits seven stars. First, there was the moon in the orbit nearest the earth, and next the sun, in the second orbit above the earth; then came the morning star and the star sacred to Hermes, moving in orbits which have an equal swiftness with the sun, but in an opposite direction; and this is the reason why the sun and Hermes and Lucifer overtake and are overtaken by each other. To enumerate the places which he assigned to the other stars, and to give all the reasons why he assigned them, although a secondary matter, would give more trouble than the primary. These things at some future time, when we are at leisure, may have the consideration which they deserve, but not at present.