Understanding Aionios/n, my offered translation


#1

Matthew 25:46 KJV: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.

In the Greek;

Kai apeleusontai houtoi eis kolasin aionion hoi de diaioi eis zoen aionion.

concordant Literal Translation;

And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.


This passage is the most commonly seen verse when dealing with Aionios, or Aionion. Aionios is a word that is difficult to translate, or render into English especially since our understanding of it in the idea of “eternal” or “everlasting” has become equated with ceaselessness or endlessness in duration, at least on the part of punishment and life. Now certainly the life is immortal, but what about the punishment? Of course there is always the “kolasin” argument, that being that it means chastisement. But what I want to do here is not to talk about the chastisement or life per’se, but to offer a translation of Aionios/n, as best as my study and understanding of it can render itself. I want to offer it in a way that it might make readable sense and be more clear, if I can. I have presented this idea elsewhere, but here I’d like to present it also.

I would also like some help in finding a more aesthetic way to render it once the literal rendering is given. :slight_smile:

So here it goes, my rendering and the logic behind it;

And these shall depart into chastisement [chastisement lasting] yet the righteous into life [life lasting].

The logic behind this, is understanding that aionion/aionios is an adjective. An adjective describes a noun, but it does not have power that extends beyond the already present ‘nature-of-fact’ (as I might try to term it) in that noun.

Take for example this sentence;

“The Titanic is long” - long here being the adjective. Now the Titanic is a long boat of course, but how long is it? Is it as long as the continent of Africa? Truthfully to say that would be to either lie or to engage in metaphor. The Titanic cannot be by ‘nature-of-fact’ or ‘in itself’ as long as the continent of Africa. However, it is still a long or large ship. The sentence “The Titanic is long” is a distilled form of what would literally translate out as;

“The Titanic (the ship named the Titanic) is the length of the Titanic, of itself, the ship named the Titanic; the Titanic is as long as itself.”

Or

“The Titanic is Titanic long.” This is a true sentence, and faithfully keeps the nature of the adjective “long” without any detriment to the truth and neither does it bring with it any misunderstanding of the length (that I know of). So it is with Aionios in the way I rendered the verse, and here are some of the truths to be taken out of the way I rendered the verse, I feel, that do not in anyway degrade the higher beliefs and hopes of the faithful.

Chastisement [chastisement lasting] The chastisement lasts, until it lasts. It does not fling the timeline or endurance of the chastisement beyond the ‘nature-of-fact’ in the noun, but it does not set a limiter on it either below the noun’s power to achieve justice. In other words; “Chastisement [chastisement lasting]” is a chastisement that will last until it has achieved its end, and achieved the justice and correction the noun implies.

Life [life lasting] The life lasts as long as life lasts. Now, understanding that life here is God’s life, that is; Life lasting, or Jesus lasting. Jesus is the Life after all. So life that is Life lasting is a life that is by default a life of immortality, endless as God is endless, and full of God’s quality. There is no degredation or “making temporary” the Life that we are promised, for the temporal nature of the chastisement mentioned before, and the translation remains faithful to the ‘nature-of-fact’ in the noun, as well as strengthens it making the life a self-sufficient life, and self-describing life grammatically.

This therefore is the translation I offer, and the method of understanding how it came about. Any thoughts and suggestions, especially aesthetic ways to render it (if it is not pleasing or pretty enough as it is) are more than welcome. Discussion is also welcome.

God bless, and I hope this helps with understanding Aionios/n.


#2

Lefein, I fully agree with you that the Greek word “αιωνιος” should be translated as “lasting”. Having looked up many references to the word as used in the New Testament, the Septuagint, Wars of the Jews, and classical Greek, I have come to the same conclusion concerning the meaning of the word. In one writing “αιωνιος” was used to describe a stone wall. The wall was “lasting” but certainly not “everlasting”. In Wars of the Jews, Josephus used the word to describe the length of Jonathan’s prison sentence. It was a sentence thought to be a mere three years (though it probably felt “everlasting” to Jonathan).

Thank you for your thoughts and research concerning this word.


#3

You’re very welcome, and glad to find some support for the idea. :slight_smile:


#4

I’m still wrestling through this as we speak. I’d like to get my hands on Dr. Dave Konstan’s book on the topic but the latest price that I have found at the cheapest was $130! I just wonder why the Holy Spirit didn’t have the writers use existing Greek words that conveyed “for as long as necessary” or something like that instead of using aionios with all of the trouble that it has caused. :confused:


#5

Hi Chris,
It seems that God’s reasons for doing things are not obvious always. Go ask Job!
bob


#6

So where the NT says the “eternal God”, it means the “lasting God”?


#7

I’d say it means “God lasting God” :smiley:


#8

Are you really convinced of that? I don’t see the grounds for that.


#9

Before I settled upon “lasting” as the basic meaning of “αιωνιος”, I thought from some of the New Testament contexts of the word that it meant “going from age to age”. Indeed, I thought that this meaning was revealed to me. If that is indeed sometimes the connotation, then perhaps in the 2 instances of “θεος αιωνιος” in the Old Testament (rendered as “everlasting God” in the NKJV) and the one instance of “του αιωιου θεος” in the New Testament (translated as “of the everlasting God” in the NKJV), could be rendered as "The God who goes from age to age.".

But if it must be rendered as “lasting” is doesn’t pose a problem. For the word sometimes denotes that which eventually ends, and sometimes that which does not end. For example, the “lasting life” which we have in Christ is indeed lasting, and this “lastingness” never ends. This is also the case with the Living God. He certainly is “lasting”, and His “lastingness” never ends.


#10

Lefein,
I think this is a pretty good way to explain it. As I’ve looked more at it, this is the understanding I’ve been intuiting from it. Aionios/n is a funny word that doesn’t have a clear-cut meaning–especially not as clear as our English “everlasting” (and its connotations!). To touch on dirtboy’s question, the flexibility of aionios/n is precisely why, I think, the authors used it. It is an emphatic word whose precise meaning depends almost entirely on the context and the noun it modifies. In other words, it can vary widely depending on the idea the author is trying to communicate. It also does not require the author to have a clear understanding of what it should exactly mean, but the author can use it to say, in effect, “This is a super-serious thing determined by God and it lasts exactly as long as it needs to. Period.”

Good point, Paidion! The good things of God (the life he gives us, his very existence, etc) will in fact be eternity-lasting. But the means he uses to help people repent must be temporary–if all people end up repenting (as we have good reason to believe)!


#11

aionios in the Septuagint. I did a simple search here: m.katabiblon.com/index.php?text=LXX looking for the word in Greek Old Testament. Aionios occurred 20 times:

αιωνιος Gn 21:33, Ex 31:16, Lv 6:15, Nm 15:15, 2Mc 1:25, Jb 33:12, Is 26:4, Is 35:10, Is 40:28, Is 61:7, Jer 27:5, Bar 4:10, Bar 4:14, DnOG 7:14, DnTh 4:3, DnTh 4:34, DnTh 7:14, DnTh 7:27, SusOG 1:35a, SusTh 1:42

Here are the translations provided:

Gn 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and called there on the name of Yahweh, the Everlasting God.

Ex 31:16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.

Lv 6:22 The anointed priest that will be in his place from among his sons shall offer it. By a statute forever, it shall be wholly burnt to Yahweh.

Nm 15:15For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you, and for the stranger who lives as a foreigner with you, a statute forever throughout your generations: as you are, so shall the foreigner be before Yahweh.

2 Maccabees 1:25 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition) Who alone art gracious, who alone art just, and almighty, and eternal, who deliverest Israel from all evil, who didst choose the fathers and didst sanctify them :

Jb 33:12 “Behold, I will answer you. In this you are not just, for God is greater than man. (I’m not sure what is represented by aiwvios in this one?: πως γαρ λεγεις δικαιος ειμι και ουκ επακηκοεν μου αιωνιος γαρ εστιν ο επανω βροτων)

Is 26:4 Trust in Yahweh forever; for in Yah, Yahweh, is an everlasting Rock.

Is 35:10 The Yahweh’s ransomed ones will return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee way.”

Is 40:28 Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, Yahweh, The Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

Is 61:7 Instead of your shame you shall have double; and instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be to them.

Jer 50:5 (It shows Jer 27:5 as the text, but then quotes 50:5) They shall inquire concerning Zion with their faces turned toward it, saying, Come, and join yourselves to Yahweh in an everlasting covenant that shall not be forgotten.

Bar 4:10 For I saw the captivity of my sons and daughters, which** the Everlasting **brought upon them.

Bar 4:14 Let those who dwell around Zion approach and remember the captivity of my sons and daughters, which the Everlasting has brought upon them.

GrDn 7:14 He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all the peoples, nations, and languages would serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed.

GrDn 4:3 How great are his signs and how mighty are his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion is from generation to generation

GrDn 4:34¶“At the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and I praised and honored him who lives forever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom from generation to generation.

GrDn 7:27The kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

GrDn 13:42¶Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, “O everlasting God, who knows the secrets and knows all things before they be:

Now when you look at this one:

GrDn 7:14 He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all the peoples, nations, and languages would serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed.

It seems to be trying to say everlasting because it qualifies the statement “everlasting dominion” by saying that it “shall not pass away” and it “shall not be destroyed”. I’m still struggling with this one. Neil, does your understanding have supporting research?


#12

Thank you for that survey, Chris! I actually find that it supports (or at least doesn’t contradict!) my explanation. :mrgreen: I think that the fact that Dan 7:14 explains aionios (in Septuagint Greek; in the original, it’s the Aramaic form of “olam,” meaning “remote time”; considered to be the Hebrew version of aionios) shows that the word often needs clarification. In this instance Daniel understood what it meant and wanted to leave no room for misunderstanding. Therefore, he explains that what he means by “everlasting” (“alam” or “olam”) is not just “super-impressive, divine, and unclear as to when it will end,” but “in fact will never be subject to fading away, nor will it ever be capable of being destroyed.” Which is exactly what we would hope for and expect from the reign of the Son of Man!

Does that make sense?*


#13

I am currently convinced of it. As for the grounds, I have the original post above for my reasons.


#14

Do any of you have Dave Konstan’s book on Aionios?


#15

#16

Bar 4:14 Let those who dwell around Zion approach and remember the captivity of my sons and daughters, which the Everlasting has brought upon them.

Did you see this one? It seems as if they are using aiwvios to convey God, “the everlasting [one?]”


#17

Hi Chris,
I haven’t had a chance to look through your whole list yet, but I want to when I get some more time. I think you’re right that “the Everlasting” is being used as a title for God. It makes me think of “the Ancient of Days” from Daniel.

Sonia


#18

“Chastisement lasting” isn’t very good English. In fact, can “lasting” even be an adjective?

Tom


#19

Yes, Sonia. Also, Chris, think about it in terms of what Lefein said: “the aionios One” (or however it looks in the Septuagint) can be understood as “the One lasting who lasts as long as the lasting One”–in other words, “the One who exists based on his own existence” or “the self-existing One” or “the One Who Is” or…“The I AM” (Hey, I’ve heard that before!) :mrgreen:


#20

merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lasting :smiley: Tom, I assume you’re referring to this:

I had to read it a couple times, but I think another way to express the idea is like

“And these shall depart into chastisement that lasts as long as this chastisement lasts, yet the righteous into life that lasts as long as this life lasts.”

Yes, it seems circular and ambiguous to our Western minds, but the nature of “aionios” really doesn’t admit a precise objective non-contingent meaning. Our idea of “everlasting” really doesn’t do it justice–at least in many places where it’s used. Asserting that it MUST be translated by “everlasting” or “eternal” really flattens out the sense of it, and given the theological presuppositions attached to phrases like “everlasting punishment,” such translations are ultimately misleading (if not outright false).

Anyway, that seems to make sense to me. :wink: