The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What do you make of /u/koine_lingua's arguments? (Part 1)

I think k_l is being more nuanced than that. He seems to just be arguing that olam always has an intentional meaning of “eternal” in the sense of never-ending or ever-lasting or something along that line, even when things turn out differently, and he’s responding against attempts by some universalists to claim that the term never actually has that meaning but only happens to sometimes be used to describe things that do happen to continue forever. (And I’ve read some “kath” exponents myself who take that even farther, and argue that eonian life per se and the eonian God etc. have an end as “eonian” even though God, or possibly a god depending on their Christology, and the life involved happen also to not have an end.)

Thanks Jason… makes sense.

I put no value in the above opinion. IMO the doctrine of endless hell began with old horns & pitchfork. He, the god of this evil world & age
transmitted it to others of his choosing.

Perhaps many of the Jews, not all, adopted a belief in hell from their captivity in Babylon? Who knows.

In any case, Jesus says to many of them, particularly the leading Jewish sects, that they were erring re the scriptures and doctrine, hypocrites, of their father, the devil, etc.

Therefore, your chances of finding the truth from them are comparable to watching the Flintstones on the cartoon channel. Or shows depicting Greek fairy tales about Hades, the god of the underworld and Egyptian fairy tales from the “book of the dead”.

The early church searched the inerrant inspired Scriptures for truth, not the fables & fantasies of uninspired writings:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:21)
and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. (Titus 1:14)

The revelations of Paul’s epistles - given to him directly from the Lord Jesus Christ - are particularly enlightening in this regard.

Moreover it was given to him alone, the “worst of sinners”, to “complete the word of God” (Col.1:25).

No wonder in early church history, after Paul’s epistles were written and widely distributed & read, we see very many Christian universalists:

“Augustine himself, after rejecting apokatastasis, and Basil attest that still late in the fourth and fifth centuries this doctrine was upheld by the vast majority of Christians (immo quam plurimi).”

"Of course there were antiuniversalists also in the ancient church, but scholars must be careful not to list among them — as is the case with the list of “the 68” antiuniversalists repeatedly cited by McC on the basis of Brian Daley’s The Hope of the Early Church — an author just because he uses πῦρ αἰώνιον, κόλασις αἰώνιος, θάνατος αἰώνιος, or the like, since these biblical expressions do not necessarily refer to eternal damnation. Indeed all universalists, from Origen to Gregory Nyssen to Evagrius, used these phrases without problems, for universalists understood these expressions as “otherworldly,” or “long-lasting,” fire, educative punishment, and death. Thus, the mere presence of such phrases is not enough to conclude that a patristic thinker “affirmed the idea of everlasting punishment” (p. 822). Didache mentions the ways of life and death, but not eternal death or torment; Ignatius, as others among “the 68,” never mentions eternal punishment. Ephrem does not speak of eternal damnation, but has many hints of healing and restoration. For Theodore of Mopsuestia, another of “the 68,” if one takes into account also the Syriac and Latin evidence, given that the Greek is mostly lost, it becomes impossible to list him among the antiuniversalists. He explicitly ruled out unending retributive punishment, sine fine et sine correctione.

"I have shown, indeed, that a few of “the 68” were not antiuniversalist, and that the uncertain were in fact universalists, for example, Clement of Alexandria, Apocalypse of Peter, Sibylline Oracles (in one passage), Eusebius, Nazianzen, perhaps even Basil and Athanasius, Ambrose, Jerome before his change of mind, and Augustine in his anti-Manichaean years. Maximus too, another of “the 68,” speaks only of punishment aionios, not aidios and talks about restoration with circumspection after Justinian, also using a persona to express it. Torstein Tollefsen, Panayiotis Tzamalikos, and Maria Luisa Gatti, for instance, agree that he affirmed apokatastasis.

“It is not the case that “the support for universalism is paltry compared with opposition to it” (p. 823). Not only were “the 68” in fact fewer than 68, and not only did many “uncertain” in fact support apokatastasis, but the theologians who remain in the list of antiuniversalists tend to be much less important. Look at the theological weight of Origen, the Cappadocians, Athanasius, or Maximus, for instance, on all of whom much of Christian doctrine and dogmas depends. Or think of the cultural significance of Eusebius, the spiritual impact of Evagrius or Isaac of Nineveh, or the philosophico-theological importance of Eriugena, the only author of a comprehensive treatise of systematic theology and theoretical philosophy between Origen’s Peri Archon and Aquinas’s Summa theologiae. Then compare, for instance, Barsanuphius, Victorinus of Pettau, Gaudentius of Brescia, Maximus of Turin, Tyconius, Evodius of Uzala, or Orientius, listed among “the 68” (and mostly ignorant of Greek). McC’s statement, “there are no unambiguous cases of universalist teaching prior to Origen” (p. 823), should also be at least nuanced, in light of Bardaisan, Clement, the Apocalypse of Peter’s Rainer Fragment, parts of the Sibylline Oracles, and arguably of the NT, especially Paul’s letters.” … coming-in/

Ilaria Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Brill, 2013. 890 pp.)

The 8 words you have listed after αἰώνιος (aionios) are commonly rendered as follows:

  1. ἄπαυστος = unceasing
  2. ἀθάνατος = immortality, without death, deathlessness
  3. ἀίδιος = everlasting, eternal
  4. συνεχής = continuous
  5. ἀδιάλειπτος = unintermitting, incessant
  6. ἀτελεύτητος = not brought to an end or issue
  7. ἀπέραντος = boundless, infinite, endless
  8. ἀκατάλυτος = indissoluble, permanent, endless

Of those 8, the 5 that appear in the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures (the NT/27 books) are #'s 2,3,5,7 & 8.

Of those five, # 2, ATHANATOS, is used in Scriptre of immortal life (1 Cor.15:53-54; 1Tim.6:16), but never of the punishment of anyone. If, as you allege, extrabiblical uninspired texts used this word of “the eternity/continuity of afterlife torment”, the Divine Author rejected such an application. Instead, He only uses the word in a positive way re God & human beings.

According to LSJ (url below) ATHANATOS is used outside of Scripture of “death that cannot die”. OTOH Scripture nowhere speaks of such or anyone suffering a “death that cannot die” or an endless death. In fact, to the contrary, the New Testament says death will be abolished (1 Cor.15:26).ἀθάνατος

Number 3 above, AIDIOS, is used in Scripture only of God & chains (Rom.1:16; Jude 6) but never of the afterlife endless torment of anyone. If Love Omnipotent believed in a doctrine of torments that have no end, why didn’t He apply this word, AIDIOS, in that regard, unlike that of which you allege in extra scriptural texts? If such a monstrous thing as endless torments were true, wouldn’t He want to express it as clearly as possible, using various words to express it forcefully & unambiguously, so that there would be no doubt about it?

Number 5, ADIALEPTOS, (cf Strongs #'s 88, 89) appears in the Scriptures, but is not used in regard to eschatological life or punishment.

Number 7, APERANTOS, occurs only in the NT at 1 Tim.1:4 & is not used there in regards to eschatological life or punishment.

Number 8, AKATALUTOS, occurs only in the NT in Heb.7:16 re life, so Scripture never uses it of eschatological punishment or torments, but only in a positive way.

BTW Scripture uses the phrase “no end”, OUK TELOS, of God’s kingdom (Lk.1:33), but never of the future punishment or torments of anyone. Surely this phrase would have been a superior way to express endless torments, as opposed to aionios, if Love Omnipotent, i.e. God, ever had such an intention in His heart of love. Therefore i conclude that He never did.

Aionios (& aion) was Jesus’ & Scripture’s word of choice re future eschatological punishment (or correction or chastening) & is clearly used of finite duration as evidenced in this thread:Scholarly EUs Assemble!

I’d suggest the New Testament evidence, as follows, opposes your “great elongation” theory & shows that the New Testament usage of the noun aion (age/eon) corresponds to its associated adjective, aionios (eonian) very closely, just as the English noun, eon, corresponds to its adjective, eonian, meaning of, or pertaining to, or related to, or constituting, an eon or eons.

  1. In the NT aionios (Mt.25:41) corresponds exactly to aion (Rev.20:10), both verses speaking of the aionios destiny of Satan, one verse using the word aionios, the other verse using the related noun, aion (in the plural).

  2. Another example is the aionion correction/chastening of the wicked (Mt.25:46) is spoken of in terms of an aion in Jude 1:13. These terms, aion and aionion are, then, exactly parallel.

  3. Likewise Mark 3:29 equates the loss of pardon for an eon with the penalty of an eonian sin.

  4. Other instances of the inspired correspondence between the noun aion & its adjective aionios are Mk.10:30; Lk.18:30… " and in the coming eon, life eonian" (Mk. 10:30, CLV)

“In the Gospels there are instances where the substantive aion and the adjective aionios are juxtaposed or associated in a single image or utterance (most directly in Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30). This obvious parallel in the Greek is invisible in almost every English tanslation” (p.540, The New Testament: A Translation, by EO scholar David Bentley Hart, 2017).

BTW, comparable to Lk.18:30 above, ECF John Chrysostom limits aionios to a specific age of finite duration: “For that his[Satan’s] kingdom is of this age,[αἰώνιος] i.e., will cease with the present age[αιώνι] …” (Homily 4 on Ephesians, Chapter II. Verses 1-3).

  1. There are many passages showing that aionios life is equivalent to life for an aion. See Lk.20:35; Jn.6:51, 58; 8:51-52; 11:26 for aion & compare that to others referring to aionion life (Jn.3:15-16, 36, etc). In each of Jn.4:14 & 10:28 both words occur in parallel in a single verse in regards to the blessing of eschatological life.

  2. Likewise “before the eons” [aion plural] (1 Cor.2:7) is equivalent to “before times aionios” (2 Tim.1:9; Titus 1:2).

Excellent! I am very happy that we have your input here!

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary eonian is a variant spelling of aeonian. Another variant is aeonic. They all mean, according to Webster’s definition, “lasting for an immeasurably or indefinitely long period of time”. Webster’s adds “Origin and Etymology of aeonian…from Greek aiṓnios “lasting an age, perpetual” (derivative of aiṓn eon) + 2-an; aeonic from eon + 1-ic”.

Another dictionary says re eonian “Of, relating to, or constituting an eon” & “eonian - of or relating to a geological eon (longer than an era) aeonian. 2. eonian - continuing forever or indefinitely…”

“continuing forever or indefinitely”

"Pertaining to or lasting for eons; everlasting: also spelled aeonian. "

"lasting for an indefinitely long period of time"

"Of, relating to, or constituting an eon"

"Of or pertaining to an eon"

That text is alleged by KL to be one “that hinted at the eternity/continuity of afterlife torment, with various vocabulary used.” The postdoctorate researcher & author of “Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria” (p.67 ff, see google preview) elaborately questions the interpretation that the passage quoted by KL, De Cherubim 1.2, is affirming “eternal damnation”.

More significantly, perhaps, he remarks "As for the horrors being “for all time (μέχρι του παντός αιώνος)”, we should also remember the meaning of αἰών as “the whole length of life (ἅπαντα τὸν αἰῶνα)” at Mut. 185.”

It is common, as one of the meanings of αἰών (= aion) in ancient Greek, that it is limited to the finite mortal “life” of a human being. Moreover, the phrase “for all time” does not indicate endlessness, if time has an end. Likewise if the term aion refers to a single age, eon or epoch, beyond which there is another eon, then aion is finite. Even if this particular context required that the word αἰῶνος, aion, should be rendered “eternity”, it does not require aion in any New Testament context must do likewise.

BTW re aion, Philo refers elsewhere to " "ton apeiron aiôna, the unlimited aiön”, [which] is Philo’s paraphrase of the more-than-aion expression in Exod. 15:18 describing God’s kingship. Before Philo ton apeiron aiona is attested only once, in a fragment from Aristotle where it has the (non-philosophical) sense of “all, endless, time” (Chapter II text [33])…The present passage appears to use the phrase in the same sense, while emphasizing the notion of continuity by the words “not for one moment ungoverned” and "uninterrupted” "(“Time, Life, Entirety” by Helena Keizer, p.212, google preview, citing Philo Plant. 51).

If Philo had thought aion had the inherent meaning of eternal, why would he add a word to it that means unlimited or endless?

In “Terms for Eternity…” Ramelli/Konstan (p.55-56) render “eternal banishment” in De Cherubim 1.2 as " “permanent exile” (ἀίδιον φυγὴν) from God (cf. the same expression at 9 of Hagar and Ishmael driven out by Abraham…). In this case the term means something like “lasting” rather than “eternal” in the strict sense."

In any case, as noted elsewhere, the New Testament never uses the Greek word ἀίδιον (aidios) in regards to punishment as a final destiny. Furthermore, if the uninspired De Cherubim 1.2 uses Greek terms meaning “incurable”, “undying”, “continuous and unrelieved” of the final destiny, or endless punishment, of any of the wicked, the inspired Greek Christian Scriptures (NT/27 books) don’t follow suit.

P.S. If Philo believed in reincarnation, is it likely he also believed in eternal damnation?

P.S. #2 As far as i can tell the quoted translation of De Cherubim 1.2 posted by KL didn’t translate the word παντὸς, while the rendering by the author of “Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria” translated it as “all” in "“for all time”, where “time” is the word “αιώνος”. Yet another different translation of the passage, & one that also includes the English word “all”, appears on p.668 here:

New Englander and Yale Review, Volume 30
edited by Edward Royall Tyler, William Lathrop Kingsley, George Park Fisher, Timothy Dwight

There are many Greek texts of the Philo passage online, such as the following, for a few examples, which i haven’t checked to see if there are any variances in them:

KL continues (see previous post) with more non biblical texts that he alleges “hinted at the eternity/continuity of afterlife torment, with various vocabulary used”:

At the following link the NRSV note indicates the Greek actually says “throughout the whole age”, not “throughout all time”:

So a more literal translation, substiting “eonian” for “eternal” & eon for age in the NRSV footnote, would be:

12 Because of this, justice has laid up for you intense and eonian fire and tortures, and these throughout the whole eon will never let you go.

Which can be easily understood as not hinting at endless torments. The context might reveal otherwise, but this more literal reading of verse 12 by itself does not do so. Also, if eonian fire & tortures itself meant endless torments, why add the rest of the sentence as in the NRSV? And if “time” ends, then the verse doesn’t prove endless torments. In any case, none of this seems to have any relevance to inspired contexts in the Greek Scriptures (NT/27 books).

Ramelli/Konstan in “Terms for Eternity…” (p.48) says re the verse “an impious tyrant is threatened with “eternal fire,” or “fire in the world to come” (αἰωνίῳ πυρί) . . . for the entire age to come (εἰς ὅλον τὸν αἰῶνα)”. They add:

“But here we find the expression βίος ἀΐδιος or “eternal life” as well (τὸν ἀΐδιον τῶν εὐσεβῶν βίον), in reference to the afterlife of the martyrs (4Macc 10:15); this blessed state, moreover, is opposed to the destruction of their persecutor in the world to come (τὸν αἰώνιον τοῦ τυράννου ὄλεθρον, ibid.). This contrast between the parallel but antithetical expressions ὄλεθρος αἰώνιος and βίος ἀΐδιος is notable, and was to prove fateful. Both adjectives refer to the afterlife, that is, a future αἰών, but whereas retribution is described with the more general and polysemous term αἰώνιος, to life in the beyond is applied the more technical term ἀΐδιος, denoting, at least in classical philosophy, a strictly endless condition. This difference or disparity in the use of the two terms anticipates, or may be taken to anticipate, the usage in the New Testament, where the term ἀΐδιος . . . is indeed applied to enduring punishment, but not to that of human beings, and in any case seems to be qualified in such a way as to have, or seem to have, a limited duration; and this circumstance could, in turn, be interpreted to mean that the torments of the damned were not eternal in the strict sense of the term. . . . Origen, just as many other Christian authors, observes the same distinction as the one apparently intimated in 4Macc, applying to the future life either αἰώνιος or ἀΐδιος, while for death in the future he employs only αἰώνιος (and this rarely), but ἀΐδιος never” (p.48-50).

Nowhere do the inspired Greek Scriptures ever speak of a “deathless retribution” or deathless punishment, deathless torments or any similar “deathless” expression. Though Christ was aware of the teachings of the Essenes & Pharisees, and speaks many words in the New Testament, not once does He affirm their view using such expressions.

Never do the Scriptures say any human being will suffer “eternal imprisonment εἱργμὸν ἀίδιον”. As for ἀδιάλειπτος, it is found in the NT, but never in regards to eschatalogical punishment.

Yet nowhere does the inspired New Testament (NT) use such language of Gehenna or those who go there. As for the meaning of the Hebrew word עולם, erroneously rendered “forever”:

Actually the view of many (if not the majority) of scholars of “traditional understanding”, as well as scholars who are biased to the endless hell viewpoints, is that they are in agreement with the Christian universalist position you have described, namely “that the Greek adjective αἰώνιος (hereafter transliterated as aiōnios), as it is used in the Septuagint, New Testament and elsewhere, does not necessarily mean “eternal”…”, inasmuch as it “can instead have several other quite different denotations”, or at least one other “quite different denotation”. For a few examples, (1) Vine’s lexicon states that aionios can refer to duration that is finite; (2) Spiros Zodhiates, a Greek-American Bible scholar wrote, among other things, re aionios, “belonging to the aion”; (3) LXX scholar T. Muraoka has “1. lasting for very long…2. having existed very long, long past, ancient…he remembered the olden days”, etc (A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2009, p.19). Even many English Bible translations of “traditional understanding” render aionios using one or more words other than “eternal”, such as “ages”, "world, “beginning”, etc.

In the opinion of the following url “The word olam is found in the Septuagint 308 times. Except for about 20 cases, where it is used to translate words such as ad, it is always used as the Greek equivalent of olam. Aionios is used 92 times in the Septuagint and is the equivalent of olam except in 6 cases” (“Death and the Afterlife By Robert A. Morey”).

Helena Keizer calculates that “When we look from the Hebrew/Aramaic side, of the 447 olam/alam phrases in the MT, 430 (96%) are rendered by either aion (322) or aionios (108)” (Life, Time, Entirety, p.118).

I wonder if this author had your comment in mind when he penned:

“…the proper acceptation of aionios in the New Testament is anything but a flex of modern faddish revisionism”.

Eastern Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart continued:

“If one consults the literary remains of Greek-speaking Jewish scholars of late antiquity, for example, one will find few instances of aion or aionios used to indicate eternal duration: for both Philo of Alexandria (an older contemporary of Jesus) and Josephus (born within a decade of the crucifixion), an “aeon” is still only a limited period of time, usually a single lifetime, but perhaps as much as three generations. And the same is true of Christian thinkers of the early centuries.”

"Late in the fourth century, John Chrysostum, in his commentary on Ephesians, even used the word aionios of the kingdom of the devil specifically to indicate that it is temporary (for it will last only until the end of the present age, he explains). In the early centuries of the church, especially in the Greek and Syrian East, the lexical plasticity of the noun and the adjective was fully appreciated - and often exploited - by a number of Christian theologians and exegetes (especially such explicit universalists as the great Alexandrians Clement and Origen, the “pillar of orthodoxy” Gregory of Nyssa and his equally redoubtable sister Makrina, the great Syrian fathers Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Isaac of Ninevah, and so on, as well as many other more rhetorically reserved universalists, such as Gregory of Nazianzus).”

“Late in the fourth century, for instance, Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea, reported that the vast majority of his fellow Christians (at least, in the Greek-speaking East with which he was familiar) assumed that “hell” is not an eternal condition, and that the “aionios punishment” of the age to come would end when the soul had been purified of its sins and thus prepared for union with God. Well into the sixth century, the great Platonist philosopher Olympiodorus the Younger could state as rather obvious that the suffering of wicked souls in Tartarus is certainly not endless, atelevtos, but is merely aionios; and the squalidly brutal and witless Christian emperor Justinian, as part of his campaign to extinguish the universalism of the “Origenists”, found it necessary to substitute the word atelevtetos for aionios when describing the punishments of hell, since the latter word was not decisive."

“Early in the eighth century, John of Damascus delineated four meanings of aion, the last which - “eternity” - is offered not as an intrinsic, but merely an imputed, connotation, presumed whenever the word is used of something (like the Age of God’s Kingdom) known to be endless; and, even then, John affirms, the true eternity of God is beyond all ages.”

“As late as the thirteenth century, the East Syrian bishop Solomon of Bostra, in his authoritative compilation of the teachings of the “holy fathers” of Syrian Christian tradition, simply stated as a matter of fact that in the New Testament le-alam (the Syriac rendering of aionios) does not mean eternal, and that of course hell is not endless. And the fourteenth-century East Syrian Patriarch Timotheus II thought it uncontroversial to assert that the aionios pains of hell will come to an end when the souls cleansed by them, through the prayers of the saints, enter paradise” (The New Testament: A Translation, by David Bentley Hart, 2017, from the post NT translation notes, p.539-540).

BTW, in the book “Terms for Eternity…”, Ramelli & Konstan elaborate at length on the Basil remark (p.194-199). Here’s a summary of the entire book:

Even among pro endless hell scholars & modern lexicons i can’t recall even one that has said that aionios in ancient Greek always means eternal, except when used in exaggeration (hyperbole), which you seem to imply above. It seems that almost all scholarship opposes you, including BDAG, TDNT, LSJ, & many others. Is there even one that concurs with your view in the past 3000 years, including church fathers? Even restricting the subject to the New Testament, many (if not the majority of) scholars whose conclusions are anti universalist admit that the word sometimes refers to an age or a finite duration. If the above stated perspective of aionios is not your view, can you list even one instance where you allege that aionios is used of finite duration outside of such a definition, i.e. not in hyperbole?