The Evangelical Universalist Forum

When did "eternal" change from "ethereal" to "endless"?

Wow, thanks Sonia, it appears so often! I wish the ISA had the Septuagint, although I guess there are some pretty powerful online tools now.

I think the rest of your post sums it up well for me. At the very least we can say, “aionios can’t always mean ‘endless’ in the LXX, therefore as it’s a word with a range of meanings, it doesn’t have to mean ‘endless’ in, say Matt. 25:46” I think we can actually say a lot more than that, but I think that at least opens the door for anyone to read the passages universalistically :sunglasses:

just a quick addition to this debate.

John 17: 3
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent

Jesus here defines “eternal life” as a qualitative thing…it doesn’t say “Now this is eternal life: that they may live forever with you” etc. the definition is qualitative. so perhaps the word should’ve been translated as “boundless?” or “abundant?”
afterall, Jesus came to give us life, and that more abundantly.

crikey, all that and no reference to the probable use of aionios in that passage :stuck_out_tongue:

i don’t see a massive issue between “life everlasting” being parallel to “punishment everlasting” since the word for “everlasting” is in doubt.

taking into account that God wills for none to perish, and that God does not cast anyone aside forever (Lamentations 3:31), it seems more in keeping with His character to read the text like this.

“Then they will go away to lasting punishment (which we know from the whole Bible is not permanent), but the righteous to lasting life (which we know has no decay and no death…so this becomes everlasting when fitted into the rest of the Bible).”

there really is no massive conflict. as to “ethereal” versus “eternal”…i’d be quite capable of blaming Calvin for alot of evil, and happy to do so, but didn’t the Catholic church predate him with notions of ECT?
also, the Catholic church was capable of throwing its weight around for a long time before and during and after this period, simply because what the Pope said goes. that doesn’t count as a “majority” positon, it counts as tyranny. and we can see that such tyranny had many real material goals in this world.

honestly, the more i consider this issue, the more i am convinced of God’s ability to save EVERYONE, and His desire to do so. i still have reservations, but they are being slowly cast aside.
every other school of thought i’ve considered fell woefully short and was peppered with logical inconsistencies.

Someone else posted it here not too long ago, and I haven’t explored it much yet, but it’s a fantastic site, Alex. I like ISA as well and use it frequently.

Aionios is used a lot in the LXX, and there’s more at aion as well–but that’s not quite the same word, so I didn’t mention it. But reading all those verses, I get a sense of ‘eternal’ that’s a little different from how we think of it in traditional Christianity. It’s often translated in the Old Testament as “of old” or “ancient” – clearly not the idea of permanently fixed and impossible to change – impossible for us, but not impossible for God, therefore “eternal” in our eyes – stretching back or forwards beyond our perception. Habakkuk 3:6 is illustrative of this and I like how the NLT paraphrased it: “When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills. He is the Eternal One!”

God is the Eternal One who destroys even the Eternal hills and mountains. The “eternalness” of something is no hindrance to Him. Nothing stands in God’s way. It is impossible for anyone to be saved – we were all eternally lost and without God and without hope in the world, and God saw that there was no one to save and He Himself became our Savior --and no one can resist or stand against Him! His power is immense and beyond what we can even imagine, but veiled to us. But when He is revealed and revealed as Love, no one will be able to continue to resist. He is able to open the blindest eyes and the deafest ears and soften the hardest of hearts.


What do you think of this verse: Psalm 73:12

I am trusting that this is an accurate translation:

ιδου ουτοι αμαρτωλοι και ευθηνουνται εις τον αιωνα κατεσχον πλουτου
Behold, these are the sinners, and they prosper into the eon, holding wealth.

Do sinners prosper eternally? :slight_smile:

Nice catch, Roofus.

a visual look at a verse in the N.T. where aionios is NOT translated as eternal by regular translations (I’m sure you’ve seen them a million times, but it’s still helpful to see:

Romans 16:25 - Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, KJV

God can strengthen you by the Good News and the message I tell about Jesus Christ. He can strengthen you by revealing the mystery that was kept in silence for a very long time. GWT

Now to Him who is able to establish you (B)according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of ©the mystery which has been kept secret for (D)long ages past, NASB

underlined areas are the translation for aionios in the King James, New American Standard, and the God’s Word translations.

“Perseus” is a website devoted to the use of Greek as it is found in all kinds of Greek literature including classical Greek. That website has only ONE definition of “αἰωνιος”. I pointed out in an earlier post to this thread what that definition is.You can also look up all instances of “αἰωνιος” in Greek literature which the researchers of the website have discovered. You can to the same for any other Greek word.

Click on the following link, and you will see the one and only definition which “Perseus” recognizes:

"αἰωνιος" definition

Well, that certainly seems to clear that up. lol.

I’d like to point out that while they give the simple and most literal definition: “lasting for an age,” they also provide links to two more complex lexical entries.

“LSJ” is Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.

“Middle Liddell” is Liddell and Scott. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1889.


It really is amazing how much evidence there is that *aionios *at least can, if not should, mean “indefinitely long lasting” and even has the sense of that which is in the distant future or distant past. And if one intended to specifically convey the concept of that which is endless or everlasting, other Greek words would have been better used such as *aidios *or aei. But of course, the more one examines what scripture actually says concerning the punishment of evil, the more one has difficulty “biblically” affirming ECT, and the more “important” it is to interpret aionios as endless or eternal so as to provide at least some “biblical” support for ECT.

And thanks Sonia and Paidon for the links.

What are you saying when you say the word “should mean ‘indefinitely long lasting’”?

I have looked at many instances of the word in Greek sentences in classical Greek, the New Testament, the Septuagingt including the Apocrypha. I have found NO unequivocal evidence that the word** EVER** means “eternal” or “everlasting”. As I have pointed out previously, the word is sometimes used of things which are everlasting, but the idea of evelasting is not inherent in the meaning ofthe word. Although the word is sometimes used to indicate the lifetime of a person, or to mean “age-long”, the most usual meaning seems to be “lasting”.

Here is an analagous example. Suppose I use the word “tall” to describe certain people as well as certain buildings. The buildings I describe as “tall” are over 100 feet high (but not the people). Would you say that “one of the meanings of ‘tall’ is 'being over 100 ft. high”? I think not. But it happens to be one of the applications of the word. Similarly “aionios” is sometimes used to describe things which are endless, such as life with the Lord, or the Lord Himself. But that doesn’t indicate that one of the meanings of “aionios” is “endless”.

Good point.
I think what Sherman was saying is that it seems to refer to an indefinite period of time. That seems to be supported by your research and of course, how it is used biblically.

Yep, that’s what I meant by “indefintely long period of time”; “indefinite” doesn’t mean “endless”, but not definite. Though when something is “indefintely” long it might “seem” endless when in it. Punishment and suffering in pain are especially vexing if there is no defined end, though you assume it will end some time. With my children, the threat of an undetermined amount of punishment was far worse emotionally speaking than even the severest possible penalty.

To me, aionios carries the same connotations as the Hebrew olam and olam haba, that which is on or over the horizon, vauge, indefinite, distant, not clearly in sight, and something having to do with the Messianic age to come. And of course the Messianic age to come is “over the horizon”, not clearly distinquishable, beyond our full comprehension! I suppose some people seem to think they have eschatology figured out; I know that I don’t and do not believe anyone else does either. I’m reminded of all the Jews who had all these testimonies of Christ and yet few, if any, understood the nature and purpose of His appearing. Though looking back on it we can understand the prophecies about His coming. Hind-site tends to be 20/20; even then I don’t know that we fully understand the significance and nature of His appearing. And if UR is correct, then most of Christendom has significantly misunderstood His appearing (to save only some instead of all). The older and the more knowledgeable I get, the more I realize how much I just don’t know. Aionian punishment - that which is beyond our understanding and potentially worse than we can imagine.

All that being said, I can see how “indefinte” would be easily misread as “infinite”.

In mark, we read Jesus say to the fig tree: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”
Are you saying that He meant “may no one eat fruit from you for an indefinite time period”?

Eis aion in the Mark passage literally means, into the age. But because it is strengthened with meketi just previously (meketi eis aion) It could mean forever, but it could also be translated “no longer for the age”.

I must be honest- I have no idea what “no longer for the age” even would mean literally? What age? It sounds like it means that Jesus pronounced a curse that the tree should be barren of fruit for here on out. What, after some “age” there will again be fruit? I don’t think so!

One count in context for a fig tree no longer bearing fruit does not subjugate the whole Bible to making every account of the use of an aion derived phrase mean “never ending”.

I did also point out that this specific case could be interpreted (for all practical purposes) as forever, due to the fact that aion in that passage is strengthened by meketi. Aion by itself does not possess the strength to indicate “never more” without being modified by another word that would lend it that strength.

Attempting to somewhat answer your question though: Scripture talks about God’s purpose for the ages (plural) indicating that there is more than one age to be dealt with in God’s overarching plan. We probably don’t need to worry about the eternal destiny of a fig tree, but for purposes of illustration, (should we be talking about a person, or I suppose a sentient tree if you’re in Narnia :mrgreen: ) no longer for the age here could mean “not until this age is ended”. If God indeed plans to redeem the whole of creation (ultimately) as scripture seems to indicate, then we could have a reasonable expectation that this tree would in some way be included in that.
It’s certainly stretching the point, as the curse on the tree is that it not produce any more fruit; so the analogy breaks down somewhat. Perhaps there are other interpretations of that passage that make more sense of why He would curse a tree that was already not producing any fruit to never produce any. But this is a tree we’re talking about here… :wink:
Interestingly though, the fig tree is a symbol of Israel, so likely the picture here is the “cutting off” of Israel to make room for the fullness of the Gentiles, after which we are assured of Israel’s restoration. So symbolically, we can expect the “fig tree” (representing Israel) to be restored.

I’m sure it has been said before, but the definition of aion and its derivatives alone do not make or break the case for UR.

It seems James Coram of Concordant Publishing Concern (& the CLV) would concur with aion/ios speaking of what is lasting or duration:

"FROM THE EARLY TIMES OF CHURCH HISTORY, the words aion and aionios (“eon” and “eonian” in the Concordant Version) have been the subject of much controversy. This is because the question of their meaning is central to the issue of “eternal punishment.”

“Many holding our essential position will say that aion means “age,” not “[for] ever.” While this is a step in the right direction and in a loose sense is even correct, it is problematic, and leaves some legitimate room for objection.”

“For example, were we to use “age-” as our basis for representing aionios, it would depend on what we have in mind by “age” whether we should say “age-pertaining,” or “age-lasting.” In any case, uniform translation would be impossible and interpretation would be unavoidable. This is because some usages of aion are for only a portion of one of the scriptural, epochal eons. Yet it is true that aion itself is often used in reference to the entire duration of whatever “age” may be in view in any certain context. " Age-pertaining,” besides being awkward, assumes that the notion of “time-periodness” is inherent to aion, which is incorrect; “age-lasting,” adds the further problem of affirming that that which is eonian, always obtains for the entirety of an eon, which is also incorrect."

“It is best to use or at least conceive the word “duration” instead of “age” (or even “eon”) when we are considering these things, even if, in translation, “duration” would be too awkward…”

Good article: … e_eternity

Also a desertation on the topic: … &q&f=false

It is usually argued that Plato invented the word “aionios”, prior to him only the noun existed, in the Septuagint it is definitly used in a limited sense in various instances.