Aion - “ For Ever or Something Else?”
If I didn’t confuse you in the last segment regarding “olam,” it could happen here as we look at the Greek words “aion” (noun) and “aionios” (adjective). This is the Greek word that is used extensively to translate the Hebrew word olam in the Septuagint and is used... well let’s just say that is used in a lot of ways in the New Testament as you will see.
Aionios is the word used for eternal in the phrase “eternal life.” If that is true, and it is, then how confusing can aion/aionios really be? Well... let’s see. Here is the Strong’s Concordance listing for the noun aion and the adjective aionios. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the related adjective will derive its meaning from the underlying noun.
G165 αἰών aiōn ahee-ohn'
From the same as G104; properly an age; by extension perpetuity (also past); by implication the world; specifically (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future): - age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end). Compare G5550.
It doesn’t take long for the confusion to start. Strong’s says this word means an “age” which by definition has a beginning and an end like an Ice Age or the Industrial Age or the Stone Age. Strong’s then says that by “extension” aion means perpetuity which means “without end.” From “with an end” to “without an end” Strong’s then suggests that by “implication” aion means world but we aren’t sure if that is a world with an end or without an end. Then Strong’s states that “specifically” aion means a Messianic period (present or future) which would imply that it would have a beginning and an end. If you aren’t confused already, Strong’s then tells you that aion is translated in the KJV as age, course, eternal for ever or forevermore, and world.
I probably shouldn’t do this to you but let me give you a few more ways that various Bible translators have translated aion. They are... eon, time period, today, the future, universe, worldly, world without end, since the world began, from the beginning of the world, end of my days, everlasting, always, permanently, constantly, of old, ancient times, all time, since time was, since time began, before time began, eternal ages (isn’t eternal age an oxymoron), eternal life, eternity, course of eternity, age of the eternities and the eternities of the eternities (which would mean there are several eternities I guess).
Talk about confusing. Does the word mean before time began or since time began? Is it a period of time or eternity? We won’t get much help but turning to the adjective, aionios, we read in Strong’s the following.
G166 αἰώνιος aiōnios ahee-o'-nee-os
From G165; perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well): - eternal, for ever, everlasting, world (began)
It seems that the idea that aionios could be an adjective meaning “of an age” based on the proper meaning of age for aion has been set aside. Instead aionios apparently means perpetual and is translated as eternal, for ever, everlasting and world, the last one being rather puzzling considering the rest. It will be just as puzzling when we look at various verses.
I may as well do it to you again. Here is a list of the ways aionios is translated in various Bibles - everlasting, eternal, age lasting, age abiding, the ages of time, of the ages, the period of past ages, before the ages began, for the ages of time, before the beginning of time, since the world began, before the times of the world, eternal, from eternity, from all eternity (we wouldn’t want to leave out any part of eternity apparently), for ever, unfailing, final, unending, permanent, immemorial, enduring, lasting, long, perpetual, an immeasurable eternity, last and heavenly.
Everything clear now? Well if it isn’t, it isn’t going to get any better as we look at some interesting verses if indeed, aion and aionios have the meaning of eternity and eternal. Just for fun, try inserting the word eternity or eternal into these verses where I have highlighted in red the English word that is actually aion or aionios in Greek.
Luke 20:34 “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage”
Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”
1 Corinthians 2:8 “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”
Galatians 1:4 “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father”
If aion means eternity then eternity has a beginning according to Romans 16:25, 2 Timothy 2:9 and Titus 1:2 where the word “world” is aion in Greek. Of course that would kind of screw up the definition of eternity but then again, apparently eternity also has an end as well. Actually it appears that eternity has multiple ends.
1 Corinthians 10:11 “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”
Matthew 13:49a “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just”
Apparently we’re in eternity now but we’re not to be conformed to this eternity. I guess that could make sense since apparently the ends (plural) of this eternity have come. I didn’t realize that eternity would not only end but apparently have more than one end which is very confusing. Since this “eternity” apparently has a beginning and an end(s), I wonder why we just don’t just call it an age. We would actually be translating aion using the proper definition of the word, i.e. age.
Not that accuracy should matter when it comes to translating the Bible but I would like to point out that the Greek word translated as world in 1 Corinthians 10:11 is also plural matching the preceding plural word “ends.” Apparently to the KJV translators, whether a word is plural or singular isn’t all that important. I will skip the massive amount of sarcasm I want to include and simply say that 1 Corinthians 10:11 should read “upon whom the ends of the ages are come.” Can you believe that? The verse actually makes sense if we use the proper definition of aion, i.e. age, in that verse. (okay that was sarcastic but not massively)
Let me go back to a verse I have mentioned, Titus 1:2. Before we actually look at the verse allow me to restate a basis premise, adjectives derive their meaning from the underlying noun. For example, beauty become beautiful and love become lovely and world becomes worldly... oh wait, no it doesn’t, world becomes eternal in the Bible (pardon the sarcasm).
Titus 1:2 “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”
World is the noun aion and eternal is the adjective aionios. How does the adjective derived from a noun that is translated as world suddenly morph into eternal?
Does aion mean a period of time, does it mean eternity or does it mean the world? Apparently it must mean all three. And we wonder why we have a zillion denominations all interpreting the same verses any number of different ways.
We will continue with aion and aionios in the next segment and talk about “eternal life” and “everlasting punishment.”
Blessings, shalom, namaste