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The ancient text of Matthew 24:3 reads:

“Καθημένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους τῶν ἐλαιῶν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ κατ᾽ ἰδίαν λέγοντες· εἰπὲ ἡμῖν, πότε ταῦτα ἔσται καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον τῆς σῆς παρουσίας καὶ συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.”

One modern Greek Bible translation has rendered the verse in the following way:

“Ενώ καθόταν στο Όρος των Ελαιών, οι μαθητές τον πλησίασαν ιδιαιτέρως, λέγοντας: «Πες μας, πότε θα γίνουν αυτά, και ποιο θα είναι το σημείο της παρουσίας σου και της τελικής περιόδου του συστήματος πραγμάτων.»”

Is the modern translation correct when it renders the word συντέλεια with the phrase “final period” (τελική περίοδος)?

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  • Welcome to BH. I am not clear what you mean by 'ancient translation' and 'modern Greek Bible translation'. The second is a Greek text, not a translation. I am left confused.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:18
  • @Bernd - welcome to BHSX. I THINK you are asking about the Koine text vs the modern (eg Demotic?) translation. If this is true, you will need someone better at modern Greek. I will provide an answer in ENGLISH.
    – user25930
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 18:36
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    The text in the first quotation is viewed as the original ancient text of Mt 24:3. The second quotation contains a modern Greek translation of the ancient text. Modern Greek-speaking people cannot fully understand ancient Greek texts. Therefore, translations in modern Greek language have been made.
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 14:09

4 Answers 4

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The Greek term used here (sunteleia [< sun + telos]) has a corresponding term in Latin language, e. g. conclusio (< cum + claudere). Both are formed by two elements, the first is a particle indicating union, linkage, and so on ('sun-' in Greek; 'con-' in Latin).

The last element indicates, as others have yet explained, a final part of a thing, an end. But, the difference between a sic et simpliciter end (telos, in Greek) is the fact that the 'thing' which one contemplates the final part is composed of various parts, all of them converging to the same time point, the end.

In other words, the annihilation of this world, era, age, and so on, will not be triggered by the collapse of a single element of it, but, all the elements of this aion (world) will converge together to the end.

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  • I can see that the συντέλεια at Mt 24:3 can be understood as a complete, full end of multiple things in the world. Young’s Literal Translation renders the word συντέλεια as “full end” at Mt 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20. The meaning of the Greek word συντέλεια corresponds to the meaning of the Latin word consummatio with which it is rendered in the Latin Vulgate at Mt 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20. The Latin prefix con- expresses joint action (“together with”), simultaneity (“at the same time”), intensity of action or completeness (“completely”) (as shown in Oxford Latin Dictionary).
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 15:09
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The word συντελεία occurs just six times in the NT text; Matt 13:39, 40 , 49, 24:3, 28;20, Heb 9:26. Further, it always occurs in the phrase, "συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος"

According to BDAG, in all cases it means, "a point of time marking completion of a duration, completion, close, end."

Most versions render the phrase, "συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος" something like, "end of the age". Even my modern Greek NT (1991) has left the word and phrase unchanged at Matt 24:3.

"Final period" appears to be more interpretive but an understandable interpretation because, Jesus does not discuss the point in time at the end of the world/age but the time between when he left in Matt 28:19, 20 and His second coming. However, in Matt 24 His emphasis in not on the period of time before His return but on the event itself and the disciple's expectation of that momentous event; hence the choice of word, "συντελείας".

Indeed, NT writers consistently use eschatological language to describe their day:

  • Acts 2:17 – Peter calls the day of Pentecost the “last day” in fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. Compare v29-32.
  • 2 Tim 3:1 – perilous times in the “last day” which Paul discusses as already at his time.
  • Heb 1:2 – “These last days” God is revealed in Jesus.
  • James 5:3 – warning against rampant materialism and worship of money in the “last day”, that is, the time of James himself.
  • 1 Peter 1:5 – Christians reveal God and are miraculously preserved in the “last time”.
  • 1 Peter 1:20 – Jesus revealed in these “last times”.
  • 2 Peter 3:3 – Peter writes about his time as the fulfilment of that spoken by the ancient prophets about the “last days”.
  • 1 John 2:18 – Twice, John calls his time the “last hour”.
  • Jude 18 – Jude describes his time as the fulfilment of ancient prophecies about the “last time”.
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  • Thank you. It is clear that the first-century Christians believed that they were living in the last days, which would mean that the last days have now been in progress for about two millennia. It seems to me that the translation of the word συντέλεια as “final period” (τελική περίοδος) is not correct at Mt 24:3, because the context in Matthew chapter 24 speaks about Christ’s coming and the end (τέλος, mentioned at Mt 24:14), which are short events rather than long periods of time.
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 14:09
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Disclaimer: I have no formal training in biblical languages.

I raised a very similar question not too long ago on B-Greek. There are actually several questions related to these words. About the 4th post in my question I ask pretty much what you ask but the takeaway for me was that while there are different words for "end/ending" it is only by context that you can establish the referent and meaning. I refer you to the discussion at B-Greek to get the benefit of the various perspectives.

Given the context we can take it either way:

  • when will the ending start?
  • when will the age have ended?

I think that their expressed curiosity about the temple's destruction indicates that they would like to know:

  • when the fireworks would start ("when will these things happen")
  • and when they would be over ("and when will be the end of the age")

So I would say that the modern reading is too specifically trying to place "end" at the "beginning of the end".

Update

Another legitimate option is to read it as an example of Hebrew parallelism where the second phrase repeats the first.

Update

Unlike the B-Greeks I consulted who didn't see much difference in the actual usage of τέλεια and its cognates, including συντέλεια it seems BDAG says that it refers to the end point, not the end process:

συντέλεια, ας, ἡ (orig. ‘community contribution’ [the basic semantic component relates to someth. that complements someth. already present]; in various senses Pla., Demosth. et al.; ins, pap, LXX; En 106:18; TestSol; TestJob 4:6; Test12Patr; ApcEsdr 2:31 p. 26, 25 Tdf.; Aristobul., in Eus., PE 8, 10, 9[=Denis p. 219 ln. 11f; Holladay Fgm. 2, 55 p. 138]; Jos., Ant. 15, 389; 20, 262; Tat.; Ath., R. 12 p. 61, 31 ‘increment’; Theoph. Ant. 2, 31 [p. 176, 14] ‘posterity’) in our lit. only in a temporal sense: a point of time marking completion of a duration, completion, close, end (Polyb. 1, 3, 3; 1, 4, 3 al.; SIG 695, 13 [II B.C.]; POxy 1270, 42 [II A.D.] σ‌. τοῦ ἔτους; LXX; Iren. 1, 6, 1 [Harv. I 53, 2]) συντέλεια (τοῦ) αἰῶνος the end of the (present; αἰών 2a) age (TestBenj 11:3; TestJob 4:6) Mt 13:39f, 49; 24:3; 28:20. τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου of this age 13:40 v.l., 49 v.l. τῶν αἰώνων of the ages (TestLevi 10:2; Did., Gen. 115, 19. Cp. in gnostic speculation σ‌. καὶ ἐκπύρωσις τοῦ παντός Hippol., Ref. 9, 30, 8) Hb 9:26. τῶν καιρῶν (Da 9:27) Hv 3, 8, 9. τοῦ κόσμου Mt 13:49 D. ἐπʼ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν τῆς συντελείας in the last days of the consummation (of the age) Hs 9, 12, 3 (cp. TestZeb 9:9 καιρὸς p 975 συντελείας; ApcEsdr 2:31 τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς συντελείας; cp. ViJer 13).—DELG s.v. τέλος. M-M. TW.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:16 PM March 11, 2019.

I'm not qualified to say so I won't opine.

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  • In the context of Mt 24, Jesus mentions the end (τέλος) in vss. 6 and 14. There is no mention of any other end between vs. 3 (where the word συντέλεια is used) and vs. 6 (which uses the word τέλος). So it seems that vs. 6 as well as vs. 14 refer to the same end which is mentioned in vs. 3. In such case, the word συντέλεια in vs. 3 would be used interchangeably with the word τέλος in vss. 6, 14. Therefore, I am interested to know whether the word συντέλεια implies a final period of some duration or whether it simply means “end; termination” (as a short point in time).
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 16:09
  • It certainly refers to a short period of time. The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in the war with Rome which lasted 7 years. "When will these things happen" is bookended, IMHO, with "and the end of the age". "The happening" refers to the process while "end of the age" refers to the effect, which is the end of the age. But it need not be that precise. Do you see it as being a significant distinction for some reason?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 16:14
  • I mean, I read it that way but if it were contextually significant one way or the other I might be enticed to see "these things be" and "end of the age" as repeating the same thing, which is implied as well.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 16:16
  • The disciples apparently made some distinctions between the three things mentioned at Mt 24:3. The phrase “these things” can be understood as referring to the destruction of the temple, whereas the phrases “your coming” and “the end of the age”—to Christ’s return and the consummation of the age. But it is not clear to what extent the disciples might have merged in time the events mentioned.
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 16:31
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How should Synteleia (Gk.) be Translated?

In examining the modern translations into English we find:

End of the age / consummation (NASB)
End of the world / end of the age (NLT)
End of the age (NIV)

We take note that this is a compound word that utilizes the idea of end (teleos), and together (syn). Such that it does not merely mean an "end" or a "goal", but rather something more grandiose. A coming together of it all or a final ending. In movie production, a producer may say, "That's a final wrap." Synteleos means the process is "all wrapped up!" (Compare Matthew 13:39, the harvest is the end of the world; synteleos)

Matthew 24 Verse It is important to notice that the use of this word was NOT by Jesus. It occurred in the question of the bewildered, befuddled disciples! The disciples were shocked at the announcement of Jesus that "all the buildings of the Temple (complex) would be destroyed!" (24:1) Completely demolished!

Such a tragedy, to the disciples' minds, could only mean the end of the world. Jewish life without the Temple was unimaginable! The Temple was the heart and soul of Judaism. The Ark, the Altar, the Holy of Holies, the genealogy records, the priesthood, the Sanhedrin council, were all centered there. It was where all Israel congregated during the annual festivals.

End of the world, for sure! Or so they thought.

Explanation and Correction In the next several verses of this Olivet Discourse, Jesus gave precise detail on how this tragedy was to transpire. He gave several events leading up to it, and the final sign was given...at which time all the Christians were to flee post haste. (vss. 4-34)

But the important thing to notice in Jesus' explanation was that He always used the word teleos, and NOT the word that the disciples had used, "synteleos". The reason is because the End of the Temple was the End of the Mosaic Age...the End of the Old Covenant (teleos)...NOT the End of the World as the disciples imagined (synteleos).

Actually, the End of the Temple signaled the beginning of the New Covenant!...the institution of the Kingdom of God which included all people groups...the start of the glorious Church of God without the "wall of separation." AND there was to be a lot more of human history...redemptive history. The synteleos was still down the road aways...a long ways.

Translation So the word in question, synteleos, should be translated as meaning the great, final wrapping up of history at the End of the World. This is how the disciple took it. And because of their misunderstanding, Jesus had to reign them in, and just have them think of an End of an Age...the Mosaic Age...a teleos.

End of the World Because the disciples had introduced the subject of the End of the World, Jesus dealt with it in the second half of the Olivet Discourse (24:35-25:46). But instead of giving "signs" like He did when speaking of the End of the Temple, He warned that there were no signs at all at the End of the World. No signs at all!

Watch therfore, for you know not what hour the Lord comes. (24:42)
Therefore be also ready for in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man comes. (24:44)
Watch therefore, for you know not neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man comes. (25:13)

The final synteleos is to be much different than what the disciples thought.

teleos..............................................Kingdom of God.............................................synteheos
End of Age (signs)----------------------Church Era-------------------------(no signs) End of World
24:4-34..............................................transition...............................................24:35-25:1-46

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