I have heard that the Greek word aiōnios is more literally translated "age-long", the adjective form of aiōn meaning "age". Aiōnios is translated as "eternal" in most bibles. I'm thinking specifically of Matthew 25:46. Were there any other words or phrases in use in Greek at the time that more clearly expressed the concept "eternal" and that the author specifically was not using in this passage?
First, "eternal" is in fact a direct descendent of the Greek word "αἰών" by way of the Latin "aeternus" = "aevum" + "ternus". When you say "eternal", you could also debate on historical grounds whether you are referring to a delimited or unbounded time. Greek is polysemic and "αἰών" is no exception, but in practice, the indefinite sense is quite common for "αἰών" and generally obvious by context. Consider:
(Platon) "ἀνώλεθρον... ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ αἰώνιον" = indestructible but not eternal
Now, are there other ways of expressing infinite time in ancient Greek? Many:
- Periphrastic expressions
"τὸ αεί" = using the adverb for always as a substantive
"διὰ παντός" = for ever
(Platon) "περὶ τὰ ἀεὶ ὄντα" = concerning the ever being
(Herodotus) "ἔργον χρήσιμον ἐς τὸν πάντα χρόνον" = a work that was useful for all time
(Aristotle) "ὥστ᾽ οὐδὲ τὸ ἀγαθὸν μᾶλλον ἀγαθὸν τῷ ἀίδιον εἶναι" = so therefore the good is no better a good by its being eternal.
- ἀειγενής (the ever-being)
(Xenophon) "ἰσήλικος τοῖς ἀειγενέσι θεοῖς" = the same age as the eternal gods
- ἀέναος (the ever-flowing)
(Aristophanes) "ἀέναοι Νεφέλαι" = the eternal clouds
- ἄφθιτος (unperishing)
(Pindar) "λῦσε δὲ Ζεὺς ἄφθιτος Τιτᾶνας" = Zeus eternal freed the Titans
What words existed in Greek to express the concept “eternal”?
Far and away the most common word for "eternal" in the Greek is αἰώνιος. Of the 68 occurrences of "eternal in the (AV), this word accounts for 63 of those instances.
Other Greek words being translated as "eternal" are:
- ἀΐδιος (found once), and
- αἰών (found twice)
The other two (2) instances of a Greek word being translated as "eternal," are ἀνάθεμα (anathema), which, in both instances equates to being eternally cursed.
Op you are right about the word Aiōnios being translated as eternal in most Bibles. It is shocking that they misstranslated this word so many times to mean eternal when it means age or eon.
Ages: ◄ 165. aión ► Strong's Concordance aión: a space of time, an age Original Word: αἰών, ῶνος, ὁ Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine Transliteration: aión Phonetic Spelling: (ahee-ohn') Definition: a space of time, an age Usage: an age, a cycle (of time), especially of the present age as contrasted with the future age, and of one of a series of age
If one looks at the 125 times aion is used and translated it consistently it means an age or eon. It is shocking to see how the word aion has been so mistranslated as eternal, world,never, course and everlasting.
Same goes for aionios.
The original Greek word aionios is an adjective of the noun aion which means 'age'. 'Aion Is where we get the word 'eon' or 'age'. 'Aionios should always be translated 'Age-abiding or 'age lasting' or 'of the ages'. It should NEVER have been translated 'eternal'!
The words 'aion' and 'aionios' occurs 199 times in the New Testament. Here is how they are translated as follows in the new King James Version.
Ages 2 Course 1 World 40 Ever 72
Everlasting 25 Eternal 42 World 3 Ever 1
For a translator to translate the exact same Greek word into seven different English words that completely contradicts each other is shocking to say the least.
So now looking at your question in regard to Matthew 25:46
44‘Then shall they answer, they also, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungering, or thirsting, or a stranger, or naked, or infirm, or in prison, and we did not minister to thee? 45‘Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of these, the least, ye did [it] not to me. 46And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.’ YLT
Then shall He be answering them, saying, "Lord, When did we perceive you hungering or thirsting, or naked, or infirm, or in jail, and we serve you not?" Then shall He be answering them, saying, 'Verily, I am saying to you, inasmuch as you do it not to one of the least of these, neither do you it to Me.' And they should be coming away into the eonian chastening, Yet the jest into Eonian life." Concordant
Eonian chastening is here limited to the nations who will not aid the faithful of Israel in their time of sore distress. It has no bearing on the sins of individuals.
It is disciplinary and corrective. Concordant Commentary
When one correctly understands the true translation of the word aion and aionios one begins to see God purpose of the eons or ages come alive with a whole new outlook on the purposes of God. One can move on with a whole new understanding of other scriptures that have been hidden because of these two words that never meant eternal.
God alone is eternal. God had no beginning, and no end.
Ages have a beginning and an end.