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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?

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  • The Greek word meaning eternal is aidios. It appears twice.
    – user48996
    Feb 26 at 23:43

3 Answers 3

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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:

  1. 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

etc.

  1. ἀίδιον

(Aristotle) "ὥστ᾽ οὐδὲ τὸ ἀγαθὸν μᾶλλον ἀγαθὸν τῷ ἀίδιον εἶναι" = so therefore the good is no better a good by its being eternal.

  1. ἀειγενής (the ever-being)

(Xenophon) "ἰσήλικος τοῖς ἀειγενέσι θεοῖς" = the same age as the eternal gods

  1. ἀέναος (the ever-flowing)

(Aristophanes) "ἀέναοι Νεφέλαι" = the eternal clouds

  1. ἄφθιτος (unperishing)

(Pindar) "λῦσε δὲ Ζεὺς ἄφθιτος Τιτᾶνας" = Zeus eternal freed the Titans

etc.

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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:

  1. ἀΐδιος (found once), and
  2. 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.

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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.

"Aion":

Ages 2 Course 1 World 40 Ever 72

"Aionios"

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.

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  • The term “Age Enduring” from what you said: “Age-abiding or 'age lasting' or 'of the ages'” is one and the same as a never ending age, the age will endure. There is no mention of an end. In Luke 18:30 Jesus mentions in “and in the age{αἰῶνας (aiōnas) to come, life eternal{αἰώνιον (aiōnion).. The Age will indeed endure forever. How does that make sense of believers with respect to eternal life? Your answer seems confusing to me.
    – Cork88
    Feb 27 at 23:44
  • @cork. This is such an important subject and hard to say so much in the comment section. Therefore I've copied a few things on the eons and at the end is a link if interested. If one is in the first resurrection He will enjoy the millennial reign and the next one called the eons of eons as well. Once one has been given immortality they will never die again. There is a conclusion to all the eons.(Heb. 9:26) but are lives will be filled God Himself. 1.Cor. 15:28 What is "eternal" life? ..
    – Sherrie
    Feb 28 at 1:55
  • ...although the believer has "eternal" life, millions of saints have died and millions more will give up their life in the grim persecutions of the Lord's day. If we live while we are dead, why then we can just as logically say that we are dead while we live! Prejudice repudiates such a statement, but prejudice should not decide. We know that we are alive and not dead. And we ought to know that any saint who dies never entered into "eternal" life. If he had he could not die. Cannot we see the unreasonableness of such trifling with the sacred Scriptures?
    – Sherrie
    Feb 28 at 1:56
  • If life is death and death life, then we no longer have any revelation from God. In John 6:54 the Lord defines His position. Of certain, He says, "he is having eonian life and I will be raising him in the last day." Having eonian life is not incompatible with death until the last day." It is evidently life beginning with the resurrection. It is not life in this eon, but in the coming eon (Luke 18:30). The gift of God is eonian life (Rom.6:23). Not merely a continuous existence, but life for the eons of the eons when it will be worth while to live. In brief, eonian life is life for the eons of
    – Sherrie
    Feb 28 at 1:58
  • It is not a miserable existence in this evil eon, subject to infirmity and decay without actual dissolution. Such a fate would be unutterably fearful to contemplate. But more than this it is not death with its decay and corruption. It is life. Life beyond death. Resurrection life, when all who are Christ's will have been made alive to join in His glorious unveiling. It is life for the eons of the eons. These are a few things copied from here. 2. The Eon of the Eons - Concordant Publishing Concern
    – Sherrie
    Feb 28 at 1:59

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