Friday, June 17, 2016

Forever and Ever World Without End

The Bible speaks of many events lasting forever or for eternity. For better or for worse, there are fewer of these events than most Christians imagine, relying on faulty translations to render forever and similar ideas.
Most often the word translated forever is either from a Hebrew word transliterated olam or a Greek word transliterated aion. The English word eon comes from aion, the former of which in our time denotes a long age or epoch. However, the Greek word does not have such a meaning.
Aion simply means a definite period of time having a beginning and an end - nothing more and nothing less. The reason so many people are confused about the meaning is that lexicons beginning in the 16th century began including in the definition of this ancient Greek word the meaning of forever in order to fit their theologies. Never in Greek literature does this word aion assume the meaning of forever or eternity unless some specific context gives it that meaning, and those cases are exceedingly rare.
There are curious phrases in the New Testament which literally translated would be "ages of ages" and yet this still does not mean eternity or forever. They might be better translated analogously to the French phrase crème de la crème - or cream of the cream - which is somewhat comparable to cream of the crop.
An example where this assumed meaning of forever is preposterous is in Jonah where the great prophet is said to have been in the great fish for an olam. The fact is that he was in the whale for 3 days and 3 nights - not forever.
The import of this understanding is that a great many doctrines fall by the wayside as prevarications. In a few cases, the doctrine may well be true, but not on the basis of linguistic grounds related to the meaning of olam or aion.
Aion also does not mean world, which in some cases it is translated in the King James New Testament. Thus the careful student of the Word of God must make sure that he knows where aion or olam is located, and then know that its default reading should be period of time. Additional linguistic contextual clues may modify it in terms of duration, but under no circumstance should it be assumed to have other meanings based upon theology.
Copyright 2016 Tony Bonn

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