Where did all that "forever" and "eternal" come from?

by Wim Janse


Time is a difficult notion. We people measure all things in four dimensions: length, width, depth and time.
Are the first three easy enough to work with, time is a different matter. We cannot think outside time. Time is connected to events that take place or have already taken place.
Thinking about time in the future is no more then projecting what one thinks or hopes.

What do the Scriptures, God's Word, tell us about time?

What people say the Bible says.

"He is lost forever" or "He or she will burn in hell eternally". Words often heard in conversations among Christian people. Often said in the saddest of moods, but still said. On what do these people base their opinion? On the Bible of course! Doesn't it tell us that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, will be lost forever and burn in hell? Isn't it necessary to make the decision to believe in Jesus in order to be saved from all this??
The most respected and used Bibleverse here is John 3:16

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Let's take a look at a verse in Mark. Mark 3:29 reads:

"But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation;"

Here we have the problem fully exposed: "eternal damnation".

And what about Strong's?

Eternal, what does the famous Strong have to say about this word?

Eternal = Strong #166.
166 aionios {ahee-o'-nee-os}
from 165; TDNT - 1:208,31; adj
AV - eternal 42, everlasting 25, the world began +5550 2,
since the world began +5550 1, for ever 1; 71
1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be.
2) without beginning
3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.

As we have seen above "aionios"#166 comes from Strong #165:
165 aion {ahee-ohn'}
from the same as 104; TDNT -1:197,31; nm
AV- ever 71, world 38, never +3364 +1519 +3588 6, evermore 4, age 2, eternal 2, misc 5; 128
1) for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity.
2) the worlds, universe
3) period of time, age.

But is Strong complete?

What have we seen? "Aionios (#166) is almost always translated with a word that has to do with endlesness, a time that will never stop. But let us now take a look to the word where "Aionios" has its roots from, Strong's #165: "Aion". Here we find many more meanings: "ever" and, surprise, surprise(!!): "never" and even "world". Puzzling isn't it? And when we look at what is meant by all this, it even gets worse:"for ever", "eternity", even "universe", but also a "period of time"/"age"!

Definition: "period of time": a length of time of unspecified duration, but with a definite beginning and end.
Question: if "aion" can be translated (as in the KJV) "eternity/eternal/forever"(obviously without an end), how can it then also mean a piece of time with a beginning and an end? Can dry mean wet or high low???

Let us look way back.

To understand the words "eternal" and "forever" it is necessary to take a look at the language situation in Greece and Italy before and after the days of the apostle Paul.

The classic Latin was one of the many languages that were spoken by the early inhabitants of a small area around Rome.
Yet the common language in South Italy was Greek. And that language became the language for the upper-class Romans. Not the kind of Greek that the common people spoke (the koinè), but a kind of polished Greek. The Greek language was still in use in Rome some 200 years after Christ!
The New Testament of the Bible was written in that koinè, common Greek. It was only long after Paul that a Latin translation became necessary. And those translations were made in North Africa. The best known Latin translation is the one Hieronymus made in 380 A.D. and much of the problems today with the translation of aion come from the mix of the Latin and the Greek languages, combined with the influences (already then!) by the Babylonian religions that had crept into the church.

Hiëronymus improved many obvious mistakes in earlier greek to latin translations, but was also very conservative. He never changed two words where North African translators had made mistakes in translating the word aion: 'saeculum' and 'aeternus' (the sources for the English words "eternal" and "eternity").
The original meaning of 'saeculum' was "world", as in worldorder, the chronological order of things. The meaning of 'aeternus' was more of a era or lasting as long as a person's life.Aion is often translated with both Latin words.

Saeculum in the Latin dictionaries is given as: "a generation, an era, the world, the times, the spirit of an era and a period of 100 years".
Aeternus: from Aevum. Aevum is in the Latin language NEVER connected to our "eternal",but is related to our word "age' or "era". This is a piece of time with a definite beginning and end, but of a unknown length.
Aion: a piece of time with a definite beginning and end.

When did it go wrong?

Even in the days of Jesus Christ on Earth, the leading theologians of Israël, the Pharisees and the Essenes taught a never ending punishment for sinners. The origin of this belief dates from the Babylonian religion with its revenging gods.
The apostle Paul never taught these things. He spoke about a loving God who had organized time in Aion's. But lies never stop, so the truth about the love of God was slowly but steadily erased from the thinking and later writings about God. The old revengeful God was put back in place, convenient for the religious- and worldly powers: "Keep quiet or you will end up in hell!"
The fight of the pro's and contra's of the aion/eternal was decided in a council in Constantinopel in 553AD. Justin, the emperor of the East-Roman empire, then decided and wrote:"

"The holy church of Christ teaches an endless (eternal) aionic (ateleutêtos aionios) life for the just and an endless (eternal) punishment (ateleutêtos kolasis) for the wicked."

But what have the scriptures to say?
Let us take a look at one verse from the gospel by Matthew.
In the King James translation: Matthew 25:46.

"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal".

In the (literal-) translation by Young:
"And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during".

And in the concordant translation (as close as possible to the original Greek):
"And these shall be coming away into chastening aionian, yet the just into life aionian."

So, the closer we get to the "originals", the better we see that the wicked will get a chastening for the duration of the aion, just like the righteous will get life for the duration of the aion.
We have also seen that an aion has a beginning and an end. So there cannot bean "eternal," never ending punishment! It just is not possible. It has to stop at the end of the aion!
That is what the original Scriptures say! The present translations, with all respect for the translators, are wrong!

What now?

We have seen that the original meaning of the word aion was changed from: a very long period of time, with a beginning and an end, to what we have in our Bibles today: eternal and eternity. The use of these wrong translations has brought us the most horrible and wrong ideas about God and life hereafter. It has changed God from a loving Father (John 3:16) to a failing Saviour, Who has to accept that most of His creatures (in His image!!) will be lost forever in hell.

©Wim Janse
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