Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
This month’s article continues the subject matter from the pair of articles, Part 1 for November 2004 and Part 2 for December 2004. However, the article “The Doctrine of the Ages in the Bible” is separate and updated from the other two articles.
In 1999 Dr. Heleen M. Keizer published her Ph.D. dissertation in book form, Life, Time, Entirety: A Study of ΑΙΩΝ in Greek Literature and Philosophy and Philo (Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1999). In her study Dr. Keizer researched the Hebrew term olam, and every instance of the Greek terms aion, and aionios in extant Greek writings. She was able to do this through a collection of materials called “Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.” Dr. Keizer was the first person to do such a complete survey of aion, and aionios. 1
In the non-biblical usage, Dr. Keizer notes three distinct meanings of aion: (1) “life,” (2) “time,” and (3) “entirety,” or a wholeness or completeness or a totality relating to a function of time. (Hence the title of her study.) She notes that the biblical aion is a creation of God (having no divinity, as pagan philosophy put forth). Her study found that neither Philo, nor later Church Fathers use aion to refer to the eternity of God. 2 Dr. Keizer pointed out some conclusions regarding the usage and meaning of aion in the New Testament: 3
“Of decisive importance is the new usage of aion found in the New Testament, where we hear Christ speaking of ‘this (present) aion,’ ‘the end of this aion,’ and ‘the coming (future) aion.’ … To speak of ‘this aion,' its ‘end' and ‘the aion to come' clearly lends to aion the meaning of a limited time. But at this point our findings with regard to the Old Testament meaning of `olam/aion can be supportive and supported. The New Testament indicates that ‘this' and the ‘coming' aion are not simply successive ‘ages' or ‘periods': the coming aion, as a restored, reborn world, will in the future completely replace the present one, while as a new ‘horizon' of life it is also present already now.”
Keizer, Life, Time, Entirety, pp. 251–252, emphasis mine
She notes further that:
“The biblical usage of aion led me to the conclusion that the word refers to a ‘whole’ or ‘entirety’ of time (also the ‘whole’/‘entirety’ of time), the beginning and end of which we cannot ‘see’ or ‘define’, although we know that there is a beginning and also an end. I believe that the comparison with a ‘horizon’ is helpful. Maybe the most important conclusion is that aion designates an aspect of creation (not a property of God as He is in Himself), viz. the temporal aspect. And it is the Creator who has decided and decides beginning, end, and without-end of his creation.”
Keizer, personal correspondence, December 17, 2004
Another member of this notable Dutch family, Reitze Keizer (brother of Dr. Keizer), has created his own excellent PowerPoint presentation using Dr. Martin’s evidence about the location of the Jerusalem Temples. He sent me this most appropriate quote from one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. Let us pray that these sentiments come to pass in all of our collective work:
“About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition.”
Sir Isaac Newton, 1642–1727
How did the words olam in Hebrew, and aion and aionios in Greek, transform into the theological concept of “eternity,” “eternal,” and “everlasting”? The answer is understandable but somewhat involved. In simple terms the answer is that pagan Greek and Babylonian theological concepts were read into and applied to the biblical terms. Theology overcame biblical usage for the words.
Let me give one example. Justinian, Emperor of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire (527–565 C.E.), in an effort to suppress “Origenism” and the doctrine of universal reconciliation, issued an edict to Mennos, Patriarch of Constantinople. Justinian wrote:
“The holy church of Christ teaches an endless aionios [ateleutetos aionios] life to the righteous, and endless [ateleutetos] punishment to the wicked.”
Quoted in Hanson, The Greek Word AI ŌN–AIŌNIOS, p. 74 4
The fact that aionios needed to be explained by the Greek word ateleutetos (which is not in Scripture) is revealing. It was necessary because Justinian knew that aionios alone did not mean endless or eternal. This shows that aionios (the plural for aion) by itself does not mean eternity. Dr. Keizer made the same finding:
“Our study has led to the conclusion that infinity is not an intrinsic or necessary connotation of aiōn, either in the Greek or in the Biblical usage (‘olām).”
Keizer, Life, Time, Entirety, p. 244, emphasis mine
The ages, the aions each have a beginning and an end, although we may not be able to see those limits.
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David W. Sielaff
1 From the TLG website http://www.tlg.uci.edu : "(TLG®) is a research center at the University of California, Irvine. Founded in 1972 the TLG has already collected and digitized most literary texts written in Greek from Homer to the fall of Byzantium in AD 1453. ... The web version currently provides access to 3,700 authors and 12,000 works, approximately 91 million words." (emphasis is mine). The TLG is available for purchase on CD or for public use over the internet for a subscription fee.
Dr. Keizer believes she was the first to use TLG to conduct a comprehensive analysis of aion and aionios through the time of the Early Church Fathers (Heleen Keizer, personal correspondence, December 17, 2004). However, the subject of her Ph.D. dissertation and book was necessarily limited to those terms as used in the Bible. Septuagint and the works of Philo of Alexandria. Dr. Keizer noted that her dissertation topic was influence by the studying and writing of the subject by her father, Dr. Andrew Keizer (a long-time colleague and promoter of Dr. Martin's writings and ASK in the Netherlands). DWS
2 Keizer cites the article "aion" in G.W.H. Lampe, ed., A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961). DWS
3 Keizer, personal correspondence, December 17, 2004. DWS
4 John Wesley Hanson, The Greek Word AIŌN-AIŌNIOS, Translated Everlasting-Eternal in the Holy Bible, Shown to Denote Limited Duration (Chicago: Northwestern Universalist Publ. House, 1875, reprint by Concordant Publ. Concern, 2001), P. 74
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