Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Aionios" - The Biblical Controversy

First off, Id like to apologize for not updating this blog for a month. I have been busy with school and such plus I wanted some time to think about this subject a little more in depth:

The heart of the debate between "traditional"(the mainstream doctrine we've come to know anyway) Christianity and Christian Universalism seems to center around the meaning of the Greek word Aionios, which is translated to things like "eternal" and "forever" in our modern-day Bibles.

Some say(non-universalists) Aionios means "everlasting...without end". While others say(Universalists) it "only denotes everlasting in terms of God and his realm...for He is all that is everlasting. And in other cases its duration is relative to the subject".

So your probably thinking "so whats the big deal?Who cares? LET ME GO BACK TO PLAYN' MA Wii!!!". Hold on there video game cowboy, cuz the actual intended meaning of such words as "eternal" is crucial to understanding verses that denote the afterlife, particularly concepts such as Hell and Heaven, and how long humans actually go there for. If Aionios does in fact (as the mainstream church operates off of) mean "eternal" in the sense of Hell and punishment for humans that don't accept Christ...then the whole concept of ultimate reconciliation/universalism finds itself in deep doo-doo. Especially so to those who believe the Bible to be inerrant(without any errors whatsoever, of which I am not personally...but that's for another blog)

However if Aionios's intended duration is strictly relative to the subject of which it is applied to, then we find ourselves with new possibilities and deeper meanings to what seemed like black and white verses. We find a new lens upon which we can see God's plan for humanity. Lets look at some examples...
2 Corinthians 5:1
"1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an [aeonian*] house in heaven, not built by human hands."
*(the Anglicized form of Aionios)

Here is a case where Aionios, according to the Universalist argument, would mean eternal or without end BECAUSE of its subject, which is pertaining to God and HIS realm...the only one of which can be "everlasting".

John 6:27
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to [aeonian] life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Here is another case where Aionios applies to the realm of God, particularly eternal life with HIM. Again the argument is that God and the realm of which God dwells can be truly deemed "eternal". Seems simple enough right? Not too much controversy screaming to "change your beliefs to SATANISM!!!", right?

But what about Aionios when used in relation to such things as eternal punishment in Hell...?

1 Thessalonians 1:8-9
"8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.9 They will be punished with [aeonian] destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."

Now here's where things get a bit more sticky. If Aionios/Aeonian is NOT relative to the subject(here being punishment) and deems eternal across the board, then we can only assume(as does mainstream doctrine) that people go to Hell... forever and ever into an unhappy pit of fire AHHHH! get the idea. However, if it is relative to the subject and only means eternal in the sense of God, then this verse seems to denote temporary separation or punishment. I say that because if Aionios is pertaining to "humanity" and "punishment" as subjects, neither are God or within the realm/presence of God(quite the opposite actually if were talking about separation in Hell), so therefore Aionios has to be(for arguments sake) a specific period of time not exceeding said subjects.

And since said subjects are not known to be God or in his "presence" nor "everlasting" we can only assume that the verse is NOT saying that people will be separated from God forever...but for a time.

I realize that this blog may have "hammered the same points into the ground" repetitively, seeing as I am not a Greek scholar. But this is the building block (or one of them) for the theory of all peoples being (eventually) reconciled to God through Christ at some point. Its not tossing away the idea of Hell all together or simply "cherry-picking" verses, its taking an interpretation of the Bible, particularly the original languages it was written in and going, "well now this usage may not mean people are separated from God forever.". It means maybe there is a greater purpose for it all, for Man...beyond some predestination or "stumbling upon the right set of beliefs in this lifetime".

Maybe God will bring all His creations until himself eventually.


  1. [Devil's Advocate]But, but what about Matthew 25:46? "46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Doesn't the fact that they're side-by-side mean the duration should be the same for each? If Heaven is eternal, Hell must be too![/Devil's Advocate]

    Good analysis... and I think you sort of answered my Devil's advocate question in your post in that the punishment will be aeonian/age-during as long as need be, but Heaven will be eternal as it is a part of God's realm.

    ...but then again, this subject is pretty complex for me to get too deep into.

    Nice post!

  2. Yeah that was going to be the type of situation I adressed next but I didnt for the sake of length and hope of discussion like this (hah).

    I would still say the subject that Aionios pertains to is key to duration...even if they are side by side. For example if I said "Man, this gums awesome flavor lasts forever! I must be in heaven!" Obviously Im refering to something that doesnt really last 'forever' and at the same time relating it to something that supposebly does last forever (terrible analogy but I couldnt think of anything else at this time of night lol).

    My point is...just because your referring to two different subjects side by side, doesnt mean the describing word for both(in this case 'eternal') means the same thing for both.

    But you never know

  3. I think you're right on point with Aionios being forever in the case of God, but with everything else, it is a period of time. There is scripture in Revelations that says "hell" is going to be cast into the lake of fire. The lake of fire and hell are two totally different things. As matter of fact, I believe Jesus IS the Lake of Fire. Purifying all that passes through.

  4. Hmm yeah, Im looking at that right now in Revelations 20:13. Im actually pretty suprised that I never saw that hell(hades) and the lake of fire were two different things

  5. This is Jeff

    I believe Hell is eternal damnation. If not, wonderful. But here is why: I believe God also knows all. All that has and will happen. This does something. Think about it: knowing everything, does that mean he moves like us through time and sees what did happens, and will sometimes "fore-see" the future? I do not believe that. I believe God's omniscience frees him from time. Everything that happens from Adam and Eve to whatever end God sees for Earth, everything to Him is present. It all happens now. He has been around since before our beginning and into eternity, I think this frees God from time. Thus, God is freed from eternity, making eternity a human concept which was required for us to create due to our knowledge of only now, and our memory of the past. God, in His present state, which we cannot understand, is apart from eternity, thus Heaven will be apart from eternity. In the end, God says He will rule the Earth for 1000 years, this is because on Earth there is time. How does this connect? Hell, being apart from God thus subject to time and eternity, remain eternal.

    PS Eric, here:

  6. well like i said in the facebook comment...aionios is only meant to make god and HIS realm eternal in property...for everything else it is a duration relating to the subject and we can see that by looking at different verses where it obviously cant mean "eternal" (if you want said verses id be more than happy to provide them)

    but the very fact of God knowing all since the start of time is EXACTLY the first thought that led me to this thinking. Because if God knew all, he knew that 90 percent of his "lovingly created" humans would burn in hell away from him for all eternity. Wouldnt you think that he would come up with a plan to save more people?

    wouldnt you think that he would allow them to be liberated from Hell after judgment? just something to chew on.

    ill leave you for now with this verse to ponder...

    psalms 16:10 -"For thou wilt NOT leave my soul in hell"

  7. To touch on what Jeff said from a logical point of view, and keep in mind this is from a point of view of someone who knows very little of actual scripture, I will provide this just based on my own logical thinking.

    Say that God does know everything that has happened, will happen, and is happening.

    This means that if there is an eternal Hell, God creates certain people out of love (assuming that God loves everyone) while knowing that these people are going to Hell.

    To me, that seems sort of contradictory to the idea of an all-knowing being. Wasteful in a way. Why create something that you love so much just to damn it to Hell for eternity...

    It makes much more sense in my mind to create us knowing that we may stray from our path and that we will be punished, but to be there waiting to take us back after we have fallen.

    I don't know what my exact views are as far as a literal interpretation of what awaits us each individually in the afterlife, but these are just a few thoughts that cross my mind as I read this.