THE UPWARD CALL
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
IN CHRIST JESUS.
(Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)
#03-09131
Eon (Age), Not Eternal or World
June 15, 2009
Today, many believers place great emphasis on the words eternal and eternity , and the concept of
endlessness, as if this is the emphasis of Scripture. But is this truly what Scripture emphasizes? Some
Hebrew and Greek language scholars claim that the concept of eternity ( eternal ) is not a fundamental
concept in the original languages of the sacred writings, for the Hebrews looked out to the future and
saw it as something concealed or obscured, and the Greeks thought in terms of long periods of time
with beginnings and ends and did not think in terms of endless.
If one agrees with this claim, then it presents a challenge, for practically all English translations use the
word eternal as if it were a fundamental and essential tenet of Scripture. Is it possible that many
translators have placed these words and their meaning into the modern-day English Bibles based on
tradition and what could be called interpretative bias, which means that in translating Scripture from
the original languages into another language, the translators used words based on tradition and
interpretation of what they believed to be the meaning behind the words. This is not meant to question
the integrity or honesty of any translators. It seems that a certain amount of interpretation is inevitable.
However, what if the fundamental tenet of Scripture is actually the concept of ages or eons and not the
concept of eternal or eternity ? Wouldn’t this change the way we view Scripture, or at least add some
dimension to our view that would otherwise be missed? I think so.
Interpretative bias comes into sharp focus when we realize that in most English Bibles, the words age ,
eternal , everlasting , eternity , forever , and world are often translated from the same Greek word. How
could this be accurate when these English words have different meanings? Age refers to a period of time
that has a beginning and an end. Eternal refers to endlessness or that which has no beginning and no
end. World refers to an orderly arrangement or system. Something is amuck!
In the Hebrew language, the words everlasting , eternal , and forever are usually derived from the
transliterated Hebrew word olam , which means “to hide, keep secret, obscure.” Olam relates to an age
whose end is unknown and thus whose end is obscure, but not necessarily endless. In other words, it
refers to an indefinite period of time, and not to the concept of eternal or eternity, that is, endlessness.
Two examples from the Bible help to prove the point.
First, Jonah was in the bowels of a large fish for three days, but it is recorded in most translations that
the prophet cried out that the earth with its bars was around him forever ( olam ) (Jonah 2:6 KJV,
NASB). How could Jonah be in the belly of the fish for three days and nights and, at the same time,
forever? The more literal and accurate translations use the words eon (CV) or age-abiding (REB, YLT)
rather than the word forever .
Second, Psalm 45:6 states: Thy throne, O God is for ever [olam] and ever (KJV, NASB). In the
Hebrew, it reads olam va ad , which means “the age and beyond,” and proves beyond any doubt that the
Psalmist had to add va ad to olam to bring in the concept of something beyond an age. The more literal
and accurate renderings of this verse read “the eon and further” (CV), “the age and beyond”
(REB), and “age-during and forever” (YLT).
Now, turning to the Greek text of the New Testament, the comparable word for olam (Hebrew) is the
transliterated Greek word aiōn , which means an indefinite, long segment or period of time that has a
beginning and an end. The adjective form is aiōnion . The English equivalent or Anglicized word for
aiōn is eon and for aiōnion is eonian . Eon is more commonly referred to as age .
In the Greek text, the word aiōn is used 128 times (singular [ aiōn ] and plural [ aiōnōn ] forms), and the
word aiōnion is used 71 times, which are translated in many English New Testaments nearly forty
different ways, including: age, ages, ago, age-lasting, age-long, duration, earliest ages, last ages, latest
ages, remote age, remotest age, always, ancient, any more, beginning, end, eternal, eternity, ever, for
ever, and ever, for evermore, first, very first, immortal, life, never, nevermore, never while the world
lasts, never to the end of my days, of old, permanently, time again, all time, old time, today, universe,
world, yonder world. Obviously, these words and phrases present a wide range of meanings that should
be a red flag to any with an inquisitive mind.
To add to the confusion, consider two verses from the King James.
Thus shall it be in the conclusion of the eon. (Matthew 13:49 CV)
For all the generations of the eon of the eons. (Ephesians 3:21 CV)
Thy throne, O God, is for the eon of the eon. (Hebrews 1:8 CV)
Note that the concordant rendering of these verses has no contradiction, even if one has no
understanding of the word eon . The eon in the first verse has a conclusion, but there is no direct
reference to an end of the eon of the eons in the second verse. We need to see that the focus of these
verses is on a period of time, an eon , and not on the world. The world must either end or go on
endlessly, but eons have a beginning and an end. In considering verses dealing with eons , we need to
understand which eon is in view, and when we do, there is no contradiction of Scripture.
I realize that such a translation might create some additional questions in one’s mind. After all, what
does the eon of the eons mean? This is a valid question, but at least one is presented with all apples (i.e.,
all eons) and not apples (eons) and oranges (world, eternal, forever, etc.) mixed together. All one needs
to come to a proper conclusion is to understand the meaning of eon as an indefinite period of time with
a beginning and an end, and what this means in the context of the expressions that contain the word to
come to a proper conclusion. Another way to state this is that one needs to know what eon is in view to
understand the meaning of the expressions. For example, Paul refers to this eon (age) and the one to
come (Ephesians 1:21), to eons (ages) to come (Ephesians 2:7), and to the eons (ages) in which the
mystery of Christ has been hidden, which refers to previous eons (Ephesians 3:9).
For those who have an interest in a further understanding of the word eon , along with such expressions
as the eon of the eons or the eons of the eons , please see my book titled The Purpose and Plan of the
Eons , Volume 1, Chapter 1, The Eons .
The Upward Call: #03-09131
by: Stuart H. Pouliot
So shall it be at the end of the world [aiōn]. (Matthew 13:49 KJV)
…throughout all ages [generations], world [aiōn] without end. (Ephesians 3:21 KJV
[NASB])
How can the world have an end and also have no end? In other words, the King James clearly states
that the world both has an end and is endless. It just cannot be! The problem starts with the fact that
the word world has no place in these verses, for the Greek word is aiōn , not the word kosmos ( world ).
How are we to resolve such disparities? The answer lies with the Hebrew text. It is generally
acknowledged that when a verse from the Hebrew text is quoted in the Greek text, the meaning of the
Hebrew establishes the meaning of the Greek. Case in point is Psalm 45:6, which is quoted in Hebrews
1:8: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever [aiōn] and ever [aiōn].” The writer, under the inspiration
of the spirit of God, is conveying the exact same thought as olam va ad , which means “the age and
beyond.”
Thus, we must conclude that olam and aiōn have the same meaning, which means that aiōn refers to an
indefinite period of time such as an age or an eon. All confusion would be cleared up if interpretative
bias was thrown overboard, so to speak, and the word aiōn uniformly translated using the words age or
eon . Some of the more literal translations attempt to do this. I prefer the Concordant Version, which
uses the word eon .