Jewish Greek Usage

Josephus and Philo, Jewish Greeks, who wrote between the Old and New Testaments, use the word with the meaning of temporal duration, always.

Josephus applies the word to the imprisonment to which John the tyrant was condemned by the Romans; to the reputation of Herod; to the everlasting memorial erected in re-building the temple, already destroyed, when he wrote; to the everlasting worship in the temple, which in the same sentence he says was destroyed; and he styles the time between the promulgation of the law and his writing a long aion. To accuse him of attaching any other menaing than that of indefinite duration to the word, is to accuse him of stultifying himself. But when he writes to describe endless duration he employs other, and less equivocal terms. Alluding to the Pharisees, he says:

"They believe that the wicked are detained in an everlasting prison (eirgmon aidion) subject to eternal punishment" (aidios timoria) and the Essenes (another, Jewish sect) "Allotted to bad souls a dark, tempestuous place, full of never-ceasing punishment (timoria adialeipton) where they suffer a deathless punishment, (athanaton timorian).

Philo, who was contemporary with Christ, generally used aidion to denote endless, and always used aionion to describe temporary duration. Dr. Mangey, in his edition of Philo says he never used aionion for interminable duration. He uses the exact phraseology of Matthew, 25:46, precisely as Christ used it. "It is better not to promise than not to give prompt assistance, for no blame follows in the former case, but in the latter there is dissatisfaction from the weaker class, and a deep hatred and everlasting punishment (kolasis aionios) from such as are more powerful." Here we have the exact terms employed by our Lord, to show that aionion did not mean endless but did mean limited duration in the time of Christ.

Thus the Jews of our Savior's time avoided using the word aionion to denote endless duration, for applied all through the Bible to temporary affairs, it would not teach it.

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