The Classics Never Use Aion To Denote Eternity

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It appears, then, that the classic Greek writers, for more than six centuries before the Septuagint was written, used the word aion and its adjective, but never once in the sense of endless duration.

When, therefore, the Seventy translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, what meaning must they have intended to give to these words? It is not possible, it is absolutely insupposable that they used them with any other meaning than that which they had held in the antecedent Greek literature. As the Hebrew word meaning horse, was rendered by a Greek word meaning horse, as each Hebrew word was exchanged for a Greek word denoting precisely the same thing, so the terms expressive of duration in Hebrew became Greek terms expressing a similar duration. The translators consistently render olam by aion, both denoting indefinite duration.

We have shown, p. 18, that the idea of eternity had not entered the Hebrew mind when the Old Testament was written. How then could it employ terms expressive of endless duration? We have now shown that the Greek literature uniformly understands the word in the sense of limited duration. This teaches us exactly how the word was taken at the time the Septuagint was prepared, and shows us how to read understandingly the Old Testament.

When at length the idea of eternity was cognized by the human mind, probably first by the Greeks, what word did they employ to represent the idea? Did they regard aion-aionion as adequate? Not at all, but Plato and Aristotle and others employ aidios, and distinctly use it in contrast with our mooted word. We have instanced Aristotle,(37) "The entire heaven is one and eternal [aidios] having neither beginning nor end of a complete aion, [life, or duration.]" In the same chapteraidiotes is used to mean eternity.

Plato,(38) calls the gods aidion, and their essence aidion, in contrast with temporal matters, which are aionios. Aidios then, is the favorite word descriptive of endless duration in the Greek writers contemporary with the Septuagint. Aion is never thus used.

When, therefore, the Seventy translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek they must have used this word with the meaning it had whenever they had found it in the Greek classics. To accuse them of using it otherwise is to charge them with an intention to mislead and deceive.

Mr. Goodwin well observes: "Those lexicographers who assign eternity as one of the meanings of aion, uniformly appeal for proofs to either theological, Hebrew or Rabbinnical Greek, or some species of Greek subsequent to the age of the Seventy, if not subsequent to the age of the apostles, so far as I can ascertain. I do not know of an instance in which any lexicographer has produced the usage of ancient classical Greek, in evidence that aion means eternity. ANCIENT CLASSICAL GREEK REJECTS IT ALTOGETHER. . . . " By ancient he means the Greek existing in ages anterior to the days of the Seventy.

Thus it appears that when the Seventy began their work of giving the world a Greek version of the Old Testament that should convey the exact sense of the Hebrew Bible, they must have used aion in the sense in which it then was used. Endless duration is not the meaning the word had in Greek literature at that time. Therefore the word cannot have that meaning in the Old Testament Greek. Nothing can be plainer than that Greek Literature at the time the Hebrew Old Testament was rendered into the Greek Septuagint did not give to Aion the meaning of endless duration. Let us then consider the Old Testament Usage.

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