The True Idea

Undoubtedly the definition given by Schleusner is the accurate one, 'Duration determined by the subject to which it is applied.' Thus it only expresses the idea of endlessness when connected with what is endless, as God. The word great is an illustrative word. Great applied to a tree, or mountain, or man, denotes different degrees, all finite, but when referring to God, it has the sense of infinite. Infinity does not reside in the word great but it has that meaning when applied to God. It does not impart it to God, it derives it from him. So of aionion; applied to Jonah's residence in the fish, it means seventy hours; to the priesthood of Aaron, it signifies several centuries; to the mountains, thousands of years; to the punishments of a merciful God, as long as is necessary to vindicate his law and reform his children; to God himself, eternity. What great is to size, aionios is to duration. Human beings live from a few hours to a century; nations from a century to thousands of years; and worlds, for aught we know, from a few to many millions of years, and God is eternal. So that when we see the word applied to a human life it denotes somewhere from a few days to a hundred years;

when it is applied to a nation, it denotes anywhere from a century to ten thousand years, more or less, and when to God it means endless. In other words it practically denotes indefinite duration, as we shall see when we meet the word in sacred and secular literature. Dr. Beecher well observes:

*"There are SIX AGES, or aggregates of ages, involving temporary systems, spoken of in the Old Testament. These ages are distinctly stated to be temporary, and yet to them all are applied olam and its reduplications, as fully and emphatically as they are to God. This is a positive demonstration that the word olam, as affirmed by Taylor and Fuerst in their Hebrew Concordances means an indefinite period or age, past or future, and not an absolute eternity. When applied to God, theIDEA OF ETERNITY IS DERIVED FROM HIM, AND NOT FROM THE WORD. . . . This indefinite division of time is represented olam (Greek aion). Hence we find, since there are many ages, or periods, that the word is used in the plural. Moreover, since one great period or age can comprehend under it subordinate ages, we find such expressions as an age of ages, or an olam of olams, and other reduplications.

"In some cases, however, the reduplication of olam seems to be a rhetorical amplification of the idea, without any comprehension of ages by a greater age. This is especially true when olam is in the singular in both parts of the reduplication, as "To the age of the age."

"The use of the word in the plural is decisive evidence that the sense of the word is not eternity, in the absolute sense, for there can be but one such eternity. But as time past and future can be divided by ages, so there may be many ages, and an age of ages."

* Christian Union.

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