An Analytical Study of Words

Chapter One

Definitions of Aion, Aionios


"Usage is always the decisive thing in determining the meanings of words."

"Over time, words often change meaning, sometimes even taking on an opposite one."


There will be a couple of places in this publication where a long list of references are cited which may be dull reading to some of you. But due to the importance of clearly understanding the meaning of these words, I ask that you bear with me in those two or three places. I want the reader to be absolutely certain that what I am presently in this book has been thoroughly researched.

Dictionaries only give the meaning of a word as it is used at the time the dictionary is written. Over time, words often change meaning, sometimes even taking on an opposite one. The word "let" in the 20th century usually means "to allow." But in King James' England, the word "let" often meant just the opposite-"to restrain." The word "suffer," had the meaning "let" in the 16th century. This meaning has been removed from the modern use of the word. As word meanings change, so will the definitions found in the dictionaries of that time period. "Carriage" was cargo four hundred years ago-today it describes the vehicle which carries the "carriage." At one time, a "gazette" was a low value coin which could purchase a newspaper. Today, the meaning of "a certain coin" has disappeared. A dictionary, unless it contains the etymology of the word, is usually of little to no help in determining the meaning of a word hundreds of years ago. Lexicons, concordances, and etymology books are needed to ascertain the true meaning of a word within a given culture and period of time.

Listed below are the definitions modern dictionaries give to the first set of words we want to look at. Keep in mind ... what they mean today and what they meant two thousand years ago, are two different subjects.

Olam, aion, and aonion are defined in dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries, and the like, as follows: (Here is one of those long listed I mentioned)

  • Page and Company's Business Man's Dictionary and Guide to English: Eon: A long space of time; cycle; forever; eternally; always; at all times.
  • New World Dictionary: Eon: Period of immense duration; an age; endless; for eternity.
  • Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Eon (n.): An immeasurable or indefinite period of time; incessantly; synonym of constantly, continuously, always, perpetually, unceasingly, everlastingly, endlessly.
  • Standard Unabridged Dictionary: Eon: An age of the universe; an incalculable period, constituting one of the longest conceivable divisions of time; a cosmic or geological cycle; an eternity, or eternity. The present age, or eon, is time; the future age, or eon, is eternity.
  • Shedd Theological Dictionary (vol. II, p. 683): Eonian: pertaining to, or lasting for eons; everlasting; eternal.
  • Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon: Aion: A period of existence; one's lifetime; life; an age; a generation; a long space of time; an age. A space of time clearly defined and marked out; an era, epoch, age, period or dispensation.
  • Thesaurus Dictionary of the English Language: Eon: An age of the universe.
  • Earnest Weekly's Etymological Dictionary of Modern English: Aeon: Age.
  • Universal Dictionary: Aeon: A period of immense duration; an age.
  • Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon: Aionios: (1) without beginning or end; that which has been and always will be. (2) without beginning. (3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.
  • Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible: Eternity: The Bible hardly speaks of eternity in a philosophical sense of infinite duration without beginning or end. The Hebrew word olam, which is used alone (Ps. 61:8) or with various prepositions (Ge. 3:22; 13:15, etc.) in contexts where it is traditionally translated "forever," means, in itself, no more than "for an indefinitely long period." Thus, me-olam does not mean "from eternity," but "of old" (Ge 6:4, etc.). In the N.T., aion is used as the equivalent of olam.
  • The New Testament in Modern Speech, by Dr. R. F. Weymouth: Eternal: Greek: "aeonion," i.e., "of the ages." Etymologically this adjective, like others similarly formed, does not signify "during," but "belonging to" the aeons or ages.
  • The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (vol. IV, p. 643): Time: The O.T. and the N.T are not acquainted with the conception of eternity as timelessness. The O.T. has not developed a special term for "eternity." The word aion originally meant "vital force," "life;" then "age," "lifetime." It is, however, also used generally of a (limited or unlimited) long space of time. The use of the word aion is determined very much by the O.T. and the LXX. Aion means "long distant uninterrupted time" in the past (Luke 1:10), as well as in the future (John 4:14).
  • Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Matt. 25:46): Everlasting punishment-life eternal. The two adjectives represent the same Greek word, aionios-it must be admitted (1) that the Greek word which is rendered "eternal" does not, in itself, involve endlessness, but rather, duration, whether through an age or succession of ages, and that it is therefore applied in the N.T. to periods of time that have had both a beginning and ending (Rom. 16:25), where the Greek is "from aeonian times;" our version giving "since the world began." (Comp. 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:3) -strictly speaking, therefore, the word, as such, apart from its association with any qualifying substantive, implies a vast undefined duration, rather than one in the full sense of the word "infinite."
  • Triglot Dictionary of Representative Words in Hebrew, Greek and English [this dictionary lists the words in this order: English, Greek, Hebrew] (p. 122): Eternal (see age-lasting). (p. 6): English: age-lasting; Greek, aionios; Hebrew, le-olam.
  • A Greek-English Lexicon, by Arndt and Gingrich: (1) Aion: time; age; very long time; eternity. (2) A segment of time; age. (3) The world. (4) The aion as a person: aionios, eternal. 1. Without beginning. 2. Without beginning or end. 3. Without end.
  • Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, by Abbott-Smith: Aion: A space of time, as a lifetime, generation, period of history, an indefinitely long period-an age, eternity.
  • Hasting's Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. I, p. 542, art. Christ and the Gospels): Eternity. There is no word either in the O.T. Hebrew or in the N.T. Greek to express the abstract idea of eternity. (vol. III, p. 369): Eternal, everlasting-nonetheless "eternal" is misleading, inasmuch as it has come in the English to connote the idea of "endlessly existing," and thus to be practically a synonym for "everlasting." But this is not an adequate rendering of aionios which varies in meaning with the variations of the noun aion from which it comes. (p. 370): The chronois aioniois moreover, are not to be thought of as stretching backward everlastingly, as it is proved by the pro chronon aionion of 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2.

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