An Analytical Study of Words

Chapter Four

Apparent Contradictions


"If it is insisted that aionios means everlasting, this statement is absurd. It is impossible that anything should take place 'before everlasting times.'"

"Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate."

"Endlessness is expressed by such particles as 'not,' 'un-,' 'in-,' '-less.'"


The Scriptures, the ultimate authority for God's use of words, use the adjective aionios in the Greek New Testament thus: 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2 "pro chronon aionion," "before times eonian." KJV: "before the world began." ASV: "before times eternal." As mentioned previously, since these verses tell of time before the eons, eonian times cannot be "eternal." Eternity has no beginning, so nothing can be pro, "before." The ASV is one of our better translations in the English language. With all due respect to the committee which worked at making that version, let it be said its members missed the meaning of this phrase and translated it with nonsensical terms. Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, in his Word Studies of the New Testament (vol. IV, p. 291): "If it is insisted that aionios means everlasting, this statement is absurd. It is impossible that anything should take place 'before everlasting times.'" The phrase "before times eternal" is actually a contradiction in three words. The ASV margin reads: "long ages ago;" a much better translation.

Ezekiel 16:55 says, "When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate." Since this scripture refers to a restoration of Sodom, its judgment cannot be for "eternity." In Jude, the Greek adjective aionios, eonian, is used when the judgment of Sodom is mentioned.

Jude 7 states that Sodom is an example of puros aioniou dikên hupechousai, "experiencing the justice of fire eonian." KJV: "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." In this translation, the KJV at Jude 7 contradicts that of Ezekiel 16:50-56. Those visiting the area today see no fire, for if our archaeologists are correct in locating its former site, it lies beneath a sea. Many such seeming contradictions would not exist in the KJV had the Greek word been translated correctly to express limited time, instead of "eternal."

Philemon tells of a runaway slave who was converted by Paul to believing in the risen Christ. This slave was returned to his master, Philemon. Paul writes to Philemon, saying (v. 15), echoristê pros horan hina aionion auton apechês, "he was separated for an hour that you may be receiving him as an eonian repayment." The KJV says: "He therefore departed for a season that thou shouldst receive him forever." This translation seems to teach "eternal slavery." Correctly translated, there is no problem.

At Romans 16:25, the ASV reads, "Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept in silence through times eternal." If this verse is teaching of a mystery kept in silence through "times eternal," the mystery would never have been made known. The context in which this verse lies shows that aiÖnios, eonian, cannot be referring to "eternal" or "endless" time, for the verse following (v. 26) says: "but is now manifested." If we are to understand "eternal" to refer to unlimited time, then how could the mystery now be manifested? The KJV says, "which has been kept secret since the world began, but is now manifested." The translators recognized that limited time was in view.

The Greek text of this passage reads, "to de dunameno humas stopixai kata to euagelion mou kai kêrugma iêsou christou kata apokalupsin musteriou chronois aioniois sesigemenou phanerothentos de nun." "Now to Him Who is able to establish you according to my evangel, and the heralding of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of a secret having been hushed in times eonian, yet manifested now." Again, there is no contradiction when the translation is faithful to the Greek text, by simply transliterating the word aionios into the English word "eonian." The world is not that which is in view here, but time.

Many present the argument, "If aionios, eonian, does not mean endless time, then the believers do not have eternal, or everlasting life. The word is used at Romans 16:26 concerning God, and surely He is 'eternal;' therefore, the word must mean unlimited." As has been shown, the word in itself refers to limited time. However, the Greek does have a way of expressing endlessness by using words other than eon or eonian, such as in Luke 1:33: ouk estai telos, "there will be no end." Endless life is spoken of at Hebrews 7:16 thus: zoâs akatalutou, "indissoluable life." The margin of the ASV: "indissoluable life." KJV: "endless life."

Believers do have endless life, for 1 Cor. 15:42 says the dead will be raised in "incorruption," and 1 Cor. 15:53 speaks of "deathlessness," or "immortality" (Greek: aphtharsia and athanasia) Endlessness is expressed by such particles as "not," "un-," "in-," "-less." Death will ultimately be abolished (see 1 Cor. 15:16), and when death is abolished, all that can remain is endless life for all. First Corinthians 15:22 in its context says that life will be IN CHRIST, where there will be no more dying, and those in the resurrection here mentioned will be incorruptible and immortal (see 1 Cor. 15:42, 53).


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