An Analytical Study of Words

Chapter Six

What Saith The Translations?


"Because 'orthodox' scholars contradict themselves even within their own organizations, when it comes to these words, it often becomes difficult for sincere students to get their true original meaning."
The Old Scofield Bible, using the KJV, made 35 marginal notations for the noun aion, "eon," and three for the adjective aionios, "eonian."

The late Oxford University Press Sunday School Teacher's Bible corrected the noun eighteen times, and the adjective not at all. In the Companion Bible, Dr. E.W. Bullinger noted every occurrence of the noun and the adjective, and showed the corrected translation either in the marginal notes or in the appendix.

In the New Analytical Indexed Bible, by John A. Dickson, there are but three marginal corrections for the noun (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 6:5; 9:26). For the adjective only two marginal corrections are given, where "before times eternal" is offered, instead of "before the world began," as in the KJV.

The Newberry Bible gives many excellent marginal notes. Correct marginal readings appear for the noun, aion, more than 100 times. The adjective is left with no marginal notes, except at 1 Tim. 1:9 and Tit. 1:2, where "eternal times" is given.

In Rotherham's 1872 version, the word "age" is used consistently for the noun. In his later edition, 1897, the word "age" is used about 90 times. The adjective for aion is translated "age-abiding" quite consistently in both editions.

The ASV of 1901 translates the noun correctly in the text or in a marginal reading in 90 of its 123 occurrences. The adjective was translated "eternal" at Rom. 16:25; 2 Tim. 1:9; and Tit. 1:2, where the KJV used "world."

Professor Robert Young, author of Young's Analytical Concordance, as well as his Literal Translation of the Bible, uses "age" as the translation for the noun. The adjective is translated "age-during" in all except three of its occurrences. At 2 Tim. 1:9 and Tit. 1:2 he uses "time of the ages" and in Philemon, "age-duringly."

J.N. Darby's translation of the New Testament uses "age" 65 times for the noun, but in several instances a correct translation in the text is contradicted in his footnotes.

The Concordant Literal Translation of the New Testament uses "eon" for the noun consistently, and "eonian" for the adjective in all cases.

The preface of the Numeric English New Testament, by Ivan Panin has this comment (p. 16): "Aionios can safely be rendered eternal, but its noun in eis ton aiona cannot be rendered 'into eternity' or 'forever;' hence the aion phrases are rendered literally." Panin follows his rule, except at Acts 3:21 where he translates the phrase ap aionos "from of old," and in John's Evangel, where in eleven occurrences out of thirteen he does exactly what he had said could not be done. The adjective is translated "eternal," except at Rom. 16:25; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2; and Philemon 15.

In the New Testament or Covenant, by E.E. Cunnington, the noun is translated correctly either in the text or in the footnotes twenty-eight times, but "forever" in Matt. 21:19, where it is followed by his note, "Lit. For the age and elswhere." "For evermore" in this version at Rev. 1:6 is followed by this note: "Lit. to the ages of the ages (and elsewhere)." The first occurrence of the adjective eonian, at Matt. 18:8 he translated "eternal," but this is followed by his note: "Lit. age-long (aeonian) and elsewhere." Thus in Cunnington's version, if the notes are overlooked, one will not see the truth expressed by the Greek text.

Following, are some of the more modern English versions' renderings of these words. For reference purposes, we have listed all the different rendering of the words we are studying. The reader may skip this section if they desire. The manuscript for this book was prepared before several of Bibles which appeared in the 1980's and 1990's came out. That is why they are not included included in this section.

  • The New International Version of the New Testament translates aion, "eon," as the following: "forever" 27 times; "age" (including the plural "ages") 25 times; "forever and ever" 22 times; "never" 9 times; "world" 6 times; "eternal" twice, "the universe" twice, "ever" twice; "life" twice; "long ago" twice; and once each with "enduring," "forevermore," and "time began." The adjective is translated "eternal" 60 times; "everlasting" 4 times; "beginning of" twice, as well as once each with "ages past," "forever," life," and "good." This version translates Eph. 3:11, "according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." Can one explain how God could have an "eternal purpose which He accomplished?" An "eternal purpose" can never be accomplished, and if a purpose has been accomplished it cannot be "eternal."
  • In The Holy Bible, an American Translation, by William E. Beck, aion, "eon," is translated "forever" 50 times; "world" 29 times; "never" 8 times; "long ago" 3 times; "ever" 4 times; "ages" 4 times; and once each "time," "beginning," and "everlasting." At 1 Cor. 2:6, the noun was not translated, or the translation was so vague one could not tell what word might have been used, although it appears twice in this verse in the text. The adjective is translated "everlasting" 58 times; "forever" 6 times; and once each "long ago," "lasting forever," "world began," "eternally," and "ages ago."
  • In The Jerusalem Bible, aion, "eon," is translated "forever and ever" 23 times; "forever" 21 times; "world" 19 times; "never" 9 times; "age" 4 times; "time" 3 times; "assured" twice; and once each "eternal," "ever," "ancient times," "world began," "long age," "today," "age began," "last age," "all eternity," "centuries," "world's," "life," and "everything there is." For the adjective there are these: "eternal" 60 times; "everlasting" twice; "eternity" twice; and once each "eternally," "long ago," "endless ages," "beginning of time," and "forever."
  • In The New American Bible, The New Testament, by the St. Antony Guild, 1971 edition, aion, "eon," is translated "forever" 24 times; "age" (including the plural "ages") 23 times; "forever and ever" 15 times; "never" 10 times; "world" 9 times; "worldly" 3 times; "endless ages" twice; and once each "enduring," "worldly way," "life demand," "ancient times," "ever," "always," "long ago," "of old," "world's goods," "age-old," "eternity," "without end," "the universe," and "unending ages." The adjective is translated "eternal" 44 times; "everlasting" 17 times; and once each "endless," "without end," " last forever," "endless ages," "ages," "lasting," "lasts forever," and "world began."
  • In The Good News Bible, aion, "eon," is translated "forever" 23 times; "forever and ever" 22 times; "age" 13 times; "never" 7 times; "long ago" 3 times; "life" 3 times; "eternal" 3 times; "the universe" twice; and once each "now or ever," "live," "all time," "ages of time," "world's," "ever," and "time." The adjective is translated "eternal" 63 times; "beginning of time" twice; and once each "long ages," "lasts forever," " last forever," " all time," and "unfailing."
  • In The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, the noun "eon" is translated "system of things" 33 times; "forever" 28 times; "forever and ever" 20 times; "never" 6 times; "of old" 3 times; "eternity" twice, and once each "of old time," "eternal," "ever," and "indefinite past." The interlinear was translated consistently "age" for the singular and "ages" for the plural. The adjective "eonian" is translated "everlastingly" 65 times; "longlasting" 3 times; and "forever" once. In the interlinear, it is incorrectly translated "everlasting," except at Philemon 15 where it is "everlasting(ly)."

This is a time of apostasy, so while some groups do teach and believe the truth concerning the eons, others have departed from what the Scriptures say, not only about the eons, but also about equally vital truths.

Although it would seem several translators, such as those cited above, realize that aion and aionios cannot be construed to mean endless time, yet they refuse to use a word which more closely expresses the Greek. Rather, they have chosen to use the inconsistent renderings that have been shown in this book. The learned Catholic men who translated and authorized The Jerusalem Bible and The New American Bible seem to be oblivious of the fact that the large Catholic Bible dictionary titled, The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible says (p. 693):

ETERNITY: The Bible hardly speaks of eternity in the philosophical sense of infinite duration without beginning or end. The Hebrew word olam, which is used alone (Ps. 61:8; etc.) or with various prepositions (Gn. 3:22; etc.) in contexts where it is traditionally translated as 'forever,' means in itself no more than 'for an indefinitely long period.' Thus me olam does not mean 'from eternity' but 'of old' (Gn. 6:4, etc.). In the N.T. aion is used as the equivalent of olam.

Here the translators have consistently ignored what their own "authorities" tells them, and have used words which do convey the idea of endless time. Because "orthodox" scholars contradict themselves even within their own organizations, when it comes to these words, it often becomes difficult for sincere students to get their true original meaning. The following letter illustrates the point.


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