RE:EIS TON AIWNA in class. Gk.?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Sep 27 1997 - 19:31:28 EDT

At 8:45 AM -0500 9/27/97, Clayton Bartholomew wrote:
>Rod Decker Wrote:
>EIS TON AIWNA (or the plural, EIS TOUS AIWNAS) is a common NT idiom; I had
>assumed that this reflected the Jewish concept of the age to come, but was
>somewhat surprised to note that BAGD lists a number of classical references
>to the same phrase (p. 27).
>Any observations as to how extensive this phrase is in classical literature
>and or the relationship of the classical use to the Jewish and/or biblical
>(Neither TDNT nor NIDNTT have much to say about AIWN in classical--less
>than they usually provide--and neither one comments on the idioms EIS TON
>AIWNA, etc.)
>I took a look in BAGD, LSJ, L&Nida , Spicq, Lust Eynikel Hauspie, EDNT, the
>commentaries by H.B. Swete, and R.H. Charles. I didn't check Kittels since
>already looked there.
>The longest discussion I found on classical usage of AIWN was in EDNT (vol 1,
>p44), but the exact phrase EIS TWN AIWNA is not cited from pre-Christian
>literature except for LXX. The phrase EIS hAPANTA TON AIWNA is quoted
>from Lycurgus 106. The longest list of classical sources for EIS TWN AIWNA
>was in BAGD which you already know about.
>I did the research and have found nothing illuminating on your topic.
>This little exercise lends support to the argument that Edward has stressed
>repeatedly. Use your BAGD and LSJ! There is a lot of good information stuffed
>into these reference books. Takes a little patience to get it out however.

I had hoped that Will Wagers might have some input into this one. I'll add
some slightly speculative grist, since Clay has done the real spade work
and I don't have any really useful reference works here at home. So what
I'll offer here is chiefly speculation.

(1) I really can't remember seeing AIWN used anywhere in the classical
Greek texts--at least in the staple items of classical literature. A place
worth checking might be F.E. Peters' _Greek Philosophical Terms_, but
that's at the office and I'll wait until Monday before checking that.

(2) Although the idea of cyclical recurrent time is classical (Plato: "Time
is the moving image of eternity," by which he means the spans measured by
the movements of heavenly bodies), my impression is that the "great leap
forward" (if, in fact, it IS a move forward) is probably the coalescence of
Zoroastrian eschatology with its notion of a 12,000 year cycle between an
original creation and the ultimate victory of Ahura Mazda over Ahriman and
Chaldaean astrology in the Hellenistic period. At some point, and I would
guess that it is AFTER Alexander's conquests, AIWN came to be used for the
Hebraic OLAM in the sense of a world-age, a period of time during which a
created world endures before it comes to an end and a new AIWN begins, so
that the OLAM/AIWN is at once a universe and a fixed period of time. As Rod
indicates, the common understanding (I've never actually heard or seen an
alternative view) is that the NT phrase EIS TON AIWNA was equivalent to "on
into the OLAM-HA-BA/Age-to-come." That may or may not in fact be true. What
I'm more curious about is the use of the plural so that we get EIS TOUS
AIWNAS and the Latin rendering, IN SAECULA SAECULORUM, which must mean "on
through endless cycles of time." I know, however, that the Gnostic systems
involved notions of successive and multiple AIWNES, and that's what I
thought someone like Will might illuminate--or perhaps Greg Jordan, who not
so long ago was endeavoring to bring Gnostic notions to bear on the
Johannine prologue. I'd like to know more of the history of the word AIWN
and its meanings even if, and especially if, it is primarily a Hellenistic
rather than a Classical Greek term.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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