RE:EIS TON AIWNA in class. Gk.?

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Sun Sep 28 1997 - 17:12:36 EDT

Will Wagers wrote,

>>>>>Hi Rolf,

Your conclusion puzzles me, since I would have thought that "later
rabinnical use" would almost surely have been influenced by the
Greek conception. And, TDNT claims that the NT borrows the doctrine
of the two aeons from Jewish apocalyptic lit., which, because of the
timing, would seem a result of contact with the Greek, Persian, or
some syncretistic influence. Can it be mere coincidence that the
Jews begin writing of a "coming age" just when Greek astrology
reaches them ? Much of the apocalyptic symbolism is astral, and, as
I mentioned, Hellenistic synagogues were often "decorated" with
astrological signs, as are Egyptian temples, e.g. Dendereh. Astrologically,
the "quality" of the age is determined by its ruler, whether it be
Augustus Caesar, Aion, or Jesus. It is interesting that the NT and Jewish
writings tend not to personify AIWN, as do most other Hellenistic
start-up religions, yet one has a kingly Messiah with cosmological
origins (esp. Jn) in the flesh and the other expects one. TDNT seems
more willing to accept Persian influence than Greek on this word.

My point is probably better argued on IOUDAIOS, but I just thought I'd
mention it.>>>>>>>

Dear Will,

You are of course right when you say that the rabbis who lived around the
turn of our era were influenced both by Greece and Persia. However, most of
their beliefs came from the OT. In an earlier thread about the
tetragrammaton, I for instance gave quotations showing that the Pharisees
for some time resisted strongly the Greek thought that God is nameless and
continued to pronounce T. So we cannot take Greek (or Persian) influence
for granted, but each case must be studied in its own right.

My claim that the use of AIWN as a period of time characterized by
different circumstances and things is more in line with later rabbinical
use than with the use of Ťolam/Ťalam in the OT, does not exclude any origin
of the word, be it Greek or Persian or whatever. Jesus, who often used
AIWN, would use it (if he spoke Greek) or ŤOlam/Ťalam (if he spoke Hebrew
or Aramaic) in a way understandable for his audience. If we, however, look
at the context in which Jesus used the word, it seems to me that his use
was influenced by the book of Daniel rather than by extrabiblical sources.
The discussion of TDNT is very specualtive, and there are not only two
aeons mentioned in the NT but several (1 Cor 10:11; Heb 9:26).

In his Olivet discourse Jesus quotes Daniel at least trice, once even by
name. (Matt 24:15,21,30). In 24:3 he uses the words SUNTELEIAS TOU AIWNOS,
and the same combination of words is used in Matt 13:39,40,49 and 28:20. In
the Hebrew text of Daniel we find the words et kets ("time of the end") in
Dan 11:13,35 and 12:4. The Greek version of Daniel has KAIROU SUNTELEIAS.
Thus SUNTELEIA ("conclusion") is found both in Daniel and in the words of
Jesus. In the Aramaic portion of Daniel, the word Ťalam is found 18 times
with the meaning "eternity". In the Hebrew portion, Ťolam is found 4 times
(Dan 9:24: 12:2,3,7) with the same meaning. These 22 occurrences are
translated with Greek AIWN. This suggests that when Daniel was written,
Ťalam/Ťolam only referred to time, and that when the Greek translators
worked with Daniel`s text, either AIWN only referred to time, or because
AIWN consistently was used in other OT books for time, they also choose to
use it exclusively for time in Daniel, while KAIROS ("a particular time",
count noun) was used for et.

When Jesus prophesied about the "time of the end" he used SUNTELEIA, which
evidently still had the meaning "conclusion", but instead of KAIROS he used
AIWN (he used KAIROI in Luke 21:24 for "the times of the nations"). This
suggests that `olam/Ťalam and AIWN in the days of Jesus no longer was used
only to signify "indefinite time" or "eternality" but also was used for an
age with certain characteristics. Something corroborating this is the words
of Martha in John 11:24 "I know he will rise in the resurrection EN THi
ESCATHi hHMERA". Her words show that this was a normal belief among the
people, and it can hardly have any other origin than the words of Daniel
(12:13 speaks of his resurrection EIS SUNTELAIAN hHMERWN). Thus Martha`s
words show how beliefs from the OT saturated the common people in the days
of Jesus, even though we have no reports of this particular belief before
we read her words.

My conclusion therefore, is that the first place we should search to find
the origin or background of NT words is in the OT, and only when there is
clear evidence for an extra-biblical origin should this be accepted. The
half of the expression about the time of the end (SUNTELEIA) had the same
meaning in both Daniel`s and JesusŤ days.To designate the other half,
KAIROS was the right word in Daniel`s days, but the new meaning of AIWN
made this word more suitable in the days of Jesus.

(In my former post in this thread I referred to a post by Michael. I should
have written Clayton instead.)


Rolf Furul
University of Oslo

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