From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Mar 23 1999 - 15:53:09 EST

At 1:29 PM -0600 3/23/99, Bill Ross wrote:
>Is it possible - grammatically - to translate it as "the whole lifetime",
>"from world age to world age", "lasting from age to age" etc as I've seen
>such in certain essays at the local theological library?
>I have a related question. Is there a Greek term which is not ambiguous that
>could have been used? Is there are koine word that explicitly and undeniably
>means "eternal?" Is it used in the NT?
>Some possibles:
>In other words, we would not choose "for ages" if we wanted to be clear that
>we meant "eternal." Would a Greek? Would they grab one of the words above?

We went through this a few days ago actually. ZWH AIWNIOS appears to be
used repeatedly in the NT for "everlasting life."

I think part of the difficulty we tend to have with ancient terms for
time-periods is we think in terms of linear time whereas the ancients
tended to think in terms of cyclical time; even if we depend upon the
observatories for the synchronization of our clocks, we tend not to relate
our sense of time to the regular cyclical movements of heavenly bodies. But
I think that is precisely what an AIWN is--a cyclical unit of time; I don't
know whether or not the Hebrew OLAM is essentially different from that or
not, but certainly there's a clear notion of distinct and successive
world-ages. I think the earlier expression in the NT for "forever" is EIS
TON AIWNA, meaning "into the age to come" = "into the New Creation." But
when the notion of an AIWN is conceived as a period of cyclical time, then
"forever and ever" becomes rather " cycles of cycles of time"--and I think
the basis of that notion is the sense that time is essentially a sequence
of cycles--or a cycle of sequences--or a cycles of sequential cycles. In
sum, I think that the linguistic formulation is based upon an effort to
express linear continuity in language that normally referred to cycles of

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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