[B-Greek] word meaning

Steven Lo Vullo slovullo at mac.com
Fri May 23 16:01:34 EDT 2003

On Friday, May 23, 2003, at 09:36 AM, Brian A. Phillips wrote:

> He interprets the NT Greek very literally.
> 1. He says that each Greek word has exactly one, and only one real 
> meaning.  True?  I think he would look at all the ways a word is used 
> and attempt a definition that fit each passage.  Is that possible?

Not only is it not possible, it's downright silly. Since it only takes 
one exception to disprove a universal contention such as your friend's, 
we don't need to look far for evidence disproving his assertion. Take, 
for example, the verb KATALUW. In Luke 9.12 and 19.7 it means something 
like "to lodge," while in Luke 21.6 it means "to be torn down." Only by 
the most inventive sophistry can this word in these respective contexts 
be said to share "one and only one real meaning." What was it that 
Jesus "tore down" at  Zacchaeus's house? Or in what sense were the 
stones comprising the temple "lodged" or "housed"?

> 2. He says that AION cannot ever mean “eternal” in the NT – that it is 
> an AGE, with an unspecified amount of time, but having a definite 
> beginning and end.  An example of his reasoning is the question that 
> the disciples asked Jesus: “What will be the sign of the end of the 
> age”.  If this is translated here as “eternity/forever” (as it is in 
> many other passages in several popular translations), it would not 
> make any sense at all (what will be the sign of the end of eternity).  
> I think he has a good point with that word, but what I’m really 
> interested in are the phrases “AION of AIONS”, or “AIONS of AIONS” 
> (note the plural for both aion's in the last one).  My friend would 
> say these should be taken literally, like the Holy of Holies, and King 
> of Kings – that they should be understood as “an age apart from all 
> the other ages”, and “two ages apart from all other ages”.  Most 
> translations use “forever” or “forever and ever” for these phrases.  
> Which is right?  Are both translations legitimate (for the phrases)?  
> Bill Mounce makes reference to the Jewish concept of time in Basics of 
> Biblical Greek, but he doesn't go into detail.  Did the Septuagint 
> translate Hebrew terms for "everlasting" as "age of ages",... or, in 
> other words, is the phrase "age of ages" a Greek idiom meaning 
> forever?  Does Koine Greek have idioms?

Of course Greek has idioms, and NT Greek includes idioms influenced by 
Semitic modes of expression, not the least of which are those idioms 
including the word AIWN, as has been pointed out already. While AIWN 
**may** refer to an age with a definite beginning and end, the context 
determines whether or not this is so. Apparently your friend would have 
us believe that the very fig tree Jesus cursed EIS TON AIWONA (Matt 
21.19) will indeed grow fruit once this specified "age" comes to its 
conclusion! Or that when Jesus promised the woman at the well that she 
would not thirst EIS TON AIWNA (John 4.14) he meant only for a limited 
time, after which she would be thirsty again! Or that when Jesus 
promised in John 6.51 that if anyone ate the bread he was talking about 
he would live EIS TON AIWNA, he simply meant for a limited period of 
time, even though the context makes it abundantly obvious that this is 
not the case? What can EIS TON AIWNA mean in John 6.58 if not 
"forever"? Is Jesus there saying that the fathers ate manna and 
eventually died, and whoever eats the bread Jesus offers will likewise 
eventually expire once this "age" is over? Did the Jews indicate by EIS 
TON AIWNA in John 12.34 their belief that the Messiah would remain only 
for a specified age with a beginning and an end? When Paul says in Rom 
1.25 that God is blessed EIS TOUS AIWNAS does he really mean only for a 
limited number of ages? Or does he mean to tell his readers with the 
same prepositional phrase in Rom 11.36 that God deserves glory for a 
limited number of ages? Or--silliest of all--should we take the angel 
of Rev 10.6 to mean by EIS TOUS AIWNAS TWN AIWNWN that God lives only 
for two ages apart from all other ages? We could go on and on, but you 
get the idea.

Let's look at this from another angle. Mark 3.29 says:


Note here that the person who commits blasphemy against the Holy Spirit 
does not have forgiveness EIS TON AIWNA precisely because he is guilty 
of an eternal sin (AIWNIOU hAMARTHMATOS). Why would such a person have 
forgiveness withheld for only a limited period of time when his sin is 
an eternal one? Is Jesus really saying, "Whoever blasphemes against the 
Holy Spirit, does not have forgiveness for a limited amount of time, 
but is guilty of an eternal sin"? What sense does ALLA ("but") make 
here if this is so? Or would your friend suggest that the cognate 
adjective of AIWN here, namely AIWNIOS, be taken to mean "lasting for 
an age with a beginning and an end."  If so, I wonder how the NT has 
anything at all to say about anything truly eternal. In this case we 
would have to assume that when the man of Mark 10.17 runs up to Jesus 
and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life (ZWHN AIWNION), 
what he really had in  mind was not everlasting life, but a temporary 
life confined to a limited age!

One more example taken from Luke 1.33:


What is immediately apparent from this example is that when Luke says 
that the Messiah will reign into the ages (BASILEUSEI ... EIS TOUS 
AIWNAS) he means that his kingdom will have **no end** (THS BASILEIAS 
AUTOU OUK ESTAI TELOS). Thus, the reign that lasts EIS TOUS AIWNAS is 
the rule that will have no end. Note how EIS TOUS AIWNAS is clearly 
characterized as being endless.

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI

More information about the B-Greek mailing list