Page images

25." See Parkhurst for a similar explanation, but let the reader examine their proofs.

The word aion is compounded of aei, always; and on, being; which is interpreted by Parkhurst and others, always being." Yet he says, "it denotes duration, or continuance of time, but with great variety!" He allows that aei, always, signifies "ever in a restrained sense, that is, at some stated times, very frequently, continually." Acts 7: 51. and 2 Cor. 6: 10. to which he refers as proof of its meaning ever in an unrestrained sense, do not prove his point, for surely the Jews did not eternally resist the Spirit of God, nor did the apostle mean that he rejoiced eternally. Its sense seems evidently to be perseveringly, but not endless in duration. Had Parkhurst found any texts more to his purpose, no doubt but he would have quoted them. All the texts where he thinks aion means a proper eternity will be considered in their place.

It is a remark, which has often been made, that the adjective aionios cannot signify more than the noun from whence it is derived, for, if the latter only expresses limited duration, the former cannot express endless. A stream cannot rise higher than its fountain without mechanical force, nor can aionios express a longer duration than aion, without a forced construction of meaning. Though Parkhurst asserts, that it means "eternal, having neither beginning nor end," yet he allows that it signifies "the ages of the world, the times since the beginning of its existence." And adds "the Seventy frequently use this adjective for the Hebrew oulem." But from an examination of the texts in the Old Testament where this word occurs, the reader can judge for himself, if any thing conclusive can be drawn from it as to its expressing endless duration. From an examination of all the texts where it is used to express the duration of punishment, we

think it proved, that it does not express endless duration, nor does it even refer to punishment in a future state of existence. Whether aionios, its corresponding word in the New, does this, we shall see when we come to consider the passages in which it occurs. If it did, the one word certainly does not correspond to the other, for there is an inconceivable difference between limited and endless duration. All this difference is added by the New Testament writers to the word aionios, if it expresses the eternity of punishment. It has been said, that aionios when it stands alone, signifies duration without end. But how can it stand alone? For if an adjective, it must have some noun, either expressed or understood, with which it is connected, and which it qualifies. If a man should say-" eternal," the question would immediately be asked him, eternal what? If he meant to be understood, he would inform us what thing he considered to be eternal; such as-eternal God, eternal life, eternal punishment. It is the noun then, or the thing to which this word is applied, which must determine the matter as to the extent of duration expressed by it; and if aion, from which it is derived, does not express endless duration, but an age, how can the adjective express a longer duration, unless we say the word derived contains more than that from which it is derived, or the stream contains more, or rises higher than the fountain? Allowing it to be applied to God, who is without beginning or end, what does this prove? Can this make God so, or does it fix the meaning of this word as expressing endless duration? Not unless we say words expressing a limited time cannot possibly be applied to him: or if applied, must derive an unlimited, yea, infinite sense from such an application. Our orthodox friends would not reason so in other cases. terms good and great are adjectives, and are applied


to God. But do they contend that they are to be always understood in an infinite sense, or expressing an infinite degree when so applied? Surely not, for how could they in this case maintain their doctrine of infinite, endless misery? Seeing it is said, "the Lord is good unto all," and that "great is his mercy."

But again, the words are used in the plural number. But how can words capable of being used plurally signify a proper eternity? For eternity is one. Eternities are never spoken of. People speak of eternity to come, and eternity past, but still it is only one uninterrupted endless continuance. The past eternity had no beginning, nor had it an end when the future eternity began, for in this view it could not be a proper eternity as it had an end. In fact we cannot form a distinct, definite idea of eternity, for if this could be done, we must either be infinite ourselves or necessarily limit it.

In our English version I find aion rendered seven times never, once course, twice ages, thirty-seven times world, once without end, once eternal, twice ever, sixty-six times forever, and four times for evermore. In several places it occurs twice in the same text. The adjective aionios I find is rendered three times world, once forever, forty-one times eternal, and twenty-four times everlasting. As forever, eternal and everlasting, are English words which convey the same idea it is unnecessary to make any distinction in introducing the passages where they occur, whether the translation of aion or aionios. In rendering aion and aionios in the New Testament, our translators have given us considerable variety as they did in rendering olim in the Old Testament. In only two instances however, have they rendered them by the word age or ages. But many translations of the New Testament have been made since, where age is given as a better rendering of these words. It is, I believe,

now generally agreed by critics and commentators, both orthodox and otherwise, that age ought to be the rendering of this word in a variety of places, some of which shall be noticed in their place.


It is universally allowed, that aion and aionios are the words used in the Seventy's version in rendering the Hebrew word olim. A very slight inspection of this version will satisfy any one of its truth. It is well known that our Lord and his apostles quoted the Seventy's version. And Mr. Stuart observes that although the New Testament was written in Greek yet its idiom is Hebrew.' He calls it the Hebrew Greek of the New Testament.' Indeed the longer I study the two Testaments I am the more convinced, that in understanding the phraseology of the New, we must recur to the Old Testament for our explanations. The translators of our common version, have rendered these Hebrew and Greek words generally by the same English words, such as, world, everlasting, eternal, forever, and forever and ever. This is the case, whether the words are applied to God, or to punishment in the Old or New Testaments, nor is it intimated that the original words, or the words by which they are rendered, have a more vague and indefinite meaning in the former than they have in the latter. To an English reader, everlasting and forever are the same in both Testaments. If everlasting punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, it is not for want of as definite a word to express it, as is found in the New.

It is admitted by some that the Old Testament is silent on the subject of everlasting punishment, yet they contend that it is taught in the New, and that aion and aionios are the words used to express its duration. But why admit the former and contend for the latter? In both Testaments punishment is mentioned, and in both everlasting and forever are

applied to it. If it is found in one it ought to be found in both. Is it rational to suppose, that a doctrine of so much importance should be concealed for so many years? How can this be reconciled with the divine character? Was this the mystery which was kept hid from ages, and from generations, but is now revealed to us by the apostles? No New Testament writer intimates, that punishment under the old dispensation was only temporary in its duration, but under the new, was endless in its duration. All the Scripture writers speak of punishment in the same way, express its duration in similar language, nor would their readers suppose that the New Testament writers were believers in endless misery, and those of the Old not. It is generally allowed that the punishments threatened under the Old Testament were all of a temporal nature. The question may then be asked, whether this is not a mistaken view of the Old Testament punishments? That it is not, seems obvious from all the instances mentioned, and also from no other kind of punishment being recognized in the New, when the punishments under that dispensation are referred to. The New Testament, like the Old, speaks frequently of punishment. It will then be necessary to examine with care, all the texts in the New, where aion and aionios are rendered eternal, everlasting, or forever, and applied to punishment. Is it not possible that men may have been mistaken in affirming, that the punishments under the Christian dispensation are carried beyond death, and are of endless duration? May they not be temporal, as under the Mosaic dispensation, and why cannot the words eternal, everlasting, or forever, be applied to them, yet not endless in duration, just as well as to those under that dispensation? Christians do not seem to think of any punishment in this life for disobedience to God. No; it is all carried into a future state

« PreviousContinue »