For Ever - a Mistranslation
For Ever – a Mistranslation
The words “for ever,” or “everlasting,” or “world” in the Bible are huge mistranslations. If you’ve read my article on the lake of fire, but still are skeptic, one major reason is probably because all the times “for ever” is used in the Bible and the hundreds of times you have heard it at church. Proving that “for ever” is a mistranslation is different than explaining the symbolism of the lake of fire or the barley overcomers. It will require many references. However, I will try to break it down and keep the argument as simple as possible. Here we go…
For Ever – Words and Definitions
There are two words that are translated as “for ever” in the Bible. The first is the Hebrew word olam used in the Old Testament. The second is the Greek word aion used in the New Testament.
According to Strong’s Concordance #5769, olam is a masculine noun meaning: long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world, in the KJV it is translated 439 times, ever 272 times, everlasting 63 times, old 22 times, perpetual 22 times, evermore 15 times, never 13 times, time 6 times, ancient 5 times, world 4 times, always 3 times, alway 2 times, long 2 times, more 2 times, never 2 times, miscellaneous 6 times.
According to Strong’s Concordance #165, aion is a masculine noun meaning: for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity, the worlds, universe, period of time, age, in the KJV it is translated 128 times, ever 71 times, world 38 times, never 6 times, evermore 4 times, age 2 times, eternal 2 times, miscellaneous 5 times.
Note that the definitions of these words according to Strong’s Concordance have a wide range. It says it means everything from a period of time and age all the way to everlasting. So which is it? I don’t think we can just use one source to define these words since it is so important. So let’s look at a lot:
“ETERNITY: The Bible hardly speaks of eternity in the philosophical sense of infinite duration without beginning or end. The Hebrew word olam, which is used alon (Ps. 61:8, etc.) or with various prepositions in contexts where it is traditionally translated as 'forever,' means in itself no more than 'for an indefinitely long period.' Thus, me olam does not mean 'from eternity' but 'of old' (Gn. 6:4, etc.). In the N.T. aion is used as the equivalent of olam.” – The Encyclopedia Dictionary of the Bible (Catholic Bible Dictionary), p. 693
“Time: The O.T. and the N.T. are not acquainted with the conception of eternity as timelessness. The O.T. has not developed a special term for 'eternity.' The word aion originally meant 'vital force,' 'life,' then 'age,' 'lifetime.' It is however also used generally of a (limited or unlimited long spaces of time. The use of the word aion is determined very much by the O.T. and the LXX. Aion means 'long distant uninterrupted time' in the past (Luke 1:10), as well as in the future (John :14).” – The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. IV, p. 643
“Olam (aeon) seems to be used much more for an indefinite than for an infinite time.” – The Parkhurst Lexicon
“Let me say to Bible students that we must be very careful how we use the word 'eternity.' We have fallen into great error in our constant usage of that word. There is no word in the whole Book of God corresponding with our 'eternal,' which as commonly used among us, means absolutely without end.” – G. Campbell Morgan, God’s Methods With Men, pp. 185-186
“Since, as we have seen, the noun aion refers to a period of time, it appears very improbable that the derived adjective aionios would indicate infinite duration, nor have we found any evidence in Greek writing to show that such a concept was expressed by this term.” – G.T. Stevenson, Time and Eternity, p. 63
“All the way through, it is never feasible to understand aionios as everlasting.” – Dr. Nigel Turner, Christian Worlds, p. 457
“What we have to learn is that the Bible does not speak of eternity. It is not written to tell us of eternity. Such a consideration is entirely outside the scope of revelation.” - Charles H. Welch, An Alphabetical Analysis, Vol. I, p. 52
“Etymologically this adjective, like others similarly formed, does not signify 'during,' but 'belonging to' the aeons or ages.” – Dr. R.F. Weymouth, The New Testament in Modern Speech, p. 657
“Matt. 25:46: Everlasting punishment—life eternal. The two adjectives represent the same Greek word, aionios-it must be admitted that the Greek word which is rendered 'eternal' does not, in itself, involve endlessness, but rather duration, whether through an age or succession of ages, and that it is therefore applied in the N.T. to periods of time that have had both a beginning and ending (Rom. 16:25).” – Elliot’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
“Eternal, everlasting-nonetheless 'eternal' is misleading, inasmuch as it has come in the English to connote the idea of 'endlessly existing,' and thus to be practically a synonym for 'everlasting.' But this is not an adequate rendering of aionios which varies in meaning with the variations of the noun aion from which it comes.” – Hasting’s Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, pp. 369-370
“The adjective aionios is like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective in themselves carries the sense of 'endless' or 'everlasting.' Anionios means enduring through or pertaining to a period of time.” – Dr. Martin Vincent, Word Studies of the New Testament (Vol. IV, p. 59)
“Since aion meant, ‘age,’ aionios means, properly, ‘belonging to an age,’ or ‘age-long,’ and anyone who asserts that it must mean ‘endless’ defends a position which even Augustine practically abandoned twelve centuries ago. Even if aion already ‘eternity,’ which is not the case in the classic or Hellenistic Greek – aionios could still mean only ‘belonging to eternity’ and not ‘lasting through it.” – Dr. Farrar, Mercy and Judgment, p. 378
From all of these sources, the consensus is that “for ever” is not biblical. It is more likely that the meaning of olam and aion is an age or period of time. Now let’s look at the biblical evidence:
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