“of the ages” does not necessarily mean “eternal.” Briggs does not understand the subtleties of translating αἰώνιον


Briggs has a very successful blog, but everyone is at risk of the Peter Principle, and in a recent blog post, Briggs has stumbled onto a New Testament passage that he is not competent to translate.

Briggs argues that the Gospel of Matthew (25:41) supports the idea of an eternal hell.

Briggs wrote:

The goats won’t have it so good. If Jesus is who he claimed to be (and he is), then many will “go into everlasting punishment”. Everlasting is a long time. This is a promise from God Himself.

Source:

http://wmbriggs.com/post/26519/

 

Briggs is ignorant of ancient Greek.  But the Internet gives everyone access to Greek-English interlinear translations, so one need not learn all of Koine or Attic in order to criticize bad translations of the Gospels.

 

The key word here is αἰώνιον, which Briggs controversially translates as “eternal.”

What does that mean?

αἰών • (aiṓn) m (genitive αἰῶνος); third declension

lifetime
generation
a long period of time, eon, epoch, age
the current world
eternity

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B1%E1%BC%B0%CF%8E%CE%BD

αἰώνῐος • (aiṓnios) m (feminine αἰωνίᾱ, neuter αἰώνῐον); first/second declension

long-lasting
lasting for an age
lasting for life (of an office or title)
perpetual, eternal, everlasting

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B1%E1%BC%B0%CF%8E%CE%BD%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%82#Ancient_Greek

Where did Briggs go wrong in thinking that he could focus on the “eternity” interpretation and discard the other interpretations? I don’t know for sure, but I can guess:

an unbroken age,…eternity…n the Hebrew and rabbinical idea of the word עולָם (of which in the Sept. αἰών is the equivalent) combines in the Biblical and ecclesiastical writings…

https://biblehub.com/greek/165.htm

By reading the Greek literally, we see that the passage talks about “fire prepared of the ages, for the devil and his angels.” If the Devil predates human sinners, the meaning is that the fire was prepared before the age of humanity. It does not guarantee that the fire lasts forever; it does not guarantee that each sinner remains in the fire forever.

It is theologically convenient for various vested interests to claim that Hell exists. The actual text of Scripture is quite ambiguous about the nature of Hell, and entirely silent on whether human sinners remain in Hell eternally.

I imagine that I could be convinced of an eternal Hell, if only I could read an actual argument about it. However, all the toss-pots who preach an eternal Hell persist in using faulty logic and mistranslated Greek rather than actual arguments.

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1 Response to “of the ages” does not necessarily mean “eternal.” Briggs does not understand the subtleties of translating αἰώνιον

  1. BMan says:

    This is a subject I put maybe a 1,000 hours of study into over a decade.
    This fear tactic of eternal hell (IMO) is one of the strongholds jews have over Christians, even tho jews do not believe in any eternal torment.
    If someone understands the nature of reconciliation and corrective punishment, then one would understand the impossibility of an eternal tormenting God.

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