Home > Kingdom of God, Theology > Age or Eternity – translating the Greek “aion” correctly

Age or Eternity – translating the Greek “aion” correctly

The Jewish hope all along was the messianic age. They call it the “Olam Haba”, that is “the Age to Come“. It is the Kingdom of God or more reverently, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jews often avoid calling the name of God that they may not blaspheme, thus referring to Him as “Hashem” – that is, “the Name” – or other ways. We find a good example in Revelation where God is referred to as “the One sitting on the throne” or as “who was, who is and who is to come”, but very seldom as “God”.

The mission of John the Baptist was preparation for the Kingdom, and Jesus picked up from where John left off. All his teaching was related to the Kingdom that was to be ushered in providing the nation turned and accepted him as their leader.

The Greek term “aionios”, translated “eternal” in Christian bibles, comes from the root “aion” (or in English we would say “eon”) literally meaning “age”. The setting of the gospels is Jewish and keeping in mind that the Jewish hope was (and is) “the Age to Come“, and knowing that Jesus’ message was about the Kingdom (Olam Haba = Age to Come), we may rightly conclude that when “aion” is used, the reference is to the Kingdom of God rather than to eternity, which is a possible, but not the primary meaning of the term, and doesn’t fit the Jewish setting.

There are many passages where Jesus talks about entering the Kingdom of Heaven/God. The righteous standard required was central in his teaching.

Now consider John 17:3 where Jesus is praying to the Father God:

“This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”

The term “eternal life” (”aionios zoe”) here, therefore, should more correctly be translated as “life belonging/pertaining to the Age”. Jesus’ thoughts are on the Kingdom of God, and tells us how to obtain an entry ticket.

We need to make sure that we correctly understand and follow these words. Read it, ask questions about it. Meditate on it and pray about it.

Categories: Kingdom of God, Theology
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