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Thread: The problems with Greek translation.

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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    The problems with Greek translation.

    As there are no Greek words for eternal or everlasting, the idea of eternal damnation and eternal life appears to falls apart on translation, apparently making the doctrine of eternal life and eternal punishment/damnation false?

    Quote;
    ''I understand the meaning of the word aionios (often appearing in genitive plural aionion) in Greek to carry the connotation of 'pertaining to the age' or 'age enduring.' The word is a form of the word we have borrowed into English from the Latin transliteration of the Greek as aeon or eon. The problems in interpreting it as the English “eternal” or “everlasting” are several.''


    Adaptation and Syncretism
    This pattern of starting with our cultural ideas, the looking for a Bible passage that could support it, leads us across the line into syncretism. There is very much unacknowledged syncretism in Western Christianity as a whole. This is one factor that makes western Christian forms different from the cultural and theological forms of non-western churches.

    These ancient churches in other cultural setting have also tried to make the Gospel relevant in their cultures and histories. This process of interpreting in our cultural context is a natural way our brains work to learn. We start where we are and relate new input to the concepts we already have from experiences we have had up to that point.

    Any change imposed upon a biblical word of concept is normally inadvertent and results from imperfect attempts to bridge the gap. We are cultural creatures. The abstract rational approach of the Modern mind, focused on the ability of Human Reason to grasp and understand Ultimate knowledge misleads us to thinking what we have understood up to a point is in fact the ultimate structure of reality and truth and God sees it! The original sin of wanting to know like God knows!

    The Age of Ages
    Now, with that background caution, back to the specific question. The English word “Everlasting” and the concept is entails is just wrong as an attempt to interpret what was entailed by the Greek term in its context. The New Testament terminology in Greek was interpreting the Hebrew messianic idea, as modified in the fulfillment claimed by the Christians, of the “Age” or “New Age” or “of the ages.” How literal or symbolic this was thought to be seems to vary.

    The usage should be considered somewhat of an idiom, because of the way it is used in the biblical texts and as an interpretation of the messianic concepts we claim as believers in Christ. The main idiomatic feature for us would be the plural. Perhaps this is for emphasis, a common Semitic/Hebrew way of making emphasis''.


    So in a nutshell, do the verses that threaten eternal damnation - "aionion" in Greek - actually refer to 'eternal' as we understand the word?

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    It hasn't got a great translation into English, certainly. You'd need to invent a word, I think, to get across the same sense implied by the term's Greek construction. "Agely", or "Centurian". We get "perpetual" from its Latin equivalent. Having the quality of a vast epoch of time. Eschatology aficianados are actually well aware of this, as several end-time beliefs stem from interpreting all of the instances thereof as referring to the "Age of the Church" or something along those lines to make room for their particular version of end-times whackery within a supposedly literal translation. But it's precise meaning in Greek, if it ever had just one, is now unknowable; our only source for this particular word in Koine dialect is the Bible itself.

    It would be impossible for any ancient world to encapsulate the modern theological sense of eternity, as that concept has been shaped and reshaped by centuries of conversation, and as with many things theological, consensus doesn't necessarily exist. Christians might argue, for instance, over whether someone in an eternally living state is consciously aware of the passage of time, or simply outside of the grasp and strictures of time altogether. I think it would be fairest to assume that Jesus did not think of himself as preaching a temporary truth, however, as he also clarified by describing those in eternal life as "never perishing".

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Ich verstehe nur "bahnhof".

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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    The issues with translation relating to Universal Salvation and Eternal damnation on the basis of translation of 'aionion' as a finite period of time;


    ''Universalism is the teaching that God will ultimately bring all people, in all times, and all places to a state of reconciliation with Him. In other words, everyone who ever lived will be saved. Consequently, universalism cannot allow the possibility of an eternal hell as a realistic biblical teaching.

    To get around the problem of the English Bibles translating Greek words into "eternal," "forever," and forevermore" when describing fire (Matt. 18:8) or torment (Rev. 20:10), the universalists go to the Greek. The Greek word that is translated into eternal is greek aionion"aionion." It comes from the Greek root "aion" meaning "age." This fact combined with the various uses of Greek words derived from the root "aion," are what the universalists use to attempt to show that "aionion" does not always mean "eternal" but can refer to a finite period of time.

    The truth is, they are right. It can be translated into a temporal sense as it is in Rom. 16:25: "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages (aionios1) past." But the reason it is translated that way is because of context, and that is extremely important. Context determines meaning, as you will see later.

    With the claim that "aionion" can be translated into something temporal and that its root means "age," the universalist then says that any reference to "eternal fire," "eternal torment," or "eternal punishment" is not really eternal. Instead of "eternal torment," it is "aionion torment." Instead of "eternal punishment," it is "aionion punishment." That way, to the universalist, there is no eternal hell, no eternal punishment, and no eternal damnation. Everyone will be saved.

    This approach by the Universalists can be confusing to someone who doesn't understand Greek, and that is part of the reason that Universalism has followers. It is true that the root "aion" means age. But just because a root means age does not mean that every word derived from that root means a limited duration of time. For example, consider this verse that is speaking about God:

    who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen, (1 Tim. 6:16)

    The context is obviously dealing with God's eternal nature. The word in Greek for "immortality" is "athanatos." The Greek word for death is "thanatos." The "a" in front of the word is the negator -- without, non, etc. It means that God is deathless; hence, immortal. This is an eternal quality of God. Likewise, the verse states that God has eternal dominion. The word for "eternal" is "aionios" which is derived from the Greek root "aion" which means age. But, God is not immortal for only an "age," nor is His dominion temporal. The word "eternal" is absolutely the best way to translate the Greek "aionion" because God is immortal and eternal. Therefore, it would be wrong to translate the verse by stating that God has "aionion" dominion. Rather, He has eternal dominion.''

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Yes, CARM is so well known for their well-balanced scholarship and assiduous research.

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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    It was an example of what is being argued, whether rightly or wrongly. There are of course other arguments.
    If CARM is wrong, it should be pointed out precisely where it goes wrong.

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    Just watched the a show on the Dead Sea scrolls. A copper scroll contains words for which there are no translations.

    My Oxford Commentary says the creation story can be interpreted as 'out of chaos god brought order' instead of god created everything.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Just watched the a show on the Dead Sea scrolls. A copper scroll contains words for which there are no translations.

    My Oxford Commentary says the creation story can be interpreted as 'out of chaos god brought order' instead of god created everything.
    True of almost all Ancient Near East origin myth cycles.

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    All translations are commentaries. Unless you are reading the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, you are in effect reading a commentary. Look at the 10 commandments. Everyone seems to think it says "Do Not Kill" When in effect it says "Do Not Murder" If you read the bible in the original Hebrew it is clipped and it assumes the reader knows more than the text lets on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HaRaAYaH View Post
    All translations are commentaries. Unless you are reading the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, you are in effect reading a commentary. Look at the 10 commandments. Everyone seems to think it says "Do Not Kill" When in effect it says "Do Not Murder" If you read the bible in the original Hebrew it is clipped and it assumes the reader knows more than the text lets on.
    I remember you. You has some good insights in the past.

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