Does "foreverS and everS" Make Sense to You?
By Gary Amirault
This article deals with one of the leading mistranslations of the Greek New Testament into English. Most leading selling English Bible translations contain this error. Some of the Bibles that contain this great error are: the King James Version, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, the Living Translation, the Amplified Bible, all Catholic versions as well as many others. This article serves only as an introduction to this most important topic. There is a list of other works at the end of the article for those who want to prove out this serious error further.
This one single error has caused much of Christianity to completely misrepresent the True God of the Christian Bible. If one accepts the proofs contained in this article, they will find themselves in direct conflict with much of "traditional" Christianity. Only a few of those reading this article will take the step of faith to turn aside from the traditional stand and repent, that is, change their minds and stand for the truth. But as we have seen from many Bible stories, God doesn't need a majority to accomplish His purposes in this earth. A "remnant" will do just fine.
Question: If it was found to be true that the concept of God having created a place of "everlasting punishment" called Hell was false, would that change the world's view of God, of Christianity, of themselves and their position with God?
The answer is an obvious "Yes!" And that is precisely what the world will learn in the next few years that God loves them and always has loved them and it has NEVER entered His mind to eternally torture anyone. This truth will change many people's outlook on life, themselves and their neighbors. This article is a Scriptural baby step towards proving that the Christian Bible in its original form NEVER taught a place of being "tormented for ever and ever." This is a gross mistranslation!
"In Hebrew and Greek, the words rendered 'everlasting' have not this sense. They signify a long duration of time, a period, whence the phrase, 'during these eternities and beyond.'" Dr. Lammenois
"All the way through it is never feasible to understand 'aionios' (Greek word translated eternal, everlasting, and for ever in many English Bible translations.) as everlasting." Dr. Nigel Turner
"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 " Dr. G. Campbell Morgan
"'Olam (the Hebrew for aion) simply signifies for a long time. The Hebrew Scriptures do not contain any doctrine of everlasting punishment." Rabbi Loewe
These statements from leading Greek and Hebrew scholars may come as a shock to many Christians. One will not hear statements like the ones above in a typical Sunday school class, nor will one find them in some of the most prominent Biblical language reference works such as Strong's Concordance, Thayer's Lexicon, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, etc.
How is an average Christian not versed in the original languages of the Bible to know which view is correct? Our whole concept of Christianity radically changes depending upon how one interprets these key words. This short article has been prepared to prove conclusively that those scholars and Bible translations which have rendered the words "aion" and its adjective in terms like "for ever and ever," "everlasting," or "eternal," are simply wrong. And one does NOT need to know Greek or Hebrew to prove this out for themselves.
I realize MOST Christians will follow tradition rather than "seeing if these things be so." It is the exceptional person who is willing to go against the tide of tradition and willing to stand for the truth regardless of the persecution it may bring upon themselves. If you are the type of person who wants the truth regardless of what it will cost them, then this article will be a blessing to you. We are going to look at the Greek behind the English expression "for ever and ever." We have many other articles and books dealing with other mistranslated words like "Hell," "damnation," "torment," etc.
For ever and ever
Many English-speaking peoples have heard and used the English expression "forever and ever." This phrase has become an "idiomatic" expression to most English-speaking people meaning "eternity, perpetuity or everlasting." This is an English rendering of actually several DIFFERENT phrases found in the Greek New Testament.
Many seminary students have been taught that the expression "forever and ever" is an idiomatic expression meaning "everlasting." Those of the Fundamentalist persuasion, who believe the Bible should be translated literally say that this term is translated into the English literally, that is, it is NOT an idiomatic expression, but a word-for-word literal rendering. Both are wrong. The ancient Greeks would probably render this translation "idiotic," NOT idiomatic! You see, the Greek construct of this term would make it extremely difficult for a first century Greek to see how we moderns even came close to concocting terms like "forever and ever" from the Greek word "aion" and its adjective "aionios" and their derivatives. Let me explain.
The English idiom "It's raining cats and dogs" only makes sense to us because we have been taught to associate the meaning, "It's raining heavily" with those words. Should a Chinese person just beginning to learn English read "it's raining cats and dogs," their natural instinct would first be to take the phrase literally. There is no way they could determine the "idiomatic" meaning of that phrase unless someone explained to them they were reading an idiom and then gave them its meaning. An idiom is an expression peculiar to a particular people or language the meaning of which is not apparent to those outside that group. Most languages have them. American English is filled with them. "I'm hip," "that's cool," "far out, man," "I dig you," are some examples. (I say "American" English because many idioms of the United States are not idioms of other English-speaking countries.)
Many Bible translations contain the words "forever AND ever." It sounds nice because we have heard and read this expression thousands of times. Once a tradition is set into the language or customs of a particular people, it is difficult to remove. However, just because a tradition has been around a long time and has been assimilated by a large group does NOT make it true. There are more traditions in this world based upon pure falsehood and superstition than one can imagine. Santa, the Christmas tree, and the Easter Bunny are examples of how pagan myths and superstitions have entered christendom. Many of our Bible translations contain material as far off from spiritual truth as is the Easter Bunny. The phrase "forever and ever" is one of them.
The phrase "forever and ever" is a traditional phrase which has been around in English-speaking nations for several hundred years. It has been accepted as a true rendering of the Greek New Testament for a long time by millions of people. Nevertheless, this "tradition of the elders" is false. Furthermore, it is a tradition that has cause great havoc and produced many contradictions in our English Bibles. Even more significantly, it is a tradition that besmears the character of the God of Christianity to such an extent that the original writers of the Bible would not recognize this God as the one they were inspired to write by in the first place! For example:
Revelation 20:10 is one of several places where we find the English phrase "forever AND ever."
In the original it is written:
eis tous aionas ton aionon anabainei
Unto (or into) the eons of the eons.
King James Version:
for ever and ever.
Zondervan Parallel NT in Greek and English
unto the ages of the ages.
Young's Literal Translation:
to the ages of the ages.
Concordant Literal New Testament:
for the eons of the eons.
The part we want to focus on in the Greek is the "aionas ton aionon" part. As we can see, the literal translations and the Greek clearly focus on "ages of the ages," or "eons of the eons," rather than "for ever and ever" which actually makes no sense at all the way the Greek is constructed here.
Both "aionas" and "aionon" are in the plural in the Greek. There is no plural of "ever" in English. And if "ever" mean eternity, what is the purpose of adding another "ever?" How does "eternity and eternity" sound? Sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it? Well, that's how stupid our "for ever and ever" would sound to an early Christian. However, "ages of the ages," made perfect sense to them then and it makes perfect sense to us in modern English.
Our English word "eon" comes directly from the Greek word "aion." Our "eon" DOES have a plural form just like the Greek word "aion." So then, our English word "age" AND our English word "eon" work perfectly in correctly translating this Greek phrase. Why don't ALL of our English translations use these words instead of "for ever and ever" which makes so sense at all? Tradition!
As mentioned before "aionas" and "aionon" are both PLURAL forms of "aion." Ever is singular. This should throw up a red flag. Furthermore, the Greek word "ton" between the two plural forms of "aion" means "of" or "belonging to" or "what comes out of" the aionon. It NEVER means "and" in the Greek. Why did some of our leading selling Bible translations violently break translation rules in this phrase and translate "ton"--and? Again plain old tradition. As we can see from the above examples, bringing the plural forms of "aion" into a plural form of age or eon works perfectly in the English. And translating "ton" into "of the" also works perfectly. There are many English translations which of done exactly that either directly in the text itself or in the margins or footnotes. So why do SOME leading selling English translations still violate the original Greek and Hebrew text by grossly twisting this Greek phrase into the nonsensical "for ever and ever?" I'll explain the REAL reason at the end of this article.
Given the fact that both "aionas," and "aionon" were in their plural, if the King James Bible and its cousins wanted to translate the Greek word "aion" as "ever," AND stay true to the Greek forms of speech, they should have come up with the following rendering: "for the evers and evers."
As we can plainly see, this is getting pretty messy. Neither "for evers AND evers" nor "for evers of the evers" makes any sense in English at all. But "for the ages of the ages" or "for the eons of the eons" makes perfect sense both in the Greek and in the English.
There are MANY English Bibles who have broken the "tradition of the elders" in this regard in order to bring forth the true meaning of the Greek Many more will do so in the years to come. They have translated this Greek phrase "aionas ton aionon":
"for the eons of the eons." Concordant Literal New Testament
"for the ages of the ages." Young's Literal, and others
"for the aeons of the aeons." The New Covenant by Dr. J.W. Hanson
"unto the ages of the ages." Rotherham's Emphasized, and others
"through the ages of the ages." The Holy Bible in Modern English
What is really more amazing is that the double construct phrase of the Greek word "aion" appears in two other forms in the Bible. In one form both aions appear in the singular and in the other form, one aion is singular and the other is plural. In order for the "traditional" folks to be honest in their translating and still maintain that "aion" means "ever," they would have to give us English that reads like this:
"Ever and ever," and "ever and everS," and "everS and everS."
As a rational person can begin to see, our English "forever and ever," has NO resemblance to the original Greek form. The Greeks would NOT be able to understand at all how we came to such a meaning so remote from the original Greek. They would NOT consider these Greek constructions "idiomatic" expressions at all NOR literal translations. They would consider it all theological bunk. (Which is what it all really is.)
The Greeks had no problem with plural forms of the word "aion," because it meant to them what our modern word "eon" means to us. Eons are periods of time, NOT eternity. "Eon, eons, eon of the eon, eon of the eons, eons of the eons, made perfect sense to the Greeks of the first century A.D. AND they make sense in modern English. We have many translations which have translated these Greek phrases this way or similar ways, as I pointed out previously. When we allow "aion" and its derivatives to be an indeterminate period of TIME (which is what it really means), rather than "eternity," reason returns to us instead of senseless meanings which only wreak havoc by destroying the true image of the God of the Bible.
When it is determined that "aion" means and has always meant "an indeterminate period of time" sometimes long enough to be called an "age," sometimes as short as the three days and nights Jonah spent in the fish (Jonah 2:6), then we can easily see a number of ages in succession. Then phrases like the "age of the ages" becomes a particular age out of several ages. This is exactly what the Greeks had in mind.
Below are some examples where the Greek double construct of aion shows three completely separate renderings which the King James and its kissing cousin Bibles hide from our hungry eyes. The Greek language is a very precise language. If it uses three different constructions of the double use of "aion," there is a very good reason for it. To arbitrarily translate all of them exactly the same way "forever and ever" as the KJV, NIV, NASB, NRSB, Amplified, Living, etc. have done, is NOT translating, its butchering the Greek through dark age traditions.
Singular/plural (aionos ton aionon): Ephesians 3:21
Singular/singular (aiona tou aionos): Hebrews 1:8
Plural/plural (aionas ton aionon): Revelation 20:10, 1 Peter 4:11
The word "aion" in ALL its forms refers to "ages" which have ends AND beginnings. There are at least 5 ages (perhaps more) mentioned in the Greek New Testament. There is only ONE eternity, not multiples.
If there were "aions" in the past, then it means they each must have ended for they are now past! The New Testament writers spoke of "the present wicked aion" which ended during that very generation. Obviously, it was followed by another "aion"-- the "aion" in which we presently live. If there are "aions" to come, it must mean that this one we live in will also end.
There is a verse which says "the consummation of the aions" showing that each "aion" ends. So how can they be eternal?
There is "the coming eon" (Matt.10:30, Luke 18:30
There is "the present wicked eon" (Gal.1:4)
There is "the oncoming eons (plural and future)(Eph.2:7)
There is "the conclusion of the eon (present) (Mt.13:39, 40)
There is "the secret concealed from the eons (past) (Eph.3:9)
The Greek and Hebrew languages have several expressions which are constructed similarly to the double construct of the word "aion" as in "aionas ton aionon." We frequently find expressions like "King of kings," "Lord of Lords," and "Holy of Holies." But "for everS AND everS" makes no real sense to anyone in any language except to the traditionalist who refuses to let go of their tradition because it would cost them more than they are willing to let go of.
Pride, control, money, prestige, anger, wrath, vengeance, self-righteousness, etc. are NOT things most of us, especially religious folks of all persuasions are willing to let go of easily or without a big fight. Are you willing to let go of these things? We all know how hard it is to let go of these things--but let go we must--if we are to go on into a deeper relationship with our Creator and Father. Unless we let go of these traditions, our image of God is nothing more than an idol, a false image formed in our minds from false information. The greatest form of idolatry is not bowing down to a stone or piece of wood--it is holding our very life to a false concept of God in our hearts and minds. Ezekiel warned of such idolatry in the fourteenth chapter of his book. Do not be deceived--the image of God as one who created a place in which He is either going to annihilate or torture many of the human beings He created, is an idol of the magnitude of Moloch, or Baal--nay, it is an abomination a thousand times worse. The plain fact of the matter is that most of Christianity has been and presently still is bowing down to this hideous image. And we wonder why the world is in the confusion that it is. We wonder why the church is so full of hypocrisy. The answers become very plain and simple when we become honest enough with ourselves and our belief systems to look at the facts regardless of what it will cost us.
Jesus said that to follow Him would cost us our lives. Will you lay down your inherited traditions so that the True Image of God may rise in your hearts and minds and find expression through your being? I warn you, just as Jesus had to come against the very people who claimed to represent Him and His Father, you too, will find yourself standing against a huge army of tradtionalists who refuse to allow the True Gospel (which will set creation free) from coming forth. You will understand what it means to "suffer for His Name's sake." Jesus and His Father have been greatly maligned by the traditional view of Christendom. God is raising up an army of men, women, AND children who will strike this false image at its feet and destroy it forever. (Daniel 2:45) I hope the reader is given the grace and boldness to join in the cause.
Dear honest Christian, please study this out. Ask some Greek experts why some English translations have the word "and" between the two "aions?" Oh, make sure you find an expert who knows what the word "is" is. You may discover there are as many spinmeisters in theology as there are in politics. Ask them why they don't make "ever" plural like it is in the Greek. Let them explain what "foreverS AND everS" or "foreverS of the everS" means. "Forever and ever," the present English form in many of our Bibles would make absolutely NO sense to those who were inspired to write these words in the first place over 1900 years ago. When we get honest enough with ourselves to examine whether our beliefs are based upon tradition or the Truth, we will discover that "forever and ever" makes no sense period. We will discover we have been duped. Paul warned 1900 years ago that many wolves would enter the church after his departure. John, the apostle warned that even during his time there were MANY anti-christs. The fact there are over 30,000 denominations of Christendom should attest to their warnings. There is only ONE body of Christ, not 30,000 of them. Paul warned about following after men in his letters to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 3:1-10) Today, we have literally thousands of denominations each built upon the teachings of some man or woman. We have Lutherans, Wesleyans, Calvinists, etc. We have those who swear allegiance to the Pope or a Patriarch. It is this error which has caused us to fall from the truth and be trapped in systems of tradition which make the word of God of no effect.
Do you know that the Bible speaks of something more powerful than the Word of God? "Thus you have made the word of God of no effect by your TRADITION. Hypocrites! Well, did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:6-9)
Are we going to stay true to the "tradition of the elders" or are we going to become faithful to the Spirit which inspired the writers of the New Testament? If we desire to be true to the Spirit of inspiration, then we will have to abandon this tradition, and many others that are outside the parameter of this article.
The reason why some scholars, Bible publishers and preachers have not already abandoned this false translation is because of what it would cost them should they translate these words correctly. If they pull further on this thread we have just exposed, and unravel it completely by translating it honestly, the whole concept of a hell in which people are tortured endlessly (forever and ever) completely falls apart! Many in Church leadership simply haven't caught on to the fact that Love will draw a lot more people than fear. Perfect love casts out fear. We become what we worship. Look at church history and see what the doctrine of endless punishment has left behind thousands of wars, Christians killing each other and killing non-believers by the tens of millions in the name of God. Jesus' sword of His mouth has been replaced with the sword in the hand leaving behind a river of blood up to the horse's bridle.
If we believe God is going to waste most of mankind, our actions in the world have and will continue to reflect our beliefs and the nature of the God we worship. We cannot rise to a higher level than the concept of god we hold in our hearts. If our God hates His enemies enough to have created a place to do to them what no human on earth is capable of doing to another human being, then we will, in a measure manifest some of that hatred. Look to church history. Those of us who read church history without applying tons of whitewash will find a very gruesome picture, regardless of whether they be Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.
It has been said that when the Catholic Mary, queen of England, had thousands of Protestants burned at the stake that she said something like, "I only do here on earth what my God will continue to do to them perpetually." The wars, hangings, burnings, and drownings the Protestant denominations and the Orthodox branches have committed proves that ALL denominations of christendom which assemble under the banner of a god who will endlessly torture or annihilate most of mankind do NOT reflect the nature and character of the One who laid down His life for His friends AND His enemies.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you " (Matthew 5:44) This is a far cry from what "traditional" christendom has manifested during the last 1600 years. I say, 1600 hundred years rather than 1900 years because the early church of the first few centuries did NOT believe in such a fiend. (Read "Early Christian View of the Savior" from Tentmaker Publications.) They knew this image of God was the false image all the OTHER pagan nations believed in. When the church was married to the Roman Emperor under Constantine, and the Roman Empire's military arm became an instrument of the church used to destroy its enemies and its heretics and apostates, the death knoll sounded. The majority of Christians who believed in the salvation of all mankind was replaced by a new majority which advocated violence. The God of Christianity was changed from the Savior of the World to the Eternal Torturer of most of mankind. The God of Christianity was conformed to the tyrant murderers who controlled the Church. Those gentle-spirited Christians who believed in non-violence were either killed or they headed to the wilderness and became recluses.
After the church picked up the weapons of the Roman Empire as its own (military and law), it brought forth the darkness which we know today as "the Dark Ages." During this time, the doctrine of endless tortures was the main instrument church officials used to hold the masses in check. Did it produce holiness? Law-abiding citizens? Loving people? Study this time period yourself and you will find the greatest cruelty and superstitions that mankind has ever experienced.
Compare the effect the early church had on civilization with the effect the "Dark Ages" Church has had on the world. The first taught that God loved all mankind AND would redeem, restore, reconcile, and save all mankind. And they laid their lives down as proof of their belief. The "Dark Age" Church taught a cruel fiendish god who was so hard that even the Pope himself was not assured of his own salvation. And this evil church took other's lives instead of following Christ's and His early Church's example.
Today, both churches still exist. The early church whose majority believed in the salvation of all mankind, which has only one head, Jesus Christ--and the "Dark Age" church, made up of many thousands of denominations started by human beings, which still teaches the Dark Age gospel that God will only save a handful while torturing endlessly the great majority of the rest of mankind. Only a remnant of those who believe as the early church did has survived throughout the dark diabolical centuries--but survive it has. And now it is time for this rock cut out of the mountain by the Hands of God to come forth and strike this false image at its feet. (Daniel 2:45) As I said earlier, God does not need a majority to accomplish His work. Read about Gideon.
It is time for a people to arise who will be bold enough to set aside man-made traditions to follow the Truth. If the person presently reading this article is stirred to move in such a direction, the following books and articles will be helpful in their journey to follow the ways of Abraham who left behind the traditions of his ancestors to seek a city whose Maker is God. (Hebrews 11:10) If your heart yearns for all that the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all represents, then the following books and articles will be found helpful to you. They may all be freely downloaded at the Tentmaker site. Some of them are available in hard copy from Tentmaker Ministries at the address below.
"Time and Eternity" by G.T. Stevenson
"Aion" by J.W. Hanson
"An Analytical Study of Words" by Louis Abbott
"The Power of a Four Letter Greek Word--Aion" by Gary Amirault
"Bible Translations that do not teach Eternal Torment" by Gary Amirault
"The Bible Hell" by J.W. Hanson
"The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment" by Thomas Thayer
And many more
We also have many of the books and articles in print form as well as audio and video tapes. A list of them can be had by requesting it from the address below.
Tentmaker--118 Walnut--Hermann, MO 65041
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag in the Greek) ALL mankind unto Myself." Spoken by Jesus the Messiah in John 12:32
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