Chapter 17 - Translations of Owlam, Aion, and Aionios

CHAPTER 17


TRANSLATIONS OF OWLAM, AION and AIONIOS

Important Time Related Hebrew and Greek Words


Most Christians believe in hell because they read verses in their Bibles that support the concept of everlasting punishment in a place called hell.
 
Does the Bible really teach everlasting punishment in hell for unbelievers? Has God truly condemned the overwhelming majority of humanity, those who die as unbelievers, to this hell? If Universal Reconciliation is the truth of the Bible, and it absolutely is, then one should not find a single statement in the whole of the Bible where it says that God will punish unbelievers forever. Yes, God does chastise unrepentant unbelievers, but not forever, because ultimately, in God’s time and His order extending beyond this age, all unbelievers will be humbled in repentance and come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Nowhere in the Hebrew and Greek Manuscripts of the Bible does it say that God will punish unbelievers, or even Satan and his fallen angels, forever.
 
The doctrine of everlasting punishment in hell is founded upon a combination of mistranslations and misinterpretations of the following original Hebrew and Greek words, which first occurred when Jerome translated Scripture into the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate in the fifth century:

  • Mistranslations of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words hades, tartarus and gehenna, to mean hell.

  • Mistranslations of the Hebrew word owlam and the Greek words aion and aionios, to mean forever or everlasting when relating to God’s judgement of unbelievers and fallen angels.

In the previous Chapter, we showed the true meanings of sheol, hades, tartarus and gehenna, which have been mistranslated to mean hell in versions of the Bible that support the doctrine of hell.
 
In this chapter, we will show you how the original Hebrew and Greek words  owlam, aion and aionios have been mistranslated to mean ‘forever’ or ‘everlasting’ in versions of the Bible that support the doctrine of hell. First we will consider the Hebrew word owlam.
 
 
The Hebrew word Owlam
 
There are 439 occurrences of owlam (pronounced olam) in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament. When we study these occurrences we can clearly establish, without a shadow of doubt, that owlam is a time-related word and it has the following two distinct meanings in the Bible, depending on its context:
 
1. A period of time that never ends, meaning forever, everlasting or eternal.
 
2. A period of time that begins and ends, meaning an age or age-lasting.
 
So, now let us give you examples from the Bible that clearly demonstrate that the original Hebrew word owlam has these two distinct meanings. 
 
The fact that one of the meanings of owlam is ‘forever, everlasting or eternal’ is not in dispute because many scriptures confirm this, for example:
 
Genesis 21:33
Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting (owlam) God.
 
Psalm 41:13
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting (owlam) to everlasting (owlam)! Amen and Amen.
 
Psalm 118:29
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (owlam).


In the Bible, when owlam is used to describe the eternal attributes of God, then of course owlam means forever, everlasting or eternal, as correctly translated in these verses.  

Now, let us give some examples to show you that owlam, depending on the context, can also mean age or age-lasting even though most Bible versions always translate it to mean ‘forever, everlasting or eternal’.
 
Genesis 17:13
He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting (owlam) covenant.

 
We can be sure that in this verse owlam actually means an ‘age-lasting’ covenant, even though it is translated in the NKJV version above, and other versions of the Bible, to mean ‘everlasting’ covenant. This is because the New Testament, in Galatians 5:6, confirms that the covenant of circumcision given to Israel was never intended to be an ‘everlasting’ covenant but an ‘age-lasting’ covenant.
 
Again, in Isaiah 24:5, the Mosaic Covenant given to Israel has been translated to mean ‘everlasting’ covenant. But, we know from the New Testament, in Hebrews 8:13, that the Old Covenant of the Law under Moses has now been superseded by the New Covenant of Grace under Jesus Christ. So, the Bible itself confirms that owlam, depending on the context, does not always mean ‘everlasting’, but it can also mean age or age-lasting.
 
The scripture Jonah 1:17 clearly tells us that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for only three days and three nights.
 
Jonah 1:17
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

 
According to most Bible versions, in their translation of the scripture Jonah 2:6, Jonah was in the belly of the great fish ‘forever’, however, this is obviously untrue as it contradicts Jonah 1:17 above. Three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish may have seemed like ‘forever’ to Jonah, but the point we are making is that owlam in the Bible does not always literally mean forever.
 
There are other places in the Old Testament where it can be clearly seen that owlam does not mean ‘forever, everlasting or eternal’ and that it can only mean age or age-lasting, which can vary from a very short period of time of only a few days, as in the case of Jonah, up to a very long period of time of thousands of years.  
 
To translate owlam to mean ‘everlasting’ covenant when referring to the Mosaic Covenant or to say that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish forever, are not serious mistranslations because they can be understood as mere ‘figures of speech’ rather than being taken literally. However, it becomes an extremely serious mistranslation to translate owlam to mean ‘everlasting’ punishment when the Bible means ‘age-to-come’ punishment, as in case of Daniel 12:2 below.  
 
Daniel 12:2
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting (owlam) life, Some to shame and everlasting (owlam) contempt.

 
Versions of the Bible like the NKJV quoted above, which support the doctrine of hell, translate owlam in this verse to mean ‘everlasting life’, and also ‘everlasting contempt’.
 
The correct meaning of this verse which does not bring contradiction into the Word of God, contradicting the biblical truth of Universal Reconciliation is:
 
Daniel 12:2
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to age-to-come (owlam) life, Some to shame and age-to-come (owlam) contempt.
 
Age-to-come life is of course the glorious everlasting life in Christ that all believers will receive when they rise from the dead in resurrection. However, age-to-come contempt that all unbelievers will receive when they rise from the dead in resurrection is age-lasting when they will become ashamed of their sin of unbelief, repent and believe the true Gospel through God’s refining corrective judgement, as we explained in detail in Chapter 12.
 
The KJV translates owlam to always mean ‘forever, everlasting or eternal’ and it ignores the second meaning of ‘age or age-lasting’. This is why Strong’s Concordance gives only the first meaning of owlam, ‘forever, everlasting or eternal’. Ultimately, we rely on God’s Word itself to understand the true meaning of any word used in the Bible, and not any concordance or lexicon. 
 
Apart from Daniel 12:2, there is very little in the Old Testament which can be misunderstood or mistranslated in support of the doctrine of hell. Traditional Christianity gets the main support for its doctrine of hell from the New Testament, and this is mainly from mistranslations of the original Greek words aion and aionios. So, let us now consider these words in turn. 


The Greek word Aion
 
Aion occurs 128 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word owlam as confirmed by the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the Greek Translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scripture, translated by Jews between 300-250 BC.
 
So, just like the Hebrew word owlam, the Greek word aion is used in the Bible to have the following two distinct meanings depending on its context in Scripture.
 
1. A period of time that never ends, meaning forever, everlasting or eternal.
 
2. A period of time that begins and ends, meaning an age or age-lasting.
 
The KJV translators and translators of other versions of the Bible accept that the Greek word aion means either ‘everlasting’ or ‘age’, as the context in Scripture demands. Thus, Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon define aion to have both of the above meanings of ‘everlasting’ and ‘age’.
 
So, let us now prove the point that aion has these two meanings, depending on the context, by giving examples from the New King James Version.
 
1 Timothy 1:17   
Now to the King eternal (aion), immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever (aion) and ever (aion). Amen
 
Revelation 11:15
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever (aion) and ever (aion)!"

 
In these two verses, the NKJV and most other versions of the Bible correctly translate aion to mean eternal or forever as it describes the eternal attributes of God.
 
Now, let us consider a verse where the context dictates that aion can only mean an ‘age’ which begins and ends and that it cannot mean ‘everlasting’.  
 
Matthew 24:3 
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when these things will be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age (aion)?”

 
In this verse, Jesus’s disciples are enquiring about His Second Coming. Notice, the disciples understood that when Jesus Christ returns to earth it will mark the end of this present aion, which is correctly translated here to mean ‘age’ as dictated by the context.
 
The expression ‘the end of the age’ is used several times in the Bible, which clearly shows that aion in certain contexts means an age, a time-period, which begins and ends. The KJV has preferred to translate aion, in the majority of cases, to mean ‘world’ when the Bible means age or ages. ‘World’ is a bad translation of aion because the Greek word for ‘world’ is kosmos and not aion. Also, when Christ returns, it will mark the end of the age, and not the end of the world (kosmos).
 
There are many other places in the Bible, such as in Ephesians 1:21 and 3:5, where the context dictates that aion can only mean age or age-lasting. Most Bible versions agree that aion means age or age-lasting in at least 30% of its 128 occurrences in the New Testament.
 
The important thing to understand is that aion can have one of two meanings, and it is aion’s context in Scripture that dictates whether aion is translated to mean age/age-lasting or forever/everlasting/eternal.
 
The key question to ask is, ‘Can aion ever be translated to mean everlasting when relating to God’s future punishment of unbelievers?’ The only biblical answer is: Absolutely not! You don’t have to be an expert in the Greek language to be one hundred percent sure of this. Aion can never mean forever, everlasting or eternal when describing God’s future judgement of unbelievers or fallen angels. Why not? Because, such translations contradict the Word of God, which says that God is the Saviour of the world, and the Saviour of all men. Such mistranslations contradict many glorious scriptures including those quoted in Chapter 4, Universal Reconciliation Scriptures - The Riches of Christ.
 
We now give you examples of such mistranslations found in popular versions of the Bible that support the unbiblical doctrine of hell.
 
Mistranslations of Aion

2 Peter 2:17
These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (aion). 

The NKJV translation of aion in this scripture to mean forever is a serious mistranslation. A correct translation of this verse is given in Young’s Literal Translation below.

2 Peter 2:17 (YLT)
These are wells without water, and clouds by a tempest driven, to whom the thick gloom of the darkness to the age (aion) hath been kept.

The meaning of this verse is that all of these unbelieving false teachers, the ‘wells without water’, who walk in spiritual darkness will be kept under the thick gloom of darkness until they repent through God’s judgement in the Lake of Fire. This is when ‘the thick gloom of darkness’ will be kept over them no longer, as fully discussed in Chapter 12, The Lake of Fire Judgement Age - Part 1.
 
Revelation 19:2-3 (NKJV)
2 "For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." 3 Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever (aion) and ever (aion)!"

 
This is another example of a mistranslated verse in Bible versions that support the doctrine of hell. ‘Her smoke rises up forever (aion) and ever (aion)’ is a mistranslation.
 
The correct translation is ‘Her smoke rises up for an age of the ages’. The ‘age of the ages’ refers to the Lake of Fire Judgement Age when these unbelievers, who have been deceived by a false religious system (the great harlot), will be judged by God’s Spiritual Refining Fire so that they come to repentance, as explained in Chapter 12.
 
Revelation 20:10 (NKJV)
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented (basanizo) day and night forever (aion) and ever (aion).

 
In this NKJV verse, both of the Greek words basanizo and aion have been mistranslated to mean ‘And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever’.
 
The correct translation of this verse is, ‘And they will be refined and purified day and night for an age of the ages’. We give a detailed commentary on this verse in Chapter 13, The Lake of Fire Judgement Age - Part 2.
 
It is a sad and shocking fact that the translators of many popular Bible versions, especially the KJV, have been greatly influenced by the Roman Catholic doctrine of hell as preached in the Latin Vulgate. Therefore, these translators have followed Jerome’s mistakes in the Latin Vulgate by also translating aion, when describing the future punishment of unbelievers and fallen angels, to mean ‘everlasting’ punishment instead of the correct translation of ‘age-to-come, age-lasting’ punishment. Hence, they bring contradictions into the Word of God, negating the true Gospel of Jesus Christ that He died for the sins of the whole world and He is indeed the Saviour of the whole world (John 4:42, 1 John 2:2, Colossians 1:15-20).
 
Let us now consider the translation of the Greek word aionios, which has been similarly mistranslated in support of the false doctrine of hell.
 
 
The Greek word Aionios
 
The Greek word aionios occurs 71 times in the New Testament. Aionios is the adjective of the noun aion, and therefore aionios must also have the same two meanings of aion, depending on the context, which are:
 
1. A period of time that never ends, meaning forever, everlasting or eternal.
 
2. A period of time that begins and ends, meaning an age or age-lasting.

The fact that one of the meanings of aionios is ‘forever, everlasting or eternal’ is not in doubt because this is how it is correctly used in Scripture for the majority of its 71 occurrences, as dictated by its context. The phrase ‘aionios life’ which is God’s promise to believers in Christ occurs as many as fifty times in the Greek Manuscripts of the Bible. Most Bible versions correctly translate ‘aionios life’ to mean ‘everlasting life’ or ‘eternal life’.
 
There are only a few verses in the New Testament where aionios can only mean ‘age-lasting’ and not ‘everlasting’, as dictated by its context. Sadly, these few verses have been mistranslated to mean ‘everlasting’ in popular Bible versions like the KJV, NKJV and NIV which support the doctrine of hell. Let us now give you examples of such mistranslated verses.
 
Mistranslations of Aionios
 
Matthew 25:46
And these will go away into everlasting (aionios) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (aionios) life.

This is a mistranslated verse, which first appeared as a mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate around 400 AD in support of the Roman Catholic doctrine of hell. The KJV and other subsequent versions of the Bible that support the doctrine of hell have carried forward this mistranslated verse into their own versions.

Augustine (354-430 AD), a fifth century Roman Catholic saint, who championed the doctrine of hell, depended heavily on this single verse to argue the case for endless punishment of unbelievers in hell.

Augustine argued that since Jesus used the same word aionios to describe both the duration of the future punishment of unbelievers and the future life of the righteous, then it necessarily follows that the future punishment of unbelievers will be everlasting just like the future life of the righteous.

The problem Augustine had was that he strongly believed in the pagan doctrine of hell and he totally ignored, or was ignorant of the fact, that aion and its adjective aionios have two meanings in the Bible of age and everlasting depending on the context.

Now, let us understand the correct translation of Matthew 25:46 and the true meaning of what Jesus Christ is saying in this verse.

As we have demonstrated, to translate aionios punishment to mean everlasting or eternal punishment is a mistranslation because it brings contradiction into the Word of God. In addition to this, it should be noted that the Greek word for punishment used in Matthew 25:46 is kolasis, and the meaning of kolasis is ‘corrective punishment’ as confirmed by Strong’s Concordance number G2851. So, the true meaning of Matthew 25:46 as dictated by the context is:

Matthew 25:46
And these will go away into age-to-come, age lasting (aionios) corrective punishment (kolasis), but the righteous into age-to-come eternal (aionios) life.
 
This is the true meaning of this scripture as originally inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it does not introduce any contradictions whatsoever into the Word of God.  
 
Let us consider another example of a mistranslation of aionios.
 
Apostle Paul was a firm believer in Universal Reconciliation, and he makes many clear universalist statements throughout his writings. However, there is one of his statements in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that has been mistranslated to mean ‘everlasting’ destruction, so let us consider this verse in detail. 
 
2 Thessalonians 1:9
These shall be punished with everlasting (aionios) destruction (olethros) from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

 
In this verse, taken from the NKJV, aionios destruction is incorrectly translated to mean everlasting destruction. An accurate translation is an age-to-come destruction. However also, please note that the Greek word olethros, which is translated ‘destruction’, does not mean annihilation.
 
Olethros comes from the root word ollumi, which is linked to the Greek word apollymi, the very same word used by Jesus in the beautiful story of the prodigal son, who was lost (apollymi) and found, as we explain in detail in the next chapter, Chapter 18. Therefore, in the verse above, destruction does not mean annihilation or eternal separation of unbelievers from the presence of the Lord. Yes, all unbelievers will suffer an age-to-come ‘destruction’ in the Lake of Fire, but this is referring to the destruction of their sinful Adamic ‘old man’, which is the Second Death, as explained in Chapter 12. All unbelievers will die the Second Death in the Lake of Fire to be born again with new life in Christ to enter the Kingdom of God.
 
It is because of the mistranslation of the Greek words aion and aionios that we end up with the unbiblical false teachings of:
 
Everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46)
Eternal judgement (Hebrews 6:2)
Eternal damnation (Mark 3:29)
Everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41)
Everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
 
All such unbiblical teachings are very serious mistranslations denying the true Gospel of Jesus Christ that He is indeed the Saviour of the whole world.
 
 
Conclusion
 
Translators of the Bible have a clear choice to make when translating any of the above mentioned time-related words owlam, aion and aionios when related to God’s future judgement of unbelievers and fallen angels. This choice is whether to translate these words to mean ‘everlasting’ in support of the pagan unbiblical doctrine of hell, thus bringing contradictions into the Word of God, or to translate them to mean ‘age-lasting’ in support of God’s future corrective age-to-come judgement of unbelievers and fallen angels, which is in line with the Word of God.
 
We are saying loud and clear, by the authority of the Bible, that any translation of these words to mean ‘everlasting’ when relating to God’s future judgement of unbelievers and fallen angels is a mistranslation. Such mistranslations contradict the Word of God and negate the Gospel of Jesus Christ that He is indeed the Saviour of the world.
 
We now need to repudiate the claim from hell-believing ‘Christians’ that most of the biblical teachings about hell come from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself, which we do this in the next chapter.

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