Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:07 am
Luke wrote:So would this particular universalist community reject BDAG's overall reliability or just its particular definition of αἰωνιος?
In other words Bob (and Roofus) are you saying BDAG is incorrect on just this definition or in general? (Although the fact that a word is derived from another or maybe modified by its context doesn't prove BDAG's definition is incorrect.)
If you stick around, I think you'll find that this is a diverse community of believers. Not all here are universalists--though most are at least friendly to the doctrine, but even among the convinced universalists there are differing varieties of belief.
As far as BDAG goes, I'm not personally familiar with it, but it looks like a fantastic resource. I would certainly not throw it out simply because I disagree with their interpretation of a single word. No human work is infallible, and I reserve the right to do my own fact checking and accept or reject any particular definition accordingly.
You asked, "Why is the definition provided by BDAG unacceptable?" Here's my answer (the short version) to that:
When I was first looking into universalism I spent a lot of time on aion and aionios, and came to the conclusion that these are not words with simple, straightforward definitions. If 'aion' simply meant 'eternity' (as in: a period without beginning or end) then to translate the corresponding adjective 'aionios' as 'eternal' (meaning: having the quality of unendingness) would be easy and straightforward. But that's not the case.
Aion most closely translates to our word 'age'. An age can be very long, or quite short. My history-teacher husband has all sorts of books on his shelf with names like "Age of Sail" "Age of the Galley" "Age of Calamity" and so forth. You could say we're now in "the Information Age". We all know what an age means. It's a period of of time, set apart by some particular distinguishing and unifying charactaristic.
When a noun is used as an adjective it's proper or original meaning (speaking in general, since word-meanings are very changeable) is that of 'being like' whatever the noun is. Since "aionios" is the adjective form of "aion", it's definition cannot, in my opinion, be said to 'straightforwardly' have a different quality than the noun it derives from. I would expect such a claim to include explanation for the shift in meaning.
The definition you quoted was:
BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 2000) offers a very straightforward explanation of αἰωνιος: "pertaining to a period of unending duration, "without end." (page 33)
Given the definition of aion, it would seem that a more fitting explanation of aionios would be "pertaining to a period of any length which has a specific character."
Having said all that, I know some will argue that 'aion' can also mean 'having no end'. I disagree with that because, while I agree that it is possible for some particular 'aion' to have no end, it is not defined by that quality. Here's a more obvious example of the point I'm making: If I describe myself as: a brown-haired woman, and then go on to describe another person as 'womanly', you know I'm not saying she has brown hair. Her hair color is irrelevant because it is not the definition of 'woman'. In the same way, the length of an aion is irrelevant to the fact of it's being an aion.