Aionios: How Do Pollock’s and Vincent’s Arguments Stack Up?
After reading through both Pollock’s analysis of aionios ( see “Point-Counterpoint: Pollock on Aionios“) and Vincent’s (see “Point-Counterpoint: Vincent on Aionios“) I can see one major difference between their conclusions which can be summarized as follows:
Pollock considers aionios to have a connotation of “everlasting” or “never ending” and will always interpret it that way unless there is something in the passage that explicitly restricts the time in view. On the other hand Vincent makes it clear that he does not consider aionios to connote an “everlasting” or “never ending” span of time and never interprets it that way unless something in the passage explicitly extends the time in view. Their difference of opinion is in regard to what I would call the “default” meaning of the word (I am sure there is a technical term for this but I am not aware of what it is).
There is one paragraph in Vincent’s that I believe Pollock would take the strongest exception to:
Thus, while aionios carries the idea of time, though not of endlessness, there belongs to it also, more or less, a sense of quality. Its character is ethical rather than mathematical. The deepest significance of the life beyond time lies, not in endlessness, but in the moral quality of the aeon into which the life passes. It is comparatively unimportant whether or not the rich fool, when his soul was required of him (Luke 12:20), entered upon a state that was endless. The principal, the tremendous fact, as Christ unmistakably puts it, was that, in the new aeon, the motives, the aims, the conditions, the successes and awards of time counted for nothing. In time, his barns and their contents were everything; the soul was nothing. In the new life the soul was first and everything, and the barns and storehouses nothing. The bliss of the sanctified does not consist primarily in its endlessness, but in the nobler moral conditions of the new aeon, the years of the holy and eternal God. Duration is a secondary idea. When it enters it enters as an accompaniment and outgrowth of moral conditions.
If you read that paragraph and take it to be the antithesis of what Pollock believes you will have a good understanding of the issue here.
What is my take on this? I believe that given the context of a particular passage of scripture we should be able to tell exactly how aionios is being used. I think the saying “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text” is true. But what about situations where the time dimension of aionios still isn’t clear? In those situations the length of time involved is probably tangential to whatever is being said and we shouldn’t be trying to use the passage to prove something that the authors (human and Divine) weren’t speaking to. If any Greek scholars ever stumble upon this post you are invited to bring any errors on my part to my attention but until then that is what I believe.
As an added bonus Pastor Vincent answered what I think is an important question: if aionios doesn’t connote “eternal” or “without end” what Greek word does have that meaning? According to Vincent that word is aiodios (see Strong’s G126). The point being that if the author of scripture wanted to say “everlasting” he would have used aiodios instead of aionios.
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Pollock: Is God Too Kind to Torture?]