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Plato's definition of aionios

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Plato's definition of aionios

Postby Dani » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:14 pm

I've been having some trouble understanding Plato's definition of the word "aionios". I know he coined it but to be his explanation doesn't make sense.

Plato said aionios means timeless if its describing something God creates that extends in perfection from Him, but he also said timelessness has no beginning. But if something is created it has a beginning, so how can it be timeless?
Created= a beginning
Timeless= no beginning

Am I missing something?
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Re: Plato's definition of aionios

Postby mwh » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:23 pm

If you want to find out what Plato meant by aionios (he doesn’t actually define it) you should consult philosophical commentaries on the Timaeus and stay well away from Christian discussions, which are inevitably skewed by Judeo-Christian systems of thought (and mostly written by people who have little or no firsthand knowledge of Greek).

Sorry to be so unhelpful, but it’s a difficult question, and not made any easier by the word “timeless,” which itself is ambiguous. And what if something was created before time?
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Re: Plato's definition of aionios

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:34 pm

Like any other word, the usages must be examined in context. MWH is right in that Plato gives no formal definition of the word. Start with the LSJ:


αἰώνιος, ον also α, ον Pl.Ti.37d, Ep.Heb.9.12:—lasting for an age (αἰών II), perpetual, eternal (but dist. fr. ἀΐδιος, Plot.3.7.3), μέφη Pl.R.363d; ἀνώλεθρον .. ἀλλʼ οὐκ αἰώνιον Id.Lg.904a, cf. Epicur.Sent.28; αἰ. κατὰ ψυχὴν ὄχλησις Id.Nat.131 G.; κακά, δεινά, Phld.Herc.1251.18, D.1.13; αἰ. ἀμοιβαῖς βασανισθησόμενοι ib. 19; τοῦ αἰ. θεοῦ Ep.Rom.16.26, Ti.Locr.96c; οὐ χρονίη μοῦνον .. ἀλλʼ αἰωνίη Aret.CA1.5; αἰ. διαθήκη, νόμιμον, πρόσταγμα, LXXGe.9.16, Ex.27.21, To.1.6; ζωή Ev.Matt.25.46, Porph.Abst.4.20; κόλασις Ev.Matt. l.c. Olymp.in Grg.p.278 J.; πρὸ χρόνων αἰ. 2Ep.Tim.1.9: opp. πρόσκαιρος, 2Ep.Cor.4.18, app. w. dittography, εἰς τειμὴν αἰωνιαιαν Inv.Inscr.Palm.vii 6 (i A.D.).
2. holding an office or title for life, perpetual, γυμνασίαρχος CPHerm.62, of an office, held for life, ἀιώνιον στεφανηφορίαν SEG30.1390 (Lydia, cA.D. 150).
3. = Lat. saecularis, Phleg.Macr.4.
4. Adv. -ίως eternally, νοῦς ἀκίνητος αἰ. πάντα ὤν Procl.Inst.172, cf. Simp.in Epict.p.77 D.; perpetually, μισεῖν Sch.E.Alc.338.
5. αἰώιον, τό, = ἀείζωον τὸ μέγα, Ps.-Dsc.4.88.


Liddell, H. G., Scott, R., Jones, H. S., & McKenzie, R. (1996). A Greek-English lexicon (p. 45). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

As for the word's usage in the NT, that's a rather specialized discussion as well, and you can begin with BDAG (whose editors were quite competent in Greek):

αἰώνιος (ία Pla., Tim. 38b; Jer 39:40; Ezk 37:26; OdeSol 11:22; TestAbr A; JosAs 8:11 cod. A; 2 Th 2:16; Hb 9:12; mss. Ac 13:48; 2 Pt 1:11; AcPl BMM recto 27=Ox 1602, 29; Just., A I, 8, 4 al.; B-D-F §59, 2; Mlt-H. 157), ον eternal (since Hyperid. 6, 27; Pla.; ins, pap, LXX, En, TestSol, TestAbr A, Test12Patr; JosAs 12:12; GrBar 4:16; ApcEsdr; ApcMos 29; Ps.-Phocyl. 112; Just.; Tat. 17, 1; Ath., Mel.; standard epithet for princely, esp. imperial, power: OGI index VIII; BGU 176, 12; 303, 2; 309, 4; Sb 7517, 5 [211/12 A.D.] κύριος αἰ.; al. in pap; Jos., Ant. 7, 352).
① pert. to a long period of time, long ago χρόνοις αἰ. long ages ago Ro 16:25; πρὸ χρόνων αἰ. before time began 2 Ti 1:9; Tit 1:2 (in these two last pass. the prep. bears the semantic content of priority; on χρόνος αἰ. cp. OGI 248, 54; 383, 10).
② pert. to a period of time without beginning or end, eternal of God (Ps.-Pla., Tim. Locr. 96c θεὸν τ. αἰώνιον; IBM 894, 2 αἰ. κ. ἀθάνατος τοῦ παντὸς φύσις; Gen 21:33; Is 26:4; 40:28; Bar 4:8 al.; Philo, Plant. 8; 74; SibOr Fgm. 3, 17 and 4; PGM 1, 309; 13, 280) Ro 16:26; of the Holy Spirit in Christ Hb 9:14. θρόνος αἰ. 1 Cl 65:2 (cp. 1 Macc 2:57).
③ pert. to a period of unending duration, without end (Diod S 1, 1, 5; 5, 73, 1; 15, 66, 1 δόξα αἰ. everlasting fame; in Diod S 1, 93, 1 the Egyptian dead are said to have passed to their αἰ. οἴκησις; Arrian, Peripl. 1, 4 ἐς μνήμην αἰ.; Jos., Bell. 4, 461 αἰ. χάρις=a benefaction for all future time; OGI 383, 10 [I B.C.] εἰς χρόνον αἰ.; EOwen, οἶκος αἰ.: JTS 38, ’37, 248–50; EStommel, Domus Aeterna: RAC IV 109–28) of the next life σκηναὶ αἰ. Lk 16:9 (cp. En 39:5). οἰκία, contrasted w. the οἰκία ἐπίγειος, of the glorified body 2 Cor 5:1. διαθήκη (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Lev 24:8; 2 Km 23:5 al.; PsSol 10:4 al.) Hb 13:20. εὐαγγέλιον Rv 14:6; κράτος in a doxolog. formula (=εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας) 1 Ti 6:16. παράκλησις 2 Th 2:16. λύτρωσις Hb 9:12. κληρονομία (Esth 4:17m) vs. 15; AcPl Ha 8, 21. αἰ. ἀπέχειν τινά (opp. πρὸς ὥραν) keep someone forever Phlm 15 (cp. Job 40:28). Very often of God’s judgment (Diod S 4, 63, 4 διὰ τὴν ἀσέβειαν ἐν ᾅδου διατελεῖν τιμωρίας αἰωνίου τυγχάνοντα; similarly 4, 69, 5; Jer 23:40; Da 12:2; Ps 76:6; 4 Macc 9:9; 13:15) κόλασις αἰ. (TestReub 5:5) Mt 25:46; 2 Cl 6:7; κρίμα αἰ. Hb 6:2 (cp. κρίσις αἰ. En 104:5). θάνατος B 20:1. ὄλεθρον (4 Macc 10:15) 2 Th 1:9. πῦρ (4 Macc 12:12; GrBar 4:16.—SibOr 8, 401 φῶς αἰ.) Mt 18:8; 25:41; Jd 7; Dg 10:7 (cp. 1QS 2:8). ἁμάρτημα Mk 3:29 (v.l. κρίσεως, κολάσεω, and ἁμαρτίας). On the other hand, of eternal life (Maximus Tyr. 6, 1d θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰ.; Diod S 8, 15, 3 life μετὰ τὸν θάνατον lasts εἰς ἅπαντα αἰῶνα; Da 12:2; 4 Macc 15:3;PsSol PsSol 3:12; OdeSol 11:16c; JosAs 8:11 cod. A [p. 50, 2 Bat.]; Philo, Fuga 78; Jos., Bell. 1, 650; SibOr 2, 336) in the Reign of God: ζωὴ αἰ. (Orig., C. Cels. 2, 77, 3) Mt 19:16, 29; 25:46; Mk 10:17, 30; Lk 10:25; 18:18, 30; J 3:15f, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2f; Ac 13:46, 48; Ro 2:7; 5:21; 6:22f; Gal 6:8; 1 Ti 1:16; 6:12; Tit 1:2; 3:7; 1J 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20; Jd 21; D 10:3; 2 Cl 5:5; 8:4, 6; IEph 18:1; Hv 2, 3, 2; 3, 8, 4 al. Also βασιλεία αἰ. 2 Pt 1:11 (ApcPt Rainer 9; cp. Da 4:3; 7:27; Philo, Somn. 2, 285; Mel., P. 68, 493; OGI 569, 24 ὑπὲρ τῆς αἰωνίου καὶ ἀφθάρτου βασιλείας ὑμῶν; Dssm. B 279f, BS 363). Of the glory in the next life δόξα αἰ. 2 Ti 2:10; 1 Pt 5:10 (cp. Wsd 10:14; Jos., Ant. 15, 376.—SibOr 8, 410 φῶς αἰῶνιον). αἰώνιον βάρος δόξης 2 Cor 4:17; σωτηρία αἰ. (Is 45:17; Ps.-Clem., Hom. 1, 19) Hb 5:9; short ending of Mk. Of unseen glory in contrast to the transitory world of the senses τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα αἰώνια 2 Cor 4:18.—χαρά IPhld ins; δοξάζεσθαι αἰωνίῳ ἔργῳ be glorified by an everlasting deed IPol 8:1. DHill, Gk. Words and Hebr. Mngs. ’67, 186–201; JvanderWatt, NovT 31, ’89, 217–28 (J).—DELG s.v. αἰών. M-M. TW. Sv.


Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 33). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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