Does the Greek root ‘aion*’ always entail infinite duration?
One relevant set of evidence is provided by Douglas Jacoby, who notes that in not a few instances, the Greek aion* is used in the Septuagint in ways in which ‘everlasting’ (i.e. infinite duration) cannot be the meaning:-
Genesis 6:4—“Men of old” (giants/ungodly persons/fallen ones/sons of Cain) did not live infinitely
Jeremiah 25:12—Destruction of Babylon (though not literally destroyed)
Genesis 9:12—Perpetual generations
Exodus 21:6—The man or woman would become one’s servant “forever” (!)
Leviticus 25:34—Perpetual possession of fields
Deuteronomy 23:3—“Forever” || the 10th generation
1 Samuel 2:22—Young Samuel was to serve at the house of the Lord “forever”
Douglas Moo observes that in most English versions, the word ‘hell’ is not found in Paul’s writings. That is because he never used either of the two words usually translated ‘hell’ – gehenna and hades.
So what language does the apostle use concerning the fate of the wicked? They are, in order of frequency:-
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
These words constitute the go-to text for Christians who wish to assert that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. It is also the go-to text for those who feel that Christianity condemns itself as abhorrent and intolerant by reason of the very exclusiveness of this saying.
But does does the text actually mean what most of its friends (and, indeed, most of its enemies) think it means?…
In 1990, aware that respected evangelicals such as John Stott, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes and John Wenham had recently lent their support to annihilationism/conditionalism, J.I. Packer gave a lecture on ‘The Problem of Eternal Punishment.’
Packer began by affirming what all evangelicals should affirm, namely that our views about ultimate destiny should be shaped not by what what we might like to be so, but by what Scripture actually says is so. Packer also observed what many before and after him have observed: that the Scriptural voice which speaks most frequently and firmly about hell is that of Jesus himself.…
This is not only a distasteful topic to think about, but also invites the retort of our Lord to those who asked: “Are they few that be saved?” (Luke 13:23)
It is, perhaps, curious, that some who hold most firmly to the doctrine of everlasting punishment of the wicked entertain the possibility that the numbers of those thus punished will be comparatively small:-
‘We have reason to believe that the number of the finally lost in comparison with the whole number of the saved will be very inconsiderable.’ (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol 3, p879)
Warfield (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, Vol 4, p63) calls them ‘a relatively insignificant body.’
These sentiments sound, from the perspective of their proponents, rather like wishful thinking. …
I present here arguments for and against this difficult and disputed question.
Traditionalists argue that the Gk words for ‘eternal’ (‘aion‘ and ‘ainios‘) often carry a clear idea of duration, Heb 13:8; Rev 4:10; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 20:10. Cp Mk 3:29 w Mt 12:32. They frequently not the parallelism between ‘eternal life’ and ‘eternal punishment’ in Mt 25:46.
The word ‘eternal’ is used over 60 times to refer to the blessings of the future state. …