shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#88 - MBE's use of Aeon and Logos
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Can you comment on Mary Baker Eddy's use of the word Aeon in connection with Logos? The dictionary definition does not seem to make sense in this context.
Response #88 from BibleTexts.com:
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (S&H 335:7), Mary Baker Eddy writes:
Spirit, God, has created all in and of Himself. Spirit never created matter. There is nothing in Spirit out of which matter could be made, for, as the Bible declares, without the Logos, the Aeon or Word of God, "was not anything made that was made." Spirit is the only substance, the invisible and indivisible infinite God. Things spiritual and eternal are substantial. Things material and temporal are insubstantial.
The English words, Aeon and Eon, come from the Greek word, aion (Strong's Greek #165). The Gospel of John uses that Greek word 13 times. In that gospel the KJV most often translates aion as "ever." (For example, Joh 4:14; 6:51,58; 8:35; 12:34; 14:16.) Aion also connotes "eternity." Aionios, the Greek adjective form of aion, is usually translated as "eternal," as in the phrase, "eternal life" or "life eternal." This is a phrase that appears 10 times in the Gospel of John.
Some insight may be gained by examining the pre-New Testament use of aion. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 3 (edited by Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1978, page 827, 830) explains:
In Plato the term [aion] is developed so as to represent a timeless, immeasurable and transcendent super-time, an idea of time in itself. Plutarch and other earlier Stoics appropriate this understanding, and from it the Mysteries of Aion, the god of eternity, could be celebrated in Alexandria, and gnosticism could undertake its own speculations on time.
In Hellenistic philosophy the concept of aeons contributed towards a solution of the problem of the world-order. The aeons were assumed to be mediating powers which bridge the infinite qualitative distinction between God and the world. They are an emanation of the divine pleroma, the fullness of the divine Being….
The statements of the Johannine [John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John] writings, which cannot always be pinned down with absolute certainty of meaning.., Heb., where the meaning is quite clear .. and naturally those cases where aion is used in the plural, all reveal a strong inclination to conceive of a timeless, because post-temporal, eternity… As in the OT [Old Testament], these statements reveal the background conviction that God's life never ends, i.e. that everything belonging to him can also never come to an end…
In the Gospel of John, aion (Strong's Greek #165) usually refers to "eternal existence" or "timeless being." This coincides with the description of the Logos (Greek: logos, Strong's Greek #3056, English: Word) as having timeless being.
For instance, John 1:1-4 in the KJV reads as follows:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 1:1-4 in the NRSV reads as follows:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The Greek word en (from the Greek word eimi) translated as "was" has a much richer meaning than the English word "was" indicates. Due to the form of the Greek verb that is used, en actually is a Greek "to be" verb that refers to timeless being. It is contrasted with another Greek word egeneto (from the Greek word ginomai). Egeneto is also a "to be" verb that is translated in the KJV as "were/was made" and in the NRSV "came into being." The emphasized meaning of those verses can be represented as follows:
1 In the beginning the Word had timeless being, and the Word had timeless being with God, and the Word timelessly was the same as God. 2. He had timeless being in the beginning with God. 3 & 4. All things were created through him, and without him not one thing was created. Life that was created in him had timeless being, and the life had timeless being as the light of all people.
When I took New Testament Greek in college, my brilliant professor spent quite a bit of time emphasizing the significance of the two verbs I described above.
My conclusion on Mrs. Eddy's words is that she is not indicating that Aeon and Word of God are synonymous, but that they share the context of eternal, timeless being. The substance of such being is of the Spirit, not "of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13, NRSV) The Aeon and Word of God are the context and timeless substance of all creation.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer