World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article




The word aeon , also spelled eon (in American English), originally meant "life", "vital force" or "being", "generation" or "a period of time", though it tended to be translated as "age" in the sense of "ages", "forever", "timeless" or "for eternity". It is a Latin transliteration from the koine Greek word ὁ αἰών (ho aion), from the archaic αἰϝών (aiwon). In Homer it typically refers to life or lifespan. Its latest meaning is more or less similar to the Sanskrit word kalpa and Hebrew word olam. A cognate Latin word aevum or aeuum (cf. αἰϝών) for "age" is present in words such as longevity and mediaeval.[1]

Although the term aeon may be used in reference to a period of a billion years (especially in geology, cosmology or astronomy), its more common usage is for any long, indefinite, period. Aeon can also refer to the four aeons on the Geologic Time Scale that make up the Earth's history, the Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic, and the current aeon Phanerozoic.

Astronomy and cosmology

In astronomy an aeon is defined as a billion years (109 years, abbreviated AE).[2]

Roger Penrose uses the word aeon to describe the period between successive and cyclic big bangs within the context of conformal cyclic cosmology.

Eternity or age

The Bible translation is a treatment of the Hebrew word olam and the Greek word aion. Both these words have similar meaning, and Young's Literal Translation renders them and their derivatives as “age” or “age-during”. Other English versions most often translate them to indicate eternity, being translated as eternal, everlasting, forever, etc. However, there are notable exceptions to this in all major translations, such as Matthew 28:20: “…I am with you always, to the end of the age” (NRSV), the word “age” being a translation of aion. Rendering aion to indicate eternality in this verse would result in the contradictory phrase “end of eternity”, so the question arises whether it should ever be so.[3] Proponents of Universal Reconciliation point out that this has significant implications for the problem of hell.[4] Contrast Matthew 25:46 in well-known English translations with its rendering in Young's Literal Translation:

And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during. (YLT)[5]

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (NIV)[6]

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (NASB)[7]

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (KJV)[8]

And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life. (NWT)[9]

Philosophy and mysticism

Plato used the word aeon to denote the eternal world of ideas, which he conceived was "behind" the perceived world, as demonstrated in his famous allegory of the cave.

Christianity's idea of "eternal life" comes from the word for life, zoe, and a form of aeon,[10] which could mean life in the next aeon, the Kingdom of God, or Heaven, just as much as immortality, as in John 3:16.

According to the Christian doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the Greek New Testament scriptures use the word "eon" to mean a long period (perhaps 1000 years) and the word "eonian" to mean "during a long period"; Thus there was a time before the eons, and the eonian period is finite. After each man's mortal life ends, he is judged worthy of eonian life or eonian punishment. That is, after the period of the eons, all punishment will cease and death is overcome and then God becomes the all in each one (1Cor 15:28). This contrasts with the conventional Christian belief in eternal life and eternal punishment.

Occultists of the Thelema and O.T.O. traditions sometimes speak of a "magical Aeon" that may last for far less time, perhaps as little as 2,000 years.

Aeon may also be an archaic name for omnipotent beings, such as gods.


In many Gnostic systems, the various emanations of God, who is also known by such names as the One, the Monad, Aion teleos (αἰών τέλεος "The Broadest Aeon"), Bythos ("depth or profundity", Greek βυθός), Proarkhe ("before the beginning", Greek προαρχή), the Arkhe ("the beginning", Greek ἀρχή), "Sophia" (wisdom), Christos (the Anointed One) are called Aeons. In the different systems these emanations are differently named, classified, and described, but the emanation theory itself is common to all forms of Gnosticism.

In the Basilidian Gnosis they are called sonships (υἱότητες huiotetes; sing.: υἱότης huiotes); according to Marcus, they are numbers and sounds; in Valentinianism they form male/female pairs called "syzygies" (Greek συζυγίαι, from σύζυγοι syzygoi).

Similarly, in the Greek Magical Papyri, the term "Aion" is often used to denote the All, or the supreme aspect of God. [11]

See also


  1. ^ Math words page 16
  2. ^ p. 4.
  3. ^ Canon F. W. Farrar “Mercy and Judgment” 1904 pages 378-382
  4. ^ Thomas Talbott "Three Pictures of God in Western Theology" 1995 pages 13-15
  5. ^ Matthew 25:46 Young's Literal Translation
  6. ^ Matthew 25:46 New International Version
  7. ^ Matthew 25:46 New American Standard Bible
  8. ^ Matthew 25:46 King James Version
  9. ^ Matthew 25:46 New World Translation
  10. ^ Strong's link for the word Eternal (Aeon) in the Christian Concept of Eternal Life
  11. ^ [1] H. D. Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.