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INTO THE EXTENT OF DURATION EXPRESSED BY THE TERMS OLIM, AION, AND AIONION, RENDERED EVERLASTING, FOREVER, &c. IN THE COMMON VERSION, ESPECIALLY WHEN APPLIED TO PUNISHMENT.
ALL THE TEXTS NOTICED WHERE OLIM OCCURS IN THE OLD
TESTAMENT, BUT IS RENDERED BY WORDS WHICH DO NOT EXPRESS OR IMPLY ETERNAL DURATION.
Taylor, in his Hebrew concordance, on the word olim, says, “ The word is applied to time, and signifieth a duration which is concealed, as being of an unknown or great length, with respect either to time past or to come.” After quoting some texts, which he supposed proof of this, he adds; "it signifies eternity, not from the proper force of the word, but when the sense of the place, or the nature of the subject to which it is applied requireth it; as God and his attributes." As he refers to no text to show, that when applied to punishment it signifies eternity, it may I think be inferred, that he did not think it was ever so applied. Parkhurst on the word olim, says, “it
seems to be much more frequently used for an indefinite than for infinite time." And in his Greek Lexicon, on the words aion and aionios, he says, that the Hebrew word olim answers as the corresponding word for these two words in the Greek of the Seventy, “ which words denote time hidden from man, whether indefinite or definite, whether past or future." Professor Stuart, in his letters to Dr. Miller p. 128. commenting on Mic. v. 1. says: “ the words kedesh and od, rendered by Turretine, eternity, are like the Greek aion, that also signifies any thing ancient, which has endured or is to endure for a long period. The question when these words are to have the sense of ancient or very old, is always to be determined by the nature of the case, i. e. by the context.”
Concessions, such as these, from critics on the language of Scripture, ought to lead every man to examine, if these terms are ever used in the Bible to express the endless duration of punishment. Mr. Stuart's rule, if applied with attention to the general usage of these terms, would soon cool the zeal of many people, who seem to dwell with peculiar delight on the endless duration of punishment to their fellow creatures. It is evident, that the translators of the common version were fully aware, that olim was often used by the sacred writers to express a limited period of time, for 1st. They render it continuance, Isai. Ixiv. 5. 2d. ancient, and apply it to landmarks, Prov. xxii. 28. To people, Isai. xliv. 7. To paths, Jer. xviii. 15. To high places, Ezek. xxxvi. 2. To nations, Jer. v. 15. To times, Psalm lxxvii. 5. which is explained to mean old. Had olim in these texts been rendered eternal, or everlasting, as in some other places, the impropriety would be very manifest. We would then have had an eternal landmark, an everlasting people, eternal paths, and everlasting high places; yea, an everlasting nation, and
eternal times. But they had no idea that this word always expressed endless duration, and accordingly rendered it ancient as the context of the passages demanded. In the last text they have rendered olim both by the word old and ancient, which if rendered eternal or everlasting, the passages would read thus: 6 I have considered the days of everlasting, the years of eternal times."
3d. Olim is rendered old and is equivalent to ancient, as in the last class of passages. Thus the "day's of old” is explained to mean "the years of many generations,” Deut. xxxii. 7. Isai. Ixiii. 9. comp. verse 11. which shows that the days of old refer to the days of Moses, Jer. vi. 6. Lam. iii. 6. Amos ix. 11. Mic. vii. 14. Mal. iii. 4. In this last text “ days of old” is explained to be “ former years,” and in the margin our translators have put "ancient years." See also Job xxii. 15. Prov. xxiii. 10. Isai. lviii. 12. where we read of the “old way” the “old landmark” and “the old waste places. The explanation given in this last text is “thou shalt raise
the foundations of many generations.” The same is repeated, chap. Ixi. 4. In the following texts olim is rendered old and is applied to a variety of things, which it would only be a waste of time to particularize. Ezek. xxv. 15. Jer. xxviii. 8. Gen. vi. 4. '1 Sam. xxvii. 8. Psalm cxix. 52. Isai. xlvi. 9. Comp. verse 10. Ezek. xxvi. 20. Josh. xxiv. 2. Jer. ii. 20. Psalm xxv. 6. Isai. lvii. 11. and li. 9. "ancient days” and “generations of old” are used as explanatory of each other. Eccles. i. 10. Such are all the texts in which olim is rendered old, and on which we shall submit a few brief remarks. Let it be then supposed for a moment, that it had been rendered everlasting, or by any other word which has the idea of endless duration affixed to it, what would follow ? It may be observed as an example, that men are
called on to remember the days of everlasting, that God carried Israel all the days of everlasting, and that some are spoken of as dead from everlasting, Besides; the everlasting waste places were to be built, and the giants were from everlasting, men of
Whoever chooses to go over all the above texts will see, that to translate olim eyerlasting or eternal, would involve the inspired writers in the grossest absurdities. Any word expressive of endless duration could not be a proper translation. It is evident, that in all these texts, as in the preceding, olim rendered old, signifies ancient. Though it expresses a long, indefinite period of time, yet it would not be a very difficult task to ascertain, in some instances at least, how many years were meant. If olim then, in any text rendered everlasting or eternal, does convey the sense of endless duration, it is obvious that it cannot have this meaning in any of the texts which have yet been brought to view.
Both the texts and their contexts forbid this, and we have seen, that an explanation is given of this word by the sacred writers to prevent all misapprehension on the subject.
4th. In the following places olim is rendered any, and long, or any time, long time, long home, and long dead. Levit. XXV. 32. Isai. xlii. 14. Eccles. xii. 5.. Psalm cxliii. 3. To understand olim as meaning everlasting in these texts, would make the inspired writers to say, that some have been eternally dead, that the grave is man's everlasting or eternal home, and that God has eternally held his peace.
5th. In the following texts olim is rendered world. Psalm lxxiii. 12. Eccles. iii. 11. Isai. Ixiv. 4. The language used, John ix. 32. seems to be taken from this last text, and in both, the meaning seems to be since the age hegan, probably referring to the Mosaic age or dispensation. In Isai. xlv. 17. it is said, " Israel
shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation : ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end." Taylor, in his Hebrew Concordance, says it signifies “the ages of perpetuity.” I would merely suggest it for consideration, if the phråse " world without end,” does not refer to the age or dispensation of the Messiah, which age was not to be succeeded by any other, and corresponds to passages in the New Testament where it is said to be everlasting, and to endure forever. Whatever may be in this, we think it is evident that olim rendered world, in these texts, does not mean endless duration. How does it sound to say, that God sets eternity in the hearts of men, and that the ungodly prosper in the eternity. Olim rendered world in these texts, seems to be used in a similar sense, as aion and aionion translated world, in the New Testament. Age, in both, would be a better rendering, for surely neither the material world nor eternity can be referred to.
6th, In Jer. xlix. 36. olim is translated “outcasts." Why it is so I cannot conceive. As it cannot affect the subject under consideration it would not be of much use to spend time in inquiring.
7th. In Deut. xxxiii. 15. the word olim is rendered “ lasting.” By quoting the whole verse it will be seen, that lasting hills in the last part, is just another expression for ancient mountains in the first, “and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills.” It will be seen presently, that olim here translated ancient and lasting, and applied to the mountains and hills, might just as well have been translated everlasting, as it is in Gen. xlix. 26. and Hab. iii. 6. and applied to the same things. But I forbear further remarks until we come to those passages.
8th. I find that olim is rendered alway, or always, Jer. xx. 17. Gen. vi. 3. 1 Chron. xvi. 15. Job vii.