The word aeon, also spelled eon or æon (pronounced:ˈiːɒn), originally means "life", and/or "being", though it then tended to mean "age", "forever" 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 mediæval.[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 of time.


Roger Penrose uses the word aeon to describe the period between successive and cyclic big bangs within the context of conformal cyclic cosmology. In this theory, the remote future of the previous aeons becomes the Big Bang of subsequent aeons.

Eternity or Age

The Bible translation is a treatment of the Hebrew word olam and the Greek word aion. These two 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.[2] Proponents of Universal Reconciliation point out that this has significant implications for the problem of hell.[3] 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)[4]

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (NIV)[5]

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (NASB)[6]

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (KJV)[7]

And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life. (NWT)[8]

In 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,[9] 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 heterodox Christian doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the Greek New Testament scriptures use the word "eon" to mean a long period of time (perhaps 1000 years) and the word "eonian" to mean "during a long period of time"; 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. This contrasts with the traditional 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.[10]

In Gnosticism

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), 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).


  1. Math words page 16
  2. Canon F. W. Farrar “Mercy and Judgment” 1904 pages 378-382 "?". 
  3. Thomas Talbott "Three Pictures of God in Western Theology" 1995 pages 13-15 "?". 
  4. Matthew 25:46 Young's Literal Translation
  5. Matthew 25:46 New International Version
  6. Matthew 25:46 New American Standard Bible
  7. Matthew 25:46 King James Version
  8. Matthew 25:46 New World Translation
  9. Strong's link for the word Eternal (Aeon) in the Christian Concept of Eternal Life
  10. See Thelema.

External links

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Aeon. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
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