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Terms for Eternity: Aiônios and Aïdios in Classical and Christian Texts


What is truly timeless? This book explores two ancient Greek terms for eternity, aiônios and aïdios. It traces these terms from their earliest occurrence in Pre-Socratic philosophy and Plato and through their interaction with Jewish thought and down into the patristic fathers, where they play a crucial role in debates over eternal punishment vs. universal salvation.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-61143-970-0
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jun 18,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 268
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-61143-970-0
$149.00

What is truly timeless? This book explores the language of eternity, and in particular two ancient Greek terms that may bear the sense of “eternal”: aiônios and aïdios. This fascinating linguistic chronicle is marked by several milestones that correspond to the emergence of new perspectives on the nature of eternity. These milestones include the advent of Pre-Socratic physical speculation and the notion of limitless time in ancient philosophy, the major shift in orientation marked by Plato’s idea of a timeless eternity, and the further development of Pre-Socratic insights by Epicurean and Stoic thinkers. From the biblical perspective, the intersection of Greek and Hebrew conceptions is reflected in Septuagint, as well as new inflections in popular terminology in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and in the role of eternity in the theology of the New Testament. The profound cross-fertilization of Christian and classical philosophical conceptions in the works of the Church fathers and their contemporaries is explored, bringing the topic into the Patristic period. Christian theology in the first five centuries of the Common Era and its choice of vocabulary prove to be most revealing of larger doctrinal commitments. Above all debate raged on the question of eternal damnation versus the idea (deemed heretical in the Christian church after the formal condemnation of Origenism) of apocastastis or universal salvation – that is, the belief that the wicked are not condemned to eternal punishment but will eventually be included among the saved. Terminology for “eternity” is often at the core of how these issues were debated, and helps to identify which writers inclined to one or the other view of the matter.

Ilaria Ramelli is Assistant Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the Catholic University of Milan, and researches the relationship between Patristic philosophy and classical thought. In ancient philosophy she chiefly studies the Stoic and Platonic traditions.

David Konstan is the John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of Classics and the Humanistic Tradition, and Professor of Comparative Literature, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island (USA). His books include Roman Comedy; Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres; Greek Comedy and Ideology; Friendship in the Classical World; Pity Transformed; and The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks.

What is truly timeless? This book explores the language of eternity, and in particular two ancient Greek terms that may bear the sense of “eternal”: aiônios and aïdios. This fascinating linguistic chronicle is marked by several milestones that correspond to the emergence of new perspectives on the nature of eternity. These milestones include the advent of Pre-Socratic physical speculation and the notion of limitless time in ancient philosophy, the major shift in orientation marked by Plato’s idea of a timeless eternity, and the further development of Pre-Socratic insights by Epicurean and Stoic thinkers. From the biblical perspective, the intersection of Greek and Hebrew conceptions is reflected in Septuagint, as well as new inflections in popular terminology in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and in the role of eternity in the theology of the New Testament. The profound cross-fertilization of Christian and classical philosophical conceptions in the works of the Church fathers and their contemporaries is explored, bringing the topic into the Patristic period. Christian theology in the first five centuries of the Common Era and its choice of vocabulary prove to be most revealing of larger doctrinal commitments. Above all debate raged on the question of eternal damnation versus the idea (deemed heretical in the Christian church after the formal condemnation of Origenism) of apocastastis or universal salvation – that is, the belief that the wicked are not condemned to eternal punishment but will eventually be included among the saved. Terminology for “eternity” is often at the core of how these issues were debated, and helps to identify which writers inclined to one or the other view of the matter.

Ilaria Ramelli is Assistant Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the Catholic University of Milan, and researches the relationship between Patristic philosophy and classical thought. In ancient philosophy she chiefly studies the Stoic and Platonic traditions.

David Konstan is the John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of Classics and the Humanistic Tradition, and Professor of Comparative Literature, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island (USA). His books include Roman Comedy; Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres; Greek Comedy and Ideology; Friendship in the Classical World; Pity Transformed; and The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks.

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Contributor Biography

Ilaria Ramelli

Ilaria Ramelli, MA; MA; Ph.D.; has been Professor of Roman Near Eastern History, and Assistant in Ancient Philosophy (Catholic University, since 2003); she is also Senior Visiting Professor of Greek Thought, as well as of Church History, Senior Fellow (Durham), academic and scientific consultant, research director, and member of directive boards of scholarly journals and series. She has written many books and articles on Patristics, ancient philosophy, and late antiquity in outstanding scholarly series and journals and received prestigious academic prizes.

David Konstan

  • Dedication Page (page 5)
  • Table of Contents (page 7)
  • Preface (page 9)
  • Introduction (page 11)
  • 1. Classical Literature from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period (page 15)
    • a) The Presocratics (page 16)
    • b) Plato and Platonism (page 22)
    • c) Aristotle and Hellenistic Philosophy (page 38)
  • 2. From the Septuagint to the New Testament (page 47)
    • a) The Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint (page 47)
    • b) Around the Time of Christ (page 60)
    • c) The New Testament (page 67)
  • 3. The Early Church Fathers and their Contemporaries (page 81)
    • a) Non-Christian Writers of the Early Empire (page 81)
    • b) Early Christian and Christianizing Texts (page 92)
    • c) From Tatian to Clement of Alexandria (page 105)
    • d) Origen (page 126)
  • 4. Church Fathers after Origen (page 139)
    • a) From Gregory the Thaumaturge to Athanasius (page 139)
    • b) The Cappadocian Fathers (page 182)
    • c) Evagrius to Maximus the Confessor (page 209)
    • d) Anti-Origenist Writers from Methodius to Epiphanius (page 236)
  • 5. Conclusion (page 247)
  • Bibliography (page 251)
  • Index (page 265)
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