Monday, March 15, 2010

The Eternal Father

In the sacrament prayers (Moroni 4 - 5) God is referred to as God, the Eternal Father. Each title that our Heavenly Father bears carries meaning. This evening as I was studying I started thinking about the word "eternal" and what it means. Here is Webster's 1828 dictionary definition of "eternal":

ETER'NAL, a. [L. oeternus, composed of oevum and ternus, oeviternus, Varro. The origin of the last component part of the word is not obvious. It occurs in diuturnus, and seems to denote continuance.]

1. Without beginning or end of existence.
The eternal God is thy refuge. Deu 33.

2. Without beginning of existence.
To know whether there is any real being, whose duration has been eternal.

3. Without end of existence or duration; everlasting; endless; immortal.
That they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 2 Tim 2. What shall I do, that I may have eternal life? Mat 19.
Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 7.

4. Perpetual; ceaseless; continued without intermission.
And fires eternal in thy temple shine.

5. Unchangeable; existing at all times without change; as eternal truth.

We know, however, that when the scriptures use the word "eternal" it is not strictly used in describing time. The Lord explained this a little in section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

It seems as though that "eternal" as used in the scriptures also describes creation as explained by Elder Bruce R. McConkie on page 166 of the Promised Messiah:

When our revelations say of Christ, "From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail" (D&C 76:4), they mean that from one preexistence to the next he does not vary, his course is one eternal round.

Often times the English words that we use to describe spiritual things have down to us through various translations of the Bible. The word "eternal" appears about thirty five times in the Bible. The word "eternity" appears only once.

More than one Hebrew or Greek word has been translated into the word "eternal". Here are some examples:

קדם - keh'-dem
עולם - o-lawm
αιωνιος - ahee-o'-nee-os
αιδιος - ah-id'-ee-os

It is interesting to look at the definitions of these words to gain some insight into what the authors were trying to communicate. Here are the definitions of these words (along with another Greek word that was translated into the word "eternal") from Strong's concordance:

קדמה קדם
qedem qêdmâh
keh'-dem, kayd'-maw
From H6923; the front, of palce (absolutely the fore part, relatively the East) or time (antiquity); often used adverbially (before, anciently, eastward): - aforetime, ancient (time), before, east (end, part, side, -ward), eternal, X ever (-lasting), forward, old, past. Compare H6926.

עלם עולם
‛ôlâm ‛ôlâm
o-lawm', o-lawm'
From H5956; properly concealed, that is, the vanishing point; generally time out of mind (past or future), that is, (practically) eternity; frequentative adverbially (especially with prepositional prefix) always: - always (-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, [n-]) ever (-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end). Compare H5331, H5703.

From G165; perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well): - eternal, for ever, everlasting, world (began).

From the same as G104; properly an age; by extension perpetuity (also past); by implication the world; specifically (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future): - age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end). Compare G5550.

From G104; everduring (forward and backward, or foward only): - eternal, everlasting.

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