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God's Everlasting Nature

Biblical Evidence for God's Temporal Eternity

(Part 1 of the article series God and Time)

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God is full of life and distinguished by His vital activity and creativity. As the Creator of the whole universe, which is sustained and preserved by His power, He is the source of all life. But how is created life characterized in the Bible? All life created by God is described as something that moves: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Created life on Earth is featured as dynamic with diverse biological systems, such as "moving creatures that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth, … and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind" (Genesis 1:20, 25, italics added). Even the plant life is full of dynamic vitality, as seen in its reproduction and growth, cf. Genesis 1:11-12. All living organisms are alive precisely because they have a capacity for self-movement, i.e., they move by their inherent power. In other words, a necessary condition for having life is a capacity for continuous dynamic self-activity. Experience teaches us that something that does not move or change is definitively dead; no life is motionless.1

Traditional theology, on the other hand, expects us to believe that something can have life although it is absolutely immovable. That is what the classic doctrine of the immutability of God amounts to. According to the doctrine, God possesses life, but is absolutely changeless. Absolute immutability is an ontological state where no change occurs. It implies complete immovability.

In ancient Greek philosophy, immutability was an ideal of perfection, and this idea in turn influenced Christian philosophers such as Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, etc.

Divine immutability is one of the cardinal divine attributes highly esteemed in traditional theology. What is the main motivation for assimilating this idea of Greek philosophy into the Christian traditional framework? The rational motive for the doctrine of the immutability of God is an argument from perfection, which goes as follows:

God must be changeless. For if God changed, the change must be either for the better or the worse: if for the better, then God had previously been less good than He might have been, and so was not the most perfect possible being and if for the worse, then He was subsequently less good than He might have been, and so was not the most perfect possible being.2

The argument depends on the faulty assumption that any change is either for the better or for the worse. As Alan G. Padget argues, immutability is always relative to essential divine attributes, those properties that constitute a divine Being,3 such as omnipotence or moral goodness. God's power and His moral character are unchangeable. Nevertheless, God can change in relational ways in order to create or care for His creation, and such change is neither for the better or for the worse. Indeed, this mutability is a feature of His perfection: "Ability to change in response to others is part of what makes God a perfect Being."4

Another faulty assumption of the argument is, as J. R. Lucas notes, “that there is one linear scale of excellence, so that any two different states of affairs can be compared and ordered, one better, one worse. But this is not so. There are many different excellences, and it is perfectly possible to change from one sort of excellence, that is the best of its kind, to another, which is the best of its, quite different, kind.”5

The pertinent question is how any action is possible with an absolutely immovable Being. Most importantly, how is it possible that God can create if His divine being is characterized as absolutely immovable? It is obvious that this is not possible: the idea of an immovable creator is a logically incoherent idea. And yet, in the centuries since Augustine this concept has dominated Christian theology.

A closely related idea to the immutability of God is the timelessness of God. If one has a strong intuition that God's perfection requires divine immutability, it is only a small step further to add the attribute of timelessness to the theological construct of God's perfection. According to such an idea, God is beyond time, and as such, God is outside time. It would imply that God does not have an infinite duration in the past, i.e., he did not always exist in the past, nor will He exist in the future. It is even wrong to say that an atemporal God exists now, at the present moment, because divine existence is timeless, much akin to the existence of numbers and other abstract objects. Therefore, if speaking of an atemporal God, it is incorrect to say that He existed before creation or that He has an everlasting duration.

Both the doctrine of divine immutability and divine timelessness are at odds with the biblical teaching that God is an everlasting divine being who created the heaven and the earth at some moment in time. According to the Bible, God's creative act is an act in history and therefore is not atemporal.

This article, which is the first part of the article series God and Time, will explore the biblical evidence for the essential temporality of God and His creative act as a historical event deeply entrenched in time. For the philosophical justification for the essential temporality of God, please read our articles "Is God Timeless? - Philosophical Objections Against God's Timelessness," and "Does God Have a Beginningless Past? - On the Possibility of an Infinite Past." They are parts of the article series God and Time.

The first biblical evidence for God's essential temporality is His revealed glory as the creator, which is the topic of the next section.

In the Beginning God Created the Heaven and the Earth

The most central truth of Christian faith is that God is the creator of the universe, as testified by the very first words of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). The locution the heaven and the earth is an ancient Near East expression that means "the total universe."6 Divine creation is described as an event that has a temporal location at the very beginning of the cosmos by the locution in the beginning. It signifies that God's creation is a divine action, and as such, God is revealed as an agent in a cosmological history who acts, i.e., performs actions. The biblical account of God's creation, as reported in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis, reveals the character of God's agency, namely that it possesses personhood, i.e., God is a person who acts with intentions: He speaks and observes, cf. Genesis 1:3-4. Moreover, it is revealed how God created the heaven and the earth, namely that He created and shaped the universe with His word.

How shall we understand the term "in the beginning"? Christ describes the starting point of the universe as "the beginning of the creation which God created," cf. Mark 13:19. This plausibly suggests that Christ's interpretation of "the beginning" is not the beginning of time, but simply the beginning of the heaven and the earth, since the heaven and the earth is the creation that God created.

Was God's creation of the universe one single divine act? According to the Genesis account, creation was an event that had a temporal duration of six days. On each day, God intervened and commenced with a new creative act. This clearly demonstrates that God's creative actions were not timeless effects of God's creative will, but rather were essentially in time.

After creating Adam and Eve, the first human pair, God was engaged in a communication with them, cf. Genesis 1:28-30. This signifies that God is not a passive impersonal deity à la the god of deism, but someone who is full of life and creativity, engaging with His creation through communication. In other words, God's creation of the universe should be understood in interventionist terms: God actively participates and interacts in His creation of the world.

The interventionist manner of God's creation is also evident when we observe how God creates and fashions the world. He creates the world by His words, which have a creative force: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). When God speaks, things happen! God did not create the world in an instantaneous act, but sequentially in time, day by day. On each creative day, God spoke, and new things came into existence. The point is that God's act of utterance is a direct cause of the formation of new things. At the moment of His creative utterance, new things are created. If we take the Genesis account at face value, the words God spoke at different moments in time are direct causes of the formation of the universe with its life.

Another passage teaching the interventionist manner of divine creation is Jeremiah 10:12-13 (which is repeated in 51:15-16):

He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.

This passage carries the same idea as the Genesis account of creation, namely that God's word is creative. When God speaks ("when he uttereth his voice"), divine forces are at work causing new cosmological events to happen. It is at the moment of his creative utterance that new things are formed.

Therefore, God's creation is essentially in time. This conclusion, however, is not shared by traditional Christian philosophy. For instance, according to the theology of Thomas Aquinas, God did not directly create the universe (in time), but rather the universe was created in a non-interventionist manner as an indirect effect of God's timeless will (outside time).7 How can Aquinas have such a theology, given the clear biblical evidence for the temporal interventionist manner of divine creation? Aquinas' answer is that we should have a metaphorical understanding of the passages that teach God's mutability.8 In other words, the tradition does not employ a literal interpretation of the passages that are at odds with their theology.

The Biblical Doctrine of God's Everlasting Nature

The doctrine of God as the creator of the whole universe is one of the central truths of the Bible, testified by numerous biblical references.9 An equally important truth evidenced by a multitude of biblical passages is that God is everlasting.10 Did God exist before the creation? This question, perhaps, sounds odd because the Bible teaches that God is everlasting, and as such, He has always existed. Nevertheless, traditional Christian philosophy denies this important truth, which is our reason for taking up the question.

In this section, we will examine important biblical passages that teach the temporal eternity of God, i.e., that God's eternity is characterized by His everlasting nature, which is a form of temporal infinity. We will start with Psalm 90:2, which describes God as both a creator and an everlasting divine being.

Psalm 90:2

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

This passage, at face value, is a clear proof-text that God existed before the creation and that He was not a timeless entity. A timeless God would have no temporal relations with events, and it would be meaningless to apply temporal terms such as 'before' or 'after' to an atemporal deity. There is no 'before' for a timeless God. Nevertheless, the psalmist proclaims that God existed before the creation. In other words, God is essentially in time and is not timeless.

It is further revealed that God's eternal nature is of a sempiternal character: "from everlasting to everlasting." It has an infinite temporal duration without beginning and end. God lasts forever; He is an everlasting divine being. As everlasting God, there is no time in the past when He did not exist, and there is no time in the future when He will cease to exist. In other words, He has always existed in the past, exists now, and will always exist in the future.

The English word "everlasting" is translated from the Hebrew term olam, which has temporal connotations, signifying something that is "forever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient."11 It carries "the idea of time extending into the distant past and future"12 and it "develops into the abstract sense of 'eternity' and is typically oriented around events or things that are very old."13 The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew olam is aion. (From the Greek aion comes the English word "eon" or "aeon," which means "an immeasurable or indefinitely long period of time," and is synonymous with the word "age.") Thus, the LXX generally translates olam by aion, which has essentially the same range of meaning. Both words came to be used to refer to a long age or period -- an idea that is sometimes expressed in English by "world."14

In the LXX [aion] primarily represents Heb. ‛ôlām. The use of [aion] in Jewish Greek, influenced as it is by the LXX, is thus decisively shaped by ‛ôlām, which basically refers to remotest time, both past and future.15

To express the idea of everlasting duration, the word is usually repeated, not merely saying "forever," but "forever and ever," "from everlasting to everlasting," cf. Exodus 15:18; 1 Chronicles 16:36, Psalm 90:2, etc.16 A parallel expression for "from everlasting to everlasting" is "from generation to generation," which is also used to express God's eternal nature in temporal terms, as seen in Lamentations 5:19 and Exodus 3:15.

Lamentations 5:19 and Exodus 3:15

Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. (Lamentations 5:19)

This passage is significant in that it makes an inseparable connection between God's eternal existence and a state of affairs having temporal duration, i.e., generations. The expression "from generation to generation" is used in the Bible to denote an indefinite, often unlimited, period of time. In a context where God's eternal nature is the main theme, it signifies an everlasting or unending temporal duration, such as in Isaiah 51:8, which speaks about God's eternal righteousness. This expression in KJV is sometimes translated with "unto all generations," such as in Exodus 3:15:

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

In Exodus 3:15, the expression denotes an unending period.

… after God declares to Moses that he is "I AM WHO I AM" (Exod. 3:14), he adds, "This is my name to be remembered from generation to generation" (3:15). This expression denotes an unending period of time. When used in the plural, the expression "your generations" means "for generations to come," which likewise speaks of the indefinite future (37 x; e.g., Lev. 23:14, 21, 31).17

Another passage linking God's eternal nature and the temporal duration of all generations is Psalm 102:24-27.

Psalm 102:24-27

I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Verse 26 teaches the indestructibility and/or eternity of God in the terms of temporal duration -- the creation perishes but He "[shall] endure." The Psalm does not teach the classical doctrine of God's immutability, but rather that God will remain and endure, which is the passage's main theme. If interpreted as teaching the traditional doctrine of divine immutability, then the passage would be contradictory, since divine immutability, which is essentially an atemporal (timeless) ontological state, would conflict with the statement that God's divine life has an endless temporal duration ("thy years shall have no end"). A timeless entity, such as a mathematical abstract object, does not have a temporal duration, nor does it have a temporal location.18 Precisely because the Psalm asserts that God's years have no end, it is a proof-text for the doctrine of the sempiternal nature of God, i.e., God has an infinite temporal duration without beginning and end.

John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20

We will now look at three groups of important passages, this time from the New Testament. These passages are interesting because of the expression "before [apo] the foundation of the world [kosmos]."

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. (Ephesians 1:4)

Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (1 Peter 1:20)

These passages obviously teach that there was a divine history before the creation of the world: the Father loved the Son, God chose us and Christ was foreordained. The texts do not speak about pretemporality, but rather about divine life before the formation of the cosmos. In the New Testament, as in secular Greek and Hellenistic Judaism, the noun kosmos denotes the world. (The sole exception is 1 Pet. 3:3, where it means "adornment.") Kosmos can denote the universe (Acts 17:24); the earth, the sphere or place of human life (Matthew 4:8, Mark 8:36); and, finally, it can stand for humanity, the world of men (John 3:19, 2 Corinthians 5:19).19

Hebrews 1:8

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)

The expression "for ever and ever" comes from the Greek eis ton aiona tou aionos, which literally means "to the ages of the ages." This passage is quoting the messianic Psalm 45:6-7, where the Hebrew term olam is used to express the idea of the eternal rule of the Messiah. In both texts, the terms aion and olam are repeated. The reason for this repetition is that "neither the Hebrew nor the Greek word in itself contains the idea of endlessness" and "it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying 'forever,' but 'forever and ever.'"20 This very fact demonstrates that the biblical usage of aion does not carry the abstract idea of timelessness, but is conceptually linked to the idea of time.

The basic meaning of aion in Gentile pre-Christian Greek "has the temporal sense of life, lifetime, generation," and can designate a "long, indeterminate timespan."21 It did not carry the idea of timelessness, although Plato in Timaeus (Ti. 37d) sets aion, eternity, against hronos, time. Nevertheless, for Plato aion means "lifetime."22 In the Gnostic literature, the concept of aeons has developed as "mediating powers which bridge the infinite qualitative distinction between God and the world."23 They are an emanation of the divine pleroma, the fullness of the divine Being, and as such they were conceived as personal and divine rulers of world-historical periods.24 In Gnosticism, this idea is found in the doctrine of the two ages (aeons), representing on the one hand the eternal and supratemporal, and on the other the temporal and transient world.25

This Gnostic usage of aion is not found in the New Testament, and "the contrast between the two ages is scarcely discernible."26 In the NT usage of aion, the noun is found with the following basic meanings (relevant for our discourse): (a) "a long time, duration of time, where both a specifically limited period of time as well as an unlimited period can be meant;"27 and (b) "an age, epoch, era (of the world)."28 In connection with the meaning of aion as an age of the world, it denotes the course of world-events, world history or a world order. With such meaning, aion is usually translated as "world," as in the KJV's Matthew 12:32: "whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."29

When the word is used to carry the idea of eternity, one can establish that eternity is understood in the temporal sense, i.e., as an infinite temporal duration. Any gnostic dualism between the two ages (aeons) is alien to the New Testament:

Surveying the usage of the word aiōn, aeon, and the connected eschatology, one can establish that, with all the varied accentuations, the NT speaks of eternity in the categories of time. Any dualism between two world-systems is thus foreign to it. The world is and remains God's creation, and Christ is the Lord of the worlds, even if his lordship is hidden.30

Therefore, we cannot interpret God's eternal rule, as proclaimed in Hebrews 1:8, in an atemporal sense, but only in a temporal sense, where it is understood to have an everlasting (infinite temporal) duration.

Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 16:5

It is significant to find in the Book of the Revelation (a prophetic book dealing with the eschaton and the eternal destiny of saints) doxologies describing God as the One that is, and was, and shall be. These doxologies are found in three instances, in different circumstances, and are uttered by the cherubim31 (v. 4:8), the saints in heaven (v. 11:17), and the angel of the waters (v. 16:5):

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 4:8)

We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. (Revelation 11:17)

And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. (Revelation 16:5)

While God's temporal nature is an obvious truth for the inhabitants of heaven, somehow the philosophers of traditional theology did not pick up on this. In the passages above we clearly see that God's existence is understood in temporal terms: He was existing, He is existing and He will exist. Revelation 4:8 is followed with the scene of a new doxology uttered by the saints in heaven:

And when those beasts [cherubim] give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:9-11)

Reading Revelation 4:8-11, it becomes clear that God's eternal nature is an everlasting one: He has always existed, He exists and will always exist. There is no moment in the past when He did not exist, and there will be no moment in the future when He will not exist. His divine life has an infinite temporal duration. God is truly infinite when His eternal nature is understood in temporal terms.

There are many more biblical texts teaching that God's creation is an event in a cosmological history, and as such is essentially in time.32 Likewise, there are many more texts teaching that God's eternal nature is of sempiternal character, i.e., God is an everlasting God, having an infinite temporal duration, without beginning and end.33 What is clear is that the predominant biblical narrative of God is a history of communication between Him and us, a history where He actively interacts with humans. Thus, through biblical narrative, God is revealed as someone who is essentially in time.

Alleged Biblical Proof-Texts for the Idea of the Creation of Time

In this section, we will deal with alleged biblical proof-texts for the doctrine of God's creation of time. We will follow William Lane Craig's biblical arguments as representative of the atemporal camp.

Craig cites the following passages as proof-texts for the creation of time: Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, Proverbs 8:22-23, Jude 25, Titus 1:2-3 and 2 Timothy 1:9. Craig's view is interesting because he believes that God's eternity is timeless, but also that God is not essentially timeless, since, as Craig argues, "at the moment of creation, God comes into relation of sustaining the universe or, at the very least, of coexisting with the universe, relations in which he did not stand before."34 Thus, at the moment of creation, God ceases to be atemporal and becomes temporal. Because God was timeless prior to creation, time was created at the creation of the world. Craig offers two kinds of arguments for the creation of time: (1) philosophical, involving a paradox of the infinity of time;35 and (2) biblical, offering alleged proof-texts for the creation of time. In this section, we will examine Craig's biblical arguments, but our article "Does God Have a Beginningless Past? – On the Possibility of an Infinite Past," discusses his philosophical argument against infinite time.

Genesis 1:1

Let us start with Craig's take on Genesis 1:1:

Genesis 1:1, which is neither a subordinate clause nor a summary title, speaks of an absolute beginning. This absolute beginning, taken in conjunction with the expression "And there was evening and there was morning, the first day" (v. 5), may very well be intended to teach that the beginning was not simply the beginning of the physical universe but the beginning of time itself and that consequently God may be thought of as timeless.36

The text of Genesis 1:1 simply states that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. It does not state that God created time, but rather that the heaven and the earth have a beginning. To teach that God created time is to put more into the text than what it actually states. The following reasons support a temporalist interpretation of the passage:

  1. Christ describes the starting point of the universe as "the beginning of the creation which God created," when referring to the whole history of the world, cf. Mark 10:6, 13:19. This plausibly suggests that Christ's interpretation of "the beginning" in the text of Genesis 1:1 is not the beginning of time, but simply the beginning of the heaven and the earth, since the heaven and the earth is the creation that God created.

  2. If we interpret the text as saying that God created time, we would have a challenging problem to harmonize it with the texts teaching that God existed before the creation, such as Psalm 90:2, John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, and Revelation 16:5. These pro-temporal texts are more clear in their declaration that God existed prior to creation, as explained in the section where we dealt with the biblical proof-text for God's temporal everlasting existence before creation. A sound principle of interpretation is to choose clearer texts relevant for the topic in question. Genesis 1:1 is not clear with respect to the expression "in the beginning," since it can (speculatively) mean the absolute beginning, including the beginning of time (whatever that means), or it can mean the beginning of creation, i.e., the beginning of the heaven and earth, cf. Mark 13:19. Craig briefly comments on the passages where the expression "before the foundation of the world" figures, taking for granted that the beginning of the world was coincident with the beginning of time or ages. He does not, however, explain how God could exist "before" the beginning of time, nor how the expression "before creation" can be understood as atemporal. As we discuss in our article "Is God Timeless? - Philosophical Objections Against God's Timelessness," which deals with philosophical reasons for the conceptual unintelligibility of the idea of the creation of time. It is more plausible to understand "before the foundation of the world" as implying that God existed in time before creation. Such an interpretation is more logically coherent than invoking the unintelligible idea of the creation of time.

  3. A similar passage stating that God created the world at the beginning is Hebrews 1:10: "And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth." In light of the passages stating that God had a history before the world's foundation,37 it would be wrong to interpret Hebrews 1:10 as teaching the divine creation of time.

John 1:1

With regard to John 1:1, Craig argues that it is a proof-text for the creation of time:

The most striking New Testament reflection on Genesis 1:1 is, of course, John 1:1. Here the uncreated Word, the source of all created things, was already with God and was God in the beginning. It is not hard to interpret this passage in terms of the Word's timeless unity with God -- nor would it be anachronistic to do so, given the first-century Jewish philosopher Philo's doctrine of the divine Logos and Philo's belief that time begins with creation.38

Craig's claim has two main problems. First, the text is very obscure with respect to the meaning of the Greek term arhe: how should we understand this word as it figures in the text? Arhe in John 1:1 can be interpreted as (a) the absolute beginning in "the sense of pre-temporality and eternity;"39 but it can also be understood as either (b) "to begin in the sense that one is the first, the one who does something before others;"40 or (c) "the starting point, the cause, the first cause of all that is."41 Both (b) and (c) are plausible, since the main theme of the text is Christ's pre-existence and His role as the creator of the world. The text does not rule out that Christ's pre-existence was temporal, i.e., He always existed before creation and His incarnation.

Second, regarding Craig's reference to Philo's doctrine of the divine Logos and his belief that time begins with creation, Philo's God "is absolutely transcendent and so is ineffable."42 His belief that time begins with creation is a consequence of his view that God is timelessly eternal: "For Philo, God's essence is unknowable since it is beyond both human reason and sensation. … God is anonymous or nameless, for to name is to define and to define is to limit."43 His main method of interpretation of the Scriptures was allegorical, where his "philosophical presuppositions are placed over the God described in the Bible and so serve as the preunderstanding that guided his reading of Scripture."44 For this reason, we find it problematic to appeal to Philo's theology and understanding of the Scriptures.

Proverbs 8:22-23

The next alleged proof-text is Proverbs 8:22-23, which is part of a larger passage (vv. 22-31) describing the role of Wisdom in the creation of the world: "The Lord possessed (qânâ) me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was" (KJV). Craig's take on the passage is as follows

Proverbs 8:22-23 is certainly capable of being read in terms of a beginning of time. The passage, which doubtless looks back to Genesis 1:1, is brimming with temporal expressions for a beginning. Otto Plöger comments that through God's creative work "the possibility of speaking of 'time' was first given; thus, before this time, right at the beginning, Wisdom came into existence through Yahweh [the Lord]." The passage was so understood by other ancient writers. The Septuagint renders me 'olam in Proverbs 8:23 as pro tou aionios (before time), and Sirach 24:9 has Wisdom say, "Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me, and for all the ages I shall not cease to be" (cf. 16:26, 23:20).45

Wisdom can either be understood as a hypostasis (i.e., an actual heavenly being, e.g., Christ) or as a personification (i.e., an abstraction, made personal for the sake of poetic vividness).46 In Christological debate between Arians and Orthodox Trinitarians, Wisdom was understood as Christ, and verse 22 was heavily discussed concerning the question of whether qânâ should be understood as "created" or "possessed." The Arians (who denied the deity of Christ) appealed to LXX's "created," to prove that Christ, the Wisdom of God, was not eternal. It is a plausible interpretation to understand Wisdom in this context as Christ, given the biblical facts that (a) Christ is the creator of the world (cf. John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:15-17, and Revelation 3:14), and (b) Christ is described as the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24). From a metaphysical point of view, however, LXX's translation erroneously prefers "created" to "possessed." How can God's Wisdom be created if God with His essential attributes is eternal? If God is eternal, then God's Wisdom is necessarily eternal as well; otherwise, God would not have always been wise in His eternal life, which is absurd to say. Therefore, we cannot accept Otto Plöger's interpretation, since Wisdom came never into existence, but was possessed by the Lord "at the beginning of His way." According to the Masoretic Text, verse 22 speaks about the Lord's possession of Wisdom "in the beginning of his ways" and this beginning was "before His works of old," i.e., before the creation of the world. Verse 23 states that God's Wisdom was set up from everlasting, before the beginning of the earth. Verse 25 states that God's Wisdom was "brought forth" before the earth was shaped, confirmed by verse 26. The same goes with verse 27, which states that God's Wisdom was there when the Lord prepared (in Hebrew, kûn), although the verse can also be read as saying that Wisdom was there when the Lord established the heavens.

The above considerations lead us to conclude that Proverbs 8 cannot serve as a proof-text for either position, i.e., for the creation of Wisdom before time, or for its everlasting possession in the times long before the earth's creation, since both parties in the dispute can use the text to support their respective claims.

Jude 25

Concerning Jude 25 as an alleged proof-text for the creation of time, Craig says:

Significantly, certain New Testament passages also seem to affirm a beginning of time. For example, the doxology in Jude 25 ascribes glory to God "before all time and now and forever" (pro pantos tou aionos kai nun kai eis pantas tous aionas).47 (bold type added)

The reading of Jude 25 is not the same as in Textus Receptus, which is as follows:

To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (KJV, bold type added)

The reason for the different readings of the text is that there is a disagreement about which manuscripts are reliable witnesses to the text. The question of manuscript evidence is the subject matter of Text Criticism, which tries to restore the original text. Given the two different readings of the text, it cannot serve as a proof-text for the creation of time.

Titus 1:2-3, 2 Timothy 1:9 and 1 Corinthians 2:7

Craig cites Titus 1:2-3, 2 Timothy 1:9 and 1 Corinthians 2:7 as proof-texts for the beginning of time because of the expression "before the ages began" figuring in the passages.48 Let us first look at the ESV reading of these passages:

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior (Titus 1:2-3 ESV, bold type added)

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Timothy 1:9 ESV, bold type added)

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7 ESV, bold type added)

We could also proclaim with Paul the Apostle that God performed actions (i.e., made promises, had plans for us, ordained a hidden mystery) before the ages began, since "ages" (note the plural) are particular world periods or time periods associated with world orders. This becomes more clear in 1 Corinthians 2:7, where the ages in question are particular ages, namely the ages of our glory. Paul does not even speak about the beginning of cosmological time (physical space-time), but rather of particular human time periods (note the plural).

The above interpretation is confirmed with our previous discussion of the Greek term aion in connection with Hebrews 1:8, where we have seen that the basic meaning of aion is "age," associated with a world order, and thus is usually translated as "world."49 For this reason, the passages in question can be read without temporal import, as KJV or ASV translate:

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour (Titus 1:2-3, KJV, bold type added)

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9, KJV, bold type added)

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7, KJV, bold type added)

If Paul's intention was to emphasize the "creation of time" or "time's beginning" (however one understands the phrase), it would be more appropriate to use hronos, as seen in Plato's Timaeus, where hronos is described as time that was created and will pass away:50

Time (hronos), then, and the heaven came into being at the same instant in order that, having been created together, if ever there was to be a dissolution of them, they might be dissolved together.51

In the context of comparing timeless eternity with time, aion would be set as eternity, against hronos, time, as seen in Timaeus (Ti. 37d). In such a metaphysical context, aion would be inappropriate to use for conveying the idea of the creation of time. Nevertheless the NT writers were not interested in speculative questions about the origin and nature of time (hronos). Their thoughts center on Jesus Christ, who has given time and history a new significance -- which Paul expresses as follows: "But when the fulness of the time was come [hote de ēlthen to plēroma tou chronou], God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

God's Repentance

We have seen in previous sections the overwhelming biblical evidence for the doctrine of God's essential temporality, where God is not seen as absolutely immutable. However, there is a further class of biblical texts that indirectly serve as a support for the doctrine of the essential temporality of God and which we have not yet discussed. The class of biblical texts in question concerns the mutability of God in the form of His repentance, where God's repentance is understood as His change of mind or will with respect to His former intentions and plans. As we shall see later, there are numerous biblical reports of God's repentance. Nevertheless, in spite of the overwhelming biblical evidence supporting the doctrine of the essential temporality of God and His mutability, the traditional theology of an immutable and atemporal God remains the dominant voice in the arena of Christian philosophy. How is this possible? Is traditional theology blind to the biblical revelation on the subject matter?

The main reason for the large gap between biblical revelation and traditional Christian theology is the traditional hermeneutic stance that was inherited by the Church Fathers, who favored a metaphorical understanding of the Bible. Thus, the biblical reports about God's temporality and mutability, such as statements about God’s repentance, are understood as metaphorical anthropomorphisms, i.e., an attribution of human form or personality to God that should be understood in a figurative sense. (Perhaps a more accurate term is “anthropopathism,” the ascription of human feelings to something that is not human, but we prefer a more general term “anthropomorphism.”)

Let us now take a closer look at an important biblical report about God’s repentance that has traditionally been interpreted as anthropomorphism. We will give reasons why the biblical report about God’s repentance should be taken literally, and show how the text in fact serves as important biblical evidence for God's essential temporality.

Genesis 6:5-7

The biblical report in question is Genesis 6:5-7:

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

The Significance of the Text

The text's significance lies in the fact that it provides one of the earliest descriptions of God written in a historical context, giving an account of the most important event of human history, namely the Flood, i.e., the cataclysmic, global deluge that almost destroyed the entire human race. Interestingly, the report of divine repentance serves as an essential explanation of the greatest and most global catastrophic event, and its explanation is intrinsic to the story. If we take the account of the Flood in a literal sense, we should take the report of divine repentance in a literal sense as well, for the simple reason that the report of divine repentance is integral to the story and serves as a crucial explanation of why God caused the most disastrous chapter of our history.

As Christian fundamentalists, we should take the biblical report as something that really happened, i.e., understanding it literally and not as a parable or myth. There is no figurative or allegorical language involved, but rather a sober account of the cataclysm. Given the historical context, we should take the biblical statement of divine repentance literally as well, for if we doubted the truthfulness of the report that God repented having created the human world, we should doubt the truthfulness of the whole story, something that no Christian fundamentalist is prepared to do.

The Traditional Understanding

However, the traditional theology has not interpreted the statement of divine repentance as a literal truth, even though Genesis 6:5-7 is one of the most crystal clear and unambiguous statements about God. Instead, the traditional interpretation plays down the significance of the reports of divine repentance by treating them as figurative anthropomorphisms. The main reason for this is not exegetical, but rather that the traditional theology reads the passage through the prism of Greek philosophy, particularly of Plato and Aristotle, where God is envisaged as immutable (unable to change) and impassible (unable to experience pleasure or pain). Incarnation is an impossibility for Plato, and God's interaction with the world is an absurd notion for Aristotle, since God has no need of entering into relations with others.52

Early sophisticated Christian thinkers, who were educated in Greek thought, read the Holy Scriptures through the Greek philosophical framework. They developed theological systems that tried to harmonize Greek philosophical conceptions of god with the biblical revelation. Through their harmonization, the Christian tradition has developed a highly sophisticated systematic theology where God is conceived as a perfect being who is unchanging and dwells in a transcendent, timeless, eternal realm beyond the created universe. Divine attributes, such as omniscience and omnipotence, are seen through the prism of divine immutability. However, divine omniscience and omnipotence can appear in a completely different light where God is understood as the most living and dynamic being, full of activity and creativity.

Indeed, the God of the Bible is not the same as the god of philosophers. He is portrayed by biblical writers as someone who profoundly interacts with humans, where His will and moral character come to light. Through biblical reports, God is revealed as a concrete person who expresses a high spectrum of emotions, such as love, joy, jealousy, wrath, and sorrow. He is not depicted as some impersonal metaphysical principle, but rather as a person who communicates with His creation.

Still, the Church Fathers incorporated many of the Greek ideas and interpreted the Bible through the Greek framework. For instance, Ignatius (d. 107), Origen and Augustine believed in the impassibility and immutability of God.53 Since the Christian tradition was shaped by the theology of the Church Fathers, who were heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, it is not surprising that the tradition reads biblical reports of divine repentance as figurative anthropomorphisms.

Objections to the Traditional Understanding

Is such a traditional reading hermeneutically sound if we follow the most basic principles of interpretation? There are three main problems with the traditional reading.

First, there is no clear answer to what the supposed figurative meaning is. If God’s repentance or mutability has only a figurative meaning, what literal truth is revealed in the figurative language of God’s repentance that could not be equally expressed in a literal way? Usually, in a figurative text -- such as seen in the poetic literature of the Bible -- the figurative meanings are very easy to discern. For instance, the Psalmist's words "in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge" (Psalm 57:1) carries a powerful metaphorical image of God as someone in whom we can find security. The statement appears in a poetic context, where metaphors are expected to be found. However, the statement of God's repentance cannot be plausibly interpreted as metaphorical, simply because it is written in a historical narrative. If it is meant to have a figurative sense, the question remains as to what exact meaning the report expresses that could not be said in a plain, literal language.

Second, the traditional interpretation violates the context with respect to the type of the text involved. In our case, it is a literal historical account of the worst global catastrophe of human history. The report of divine repentance is integral to the whole story because it serves as a cardinal explanation of the Flood. For this reason, the context does not allow interpreting the statement of divine repentance as a figurative anthropomorphism, unless we regard the whole story as a myth.

Third, if the report of divine repentance is understood as a figurative anthropomorphism, then we cannot avoid treating divine moral and intentional attitudes (such as God's love and His intrinsic goodness) as figurative anthropomorphisms as well. Why should we exempt these particular moral attributes from being understood as anthropomorphisms, and not the attribute of repentance? If there is no good answer to the question, we must consistently interpret the biblical statements about God’s love, essential goodness, hatred towards sin, jealousy for His chosen people, sorrow for our tragic sinful condition, etc., as anthropomorphisms, and not as literal biblical truths about God. Consequently, we have to discard ninety-five percent of the Bible as theologically irrelevant qua biblical texts that do not convey literal truths about God.

Such are the absurd consequences if we allegorically interpret the parts of the Bible that do not conform to our preconceived ideas of God. The point is this: if we metaphorically understand the biblical statement of God's repentance, then we do so on some doctrinal ground and not on a strictly hermeneutic ground that is based upon sound principles of interpretation. As a consequence, we would not have doctrinally neutral criteria that would help us to distinguish between attributes that should be treated as anthropomorphisms from those that should be understood literally.

If we regarded God's repentance as an anthropomorphism because it contradicts our (doctrinal) idea of God's perfection, then our criterion is not doctrinally neutral. A doctrinal position P with respect to some statement S is neutral if the acceptance and rejection of S would both be logically compatible with the position P. There are different doctrinal positions about the perfection of God that are not neutral with the statement about God's repentance. For instance, a Calvinist view of God's perfection would understand God's repentance as an anthropomorphism, while a neo-Arminian view would understand the statement about God's repentance as a literal truth. The goal, however, is to find doctrinally neutral criteria, i.e., criteria that do not depend on a particular theology, because our doctrinal preconceptions should not shape our understanding of the Bible -- on the contrary, we should let the Bible shape our doctrinal views.

The sound principles of interpretation would be the only neutral doctrinal criteria that would help us to distinguish which properties attributed to God are anthropomorphisms. Such principles include respecting the context and genre that the text belongs to, e.g., whether it is part of a historical narrative or a piece of poetry. In our case, the biblical report of God's repentance is a statement that is part of a historical narrative that explains why the Flood happened, and as such, is an integral part of the story. From those neutral hermeneutic considerations, we have to conclude that the report of God's repentance is a literal truth, unless we regard the story of the Flood as a myth. As fundamentalist Christians, we regard the story of the Flood as a historical event, and if we are consistent, we should regard the report of God's repentance as a literal truth as well. Our hermeneutic conclusion was not based upon some theological doctrine, but on hermeneutic considerations alone.

The biblical report of divine repentance in Genesis is supported by numerous other biblical reports of God's repentance. There is a total of 35 instances of reports concerning God's repentance: Genesis 6:6-7; Exodus 32:12, 14; Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 32:36; Judges 2:18; 1 Samuel 15:11, 29, 35; 2 Samuel 24:16; Psalms 90:13; 106:45; 110:4; 135:14; Jeremiah 4:28; 15:6; 18:8, 10; 20:16; 26:3, 13, 19; 42:10; Ezekiel 24.14; Hosea 11:8; 13:14; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:9-10; 4:2; and Zechariah 8:14. In all of the above references, it is reported that God changes His mind, with the exception of Numbers 23:19 and 1 Samuel 15:29. Though these two verses seem, on the surface, to teach that God does not repent (in that He does not change His mind), let us examine the context in which the statements are made in order to better understand them.

Numbers 23:19

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

The above words are spoken by Baalam, a seer summoned by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel prior to its entrance to Canaan. Baalam has just been forced by God to bless rather than curse the children of Israel. When he reports to Balak what he has done, the king is furious. Balaam's answer is that God has decided to bless Israel, and he will not change His mind about it. There is nothing here teaching that God cannot repent (or change His mind), but rather that He would not change His mind about His particular promise to bless Israel. We should observe here that there is a logical distinction between cannot and would not, they are not the same.

However, if one interpreted the passage as saying that God cannot repent, then it would obviously be in contradiction with passages teaching that He can, such as when He changed His mind about the destruction of Nineveh, cf. Jonah 3:10. Although He proclaimed the destruction of Nineveh through His prophet Joel, God changed His mind about it and did not destroy it. We should, therefore, favor the interpretation that would not render the text contradictory to other biblical passages, and understand Numbers 23:19 as saying that God would not change His mind about His promise to bless Israel.

Another consideration to take is that the text is teaching that God does not repent in a manner as men do. We are prone to take a wrong course of action knowing well of its disastrous consequences. Even though we know very well that we will grievously repent of a bad choice if we take it, we nevertheless choose it. This is because of the problem of weak will, which is our great predicament. This problem of weak will, or the problem of akrasia, is seen when we choose an action against our better judgment. But God is not as a man to take an action against His better judgment, i.e, God does not choose something for which He knows that He would repent of it. This consideration lead us to the conclusion that God did not know beforehand that He would repent for some of the choices He made, such as creating the human world or choosing Saul as the first king of Israel.

But would not this kind of reasoning lead us to a parallel conclusion that God can lie, but not as men do, given the statement “God is not a man, that he should lie”? Yes, it would only if this text is considered alone. Taking all other relevant biblical texts under considerations, we would see that lying and repenting are not parallel activities. For one thing, the Bible is quite clear that lying is an abomination unto God (cf. Proverbs 6:16-19; 12:22), but more interestingly, it teaches that it is impossible for God to lie (cf. Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), while there is no such parallel biblical text about divine repentance. Quite on the contrary, there are plenty of texts teaching that God can indeed repent.

1 Samuel 15:29

And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. (1 Samuel 15:29)

As Michael R. Saia remarks, "It is most puzzling that people would try to use this verse to support the idea God never changes his mind. This same chapter of 1 Samuel has two references stating God did change his mind."54 The chapter tells the story of King Saul's sin against God. In this context, God tells Samuel, "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king" (v. 11), revealing that He has changed His mind about Saul's being king over Israel. When Samuel announces to Saul that he is no longer to be king (v. 26), he further informs Saul that God is firm in His decision to take away the kingdom from Saul and give it to someone else. It is in this context that it is said that the Lord does not repent (v. 29). If the verse meant that God cannot repent, it would be odd that we read later on in the same chapter a reiteration of how "the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel" (v. 35). For this reason, we cannot read verse 29 as claiming that God never changes His mind, or cannot change His mind, but rather that He is firm in His decision to remove Saul from being king.

God’s Limited Foreknowledge

There are numerous biblical reports showing that God's foreknowledge is limited; these represent yet another class of biblical texts that indirectly teach the essential temporality of God. It would be odd for God to have limited foreknowledge if He were beyond time, since all times are simultaneously present before an atemporal deity that transcends time. The following is a selection of passages showing God's limited foreknowledge.

Genesis 18:20-21; 22:12

This passage reports that God had to visit the city of Sodom in order to verify the rumors of its evil. It would be strange for God to visit the city for the purpose of verification if His omniscience transcended time. The passage cannot be interpreted as metaphorical, since it is in a historical setting.

Exodus 4:8-9

In this passage we read what God said to Moses prior to the time Moses appeared before the Pharaoh. In the biblical report, God twice used the conditional phrase "if they will not believe." The conditional, of course, indicates uncertainty about an outcome. As Michael R. Saia notes: "This is not the kind of language one would expect from someone who knows every future choice of every moral being. Arranging multiple signs based on the possible rejection of the people is a clear indication that God did not know how the people would choose to respond."55

Exodus 13: 17-18

This passage is interesting because we observe that God does not say that people will change their minds, but rather, "lest perhaps the people change their minds," which expresses uncertainty.

Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:1-3

These passages explicitly teach what the purpose of God's testing His people is, namely to discover how loyal they are ("to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no"). If God sometimes needs to test people in order to find this out, this implies that His foreknowledge is limited.

Limited Foreknowledge as Evidence for God’s Temporality

An important reason for God's limited foreknowledge is that God is neither timeless nor does He reside beyond time. The Bible gives numerous passages that clearly show how God's temporality has consequences for His omniscience. For instance, in Genesis 18:20-21, we read that God was going to Sodom to verify the reports of their evil so He could know for Himself if the situation was true as reported. A straightforward interpretation of this text requires a conclusion that God was investigating a situation in order to acquire new facts upon which to make a judgment. Since He would have new information after His investigation, we must conclude that He did not have that information at the time He was speaking to Abraham. God was going to "find out" what was happening in Sodom. It would be very odd indeed for God to visit Sodom for the purpose of verification if He were essentially timeless or beyond time.


In this article we have shown the biblical perspective of God's eternity that is characterized by His everlasting nature. The Bible teaches that God's eternal nature is not timeless, but rather is essentially temporal. God is sempiternal -- He has always existed, exists now and will exist forever in the future. In other words, God is infinite in time. This means that God predates the creation: He did exist before the universe came into being. However, if we say that God is timeless, it would be wrong to say that He existed before the creation, since temporal qualifications such as 'before,' 'now' or 'later' make sense only in a temporal framework; but such a framework would be misplaced in a timeless form of existence.

We should rather submit to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and not rely on the traditional Christian theology, which was shaped by the ancient Greek philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. We have seen that incarnation is an impossibility for Plato, while God's interaction with the world is an absurd notion for Aristotle. For these reasons, it is peculiar that the traditional theology was so heavily influenced by ancient Greek philosophy, from which we have inherited the concept of perfection, where God is understood as an immovable and timeless entity. By contrast, the Bible portrays God as full of dynamic life and His glory is revealed in the creation, characterized by diverse biological life, full of vital movement.


  1. Saying that the capacity for self-movement is a necessary condition for having life is logically equivalent to saying: "If it is not moving, then it is not alive." This is logically equivalent to: "If something is alive, then it is moving." The converse does not hold, i.e., it is not the case that if something is moving, then it is alive. Something can have movement, but it is not necessarily a living organism, e.g., a clock or a machine. In other words, self-movement is not a sufficient condition for having life. The logical relation between 'life' and 'self-movement' can be schematically formulated as follows: x (Lx → Mx), which reads as "for all x, if x is alive, then x moves." It is logically equivalent to its contrapositive: x (¬ Mx → ¬ Lx), which reads as "for all x, if x is not moving, then x is not alive."↩︎

  2. J. R. Lucas, The Future (Basil Blackwell Ltd., Cambridge, 1989), p. 216.↩︎

  3. Alan G. Padgett, "Eternity as Relative Timelessness," in: God & Time -- Four Views, ed. Gregory E. Ganssle (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2001), p. 109.↩︎

  4. Ibid.↩︎

  5. Lucas, loc. cit.↩︎

  6. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, New York, 1992; Olive Tree Bible Software digital edition), Lexical entry "Heaven." New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997), Lexical entry "Heaven."↩︎

  7. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, Translated by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (The Catholic Primer, 2005,, II.35; cf. II.36, 4.↩︎

  8. For instance, in replies to biblical objections in Summa Theologica, Q. 9, Art. 1 ("Whether God is altogether immutable?"), or Q. 17, Art. 7 ("Whether the will of God is changeable?"), Aquinas employs metaphorical interpretations. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Translated by Father Laurence Shapcote of the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, in: Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 17, (Encyclopædia Britannica, Chicago, IL, 1994).↩︎

  9. The following is a list of biblical references teaching that God is the creator of the whole universe. Citations in bold type are references to passages indicating that God is essentially in time or that creation was not effected in a timeless fashion. Gen. 1:1-28, 31; 2; 5:1, 2; 9:6; Exod. 20:11; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron. 16:26; Neh. 9:6; Job 9:8, 9; 26:7-13; 28:23-26; 38:4-38; Pss. 8:3; 19:1, 4; 24:1, 2; 33:6, 7, 9; 65:6; 74:16, 17; 78:69; 89:11, 12, 47; 90:2; 95:4, 5; 96:5; 102:25; 104:2, 3, 5, 6, 24, 30, 31; 119:90, 91; 121:2; 124:8; 136:5-9; 146:5, 6; 148:5, 6; Prov. 3:19; 8:22-31; Eccles. 3:11; 11:5; Isa. 17:7; 37:16; 40:12, 26, 28; 42:5; 44:24; 45:7, 12, 18; 48:13; 51:13, 16; 66:2; Jer. 5:22; 10:12, 13, 16; 27:5; 31:35; 32:17; 33:2; 51:15, 16, 19; Amos 4:13; 5:8; 9:6; Jon. 1:9; Zech. 12:1; Mark 10:6; Acts 4:24; 7:50; 14:15; 17:24-26; Rom. 1:20; Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:1, 2; 11:3; Rev. 4:11; 10:6; 14:7.↩︎

  10. The following is a list of biblical references teaching that God is an everlasting God. Citations in bold types are references to passages indicating that God's everlasting nature is sempiternal, i.e., not timeless, but temporally infinite in duration. Gen. 21:33; Exod. 3:15; 15:18; Deut. 32:40; 33:27; 1 Chron. 16:36; 29:10; Neh. 9:5; Job 36:26; Pss. 9:7; 33:11; 41:13; 55:19; 68:33; 72:17; 90:1, 2, 4; 92:8; 93:2; 102:12, 24-27; 104:31; 111:3; 135:13; 145:13; 146:10; Prov. 8:23- 25; Isa. 26:4; 40:28; 57:15; 63:16; Jer. 10:10; Lam. 5:19; Dan. 4:3, 34; Mic. 5:2; Hab. 1:12; 3:6; Rom. 1:20; 16:26; Eph. 3:21; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15, 16; Heb. 1:8; 9:14; 2 Pet. 3:8; Jude 1:25; Rev. 1:4, 6; 4:8-10; 5:14; 10:6; 11:17; 15:7; 16:5.↩︎

  11. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1980), vol. 2, p. 672; Lexical entry "olam (1631)."↩︎

  12. Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, ed. William D. Mounce (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, ePub Edition, August 2009), Lexical entry "Eternal."↩︎

  13. Ibid.↩︎

  14. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, p. 673; Lexical entry "olam (1631)."↩︎

  15. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, eds. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI; Olive Tree Bible Software digital edition), Lexical entry "aion."↩︎

  16. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, p. 673; Lexical entry "olam (1631)."↩︎

  17. Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Lexical entry "Generation."↩︎

  18. The logical relation between the concepts of timelessness and absolute immutability are examined in the first section of our article "Philosophical Objections Against the Timelessness of God."↩︎

  19. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1986), vol. 1, p. 524. Lexical entry "kosmos" under "Earth, Land, World."↩︎

  20. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, p. 673; Lexical entry "olam (1631)."↩︎

  21. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Lexical entry "aion."↩︎

  22. Ibid.↩︎

  23. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, p. 827. Lexical entry "aion" under "Time."↩︎

  24. Ibid.↩︎

  25. Ibid.↩︎

  26. Ibid., p. 830.↩︎

  27. Ibid., p. 829.↩︎

  28. Ibid.↩︎

  29. This is just one of many passages where aion is translated as "world" in KJV and ASV (references in bold letters indicate that ESV likewise translates thus): Matt. 12:32; 13:22, 39-40, 49; 24:3; Mark 4:19; 10:30; Luke 16:8; 18:30; 20:34-35; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6-8; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:21; 2:2; 6:12; 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 1:2; 6:5; 11:3.↩︎

  30. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, p. 833. Lexical entry "aion" under "Time."↩︎

  31. The four beasts of the Revelation 4:7-8 are cherubim, an order of angels, cf. Ezekiel 1:4-28; 10:1-22.↩︎

  32. See endnote 9.↩︎

  33. See endnote 10.↩︎

  34. William Lane Craig, "Timelessness & Omnitemporality," in: God & Time -- Four Views, p. 141.↩︎

  35. See William Lane Craig, "The Cosmological Argument" (LeadershipU,, accessed 10 April 2015), and "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe," Truth: A Journal of Modern Thought 3 (1991), (LeadershipU,, accessed 10 April 2015).↩︎

  36. William Lane Craig, "Timelessness & Omnitemporality," p. 130.↩︎

  37. The passages in question are John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:20.↩︎

  38. William Lane Craig, "Timelessness & Omnitemporality," p. 130.↩︎

  39. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, lexical entry "arhe."↩︎

  40. Ibid.↩︎

  41. Ibid.↩︎

  42. John Sanders, "Historical Considerations" in: The Openness of God (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1994), p. 69.↩︎

  43. Ibid.↩︎

  44. Ibid.↩︎

  45. William Lane Craig, op. cit., pp. 130-31.↩︎

  46. Derek Kidner, Proverbs (Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1964), p.78.↩︎

  47. William Lane Craig, op. cit., p. 131.↩︎

  48. Ibid.↩︎

  49. See note 27 and 28.↩︎

  50. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, p. 840: lexical entry "hronos" under the article "Time."↩︎

  51. Plato, Timaeus, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 38, in: Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 6 (Encyclopædia Britannica, Chicago, IL, 1994).↩︎

  52. For more on the discussion about Plato's and Aristotle's influence on Christian traditional theology, see John Sanders, op. cit., pp. 62-66.↩︎

  53. John Sanders, op. cit., pp. 72-85.↩︎

  54. Michael R. Saia, Does God Know the Future? (Xulon Press, Fairfax, VA, 2002), p. 167.↩︎

  55. Ibid., p. 193.↩︎

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