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The word aeon //, also spelled eon (in American English), originally meant "life", "vital force" or "being", "generation" or "a period of time", though it tended to be translated as "age" in the sense of "ages", "forever", "timeless" 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 mediaeval.
Although the term aeon may be used in reference to a period of a billion years (especially in geology, cosmology and astronomy), its more common usage is for any long, indefinite period. Aeon can also refer to the four aeons on the geologic time scale that make up the Earth's history, the Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic, and the current aeon, Phanerozoic.
Astronomy and cosmology
In astronomy an aeon is defined as a billion years (109 years, abbreviated AE).
Philosophy and mysticism
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Christianity's idea of "eternal life" comes from the word for life, zoe, and a form of aeon, 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 Christian doctrine of universal reconciliation, the Greek New Testament scriptures use the word "aeon" to mean a long period (perhaps 1000 years) and the word "aeonian" to mean "during a long period"; Thus there was a time before the aeons, and the aeonian period is finite. After each man's mortal life ends, he is judged worthy of aeonian life or aeonian punishment. That is, after the period of the aeons, all punishment will cease and death is overcome and then God becomes the all in each one (1Cor 15:28). This contrasts with the conventional Christian belief in eternal life and eternal punishment.
Aeon may also be an archaic name for omnipotent beings, such as gods.
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), "Sophia" (wisdom), Christos (the Anointed One) 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).
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- Aion (deity)
- Century – Unit of time lasting 100 years
- Kalpa (aeon)
- Millennium – Time period of 1000 years
- Saeculum – comparable Latin concept
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