Originally Posted by ComeHome2Rome
Why do some people speak about the world actually ending at some point when one of our most common prayers, the Gloria, teaches us that the world is without end?
The original Greek and Latin of this phrase is καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων (kai eis tous aiōnas ton aiōnōn
), and et in saecula saeculorum
, respectively. Literally translated: "and to the ages of the ages
". Nothing about worlds ending in the literalistic sense here, it's just a Hebrew idiom (ule'olamei olamim
), that is equivalent to our English "forever and ever
". The Greek aion
originally meant 'life'; i.e. a human's life or lifespan, and/or 'being' (say, in Homer). Later, the word then tended to mean 'age', and by extension 'forever' or 'for eternity'; more or less similar to the Sanskrit word kalpa
and Hebrew olam
, 'hidden'; the idea being what is 'hidden' in the very distant future or in the distant past).
Sometimes olam/aion/saeculum is rendered as "world,
" which explains why the traditional version of the Gloria Patri
(which originally came from Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer
) has "world without end
", and why in the KJV Jesus promises to be with His followers "even unto the end of the world
" (literally: until the completion of the age
Now, the word world
comes from the Anglo-Saxon woruld
, which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic *wer-alt
'man' + alt
'age'; Anglo-Saxon eald
). Broken down, it literally means 'man-age' and thus denotes 'a man's existence/life-span' (and by extension, the human race) as well as the affairs of life.
meant '(a man's) life on earth, this world (as opposed to the afterlife),' which was then extended to mean 'the known world,' and eventually then to 'the physical world, the universe' around the 13th century. You can see the original senses being used in the aforementioned phrase "world without end
" and the adjective worldly
(of or relating to man; physical as opposed to spiritual). Cognates include Old Saxon werold
), Old High German weralt
), Old Norse verǫld
). When referring to the physical world, Old English used the term middangeard
(Old Norse midgard
), lit. "the middle enclosure" (cf. yard
), which is rooted in Germanic cosmology and myth. Old Norse often also used heimr
, lit. 'abode' (cf. English home
- from OE ham
, Swedish hem
, and German Heim
), to refer to the physical world.
Thus, when translated literally, the Latin form of the Gloria Patri
actually runs: "Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, and now and ever, and to the ages of the ages.
" The difference with the Greek form is that the Latin has sicut erat in principio
(as it was in the beginning) added. The point of the prayer is that the Holy Trinity is to be glorified now, and forever and ever.