Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth will pass away..."

The beautiful words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 24:35 are often translated:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Now, to be sure, I always assumed that what is meant is something more like “the heavens (the created cosmos)… will pass away” and several translations do make this clear.

So, then, why do so many translations still use the super-confusing word “Heaven”? He couldn’t possibly be saying that the eternal realm of the Trinity will ever pass away…

It seems like there are sooooo many sticking points like this in even our best modern translations. What’s an honest reader to do?

Is there a good website where I can plug in a verse and the original Greek pops up and I can check the real meaning of each word or something without sorting through a long transcript of a sermon or homily?

Don’t even get me started with the prophecy in Isaiah: was it “young woman” or “virgin”? And of course, if it was “young woman”, then what precedent would the Jews of Jesus’ time have had for expecting the messiah’s virgin birth? Don’t get me wrong, I know that Luke makes Mary’s virginity clear: I’m asking more about precedence for belief.

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Because the actual word used in greek is Ouranos which means heaven. If a publisher uses a formal equivalency model of translation they will say heaven and allow the reader to draw the conclusion that the speaker is making a metaphorical reference. If a publisher uses a thought for though equivalency model of translation they could ostensibly translate the passage as you have suggested.

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Heaven can mean the atmosphere, the stars, or the state with God, and there is also heaven’s heaven.
Jerusalem will come “down out of heaven from God” per Revelation 21, 2.

Revelation 21

1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone: and the sea is now no more. 2 And I, John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The predominant scholarly analysis is that Jesus is using hyperbole, where the temporal and finite (earth) as well as the divine and infinite (heaven) will pass away before his words does so. In less elegant English: “the passawayable and the unpassawayable will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” The effect of this hyperbole is that Jesus is emphasising the constancy and eternality of his words.

As @Hodos mentioned, the Greek text uses oὐρανός (ouranos) in Matt 24:35. This word can mean both “sky” and “heaven”, but most translations opt for “heaven” due to what I outlined above.

No translation is perfect and can service all needs of every individual. This is why it can be very beneficial to read a commentary that will canvas alternative views and document particular translation choices.

As a preface, I studied Classics (Classical Greek and Latin languages) with additional study in Biblical Greek and Classical Hebrew during my undergraduate.

From my perspective, I would not advise the approach that you outlined. One really does need a firm foundation in Ancient Greek otherwise the lexicons (that is, dictionaries) will simply appear as gibberish: entries might run up to several pages, they will often cross-reference Classical (that is, non-Christian) authors as philological examples, much of the entry might even be in Greek (and sometimes Latin).

In addition, the lexicons available freely online are often severely out of date (first published in the 1800s).

Lastly, a lexicon in itself often doesn’t offer simple, cut and dried answers. Much of the challenges in translation are due to theological interpretation, not philological. That is, the philologist will offer ten different choices for a translation, and the theologian must choose one.

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“Yet shall the generation of the Church survive the whole of this world, that it may inherit the world to come, yet it shall not pass away until all these things have come to pass. But when all these shall have been fulfilled, then not the earth only but the heavens also shall pass away; that is, not only the men whose life is earthy, and who are therefore called the earth, but also they whose conversation is in heaven, and who are therefore called the heaven; these shall pass away to things to come, that they may come to better things. But the words spoken by the Saviour shall not pass away, because they effect and shall ever effect their purpose; but the perfect and they that admit no further improvement, passing through what they are, come to that which they are not; and this is that, My words shall not pass away. And perhaps the words of Moses and the Prophets have passed away, because all that they prophesied has been fulfilled; but the words of Christ are always complete, daily fulfilling and to be fulfilled in the saints. Or perhaps we ought not to say that the words of Moses and the Prophets are once for all fulfilled; seeing they also are the words of the Son of God, and are fulfilled continually.”
- Origen Adamantius of Alexandria (A.D. 184 - 253)

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Why wasn’t Origen made a saint?

Here are three.Take your pick.

He had some problematic teachings amongst some really good ones.

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