Feast upon the Word Blog

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Fulness of time/times

Posted by robf on June 18, 2007

Lehi talks about “the fulness of time” when Christ would come to redeem his people (2 Nephi 2: 3, 26). In the KJV Bible, we find slightly different phrases including “fulness of the time” (Gal 4:4) and “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Eph 1:10). This latter phrase is used several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, and seems to refer to the latter days. So what’s going on here? What do these phrases mean, and why are there apparently similar phrases used for presumably two different time periods?

8 Responses to “Fulness of time/times”

  1. I’ll have to have a better response soon, Rob, but your post makes me think of the significant phrase “time, and times, and the dividing of time.” Does that give us a place to begin to think about the difference between time and times?

  2. robf said

    I think the traditional understanding of “time” and “times” in Daniel and Revelations have to do with years (1 time=1 year). Then it is thought that since a day is as a year, that the 360 days of a lunar year=a “time” of 360 years. Lots of speculation about all of that out there (as at the now defunct whyprophets.com, not sure if that content has gone elsewhere, but here’s a non-LDS site) relating to the 1260 days or years of preaching by two prophets or the hiding of the Church.

    On another note, is the “fulness of time” referred to by Lehi the same as the “meridian of time”? What might that mean? I was always taught that meant that Christ would appear in mortality half way through the earth’s temporal existence (which was supposed to be 7,000 years). Of course, the numbers didn’t really add up if Adam was supposed to have appeared around 4,000 years BC, with the Second Coming sometime around 2000 AD.

    What about the phrase “time and all eternity”? And Alma 40:8 stating that time is only measured unto men? Is time something that has to do with mortality, while eternity is something else? Or is an eternity a certain something that can be measured in time, such that there are multiple eternities? While I can’t find “eternities” in the scriptures, we do get the strange phrase “from eternity to all eternity”. What’s up with that? And how about “one eternal round”? What might that be?

    Latter-day prophets and apostles have talked about this at times in the past, but do we have a way to really figure this all out?

  3. Certainly, 1 time=1 year, but why bother to write it “time,” “times,” and “the dividing of time”? In a sense, I suppose it sets up a kind of algebra for the numerology: x, 2x, and x/2 (or, summed up, 3.5x). But it is interesting that it is simply called “time,” etc. An eon, the eons, and a split or divided eon? An event, eventness, and a fractured event? And then, of course, if we take x as 2, we have the formulaic representation of all things sevenfold: 2, 4, and 1. Four angels/creatures about the four corners of the throne, two angels/cherubs wrestling to make up the throne, and the One Himself atop the entire thing (doesn’t that sound a great deal like facsimile no. 1, four creatures beneath the altar, two wrestling on the altar, and the angel of the Lord’s presence appearing above it all, facing the serpent Pharaoh in the primordial waters… like Revelation 12?). And the same formula links up with the meridian and fullness business as well: four thousand years to Christ’s first coming, two thousand years to His second coming, one thousand years to the end. And of course the Apocalypse is filled with this 4, then 2, then 1 pattern (the horsemen nicely break up the seals this way, etc.).

    But to get back to the question as posed: two different Greek words are at work in the two verses you cited. In Galatians: chronos. In Ephesians: chairos. And these should be separated from aion, which appears in neither text. I don’t pretend to be a Greek scholar, but perhaps I can petition Robert to draw on the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament for us here. At the very least, there seems to be the distinction between the time that opens round an event (chronos), a time appointed according to an established reckoning (chairos), and time as some kind of totality or even as the world/age itself (aion).

    Certainly there is more thinking to do here.

  4. robf said

    From what I’m reading now, chairos is a time set aside for a particular task, the appropriate time for something to take place. Apparently, everything has an appropriate time. But what, then, is a fulness? Some commentators claim that the fulness means something like “the time is ripe”–and especially see the Roman Peace as the appropriate or ripe time for Christ to be born when the gospel could most easily be spread around the empire. But if chairos is already an “appropriate time”, is it redundant to talk of the fulness or ripeness of an appropriate time?

  5. Robert C. said

    I’ve wondered about this “time, times and the dividing of time” in relation to the peculiar phrase meridian of time”, esp. as it might relate to the “first-last” and “last-first” bit, esp. in D&C 29. I can’t make heads or tails of any of this, but I can’t help thinking there’s some sort of important at work in these writings, perhaps esp. in John’s Revelation which seems to be regarded so peculiarly in Mormon scripture. Then again, I’m probably just falling prey to a current zeigeist effect (e.g. Davinci Code, Bible Code, etc.)….

    1 – Patriarchs
    – 2 – Prophets
    – – 1/2 – Destruction of temple
    – – – Meridian – Christ
    – – 1/2 – Destruction of temple
    – 2 – Christianity
    1 – Millenium

  6. robf said

    Interestingly, the Hebrew mowed “appointed time” is the same term translated 150 times in the OT as “congregation” as in tabernacle of the congregation. Not sure what this was translated as in the LXX. Anyone got that handy. Was it chairos?

  7. robf said

    The Greek seems to be σκηνὴ Μαρτυρέου or “tent of witness” which many find problematic. Looks like most have interpreted mo’ed here as “mutual appointment” rather then as referencing any specific “appointed time”. Still wondering though…

  8. Robert C. said

    I somehow missed Joe’s #3, I’ll try to look these Greek terms up sometime later this week. Interesting about the 2x implying 4-2-1, I’ve never thought about that structure….

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