"Ages of ages"

Near as I can tell, “unto ages of ages,” the phrase which concludes many Orthodox prayers, is a literal translation of the Greek, expressing the same thing some Western churches say in “forever and ever.” (Which in turn usually translates the Latin “in saeculum saeculorum,” or, “unto ages of ages”!)

It reminds me of the expression “a month of Sundays.” Literally it suggests more than half a year; in reality it is merely used to express “a long while.” Think of an age, a long period of time, consisting of many long periods of time. Then think of many ages…of ages. It seems redundant, in exactly the same way as “forever and ever.” It’s poetic. My priest tells me the Divine Liturgy is poetry in the original Koine Greek; thus so would individual prayers often be, since many come from or are inspired by the Liturgy.

At least one American jurisdiction at least sometimes says, instead of “ages of ages,” “now and ever and forever.” Why do most translate it “ages of ages”? As far as I know, we haven’t really let English-speaking poets loose on the Koine text of the Liturgy yet, so we have cautious, careful translations, which differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. One thing some Orthodox Unity proponents push for is a multi-jurisdictional committee to produce a common (ie, shared) English translation. Maybe at that time they’ll examine whether “ages of ages” is retained.

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