Assuming one is committed to the idea that an actual infinite amount of time can never pass, does eternality entail timelessness?

  • If actually infinite time cannot pass, can it yet exist? For example, from a divine vantage, perhaps an infinite period of time is "perceived" as a single non-passing moment; or it is possible to divide a timeline, bounded on both ends, into infinitely many fractional parts, and to represent this infinity "as one" nevertheless, from a higher-dimensional, but still temporal, perspective (to go back and forth between the divided and undivided representation). But usually the word "eternal" means "e-" + "-ternal" = "outside of ternity" = "outside of time" (c.f. sempi-ternity = all time). Nov 10, 2023 at 18:35
  • Isn't it called "eternity"?
    – Olivier5
    Nov 10, 2023 at 19:30
  • 1
    No. Something lasting for the entire duration of time, finite or infinite, actual or potential, is not timeless. Something timeless does not last at all, it exists outside of time. On some conceptions, God is timeless while the universe is everlasting (i.e. lasting indefinitely as neverending time passes). "Eternity" is often used ambiguously to express both concepts.
    – Conifold
    Nov 11, 2023 at 2:20
  • Isn't the phrase "infinite amount of time can never pass" valid independent of everything else? I mean of couse an infinite amount of time will never pass, because if it passes then how can it be infinite. Nov 11, 2023 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


I agree with what is in the comments by Conifold and Kristian Berry. I'll summarize and add my own thoughts as well.

One palace we can look for ideas is Christianity, where eternity plays a large role in Christian conceptions of God. The SEP article on Eternity in Christian Thought shows that even within this domain, there were differing senses of eternity:

Broadly speaking, there have been two rival views of what God’s eternality consists in. On the first, God is timeless (divine timelessness); on the second, God is in time (divine temporality). Sometimes the term “eternity” is used to denote timelessness, but as mentioned, we will here use it as neutral between the timeless and temporal views. The term “everlasting” (or “sempiternal”) on the other hand, is mostly associated with the temporal view. On the temporal view, God is in time and thus exists at every time; there is no time at which God doesn’t exist.

(Source: Deng, Natalja, "Eternity in Christian Thought", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2023 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2023/entries/eternity/)

Depending on which view we take, the answer to your question is a trivial "Yes" or "No", by definition.

Let's expand on both of these senses.

Let E(x):= "x is eternal", and S(x,t):= "x is present at time t"

Temporal Eternity: Eternal means will last forever.

∀x [E(x) ⇔ ∀t S(x,t)]

Timeless Eternity: Does not posses the property of being temporal.
This one is trickier because to us, something timeless (e.g., 1+1=2) is true at every moment of time, but is also true if there is no time at all.

It's hard to render this precise, but something along these lines may work:

Let B(x,t) := "x began to exist at time t"

∀x [E(x) ⇔ ∀ t ≥0 ¬B(x,t)]

So here I am leaning on the idea that "God did not have a beginning" to isolate "beginninglessness" as a working definition of timelessness.

This implies all abstractions are eternal, and things like God.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .