The final exclamation which concludes many Orthodox liturgical prayers is “…unto ages of ages. Amen.” We get so used to hearing that phrase that we probably don’t even consider where it comes from and why it is in our prayers. David Instone-Brewer in his book TRADITIONS OF THE RABBIS FROM THE ERA OF THE NEW TESTAMENT examines many aspects of Jewish practice from the time of Christ and he points out that a feud had emerged between Sadducees and Pharisees about how properly to conclude a blessing in the Temple. There apparently were different practices for ending a Temple prayer: “Amen” was one traditional ending but also at one time the response was “Blessed be the name of his glorious kingdom forever.” The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife and so interpreted “forever” to mean until this age ended, since there is only this age but nothing beyond this age. The Pharisees then changed the ending of the prayer to “for ever and ever” (= “unto ages of ages”) because then it referred to both this age and the age to come (which the Sadducees didn’t believe in). It was an effort to force the Sadducees to have to pray for the age to come.
Christianity which follows the beliefs of the Pharisees regarding the afterlife, the resurrection and the world to come kept the phrase “unto ages of ages. Amen” as part of their prayer to affirm belief in the afterlife and the Kingdom which is to come. The split between the Pharisees and the Sadducees is mentioned in Acts 23:6-9 where St. Paul, himself a Pharisee, takes advantage of the disagreement to turn the two Jewish sects against each other (see also Matthew 22:23-33). The phrase “unto ages of ages” occurs in the New Testament in Matthew 6:13 (in some ancient Greek manuscripts), Romans 1:25 and Galatians 1:5, Ephesians 3:21, 1 Timothy 1:17, Hebrews 13:21, 1 Peter 4:11 and frequently in the book of Revelation just to name some occurrences.