Who is the "God of this age" in 2 Corinthians 4:4?

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Pauline phrase, … "the god of this age", that occurs in 2 Cor 4:4 is unique in that it is not found in Greek literature preceding the writings of Paul. The majority of English versions of the Bible render the noun … using the lower case 'g' ("god"), but some are explicit, translating as "devil" and "Satan". Most modern commentaries on 2 Corinthians explain that the phrase is a clear reference to Satan, and argue that Paul's conceptualization of the devil and his views of "this age" grew out of categories used in Second Temple Judaism, especially apocalyptic literature. They also assert that the act of blinding people from seeing the light of the gospel can only be attributed to the enemy of God. This thesis is based on a socio-rhetorical interpretation of 2 Cor 4:1-6 and concludes that the phrase … refers to the supreme God of Judeo-Christian thought, in keeping with the referential value of … as frequently used in the Pauline corpus. It maintains that in this context Paul is responding to the peculiar problem of Jewish unbelief , and that he argues that in the same way that the "minds" of unbelieving Jews had been divinely "hardened" to the old covenant (3:14), so their "minds" had now been "blinded" to the gospel by the God of this age (4:4). The thesis is supported by a survey of the history of interpretation of 2 Cor 4:4, which shows that the modern preferred interpretation is relatively recent, predominating only over the past six centuries. Prior to the period of the Renaissance, most expositors of Paul preferred to interpret this phrase as a reference to God. The thesis is also based on a reconstruction of Paul's conceptualization of Satan in the light of Jewish speculations on evil, and furthermore undertakes a critical enquiry on the extent to which Paul was dependent on Jewish apocalypticism when he formulated the epithet "the God of this age"

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