Paul and the Demons/Rulers of this Age

27 Jan

Romans 8:38

38 πεπεισμαι γαρ οτι ουτε θανατος ουτε ζωη ουτε αγγελοι ουτε αρχαι ουτε ενεστωτα ουτε μελλοντα ουτε δυναμεις

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,

[a] or heavenly rulers (NIV)

The world I bolded is archai. Etymologically, it shares the same root with words like archons, archangel, etc. Archai must be rulers of some sort, but Paul juxtaposes it with αγγελοι (a[n]ggeloi) which could be either angels or messengers. The context that makes the most sense is the NIV translation: angels or demons. So already, we have a precedent for “rulers = demons”. Paul never uses any word derived from “arch-” for people or entities he likes.

1 Corinthians 2

6 σοφιαν δε λαλουμεν εν τοις τελειοις σοφιαν δε ου του αιωνος τουτου ουδε των αρχοντων του αιωνος τουτου των καταργουμενων

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.


8 ην ουδεις των αρχοντων του αιωνος τουτου εγνωκεν ει γαρ εγνωσαν ουκ αν τον κυριον της δοξης εσταυρωσαν

8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Again, Paul is using “arch-” meaning people or entities he doesn’t like.

Ephesians 2

1 και υμας οντας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις αμαρτιαις υμων

2 εν αις ποτε περιεπατησατε κατα τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου κατα τον αρχοντα της εξουσιας του αερος του πνευματος του νυν ενεργουντος εν τοις υιοις της απειθειας

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and failures (*or sins)

2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in [the sons] of disobedience.

The ruler (archonta) of the air/heavenly realm. An entity that Paul doesn’t like, who he says is causing some people to sin. I underlined a crucial word: πνευματος::pnevmatos which means spirit-like. So some sort of heavenly spirit, a ruler of some sort, is causing people in his church to sin.

Ephesians 3

10 ινα γνωρισθη νυν ταις αρχαις και ταις εξουσιαις εν τοις επ’ ουρανιοις δια της εκκλησιας η πολυποικιλος σοφια του θεου

10 [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms

The rulers (or demons i.e. “archias” from Rom 8:38) of the heavenly realm (επουρανιοις, I’ve written it as επ’ ουρανιοις – “over-sky”) are ignorant of god’s assembly (or church).

Ephesians 6

12 οτι ουκ εστιν ημιν η παλη προς αιμα και σαρκα αλλα προς τας αρχας προς τας εξουσιας προς τους κοσμοκρατορας του σκοτους τουτου προς τα πνευματικα της πονηριας εν τοις επ’ ουρανιοις

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms

It seems as though Paul sees these archons as some sort of heavenly, spiritual beings that Paul sees as working against the church. Maybe the Gnostics were right – the archons:

In late antiquity the term archon was used in Gnosticism to refer to several servants of the Demiurge, the “creator god” that stood between the human race and a transcendent God that could only be reached through gnosis. In this context they have the role of the angels and demons of the Old Testament. They give their name to the sect called Archontics.

Paul uses the term “rulers of this age” in a derogatory way (1 Cor 2:6,8 above). The same way that he use the term “god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4 – θεος του αιωνος) in a derogatory way. It seems as though Marcion or the Gnostics did have a reason for their beliefs. The rulers of this age were working for the god of this age – the Demiurge (δημιουργος::demiourgos – literally craftsman or creator) and his demons. For Paul, Jesus and his Father came to disrupt their plans.


Posted by on January 27, 2010 in archons, rulers of this age


4 responses to “Paul and the Demons/Rulers of this Age

  1. beowulf2k8

    January 29, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Psalms 144:6 “Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.”

    2nd Samuel 22:15 “And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them.”

    Ephesians 6:16 “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

    Is there a connection between the association of lightning and arrows with Yahweh in the OT, and Paul's phrase “fiery darts of the wicked one.”

  2. J. Quinton

    January 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    That's an interesting connection – is Paul likening the god of the Jews with the god/rulers of this age?

    It looks like another line of evidence for Marcion's position… maybe Marcion was even the original author of Deutero-Paul!

  3. beowulf2k8

    January 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    According to Adolf von Harnack's Marcion: Gospel of the Alien God this is actually one of the antitheses that Marcion used in his Antithesis.

    As for Marcion being the original author of Deutero-Paul, Harnack takes the standard Catholic view you would find in Tertullian that Marcion took the Catholic version of Paul's epistles and cut out OT-based stuff. I, however, notice that Tertullian indicates both that the Marcionites only accepted Paul as an apostle and no others, and yet also that Marcion is styled an apostle. There is also the suggestion that the Marcionites may have called Paul by a different name, because Tertullian cautions the Marcionites not to say that they don't accept Paul. Why would Marcionites say they don't accept Paul when their entire canon is based on Paul? The answer seems to be that to them Paul's name was Marcion. Hence I think the reality is that Marcion wrote the ten epistles of Paul (all but Titus, 1st and 2nd Timothy and Hebrews) and that the proto-orthodox picked up Marcion's version, changed the name of the apostle to Paul (perhaps after Palut) and added the OT-based argumentation.

    That reference to Palut comes from a fact, mentioned in the famous work Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity by Waulter Bauer (online version here), that in Asia Minor the Marcionites were so prevalent that it was the proto-orthodox who weren't permitted to call themselves Christians and there they went by the name Palutians after the name of a bishop Palut.

    If the original Paul was Marcion [remember Mark-ion is Markus + diminutive suffix -ion, thus 'little Mark', meaning that Markion – Mark = ion (little) = Paul (little)], then the change of the name of the apostle from Markion to Paulos could be due to the influence of the Catholics' own alternative title Palutians and a desire to say that it was based on the name of the apostle rather than a mere bishop, until of course their numbers would be sufficient to get rid of the name Palutians altogether because they would become the ones who had the authority via numerical superiority to label themselves the only Christians.

  4. beowulf2k8

    January 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    I also think that 1st Corinthians 1:12's “Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.'” Could make more sense if you read Paul as Marcion and Apollos as Apelles: “Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Marcion,' or 'I am of Apelles,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.'” In orthodoxy there is no way to believe that Paul, Apollos, and Cephas taught anything but the same doctrine. But we know that Marcion and Apelles disagreed on the Old Testament. Marcion said it was the true revelation of a lower god, but Apelles saw it as a book of fables about the one and only God (although he also had a Great Angel type of figure in his theology). Cephas of course would then represent the third possible view of the Old Testament's relationship to the Gospel, namely that the Old Testament is perfect just as the gospel is. This passage could then refer to the three possible interpretations of how to fit the OT in with the Gospel.

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