25 Apr 2013 
#68 Comments on 1 Corinthians 2:8. Does "the rulers of this age" mean earthly or heavenly beings (the later as thought by Doherty & Carrier)?

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Let's look at the verse in question with its immediate context:
1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.
1 Corinthians 2:8 None of the rulers ['archons'] of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,"

What these 'archons' do not know is God's hidden wisdom. According to the context, a God's plan (involving the Lord's crucifixion and the advent of the Kingdom of God for Christian elects only) is the emanation of God's hidden wisdom.

But how can we identify these 'archons'? Paul used the word only two more times: 

a) Romans 13:3-6 NKJV "For rulers ['archons'] are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; forhe does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing."
Here the "rulers" ('archons') are human authorities (& also Roman officials, as Pilate!).

b) 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 YLT "And wisdom we speak among the perfect, and wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers ['archon'] of this age -- [the wisdom] of those becoming useless, but we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a secret, that God foreordained before the ages to our glory,"
Here (& in 1 Corinthians 2:8), the rulers do not have God's wisdom; but only Paul & his Christians did! That only tells us those rulers were not "in the Spirit". It does not say these rulers were bad, just ignorant of God's "hidden" wisdom.

How to justify the Romans as not wanting to crucify Jesus if they "knew"? 

- Because the leaders among Romans would not take the risk to kill a favorite of a god ("the Lord of glory") fearing that god could exercise terrible revenge on them. 

- Because these rulers would want to keep the status quo, keep control of everything, and not give a chance for a foreign god to them to proceed with his plan (whatever it was, including possible wrath on them: Ro 9:22), the emanation of his secret wisdom. 

- Because these Romans would have asked "the Lord of glory" to sacrifice himself voluntarily, at best facilitate the process and make it as official & public as possible. Certainly, they would not want to be the executioners of Jesus, forcing his crucifixion, making it look like NOT a self-imposed sacrifice. 

Personally, I do not think that Paul was thinking that far. He just wanted to "prove" the rulers (Romans and chief priests) did not know about God's wisdom, and not realizing the full implication of his statement.

(Carrier argues the opposite in this video at 36:40). 

Furthermore, according to Paul, "this age" has only one (not several) demonic entity, "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), likely Satan (Romans 16:20). And the only time when Paul used the word "demons" ('daimonion': 1 Corinthians 10:20-21), it is about pagan gods, not subordinates of Satan.

But it is possible Paul would have thought of Satan as one of the rulers, one who could use humans from afar to kill people as in the book of Job and Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:5 "to deliver such a one [a bad Christian] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh...".

I note also:
a) the emphasis of the verse is on an unspecified God's plan being at work. The larger context is about human wisdom versus God's one, and the role of the Spirit. Therefore, the identity of these (generic) rulers is of no consequence for Paul's argument; specific identification was not required.
b) from 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:16, the ones who do not understand God's wisdom (& his plan) are specified to be humans (ref: 1:20, 22-25; 2:5, 9, 11, 13-14) and not spirits
c) 'Archons' are human rulers in Lk 24:20, Mat 20:15 and Acts 4:26. 
d) In 1 Cor 3:18 and 10:11, 'aion' (world, age) is placed in a human context.

'Ephesians' & 'Colossians' (where there is no suggestion demon spirits crucified Jesus!) were not written by Paul but later by others (as agreed by most critical scholars, Doherty, Carrier & myself): pseudo-Pauline letters simply cannot be trusted to represent Paul's thoughts & beliefs. And Paul never specified "the rulers" ('archons') as heavenly powers! 

The conclusion is obvious: for 1 Corinthians 2:8, Paul had human authorities in his mind, as the 'archons' who crucified Jesus, with possibly Satan "stretching out". John's gospel (13:2) certainly has Satan prompting Judas to cause Jesus' arrest, leading to his crucifixion.

UPDATE: In his book, "On The Historicity Of Jesus" (OHJ) p. 190, Carrier made this startling remark, which would kill his case against the historicity of Jesus: 

"Otherwise when he [Paul] speaks of human leaders he uses archon, 'principal', as in 'first in rank', not arche, 'principalities', and he never speaks of them as 'powers'. In Rom. 13:1-7, for example, Paul is certainly speaking of humans authorities, which he says Christians should always obey." 

At the next page, Carrier wrote that archon can have a different meaning (heavenly power) but he cited Eph. 2.2 as evidence ("which was forged in Paul's name but clearly by someone of his sect, and relatively early in the development of the church"). 

But once again, 'Ephesians', likely written more than a generation after Paul's times, should not be considered as following Paul's thinking. Furthermore, scholars noted that 'Ephesians" contains many elements/concepts/beliefs not found in Paul's authentic epistles. (Reference here

Note: however, towards the end of his book (pages 564 to 566), Carrier took great pain (on no less than three pages!) into explaining the 'archons' of 1 Cor 2:8 are demonic powers.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {1 Corinthians 2:8} {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {Doherty} {mythicism} {Paul} {rulers of this age}
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