Satan as the “god” of the Present Age: Paul’s Surprising Title in 2 Corinthians 4:4

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul makes a remarkable claim to defend the partial rejection of his gospel. He states that “the god of this age” has blinded the minds of unbelievers to prevent them from comprehending the gospel. The statement is remarkable both in its employment of the bold title “the god of this age” as well as the theologically-challenging notion of “blinding.” Despite its remarkable nature, the passage has reached a near consensus interpretation among scholars as a refence to Satan. Yet this interpretation wasn’t always as popular as it is today. For much of church history many interpreters, including figures such as Hippolytus and Cyril of Jerusalem, interpreted “the god of this age” as a reference to God the Father. It wasn’t until the period of the Reformation that the Satan interpretation of 2 Cor 4:4 became the dominant view. This makes 2 Cor 4:4 a unique battle ground in Scripture where the referent is either God or Satan.

In this paper I will examine the key issues that determine the interpretation of 2 Cor 4:4 including its reception history, Paul’s use of “theos” (ὁ θεός), the meaning of “this age” (τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου), literary context, and Paul’s understanding of Satan. I will argue that despite the surprising use of “god,” 2 Cor 4:4 is a reference to Satan and his powerful abilities in the present age that is consistent with other references to Satan in Paul’s writings; poses no threat to Paul’s monotheism; and allows Paul to defend his gospel against challenges from his Corinthian opponents.