Who is the “God of this age”?

In 2 Cor 4, who is the “god of this age”?

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:3-4)

I’m trying to figure out why everyone insists that Paul is talking about satan. I was trying to be sincere when I raised the question, but you should have seen the reaction I got this morning at a Bible study leader’s meeting.

Them: “WHAAAAAT?? Of course it’s satan!!”

Me: “But what, in this passage, makes us think Paul’s talking about satan? Since when does ‘god’ mean ‘satan’?”

Them: “It’s lowercase!”

Me: “Maybe that’s just the translator’s opinion. If so, I want to know why they’re deciding that.”

Them: “He’s blinding people! That’s what satan does!”

Me: “You mean that’s what God does. Listen to Jesus in Matt 11:25-26 ‘At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.’ Here, Jesus is crediting God for the action. Thanks, but I’d rather go with Jesus’ ‘opinion’ than a translator’s opinion.”

I think everyone was so flustered at me that they didn’t hear that verse. One guy did. “But didn’t He only say that to the Pharisees?”

Me: “No, actually, He said that to all the people of several towns in the Galilee region. And God does this all over the Bible, by the way.”

Them: “Look – ‘prince of the power of the air’!! When Adam sinned he gave the world to satan! It was his domain until he sinned!”

Me: “Ummm.. Does Genesis actually say that?”

Them: “1 John 5:19! ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ Paul is talking about satan!!”

One guy: “Well .. I think if Paul were talking about God, he wouldn’t have just limited God’s reign to ‘this age’. I think he’d have been more comprehensive than that.”

Me: “I can probably go with that. Thanks.”

Them: “Daaaaang already!”

Me: “What?? I just want to know why everyone thinks this is satan.”

Limiting God to “this age” does seem peculiar. So I thought I’d look into it a bit.


* None of my translations capitalize the ‘g’, but maybe that’s just the translators. I don’t know Greek, but my Strong’s says that the word is “theos,” and it’s used in plenty of places to talk about God. No luck there.

* The commentaries that I have are almost unanimous in insisting that it’s satan, but none offer any hard evidence for their opinion. All the verses they cite for support (John 12:31; John 14:30; Eph 2:2; Eph 6:12; 1 John 5:19) talk about “prince”, “rulers” and “authority” – a notch or two below “god”, I should think. (One commentary [Barnes] even says “there can be no doubt” that this is satan. Ummmm, ok, if you say so. ..but we’ll note for the record that this same commentator coincidentally has nothing to say about Jesus praising God for hiding truth from people in Matt 11:25. I have a couple of commentaries that flirt with the idea of this being God, but none of them capitalize the word, and they don’t list all the references they could). And I don’t know if it matters, but these verses in support of satan all talk about “air” and “world”, not “age.” So no luck there either.

* A phrase search/comparison is fruitless. As it turns out, this is the only place where the phrase “god of this age” is used in the Bible, so no love there either.

* But if we look at the idea in this passage, we actually have lots to go on. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just list a few.

— We’ve already seen Jesus saying something like this and attributing it to His Father. And guess what – so does Paul:

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.’ (Rom 11:7-8)

In this case, just like in Matt 11, God is doing the blinding. And did you notice that Paul isn’t claiming to originate the idea? He’s quoting Isaiah 29:9-10, so apparently Isaiah thought the same thing too.

— And if we wanted to hang out in Isaiah, we’ll see God commanding Isaiah to do precisely that (blind people so they will not see the truth and repent) in Is 6:8-10.

And He said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isa 6:9-10)

— I suppose now might be a good time to mention that this interesting charge to Isaiah isn’t just an OT idea. This  passage just so happens to be the 3rd most frequently quoted passage in the NT. In fact, all 4 of the Gospels refer to this Isaiah passage at least once, it’s in Acts, Romans, 1 Cor and more. And Paul was quite aware of it because he quoted it directly to his detractors in Acts 28:26-28.

— Even Moses got in on the act in Deut 29:4.

So now I’m back to wondering why everyone insists that ‘god’ here is satan, and, perhaps more importantly, why we freak out to hear to hear this is something God does, despite the Bible’s repeated, consistent attestation of the fact.

I’m open to ideas.

[EDIT -2017/1/1]

I am now fully convinced that the ‘god’ here is indeed satan. And I am also convinced that God in heaven has appointed satan the task of blinding the world. And I am also convinced that He will send a strong delusion so that those who reject Him will continue in blindness (2 Thess 2:11-12)

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3 comments to Who is the “God of this age”?

  • greg

    Maybe it’s both. God chose to do the blinding, but allows satan to do it. Just as in Isaiah 6, God does it, but has the message delivered. Therefore, maybe “god of this age” refers to the messenger, but God sent the blindness. Just a thought. It is refreshing to me to see a fellow believer thinking deeply. Have enjoyed perusing your website so far.

    • admin

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The more I think about this passage, the more I’m convinced that Paul does actually mean satan, and that he’s using a unique phrase (“god of this age”) to describe him. I think that flows better with Paul’s overall theology.

      Granted, satan can only do what God allows him to do, but still.


  • Brandon

    >>All the verses they cite for support (John 12:31; John 14:30; Eph 2:2; Eph 6:12; 1 John 5:19) talk about “prince”, “rulers” and “authority” – a notch or two below “god”, I should think.

    First, I concur with greg in that it’s certainly a both/and. Just like the situation where David was moved to number the people. Who did it? God or Satan? Well…yes! Satan, after all, is still only a tool in the hand of the Creator God.

    And, more specifically regarding the above portion I quoted, consider John 10:34 “esus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—” and its OT source, Psalm 82:6 “I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;”. If mere men can biblically be referred to as “gods” then it certainly can also be applied to Satan, no?

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