2 Cor 4:4 Who Is The God of This World?

May 21, 2008

I have been in a discussion with someone on Twitter discussing 2 Cor 4:4 and that it seemed inconsistent with Paul’s theology to state this commonly quoted verse.

2 Cor 4:4 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.

For some reason that verse had always bothered me as I saw it did not fit with other verses that Paul wrote.


Romans 1: 25. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. 26. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Notice it is God doing the deluding? Not Satan. Though I do think Satan plays a part in the turning from the knowledge of God, and adding to the “depraved mind”.

I also noted Paul stating things like:

Romans 3: 30. “since there is only one God,” I wondered why then Paul referred to Satan as the “god of this world”… it seemed that it was a bit of an exaggeration at best! LOL!

But the verses that made me wonder the most was in 1 Cor 8: 4. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6. yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

If Paul was stating that there is only One God over and over here… and stating that “even if there are so-called gods”, then making a slighted reference to all the many “gods” and “lords” (possibly a reference to Caesar worship?) I just could not see him referring to Satan as a god, even in small letters. It seemed out of character for Paul… though he may at times go to extreme rhetoric as in the “height, width, depth of God’s love”…

Anyway I left it alone for quite a few years, but it still bothered me. Then about a year ago (maybe 3) I was reading Irenaeus and found that he was correcting how this passage should be read. Sorry for all the upcoming cut an past

Against Heresies
Chapter VII.—Reply to an objection founded on the words of St. Paul (2 Cor. iv. 4). St. Paul occasionally uses words not in their grammatical sequence.

1. As to their affirming that Paul said plainly in the Second [Epistle] to the Corinthians, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not,”3358 and maintaining that there is indeed one god of this world, but another who is beyond all principality, and beginning, and power, we are not to blame if they, who give out that they do themselves know mysteries beyond God, know not how to read Paul. For if any one read the passage thus—according to Paul’s custom, as I show elsewhere, and by many examples, that he uses transposition of words—“In whom God,” then pointing it off, and making a slight interval, and at the same time read also the rest [of the sentence] in one [clause], “hath blinded the minds of them of this world that believe not,” he shall find out the true [sense]; that it is contained in the expression, “God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world.” And this is shown by means of the little interval [between the clause]. For Paul does not say, “the God of this world,” as if recognising any other beyond Him; but he confessed God as indeed God. And he says, “the unbelievers of this world,” because they shall not inherit the future age of incorruption. I shall show from Paul himself, how it is that God has blinded the minds of them that believe not, in the course of this work, that we may not just at present distract our mind from the matter in hand, [by wandering] at large.

2. From many other instances also, we may discover that the apostle frequently uses a transposed order in his sentences, due to the rapidity of his discourses, and the impetus of the Spirit which is in him. An example occurs in the [Epistle] to the Galatians, where he expresses himself as follows:
“Wherefore then the law of works?3359 It was added, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.”3360 For the order of the words runs thus: “Wherefore then the law of works? Ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator, it was added until the seed should come to whom the promise was made,”— man thus asking the question, and the Spirit making answer. And again, in the Second to the Thessalonians, speaking of Antichrist, he says, “And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus Christ3361 shall slay with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy him3362 with the presence of his coming; [even him] whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders.”3363 Now in these [sentences] the order of the words is this: “And then shall be revealed that wicked, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the presence of His coming.”
For he does not mean that the coming of the Lord is after the working of Satan; but the coming of the wicked one, whom we also call Antichrist. If, then, one does not attend to the [proper] reading [of the passage], and if he do not exhibit the intervals of breathing as they occur, there shall be not only incongruities, but also, when reading, he will utter blasphemy, as if the advent of the Lord could take place according to the working of Satan. So therefore, in such passages, the hyperbaton must be exhibited by the reading, and the apostle’s meaning following on, preserved; and thus we do not read in that passage, “the god of this world,” but, “God,” whom we do truly call God; and we hear [it declared of] the unbelieving and the blinded of this world, that they shall not inherit the world of life which is to come.

It really made me start thinking again on all this…

I started to look at the verse again so see what it might really be saying.

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.

Who veiled the gospel? It is our own unbelief. How is the veil removed, by believing in Jesus. We learned all this in 2 Cor 3
The Gospel is veiled to those who are perishing.

I see it should read:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The God Eternal 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.

It then flows so that we now (again as we learned in 2 Cor 3: 16. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.)

Verse 5. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

It is God who blinds the unbeliever so that they cannot see Christ. They can see Christ when God reveals Jesus to them as Paul teaches in 1 Cor 1: 18. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Now here is my theory, call it conspiracy if you will. LOL!

Most of us are from the Protestant/reformed view. We spend our time in Calvin and Augustine and other 16th century guys who are well worth the read. I think many manuscripts are mostly from Alexandria which took a Platonist/ Gnostic view point of scripture. Somewhere I think we tossed the baby out with the bathwater in our zeal to attack the Roman Catholic Church. I had not read Irenaeus and when I did it was in my search to follow the disciples of John the Apostle. You might know Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of Ignatius and. So the linage is pretty straight forward as to what was taught from John. I see that maybe we just took to our own traditions instead of looking at our historians of past. Note many are pretty far out there, yet, some that we can see come from apostolic line of teaching, should be considered in their interpretations.



  1. Glad to see God given intellect is alive and well in Biblical exegesis.

  2. I don’t understand the problem here, and I see no need for recourse to these rearrangements of Paul’s words.

    That Satan is the god of this world has nothing to do with there being only one real God. Paul also writes of some that “their God is their belly.” Does this imply that there is actually more than one God? Jeremiah says “according to the number of your cities are your gods” (Jer.2:28), as evidence that they’re all worthless.

    A god is that in which people “live and move and are,” as Paul put it in Athens. Indeed the God who made the heavens and the earth is the only such for real. But people live and move and are in lots of other things specified in Scripture – their wealth, lying, violence, carousing and drunkenness, and many such things. The sluggard, the proverb says, turns on his bed as as door turns on its hinges: his bed defines the course of his life, so that not finding rest in God, he finds it there so that his whole life revolves upon it.

    The cross reveals that Satan is indeed the God of this world. There the world employed the tools by which we all are kept in line: death, torture, mockery, disgrace, the curse of shameful treatment in public, and such like. This power was made void through the resurrection, demonstrating that Satan and his kingdoms are false gods. That doesn’t mean that these do not continue to be the hope of the rulers of this world and the objects of their worship, as we read daily in the papers.

  3. Peter,

    Because there is only ONE God… and Satan is not even a “god” but a fallen angel.

    It is not rearranging the words btw… it is returning them to their original statement. I am tracing here the direct line from John the Apostle who taught Polycarp who taught Irenaeus.

    I am wondering why you seem so put off by the correct understanding of a biblical passage that most likely could be one of the most mistranslated verse out there.

    If a verse is wrong, we need diligence in correcting it as it can lead to erroneous teachings such as Satan being a god of any kind.


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