Where did the rulers of the age reside? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I’ve been looking lately at some arguments given to advance the idea that Jesus never existed. An interesting verse given is in 1 Cor. 2:8. The text reads as follows:
“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Now it is argued that elsewhere where Paul uses the word archon, which is translated as rulers, then it refers to rulers of the air and that refers to spiritual powers. So it is that Jesus did not really confront earthly rulers, but he instead confronted the rulers in the heavenlies and this heavenly story later on took on an earthly meaning.
One place where Paul uses it is in Ephesians 2, but there he clarifies the term by speaking of the ruler of the power of the air. The qualification is so you will know that Paul is not speaking about an earthly ruler but in this case about a spiritual ruler.
Another place the term is used is in Romans 13, but here I see no basis whatsoever for thinking that it refers to any sort of heavenly ruler. The passage is about governing authorities on Earth and how Christians are to respond to them. So what do we do in 1 Cor. 2?
Do we have any reason to think that the reading of earthly rulers would not apply? Upfront, no. The only basis for taking it the other way is because somehow saying rulers of this age makes it a spiritual battle going on.
Now of course, Christians would not deny that spiritual powers were at work in the crucifixion of Jesus, but these were spiritual powers who operated through earthly rulers. The problem with people like Carrier and others is that they have made it an entirely either/or situation. It is EITHER spiritual powers at work meaning this is a myth, OR it is earthly powers at work. If it is spiritual powers, then it is ipso facto by that argument not earthly powers, but why should this be accepted?
In the ancient world, there was not this great dichotomy between so-called natural and supernatural. Instead, the divine was seen to be active in everything and that included earthly affairs. If you asked if spiritual powers had Jesus crucified you could be told “Yes.” If you asked if earthly powers had him crucified, you could be told “Yes.”
Do we have any evidence that goes for the traditional interpretation?
Tacitus in the Annals in 15.44 tells us that Jesus was crucified and this under Pontius Pilate. Lucian tells us that Christians follow a crucified sophist. We could also include Josephus depending on how much of the testimonium is considered valid since it refers to the crucifixion. Definitely we could include the gospels, Acts, and numerous other statements in other epistles and other Pauline epistles.
All of these other statements MUST be wrong for the mythicist theory to hold here. That sounds like awfully weak ground.
It’s at this point I do wish to remind skeptical readers that there are several atheists who admit Jesus was a historical figure and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives.
I conclude that the case is just not persuasive at all to see this as less than a simple statement of fact that Jesus was crucified by the authorities on Earth at the time. This is a contrast to the soon coming age of the Messiah when Jesus will instead stand in judgment over them.