God of this age: Satan in the churches and Letters of the Apostle Paul
Brown, Derek Ryan
This thesis aims to elucidate the nature of the references to Satan in the undisputed Pauline corpus. Although scholarship has frequently devoted attention to the various “powers of evil” in Paul’s letters—including principalities, rulers, demons, etc.—insufficient consideration has been given to the figure of Satan as an isolated subject matter. Moreover, scholarship on the individual references to Satan has often neglected Paul’s depiction of Satan’s activity vis-à-vis his apostolic calling. This raises the question, how and why does the Apostle Paul refer to the figure of Satan in his letters? In order to address this question, the thesis commences by examining two key areas of background material. First, Chapter Two investigates the various “images” of Satan in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Jewish texts. Instead of delineating a historical sketch of the development of Satan in Jewish thought, emphasis is placed on the various roles in which Satan functions within these writings. Second, Chapters Two and Three investigate two aspects of Paul’s theology which relate to his references to Satan. First, Satan’s place within Paul’s apocalyptic theology is explicated (Chapter Three). Second, the thesis considers Paul’s self-understanding as the Apostle to the Gentiles and, critically, the importance of Paul’s churches for his apostleship (Chapter Four). Chapters Five and Six then utilize the findings of the previous chapters in their examination of the ten clear references to Satan in the undisputed Pauline letters. Chapter Five focuses on the sole reference to Satan in Romans (16:20) and the two references in 1 Thessalonians (2:18; 3:5). Chapter Six then analyzes the several references to Satan in the Corinthian correspondence (1 Cor 5:5; 7:5; 2 Cor 2:11; 4:4; 6:15; 11:14; 12:7), including their collective significance. On the basis of the examination of the Pauline references to Satan, it is argued that Paul—while sharing the Jewish and early Christian understanding of Satan as an enemy and tempter of the people of God—fundamentally characterizes Satan in his letters as the apocalyptic adversary who opposes his apostolic labor (kopos). Paul does so, it is argued, because he believed that his apostleship was pivotal in spreading the gospel at a crucial point in salvation history. The final chapter then anticipates the implications of the study for further research.