NIV Eph 2:2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

MGNT 2:2 ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας

The #4 entry of BDAG has Aiwn in Ephesians 2:2 listed as an entity named Aeon!:

the Aeon as a person, the Aeon (Rtzst., Erlösungsmyst. 268 index under Aion, Taufe 391 index; Epict. 2, 5, 13 οὐ γάρ εἰμι αἰών, ἀλλʼ ἄνθρωπος=I am not a being that lasts forever, but a human being [and therefore I know that whatever is must pass away]; Mesomedes 1, 17=Coll. Alex. p. 197, 17; Simplicius in Epict. p. 81, 15 οἱ αἰῶνες beside the μήτηρ τῆς ζωῆς and the δημιουργός; En 9:4 κύριος τ. κυρίων καὶ θεὸς τ. θεῶν κ. βασιλεὺς τ. αἰώνων; PGM 4, 520; 1169; 2198; 2314; 3168; 5, 468; AcPh 132 [Aa II/2, 63, 5]; Kephal. I p. 24, 6; 45, 7) ὁ αἰ. τοῦ κόσμου τούτου Eph 2:2. The secret hidden from the Aeons Col 1:26; Eph 3:9 (Rtzst., Erlösungsmyst. 235f); IEph 19:2 (Rtzst. 86, 3); cp. 8:1 (Rtzst. 236, 2). Various other meanings have been suggested for these passages.—CLackeit, Aion I, diss. Königsbg. 1916; EBurton, ICC Gal 1921, 426–32; HJunker, Iran. Quellen d. hellenist. Aionvorstellung: Vortr. d. Bibl. Warburg I 1923, 125ff; ENorden, D. Geburt des Kindes 1924; MZepf, D. Gott Αιων in d. hellenist. Theologie: ARW 25, 1927, 225–44; ANock, HTR 27, 1934, 78–99=Essays I, ’72, 377–96; RLöwe, Kosmos u. Aion ’35; EOwen, αἰών and αἰώνιος: JTS 37, ’36, 265–83; 390–404; EJenni, Das Wort ʿōlām im AT: ZAW 64, ’52, 197–248; 65, ’53, 1–35; KDeichgräber, RGG I3 193–95; HSasse, RAC I 193–204; MNilsson, Die Rel. in den gr. Zauberpapyri, K. humanist. Vetenskapssamfundets Lund II ’47/48, 81f; GJennings, A Survey of αιων and αιωνιος and their meaning in the NT, ’48; GStadtmüller, Aion: Saeculum 2, ’51, 315–20 (lit.); EDegani, ΑΙΩΝ da Omero ad Aristotele ’61 (s. Classen, Gnomon 34, ’62, 366–70; D.’s reply in RivFil 91, ’63, 104–10); MTreu, Griech. Ewigkeitswörter, Glotta 43, ’65, 1–24; JBarr, Biblical Words for Time2 ’69; OCullman, Christus u. die Zeit3 ’62.—B. 13. EDNT. DDD s.v. Aion. DELG. M-M. TW. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 33). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

I found more information HERE that shows that an Aion was "One of the embodiments of the divine attributes of the Eternal Being." This is fascinating as it gives a much clearer picture both of the role of the messiah and of the antichrist.

Here is a much more complete picture.

LSJ has this:

  1. Αἰών, ὁ, personified, “Αἰὼν Χρόνου παῖς” E.Heracl.900 (lyr.), cf. Corp.Herm.11, etc.; as title of various divine beings, Dam.Pr.151, al.; esp.=Persian Zervan, Suid. s.v. Ἡραἰ̈σκος.

So I'm sold. But not everyone is. Most of the English translations I see either have "the course of" or "the ways of", neither of which are part of the semantic domain of AIWN. What is the argument for these translations and which is right?

  • A good question. Upvoted +1 and answered, below.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 28 '18 at 14:24

Note: I am answering the head question and only touching briefly on the second question about the various translations.

τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου . . . . [TR - Stephens, Beza, Elzevir and Scrivener are all identical]

ton aiwna tou kosmou toutou

the age of this world . . . . [Englishman's Greek New Testament]

This is a very interesting expression from Paul, in Ephesians 2:2, and a very interesting question which draws attention to the fact that aiwn and kosmos have been both commonly translated 'world' and, thus, the subtlety of the difference of the words has been (partially, at least) lost.

Commonly, the KJV gives 'ever and ever' or 'evermore' when eis is used with the accusative form, such as John 6:51, if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever, in which Robert Young, as he often does, gives 'to the age' for eis aiwna.

But thirty two times, the AV renders aiwn as 'world'.

Interestingly, my thousand page 1854 edition of Liddell & Scott lists only four other words with the form aiw---. All four of these words refer to something that is suspended or hovering or floating, such as the manner of the flight of an eagle, the motion of a suspended basket or the motion of a ship on waves.

That would point me towards the concept that 'the age of this cosmos' refers to the environment in which this (present) cosmos is held and maintained.

If 'to the age' expresses a state of affairs that exists throughout a present age until another age begins (due to a fundamental re-arrangement of cosmos) then 'age' is expressing the environment of a fixed situation which is unalterable until exterior forces make fundamental alterations.

It is not, I would suggest, just a matter of a portion of time, however extended (or shortened) that period of time might be. It is the fixed state and the fixed conditions which are unalterable until an outside influence makes fundamental alterations in order to change that fixed state.

Paul further defines his usage of aiwn in Ephesians 6:12 :

τους κοσμοκρατορας του σκοτους του αιωνος τουτου [TR - Stephens, Beza, Elzevir and Scrivener all identical]

tous kosmokratoras tou skotous aiwnos toutou

the world-rulers of the darkness of this age (Englishman's Greek New Testament

Here, the 'age' is in darkness and this darkness is maintained by 'cosmic' rulers.

And, further, Paul states in I Corinthians 2:6-8 that the 'rulers of this age' are 'coming to nought', verse 6. For Paul tells us of a hidden wisdom, verse 7, which God predetermined unto 'our' glory, that is to say - the glory of the apostles and them that receive their word.

Of this wisdom and glory, verse 8, Paul says that the rulers of this age knew it not, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Fundamental to the conditions of this present age is the rule of the archon (a word which indicates presence at the beginning and power to develop matters from that beginning). And this rule we can see asserted in the opening stages, asserted in a serpentine manner. Thereafter asserted in an adversarial manner. Or a demonic manner. Or a diabolic manner. Or a draconian manner.

Serpent, Satan, Prince of Demons, Diabolos and Dragon - this is the character of the rule of the darkness of the present age.

And this is the age of this world, or as some would express it 'the course of this world' - unless one is saved from it and unless one is preserved from it. It is the present condition in which the cosmos is, for the time being, suspended in stasis, until fundamental changes are exerted from outside the cosmos (and from a higher authority than the rulers of the cosmos, who rule within the confinements of the age).

The Ephesian saints had, in the past, walked according to the age of this present cosmos. And Paul reminds them of it, in Ephesians 2:2.

But in the following verses he further reminds them that God who is rich in mercy for the great love wherewith he loved them, had already quickened them - together with Christ - and had raised them up together and made them sit together in the heavenlies (far above the rulers of the darkness).

That - in the ages to come - he might demonstrate the exceeding riches of his grace towards them through Christ Jesus.

Breathtaking concepts and a good question, indeed.


Eph 2:1 & 2 is quintessentially Pauline in its brevity. Many wish that Paul had filled out his sentences a little more. Allow me to list the structure here with a literal translation:

v1: And you being dead in your trespasses and sins (v2) in which once you-walked

  • according to [Gr kata] the age of this world
  • according to [Gr kata] the ruler of the authority of the air

the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.

The question should now be asked: are the two items (age of the world and ruler of the air) distinct or different names for the same thing. John uses a related phrase "ruler of this world" (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) to refer to Satan. Therefore, I believe they both refer to the same thing defined in two different ways by using some classic Hebrew parallelism.

So what does "age/aion" mean here? I think BDAG is correct in calling this a case of personification. Having said that, the person [ruler of the air] clearly dominates an era and its ways. Therefore, in keeping Paul's characteristic brevity, I would suggest that the intended meaning is both, and so I would translate this passage idiomatically as follows:

"And being dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once lived according to the ways of the ruler of the air who dominates this era, that is, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience …"

  • Not really a "personification" but rather a "being". Also, I'm not convinced John 12:31, 14:30 and 16:11 refer to Satan.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 27 '18 at 22:07
  • OK but the verses are related to Eph 2:2?
    – user25930
    Oct 27 '18 at 22:09
  • I don't know if they are related or not. I'm just saying it might not be appropriate to assume that everyone agrees with that reading.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 27 '18 at 22:11

αἰών could also be translated as age1 in this instance (viz. "eon"). This is almost universally the meaning understood in ancient Greek (see, e.g., Liddell-Scott-Jones).

This, at least, is the sense understood by Theophylact (11th c. Byzantine Greek) in his commentary on the verse:

You did sin, then, and walked according to the age to which this world belongs, which means, thinking only about the passing things of this world and making poor use of the present age. It is not the world itself that is evil, but our misuse of it. This age, albeit corruptible and temporal, has been given to us by God as a guide to awaken us to love that which is incorruptible and immutable. But because we have devoted ourselves to the corruption of the age, we have made of the world an impediment rather than a guide.2

As you point out in the examples you provide, only a couple of translations use the word "age" here.

I haven't checked all translations, but of the 126 times that αἰών appears in the Greek text, the KJV translates the word as course only once - here in Ephesians 2:2. This might be a holdover from earlier English translations:

Tyndale (1536)

In the which in tyme passed ye walked/accordynge to the curse of this worlde & after the governer that ruleth in the ayer/the sprete that now worketh in the chyldrē of unbelefe*

Geneva Bible (1557)

Wherein, in time past ye walked, according to the course of this worlde, & after the prince that ruleth in the aire, even the spirit, that now worketh in the childrẽ of disobedience

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the older meanings of "course" related to time:

III. fig. Of time, events, or action. 17. a. The continuous process (of time), succession (of events); progress onward or through successive stages. c1340 Cursor M. 267 (Laud 416) Cource of this world men shull yt calle. 1484 Caxton tr. G. de la Tour-Landry Bk. Knight of Tower (1971) lvii. 83 It is conuenyent that the tyme haue his cours.
1551 T. Wilson Rule of Reason sig. Xvj Throughout the whole course of this my rude and symple booke.
1569 R. Grafton Chron. II. 758 In the course of his life.
1576 A. Fleming tr. Erasmus in Panoplie Epist. 355 The yeare hath runne his course.
1647 C. Cotterell & W. Aylesbury tr. E. C. Davila Hist. Civill Warres France i. 3 The whole course of the Civill Warres.
1769 W. Robertson Hist. Charles V II. ii. 121 I return from it to the course of the history.
1882 J. H. Blunt Reformation Church of Eng. II. 23 The course of events which brought about this rapid fall.
1888 J. W. Burgon Lives Twelve Good Men I. i. 1 Four-and-thirty years have run their course since, etc.

b. The space of time over which any process extends; length (in time), duration. Obsolete.
1665 T. Herbert Some Years Trav. (new ed.) 234 The whole course of his [Noah's] life was 950 years.
1707 tr. P. Le Lorrain de Vallemont Curiosities in Husbandry & Gardening 65 The Course of its Life is sixteen Hours.

So one explanation for the prevalence of "course" is that it ties to an obsolete meaning of the word that was current at the time the King James Bible was published.3

1. See, e.g., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (2nd ed.)
2. The Explanation of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (tr. from Greek; Chrysostom Press, 2013), p.30
3. "Atonement" is another word in this category. A common meaning of the word today is "reparation for wrong or injury" (Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed.). According to the longer Oxford English Dictionary, the word did not take this meaning until late in the 17th century. Prior to and including the time that the KJV was published, "atonement" meant reconciliation, not reparation. Nonetheless many modern translations retain the word where it is used in older translations like the King James Bible, but ascribe the more modern meaning to it, essentially imputing a new definition to the underlying Greek or Hebrew that was not there in antiquity.

  • That's an interesting theory. My thought is that even if it influenced the KJV it would not have influenced more modern Bibles, I wouldn't think.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 27 '18 at 21:30

It may very well be understood as one of the Aeons of Gnosticism. The apostle Paul commanded Timothy to remain at Ephesus and “charge certain people that they do not teach different teaching, nor give heed to myths and endless genealogies...”1 These were not human myths and genealogies, but probably those of Gnosticism. Elsewhere to Timothy, the apostle Paul mentioned “antitheses of pseudonymnous gnosis”2—what appears to be a direct rebuke of Gnosticism.3

Tertullian wrote the following,4

And when he also mentions “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4), Valentinus is recognized, in whose writings that Aeon (I know not who) of a new and not single name generates from his own “Grace,” “Sense” and “Truth”; and in like manner, these produce from themselves “Word” and “Life,” and then these generate “Man” and “Church”—from which primary Ogdoad ten other Aeons then originate, and twelve remaining Aeons with wonderful names, in the mere fable of the thirty Aeons.

Sed et cum genealogias indeterminatas nominat (1 Tim. 1:4), Valentinus agnoscitur, apud quem Aeon ille nescio qui noui et non unius nominis generat e sua Charite Sensum et Veritatem; et hi aeque procreant ex se Sermonem et Vitam, dehinc et isti generant Hominem et Ecclesiam de qua prima ogdoade Aeonum exinde decem alii et duodecim reliqui Aeones miris nominibus oriuntur in meram fabulam triginta Aeonum.

Moreover, even if the apostle Paul gave mention to what he considered to be a false god, it was not because he believed it existed, but more likely that he “intends τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου to indicate the Devil in more polemic reference to the gnostic Aeon doctrine.”5 The remainder of Eph. 2:2 seems to lend credence to such an assertion.


1 1 Tim. 1:3–4
2 1 Tim. 6:20: «ἀντιθέσεις τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως»
3 Or a prototypical Gnostic religious system. The Gnostics claimed that they alone were privy to gnosis (γνῶσις).
4 Ch. 33, p. 46
5 Meyer, p. 90, Eph. 2:2: »soll τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου in polemischer Beziehung auf die gnostiche Aeonenlehre den Teufel bezeiehnen«


Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Kritisch exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament, Achte Abtheilung, Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch über den Brief an die Epheser. 5th ed. Vol. 8. Göttingen: Vandenboeck and Ruprecht, 1878.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus. “Liber De Præscriptionibus.Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Prima. Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 2. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1844.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.