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Text: 1 Corinthians 2: 8 (ESV)

"None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

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1 Corinthians 2:8

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

rulers
ἀρχόντων (archontōn)
Noun - Genitive Masculine Plural
Strong's Greek 758: Present participle of archo; a first.

Strong's Concordance

archón: ruler, chief
Usage: a ruler, governor, leader, leading man; with the Jews, an official member (a member of the executive) of the assembly of elders.

NASB Translation

authorities (1), leaders (1), magistrate (1), official (2), official's (1), prince (1), ruler (1), ruler (13), rulers (16).

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

ἄρχων, ἄρχοντος, ὁ (present participle of the verb ἄρχω) (from Aeschylus down), a ruler, commander, chief, leader: used of Jesus, ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς, Revelation 1:5; of the rulers of nations, Matthew 20:25; Acts 4:26; Acts 7:35; universally, of magistrates, Romans 13:3; Acts 23:5; especially judges, Luke 12:58; Acts 7:27, 35 (where note the antithesis: whom they refused as ἄρχοντα καί δικαστήν, him God sent as ἄρχοντα — leader, ruler — καί λύτρῳ — τήν); Acts 16:19. οἱ ἄρχοντες τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου those who in the present age (see αἰών, 3) by nobility of birth, learning and wisdom, power and authority, wield the greatest influence, whether among Jews or Gentles

Could “they” also refer to Roman political leaders?

Definitely yes according to the above lexicons.

Now let's check the context.

1 Corinthians 2:6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The context also confirms that it is talking about the leading people of Jews and Gentiles (Romans and Greeks).

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The operative word is ἄρχων (archón) meaning, "ruler", "chief". If I paraphrase BDAG, we have four types of rulers for whom this word is used:

  1. Jewish leaders: Acts 14:2, 23:5, 13, 35, Matt 9:18, 23, 20:25, Luke 8:41, 18:18, etc.
  2. Earthly, gentile rulers/authorities: Matt 20:25, Acts 4:26, 16:19, Rom 13:3, 1 Cor 2:6-8, Titus 1:9, etc
  3. Christ Himself, Rev 1:5.
  4. Transcendental figures including evil spirits: Matt 9:34, 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15, John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 1 Cor 2:6-8, Eph 2:2, etc.

Note that BDAG places the meaning of ἄρχων (archón) in 1 Cor 6-8 in both the category of Jewish AND gentile rulers. However, I would not necessarily exclude the fourth category above either.

Meyers says (of 1 Cor 2:6):

τῶν ἀρχ. τ. αἰῶν τ.] These are the rulers generally (comp Acts 13:27), the dominant powers (proceres) of the pre-Messianic time among Jews and Gentiles.

Note that Paul says that the "rulers of this age" crucified the Lord of Glory. While the Jewish leaders agitated and begged Pilate to crucify Jesus, it was Pilate who actually had the authority to do so and who finally issued the death warrant. However, Pilate would not have done this without the insistence of the Jewish leaders who stirred up the mob. Thus, BOTH Jewish and gentile (Roman) leaders were equally involved in crucifying Jesus.

Bengal's Gnomen also observes:

to the princes of the world, 1 Corinthians 2:8, etc.—ἀρχόντων, of the princes) 1 Corinthians 1:20. Paul uses a word of wide signification, in which he comprehends men of rank both among the Jews and Greeks.

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