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KJV:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience

Quoting part of the great answer here: In Ephesians 2:2, to what or whom does "the authority of the air" refer? , we get a bit of an idea about how "air" is being used, perhaps as a metaphor:

Notice the first two words referring to what Christ is over (ἀρχῆς, ἐξουσίας) are related to, or the same word as, the words in Eph 2:2 (ἄρχοντα, ἐξουσίας). Later, it is further learned that there are "principalities and powers in the heavenlies" (ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις; Eph 3:10) that something is being made known to (indicating they are "personal" beings referred to, ones that can gain "knowledge").

Maybe I'm reading too much into just this one line or am guilty of confirmation bias, but I can't help but pick up Pentateuch or even Midrashic notes. Air being used in such an abstract sense and the notion of "heavenlies" bears some resemblance to Qliphoth or some other Zoroastrian influenced 2nd Temple Era imagery.

However, I may be completely wrong on this. This is of course the New Testament, and Paul may have chosen these words for an entire different reason.

Question

Would it be accurate to ascribe Jewish-mysticism to the language used in Ephesians2:2 or was Paul simply trying to textualize the gospel for the audience at Ephesus, which also had pagan customs and beliefs?

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  • 2
    (+1) An intriguing question with some interesting reflections behind it. Thanks for sharing!
    – Steve can help
    Sep 16, 2022 at 10:19

1 Answer 1

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The meaning of "ruler of the authority of the air" is much debated and that debate will not be resolved here. However, that does not prevent us gathering what facts we can agree upon.

  1. "Air", when not used literally (eg, Acts 22:23, 1 Cor 9:26, 14:9) denotes the spiritual realm, whether good or bad, eg,

1 Thess 4:17 - Then we, the living remaining, will be caught away together with them in the clouds for the meeting of the Lord in the air; and so we will be always with the Lord. [However, some still argue that this denotes a literal meaning of "air", ie, above the ground.]

  1. "Air in Eph 2:2 appears to be equivalent to "heavenly places" as in

Eph 6:12 - because to us the wrestling is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms/places. [Compare Eph 1:3, 20, 2:6, 3:10]

Ellicott offers this summary of the theological options:

The prince of the power of the air.—The connection of the “world” with the Evil One as its “prince” is not uncommon in Holy Scripture (see John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11); and the “power” of this passage is exactly that which Satan claims as “committed” to him in Luke 4:32. But the phrase “the power of the air” is unique and difficult. We note

(1) that this phrase signifies not “a power over the air,” but “a power dwelling in the region of the air.” Now, the word “power” (see Note on Ephesians 1:21), both in the singular and the plural, is used in this Epistle, almost technically, of superhuman power. Here, therefore, the Evil One is described as “the prince,” or ruler, of such superhuman power—considered here collectively as a single power, prevailing over the world, and working in the children of disobedience—in the same sense in which he is called the “prince of the devils,” the individual spirits of wickedness (Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24). Next

(2), Why is this spoken of as ruling “in the air”? There may possibly be allusion (as has been supposed) to the speculations of Jewish or Gentile philosophy; but it seems far more probable that the “air” is here meant simply to describe a sphere, and therefore a power, below the heaven and yet above the earth. The “air” is always opposed to the bright “ether,” or to the spiritual “heaven”; the word and its derivatives carry with them the ideas of cloudiness, mist, and even darkness. Hence it is naturally used to suggest the conception of the evil power, as allowed invisibly to encompass and move above this world, yet overruled by the power of the true heaven, which it vainly strives to overcloud and hide from earth. In Ephesians 6:12 the powers of evil are described with less precision of imagery, as dwelling “in heavenly places,” the opposition being there only between what is human and superhuman; yet even there the “darkness” of this world is referred to, corresponding to the conception of cloudiness and dimness always attaching to “the air.”

BDAG provides this meaning for "air" in Eph 2:2 -

of the political domain of transcendent beings or powers ... the ruler of the kingdom of the air, ie, Satan, Eph 2:2 ...

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