"The Prince of this world"

by W. J. Henry

FOR many years the three passages in John's Gospel regarding "the Prince of this world" (12:31; 14:30; 16:11), were a source of concern to the writer and a perusal of numerous and learned works on the subject, from the homilies of Augustine and Chrysostom to the most evangelical and scholarly works of present day writers on the subject brought him no light. After considerable research and study he has been led to the conclusion that the opinion which obtains as to the person referred to being Satan is not in accordance with the mind of the spirit. He, therefore, seeks briefly and simply to put before His readers the result of his effort's in the hope that it will prove helpful to those who are seeking the whole truth.

The three passages are a fairly good illustration of the manner in which expositors may keep, as they believe, closely by the Word, and yet by bringing to it a vast amount of traditional teaching, so corrupt the text as to make it very difficult to get believers to consider, in an unprejudiced frame of mind, what we feel convinced to be the only correct view.

We know that Satan is the god of this eon (2 Cor.4:11) and the chief or prince of the aerial jurisdiction (Eph.2:2), but to apply to him the title of the prince or chief of this kosmos is not only to give to him that to which we consider he has no claim, but also to filch this title from its rightful Owner. This world's great ones are exceedingly jealous of their honors and dignities and it surely behooves us in the things of God even more to see that we render honor and glory to whom such is due.

Satan has no right to this title, and in getting the world-- and even believers--to accept him on his own terms he has succeeded only too well in blinding their minds lest the light of one of the glories of Christ should shine in upon them. Lying lips do not become a prince (Prov.17:7) and surely such a title ill becomes the father of lies. In Gen.32:28 the Lord gave to Jacob the name Israel, the Prince of God, which in time became one of the titles of the Lord Himself (See Isa.45:4; 49:3; 9:6). He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Prince of Ezek.44:3. Here we have the expression emphasized--the Prince...the Prince. In Dan.9:25 He is Messiah the Prince, while in Hosea 3:4, speaking of the Lo- ammi period, the prophet says Israel shall abide many days without a king and without a prince.

Perhaps one of the strongest passages in proof of our contention is Rev.1:5, where right at the outset of the opening salutation John speaks of our Lord as the archon (chief) of the kings of the earth--and this, too, be it remembered, before He has taken to Himself His great power (Rev.12:10). Surely in this passage--even if it were the only one--we have sufficient indication as to the intention of the apostle in his use of this phrase.

The first occasion on which He used this title was in His last public address, and the other two during His last words to His own. The time had arrived when Zech.9:9 was fulfilled: "Thy King cometh unto thee." Hence the revelation of a new title to accord with His royal dignity.

We shall now take up in detail and in their scriptural order the three passages which give us a natural division of the subject:

John 12:31--Now is this worlds judging: now shall the [Prince or] Chief of this world be cast out.

With one solitary exception all the writers whose works on the subject we have perused interpret the first clause thus: "Now is the judgment pronounced or passed upon this world." The exception is to be found in the Companion Bible, Page 1551, "Gr. krisis, i.e., the crisis reached when the world pronounced judgment against Christ and His claims." Had the word meant judgment krima would have been used and not krisis, which means the act or process of judging.

The natural man is so far alienated from God that when he comes across the word judgment he immediately concludes that it must refer to divine vindictiveness. There is, however, nothing further from the fact so far as this passage is concerned, in proof of which one has merely to refer to verse 47, "for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." "As the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa.55:8).

The following instances of genitive of source or ownership show us that it has reference to the one who is doing the judging:

the judgment of gehenna (Matt.23:33)
the judgment of God (2 Thess.1:5)
His judgment (Rev.14:7; 19:2)
Thy judgment (Rev.16:7)

If the foregoing interpretation be accepted then we are confronted with two alternatives with regard to the second clause "Now shall the Prince or Chief of this world be cast out." Either (1) the world is judging Satan, or (2) the One Whom they cast out was other than Satan. The former of these alternatives has only to be stated in order to answer itself. Rev.20:8 proves how, even after Satan has been imprisoned for one thousand years, the nations are only too willing to receive and be deceived by him. Therefore, we must seek for some other explanation.

In all the three places where the expression is found there is a duplication, for the sake of emphasis, of certain words which denote the stress on the time. Now, applied to Satan, is little short of nonsensical, as twenty centuries have almost gone and it will be admitted that he is not yet cast out. Now occurs twenty-eight times in John's gospel, and in no case does it refer to other than the proximate present, for instance, "now is My kingdom not from hence" (18:36). Had our Lord meant some period in the far future why did He not say "hereafter," as to Nathanael (1:51)? In all the three passages we have now (12:31; 14:29; 16:12) but with our Lord's perfect precision immediately following the instance at 14:29, we have at verse 30 "hereafter." "From now on" might be accepted as a simple definition of nun.

"The Prince or Chief of this world." If we consult Bagster's helps under the heading of "Prince of this World" we simply find "See Devil," and if we refer to the marginal references at John 12:31, we are referred to ch.16:11; Luke 10: 18; Acts 26:18; as also to Eph.6:12 which, however, refers to the eon, but which should be omitted according to the three most ancient manuscripts, Scrivener, J. N. Darby, and the Companion Bible. The surprising thing is that the editor of the Companion Bible should have given a correct rendering of the first clause, concerning which he appears to have had true spiritual apprehension, and yet in the second should have so readily accepted the traditional reading, for here he definitely states that the word archon applies "to Satan as prince of this world kosmos."

Cast out or thrust out. We are not surprised that a wrong conclusion should be arrived at here, because, although the expression occurs over forty times in the synoptic gospels, fully three-fourths of that number apply to the casting out of demons. In the fourth gospel however, though there are eleven references to Satan, or diabolos, or demons, there is not one example of demons being cast out.

The casting out can be traced back to 8:59. If the young man of 9:22 is cast out he discovers that the Good Shepherd has been cast out before him (8:59; see also 5:16).

The synoptic gospels practically repeat incidents in similar phraseology. The fourth introduces the coming, casting out, and rejection from the divine standpoint. We, therefore, submit:

  1. That the judging was being done by the world.
  2. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince or Chief of this world.
  3. That the casting out referred to His rejection, crucifixion and death.
  4. That the "now" was fulfilled within two or, at most, three days from the time when the word was spoken.

But why does He speak of Himself in the third person? This is not unusual, for in all of the undernoted passages the Lord, in speaking of Himself, used the third person: 1:51; 2:19; 3:14; 3: 16; 3:17; 5:19; 5:25; 5:27; 6:33.

And why does He change back again to the first person? The following are examples: 1:50,51; 2:19; 3:12,13; 5:24,25,26; 5:37- 38; 6:33-35. It will be found that this form of speech pervades all the gospels, but especially the fourth.

John 14:30--The Prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me. [C.V.: The Chief of the world is coming and in Me it has nothing at all].

This is the text which caused us the greatest concern, and it was only after we felt reasonably assured that we had succeeded in recovering it from its traditional haze that we ventured to express ourselves. This scripture is continually brought forward to prove that "in Him is no sin," therefore nothing on which Satan could fasten. There are, blessed be God, numerous other passages in this very gospel which clearly set before us His glory as the Son of God, but while seeking to appreciate the value of all such passages we consider that the one before us does not come within that number. Like the previous one, the verse in question is a compound sentence. To enable us to get an intelligent apprehension of the mind of the spirit let us analyze it:

(a) The Prince or Chief of the world is coming.
(b) And in Me nothing it [not he] has--not one thing.

Difficulty has been expressed regarding erchetai, "is coming," the feeling being that this carries with it the future tense. We, however, give a few examples from John where the same verb and tense are used, and in every case it refers to an incompleted act, that is, one in process of accomplishment at the time. The idea of futurity arises from the meaning of the word, not its tense.

John 4:5 -- Then He is coming to a city
4:7 -- There is coming a woman
6:5 -- A great multitude is coming unto Him
11:38 -- Jesus is coming unto the grave
12:22 -- Philip is coming...Andrew is coming
13:  6 -- Simon Peter is coming

It is well known that one of the names of Messiah is "The Coming One," hence in this gospel there are several passages where the word is so used (1:15; 1:27; 1:30). From the tenth hour of the evening when John first heard that "Come" (1:39), until his responsive "Amen, come quickly" (Rev.22:20), he recorded the word from his Master's lips over a hundred times. From the first promise in Gen.3:15 till the sevenfold coming in Malachi, all types, shadows, and offices pointed to this. Even creation itself was only a stage on which the great scene should be set up. Here is the One of Whom it was written "Lo! I come." Shiloh is come-- but, alas, not yet has been the gathering to Him (Gen.49:10) And what a reception! Not that it could be any surprise to Him-- witness the Psalms and Prophets. How He felt it! Not for His own sake only, but for the sake of Him Who sent Him. "He that rejecteth Me rejecteth Him that sent Me." "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee have fallen upon Me." "Reproach hath broken Mine heart."

"And in Me nothing it (not he) has--not one thing." is really the crux of the whole difficulty. Translation or punctuation may become comment. See "How to enjoy the Bible" pp.37-43, also Winer, who states (p.72) that this verse is a sample passage where there is room for liberty or difference of opinion. Let us take each word. The verb echei has its subject understood, the translators choosing to make the "Prince" do service as a subject for the verbs in both clauses, and in assuming this they have very materially contributed to the misconception. The verb to have echo occurs almost eighty times in this gospel, not to speak of numerous occurrences in John's first epistle and the Apocalypse. Only occasionally, however, does John use it in connection with material things such as, "they have no wine" (2:3); "Thou hast nothing to draw with" (4:11); "Peter, having a sword" (18:10); "Have ye any meat?" (21:5). John himself has been called the apostle of abstractions because of the prominence which he gives to life and death; light and darkness; love and hate; faith and unbelief; truth and the lie. Even material things such as lamb, temple, wind, water, bread, corn, and wine, having touched the altar are sanctified and become vehicles of spiritual instruction.

John was one of a remnant who saw and had something in Him. It was for this reason that he wrote the gospel that others believing might "have" life (20:31) and have fellowship (1 John 1:3). He had learned that he that had the Son had life, and that this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11,12): "As the Father had life in Himself, so had He given to the Son to have life in Himself" (5:26); "He came that men should have life and have it more abundantly" (10:10) "Those who believe into Him have eonian life" (3:15,16; 5:24; 6:40; 6:47).

How delightful in this gospel to enter into, even if in a very small measure, the repeated I am, I have, I must. These three verbs pervade the whole book. But, alas! the world saw no beauty in Him that it should desire Him. All that they thought He had was a demon (7:20; 8:48; 8:52; 10:20) and the only thing which they were anxious to have in Him was that they might be able to accuse Him (8:6).

The expression "to have nothing" in a person is a Hebrew idiom, and would be quite readily understood by the apostles. The undernoted are some examples of its occurrence in the Hebrew scriptures:

Deut.10:9--Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance in his brethren.
Joshua 18:7--But the Levites have no part in you.
Joshua 22:25,27--Ye have no part in the Lord.
Neh.2:20--But ye have no portion nor right nor memorial in Jerusalem.
2 Sam.19:43--And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah and said we have ten parts in the king and we have also more right in David than ye.

John 16:8-11--And that one coming will be convicting the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment: concerning sin indeed, seeing that they are not believing in Me; concerning righteousness seeing that I am going to My Father, and you are no longer beholding He: yet concerning judgment seeing that the Chief of this world has been judged.

Verse nine deals with the great sin lying at the world's door--unbelief in the Son. Verse ten emphasizes the mission of the spirit to bring home to the world the personal worth and righteousness of the Lord, and the Father's full appreciation of the same--"because I go to My Father." John's own comment on this is 1 John 3:7, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous even as He is righteous." If, however, we assume (as we sought to establish in 12:31) that the judging referred to is that of the world upon our Lord Jesus Christ, then the verse, instead of being fraught with difficulty becomes intelligible and quite in accord with the two previous passages so far as the work of the spirit on the world is concerned. The great mission of the spirit which is here to glorify Christ is to let the world see the enormity of the crime which it had committed in pronouncing such a judgment.

We are well aware of the part which Israel took in the death of the Lord, but let us again briefly see how both Jew and gentile were involved in this judging. The representative of the only nation on this earth who had a divine law, and who in his capacity as high priest ought to have consulted and known the mind of God, through the urim and thummim, declared (11:49,50) "Ye know nothing at all nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people and that the whole nation perish not." So far the Jew. What about the gentile? Pilate, representative of the most perfect civic law, on which all civilized countries to this day base their civic codes, gave judgment against Him even while protesting His innocence.

Never was it more true than in the first and third passages so far as the world's judgment is concerned: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself" (Rom.2:1).

From the day of Charlemagne--and even earlier--Europe and also parts of other continents have been plagued alternately by princes at the altar or priests on thrones--perhaps the latter has been the greater infliction but never at any time in the history of Christendom has the union of so-called church and state been an unmixed blessing. There will be a time, however, when the counsel of peace shall be between the altar and the throne (Zech.6:13) when the One Who has "borne away" the sin shall "bear" the glory.

In the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries it was not permissible in Scotland to mention the House of Stuart, but ofttimes when the Jacobites held their clandestine meetings they would lift their glasses "To him that's ower [over] the water" or sing "Waes [Scottish, woe is] me for Prince Charlie," and it is only a few months since a duchess stated that she had personally seen in her own castle a young Scot absolutely unconscious of any spectator salute a portrait of the Prince. This is a tale that might be told in almost any kingdom--especially in Europe, but what our point is, that if men display such affection and honor for creatures--some of whom were only moral wrecks, how should the hearts of believers grieve that the Liar, the Usurper, the Murderer has for centuries arrogated to himself what ought to have been, and, bless God, will yet be one of the many names which will glorify our Lord. As, however, with other names of God, it requires the occasion to bring out the character. Even on this point, however, there may be different motives in the desire that "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev.11:15). It is not enough that we should have proved that all earthly cisterns are broken and unsatisfying. We must be occupied with the Prince Himself--not even truths connected with Him. Nothing less than the heart's devotion to His Person will produce loyalty either in life or doctrine.

Kings shall fall down before Him
     And gold and incense bring,
All nations shall adore Him
     His praise all people sing,
For He shall have dominion
     O'er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle's pinion
     Or dove's light wing can soar.



MANY have been convinced and helped by the article on "The Prince of this world." But some question the correctness of the grammar when rendering John 14:30, "it-IS-HAVING" instead of "he-IS- HAVING," thus referring to the subordinate word "world" in place of the full phrase "Prince of this world," as the usual rules of grammar suggest. The following is offered as the probable solution of what seems an insurmountable difficulty.

There are higher rules of concord than grammar. To speak of one's self in the third person is, strictly speaking, bad form. Yet the Lord often refers to Himself thus, especially as the Son of Mankind. In this verse He refers to Himself as the Chief of the world. This is settled. by the other references (John 12:31; 16: 11). Then He uses the pronoun "Me" in contrast with the verb it, he or she is having. The antecedent is the only guide in determining which pronoun to use. We cannot apply the usual rule here, for the usual rule has already been set aside. The third person has been used for the first. Hence the logical antecedent is the only other noun, "world." The real cause of the difficulty is the "ungrammatical" use of the third person.

The next sentence practically confirms this, if we will note the emphasis. It is usually read, "And that the world may know . . . " It should be "But that the world may know . . . " This suggests that He has not turned to a new subject, but a different aspect of the same one--the world. The solution of all such difficulties lies in a more minute examination of all the facts. In this case the order of the words in the next sentence fully confirms the truth which is clearly evident in the companion texts.

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