Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gospel of John 12:31 - "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out."

Saint Francis Borgia (1788)
Francisco Goya
(Image from Wikipedia)

Recently, a scholarly friend remarked that whereas the synoptic gospels depict Jesus casting out demons as a rather frequently performed miracle, the Gospel of John records no exorcisms. I replied that one could say that the fourth evangelist thinks of the entire cosmos as possessed by Satan.

I've since given the matter a bit of thought, though I've not had time to develop the idea, but here's a little to reflect upon.

The name "Satan" occurs only in John 13:27, where Satan takes particular possession of Judas, but this gospel uses a few other expressions that appear to refer to Satan, for example "the devil" (8:44; 13:2) and "the ruler of this world" (12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The latter expression is of interest for my suggestion that the entire cosmos is possessed by Satan in the fourth gospel. Anyone familiar with John's Gospel will recognize that it presents the cosmos was originally a good creation, a product of the Word's creative power, but that this cosmos has somehow become an evil place. I could spend some time and verses supporting this point, but I don't think that the effort is necessary. My suggestion that the fourth evangelist might think of this evil as a consequence of "possession" rests partly on John 12:31 (Blue Letter Bible):
νῦν κρίσις ἐστὶν τοῦ κόσμου τούτου νῦν ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω (Textus Receptus)

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (KJV)
I've used the Textus Receptus, but it does not differ from the GNT Morph on this verse, and the King James Version translates the verse as I also would, more or less. Anyway, the expression "shall be cast out" (ἐκβληθήσεται) is the inflected form of the Greek verb for "cast out" (ἐκβάλλω), and this verb is consistently used in the synoptics to describe exorcisms (cf. Matthew 8:16, 31; 9:33, 34; 10:1, 8; 12:24, 25, 27, 28; 17:19; Mark 1:34, 39; 3:15, 22, 23; 6:13; 7:26; 9:18, 28, 38; 16:9, 17; Luke 9:40, 49; 11:14, 15, 18, 19, 20; 13:32).

None of these synoptic uses of "cast out" for exorcisms demonstrates that the fourth evangelist believed that the cosmos was possessed by Satan and that Satan needed to be exorcised from the cosmos, but the interpretation is intriguing to consider and perhaps deserves more attention. Possibly, others have already broached the issue.

As for the exorcism painting by Goya offered above, it has little to do with John's Gospel, other than borrowing from the scene of John 19:34, where blood comes forth from the pierced side of Jesus.

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At 7:06 AM, Blogger WoundedEgo said...

I just happened by and read this post. I just wanted to say that I was impressed that you seemed to have actually mulled this over, rather than parroting pop theology. Kudos.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger WoundedEgo said...

Isn't it entirely possible that Jesus was the ruler of the world that would be judged and cast out?

Joh 12:30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.
Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
Joh 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
Joh 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Wounded Ego, thanks for the visit. Your suggestion is intriguing, for the fourth evangelist would surely agree that the Word is the true ruler of this world, but the other two instances of this expression, "The ruler of this world" (14:30; 16:11), seem to refer to a figure other than Jesus.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:57 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

I was impressed that you seemed to have actually mulled this over, rather than parroting pop theology


My question is: if Satan has been cast out... how come he is already here?

That's THE problem with any idea of a Messiah who has already come.

Hmm, Jeffery, if you are to answer this question... please don't parrot pop theology ("Jesus objectively saved the world, but we must subjectively cooperate, blah blah blah") ;-)

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good question, Dario. Repossession, maybe? After Christ's post-resurrection ascension, did Satan find the 'house' empty and re-enter?

The fourth evangelist is silent on this specific point, so far as I can see, but it might fit with his general tension between realized and future eschatology.

By the way, what is "pop theology"?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:38 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

Repossession, maybe? After Christ's post-resurrection ascension, did Satan find the 'house' empty and re-enter?

rpt: you are a genius.

what is "pop theology"?

I took it as the most often preached one. Good for dazing the listeners.

So bad you are not a preacher --- or, are you, on Sundays?

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nah, I'm no preacher. I leave that up to one of my brothers. My calling is other than preaching. I'm a 'discusser'.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:28 AM, Anonymous David Shepherd said...

The contempt and conspiracy to end His fame are beyond reversal.

The news that the Greeks are anxious to meet Him is conclusive evidence to Jesus that the redemptive favour of God is spreading away from the Jews to call the Gentiles. The parable of the two sons and that of the tenants reinforce this idea.

The build-up of hatred is final proof that human civilisation will reject divine authority in favour of Satan, even with the highest, best and most obvious evidence of divine love, Jesus in supernatural death-destroying restoration.

Christ is sure of how the events will unfold. Sinners must be redeemed. Those who spurn redemption must be destroyed.

A new Adam is offering God unfaltering obedience, even in death. It is a decisive moment as the crucial events leading to His death are set in motion:

'Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.'

At 2:50 AM, Blogger WoundedEgo said...

"Re-possession" is what happens when you don't pay your exorcist bill!

Regarding the "clean house..." - I understand these "unclean spirits" to be better understood as "filthy little breaths" - a reference to the dreaded sand fly (one fifth the size of a regular mosquito) which laid its larvae in people's skin, causing "the Baghdad Boil" or "Mountain Leprosy" - a common disease around the world. This is why the reference to "waterless places" and the reference to "the lord of the flies", the "finger of God" (which alludes to the unreproducable plague on Egypt).

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

David Shepherd, thanks for the comment. I wasn't sure if you were agreeing with me or suggesting an alternative, but thanks for visiting and leaving a remark.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Wounded Ego, that's certainly an unexpected hermeneutic.

Jeffery Hodges

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