When did Satan enter into Judas?

Posted on Apr.04, 2009. Filed in Luke, John. Average rating: 2.2 / 10 (Rate It).

Judas is remembered primarily for his betrayal of Jesus. Two gospels suggest that Judas betrayed Jesus under the influence of Satan, that Satan had “entered into him”. They disagree, however, about when this influence took place.

All three of the synoptic gospels describe Judas going to the chief priests offering to betray Jesus to them. Luke adds a detail not included in the other two gospels that helps to explain his behaviour, saying that Satan had entered into Judas:

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. [Luke 22:1-6 (NRSV)]

In Luke, Satan thus enters into Judas and prompts him to arrange to betray Jesus.

In John’s account of the betrayal, though, Satan enters into Judas later, at the Last Supper, immediately before he actually betrays Jesus:

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples — the one whom Jesus loved — was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ [John 13:21-27 (NRSV)]

So did Satan enter into Judas before he arranged to betray Jesus, or before he actually betrayed Jesus?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    To generate a contradiction here, we would need to assume that Satanic possession is permanent (or something similar), but I see nothing to support that assumption. If anything, the fact that demons are elsewhere cast out of people suggests the opposite. This therefore doesn’t strike me as a strong claim of error at all.

  2. 2

    Let us assume that once Satan enters in to someone, he doesn’t leave. The text, of course, doesn’t say that, but it is a reasonable assumption to make.

    I’m still not sure that we have a problem.

    The tense of “Satan entered into him” from the John passage is the notorious aorist. The mood is indicative. That means that it refers to an event that occurred in the past. It can be viewed like a Latin pluperfect in this context. (I’m no Greek Scholar…this is from an old freely available online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica — page 2 in the linked resource.)

    If this is right, we have: “Satan had already then into him.” Read the text with that substitution (I’ll follow Errancy here and substitute into the NRSV):

    After he[Judas] received the piece of bread, Satan had then entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.

    While this reading is not used by any translation I know of, it certainly squares better with the perfect participle in John 13:2 (I’m giving the NASB here instead of the NRSV because the NASB renders the Greek participle as an English participle. The NRSV renders it as an independent clause):

    “During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him,…”

    So the devil was already in Judas heart. this is because he entered in back when Judas was plotting with the priests.

  3. 3

    I agree. This one is a bit weak. There are so many other absurdities/inconsistencies to choose from. Why strain to produce an easily defensible one?

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