We read in Jn 16:7-11 (NRSVCE), the pre-crucifixion message of Jesus to his disciples:

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned."

In some versions, like the NIV, we find the phrase 'prince of this world' in place of 'ruler'.

A prince is subordinate to the king and is required to seek permission of the throne before executing something. But a ruler, in the general sense, has powers of his own and is not ordinarily subordinate to anyone. Now, in texts like Job, we see the Devil seeking permission from God before undertaking some activity according to his own will, which in a way equates him to a prince, though an evil one.

My question therefore is, according to the Catholic Church, whom does Jesus refer to as “ruler of this world” in Jn 16:11 and what is the interpretation of said term?

  • 2
    An aside: whether a prince is subordinate to a king or not depends on the system of government: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_II,_Prince_of_Monaco Commented May 25, 2021 at 11:59
  • 1
    In Machiaveli's The Prince, it was meant the same as here − an authoritative ruler. The same idea exists with eg "a princely sum".
    – kokociel
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 20:34
  • Chrysostom's commentary can be found here.
    – user46876
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


The Greek word in John 16:11 is ἄρχων (archōn - see Strong's G758). The "Outline of Biblical Usage" gives: ruler, commander, chief, leader. The Authorized Version (KJV) Translation Count gives a total of 37 (ruler 22, prince 11, chief 2, magistrate 1, chief ruler 1)

In Rev 1:5 it is referred to Jesus, ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς ("the prince [or ruler] over the kings of the earth")

In Matthew and Mark, Satan is repeatedly referred to as the "prince of the devils" (or "ruler of the demons" - Matt 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22)

In John, Satan is repeatedly referred to as the "prince of this world" (or "ruler of this world" - John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)

In what sense Satan is "prince [or ruler] of this world" is made clear at the narration of The Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)

Here is a selection of official Catholic references from the Holy See.

In all of them, Satan is the "prince of this world", who hates Jesus and those saved by Jesus.

  • +1 Good supporting references from within the NT plus how the verse is understood within the Catholic church. This is quite a straightforward interpretation among major denominations, I think. Commented May 25, 2021 at 16:41

The Catholic interpretation is that this refers to Satan.

The New American Bible is the official English translation of The Bible for use in Catholic liturgy, and it is hosted both on the Vatican website and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops website, so I think it can be taken as a fairly authoritative source for the Catholic understanding of the meaning of this passage. It has a footnote specifically addressing Jn 16:8-11:

[16:8–11] These verses illustrate the forensic character of the Paraclete’s role: in the forum of the disciples’ conscience he prosecutes the world. He leads believers to see (a) that the basic sin was and is refusal to believe in Jesus; (b) that, although Jesus was found guilty and apparently died in disgrace, in reality righteousness has triumphed, for Jesus has returned to his Father; (c) finally, that it is the ruler of this world, Satan, who has been condemned through Jesus’ death (Jn 12:32).

(my emphasis in bold)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .