It seems that Jesus is suggesting that Judas had already died before he commits suicide, which we know happens after the betrayal.

For some context let me start the quotation from John 17:6.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. John 17:6-12

In verse 12 (bold) Jesus says he was guarding his disciples except the son of perdition, and from John 13:26 and other passages it is clear that Jesus is referring to Judas.

From 18:1-2 it is clear that immediately following his prayer Judas was still in the act of betraying Jesus.

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. John 18:1-2

We know Judas feeling guilty of sin killed himself by hanging, and later his guts spilled on the ground.

And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. Matt 27:5

(Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. Acts 1:18

So why does Jesus refer to Judas as perishing before he had even finished betraying him with a kiss? There must be some way to harmonize the words of Jesus with the events of Judas' life. Maybe I'm just not aware of what that is.

  • This is simply how the gift of prophecy works. And why the Jews cover the name Was with Lord.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 14:43
  • Jesús wasn't trying to save the disciples' physical lives, but their spiritual lives. Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 16:26
  • Neither of the above comments addresses the question.
    – WnGatRC456
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 16:29

2 Answers 2


There are at least two ways to understand John 17:12 which talks about Judas.

  1. Despite Jesus' best efforts, Judas had rejected the Kingdom of Heaven in favour of worldly gain (the Priests' bribe of 30 pieces of silver which he later regretted). Thus, Judas had sealed his own fate and chosen the path of destruction from which there was no returning. Judas' spiritual state was effectively dead while he was still alive. Jesus, therefore, was referring to Judas' spiritual condition and eternal state rather than His physical state of being alive. A similar use of this idea is found in 1 Tim 5:6 (a person being dead while still alive).
  2. Jesus comments can also be validly understood as referring to what would happen to Judas within the next 24 hours when Judas would suicide. Thus, Jesus' comments can be seen as a prophecy of the near future rather than a statement of the current facts.

It is also possible that Jesus's comments could be a mixture of the two above. The Pulpit commentary has some interesting insights about the Hebraism involved here.

except that the son of perdition (has perished). Christ does not say that the son of perdition was given him by the Father and guarded from the evil one, and yet had gone to his own place; the exception refers simply to the "not one perished." Αἰ μὴ has occasionally a meaning not exactly equal to ἀλλὰ, but expresses an exception which does not cover the whole of the ideas involved in the previous clause (see Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26, 27; Galatians 1:19, etc.). This awful Hebraistic phrase is used by St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3; cf. 2 Samuel 12:5) for antichrist, and numerous phrases of the kind show how a genitive following υἱὸς or τέκνον expresses the full characteristic or the chief feature of certain persons (thus cf. υἱὸς γεένης τέκνα φῶτος κατάρας, etc.). This victim of perdition, this child of hell, has completed his course; even now he has laid his plans for my destruction and his own. He has so perished in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Even if the full telic force of ἵνα is preserved here, he does not free the "son of perdition" from the responsibility of his own destruction. The Scripture portraiture of Messiah has been realized. Psalm 41:9, which has already been quoted by our Lord in John 13:18, is probably still in his mind (cf. also Isaiah 57:12, 13). Some commentators - Arch-deacon Watkins, Dean Alford - press the fact that the "son of perdition" must have been among those who were given to Christ by the Father, who were watched, guarded, taught by God; but that Judas nevertheless took his own way and went to his own place. Thoma compares the lost disciple with the lost sheep of the synoptists, as though we had a reference to a true reprobate, a son of Belial, Apollyon, and the like. Moulton justly protests against any countenance being found here for the irrevocable decree. But if the interpretation of the εἰ μὴ given above is sound, there is no inclusion of the traitor among those who are "of the truth," etc.; but he was one who, notwithstanding boundless opportunity, went to his own place in the perversity of his own will.

  • 1
    Thank you. While I disagree with some of the soteriological arguments, I think the overall point of your answer is still valid. Great work once again.
    – WnGatRC456
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 23:12

Because Judas was spiritually dead, thus as good as dead physically. Notice how the one who died was the one betrayed Jesus.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (12) While I was with them in the world.—Comp. the opening words of John 17:11. During His presence with them there was not this special need for commending them to the Father’s care. His relation to them now is as that of a parent blessing and praying for His children before He is taken away from them. (Comp. John 13:33.) I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept.—Better (comp. previous verse), I kept them in Thy name which Thou gavest Me, and guarded them. The pronoun is emphatic. “While I was in the world I kept them. I am now praying that Thou wouldest keep them.” The words “kept” and “guarded” differ slightly in meaning, the former pointing to the preservation in the truth revealed to them, and the latter to the watchfulness by means of which this result was obtained. The former may be compared to the feeding of the flock, the latter to the care which protects from the wild beasts around. (Comp. John 10:28-30.)And none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.—Better, None of them perished, except the son of perdition. The tense is the same as that of the word “guarded.” The Good Shepherd watched His flock, and such was His care that none perished but the “son of perdition.” Of him the words carefully state that “he perished.” He, then, was included in “them which Thou gavest Me.” For him there was the same preservation and the same guardianship as for those who remained in the fold. The sheep wandered from the flock, and was lost by his own act. (Comp. especially Notes on John 6:37-39; John 6:71. See also John 18:9.)

  • Hi James, welcome to BH.SE - please take the Site Tour to learn more about the SE format and how to work with Questions and Answers here. This is a good and well-sourced first answer. +1
    – Steve can help
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 10:33

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