Friday, July 15, 2011

"Ye are gods": Jesus' quotation of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34

We studied John 10:22-42 in our mid-week study at CRBC this week. We spent some time pondering the meaning of Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34: “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods?”

In context, we noted Jesus’ declaration of his identity with the Father: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). His Jewish opponents certainly took this statement to be blasphemous, taking up stones to stone him (vv. 31, 33; cf. 8:59). The problem they told him was, “that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (v. 33; cf. 5:18).

Then comes the statement in v. 34. What does Jesus mean by this quotation? How could the monotheistic OT have a statement about “gods”? Why would Jesu make use of it?

First, we need to read all of Psalm 82. It is a Psalm of Asaph. It begins, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty (el); he judgeth among the gods (elohim).” In context the psalm denounces mighty men who serve as judges in Israel but who pervert justice (v. 2). They are exhorted to defend the poor and fatherless (v. 3). Then, in v. 6 Asaph repeats, “I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are the children of the most High.” He then reminds them that they shall die like men (v. 7). And he calls on God to arise and rightly judge the earth (v. 8). Was Asaph saying that these men were gods? That God is one god among many gods? NO! The cornerstone of Israel’s confession is that there is but one true God (Deut 6:4-5). Asaph is using the term ironically. These unjust judges use their authority corruptly. They have taken god-like power to themselves and used it to abuse the weak.

Now, going back to John 10:34, we can better understand how Jesus uses the quotation. He explains:

35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

Did Jesus promote polytheism? Did he believe in many gods (theoi) and that he was one among many? Certainly not! He and the Father are one (v. 30). He is drawing an analogy from the lesser to the greater. If Asaph could call some men who were corrupt judges in his day “the mighty” and “gods,” how much more can righteous Jesus rightly take to himself the title of “the son of God” (v. 36)! The Scripture cannot be broken (luthenai from luo: loosed, destroyed, unraveled, undone; v. 35).


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