Friday, July 20, 2012

What did Jesus mean when he said ‘I said, you are gods’?






Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?
John 10:34 (ESV)

Let’s take a look at the passage in context:

            22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
            25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
            31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
            32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”
            33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
            34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.         
John 10:22-39 (ESV)

In v34, Jesus is actually quoting Psalm 82:

           1God has taken his place in the divine council;
                        in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
            2“How long will you judge unjustly
                        and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
            3Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
                        maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
            4Rescue the weak and the needy;
                        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
            5They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
                        they walk about in darkness;
                        all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6I said, “You are gods,
                        sons of the Most High, all of you;
            7nevertheless, like men you shall die,
                        and fall like any prince.”
Psalm 82:1-7 ESV

The Psalm is addressed to the governing authorities of Israel – the Judges – whom God accuses of corruption because they side with the wicked while neglecting the needy. God openly mocks the Judges by calling them “gods” (Hebrew elohim) as their authority was absolute.

Let’s look at John 10 in context: Jesus is speaking to a group of unbelieving Jews who demand that Jesus affirm his divinity (in spite of the fact that he has already done so in both word and action). The Jews pick up rocks to stone Him – and that is why Jesus quotes Psalm 82, not in relation to his own claim of divinity, but rather what they’re about to do by stoning

Q: What is the greatest assertion of absolute power one human being can force upon another?
A: To engage in matters that would determine the difference between life and death.

This is why the act of murder is seen as such a gross sin in the eyes of God, as he alone has the right to determine another’s mortality:

39  “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39

The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
   The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
   He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
       to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
       For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
1 Samuel 2:6–8


“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.a Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Luke 12:4-5 (emphasis added)

   Even when God may delegate the authority to carry out Capital Punishment, such authority comes with great expectation as those who carry out such rulings are to not only represent the Law, but the holiness of God.

   So Jesus is not saying anyone other than himself is a god; quite the opposite, he’s being very sarcastic. “Why are you guys so upset about me being God when you’re 100% convinced that you have the God-given right to kill me or anyone else?” 

   Also consider this: throughout Scripture, no one has ever been counted as being blessed by God among those who thought themselves to be divine and/or worthy of being worshipped by others. Consider the example of Pharaoh. In the times of Ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh was revered as an incarnation of Ra, the Sun deity. Note how the Pharaoh responds to the plight of the Israelites when Moses calls for their release from slavery:

Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Exodus 5:1-2

Pharaoh is unashamed in giving Moses the brush off. To him the true God of Israel is a nobody who just isn’t worth the worry.
   In response to this act of rebellion, God unleashed ten plagues upon the land of Egypt. Each time, the Pharaoh is told to release the Israelites, and though Pharaoh is initially willing to go ahead with obeying the command, at the last minute he takes back his word. What is troubling is the condition of Pharaoh’s heart throughout his dealings with God:
20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart.
Exodus 7:20-23
16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not.
Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.
Exodus 8:16-19
34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.

Exodus 9:34-35


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”
Exodus 10:1-2

The Bible says that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6/1 Peter 5:5) – and what greater expression of Hubris could there possibly be apart from knowing the Holiness of God, but instead of worshipping Him with fear and reverence, instead asserting oneself to be divine and on equal footing with the Lord himself?

   If you know someone who is prooftexting “You are Gods” to suggest that they themselves are a god, you are obligated to not just point out their clear misinterpretation of Scripture, but to point out that what they’re saying is nothing short of wanton blasphemy. Just as it was with Pharaoh, one cannot help but wonder is whether those who would assert such an idea are really in fact speaking not from hearts that are humbled by the holiness of God, but rather are hardened in hostility towards the revelation of who he really is. 


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