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What did Jesus mean when he said that we are gods in John 10:34?

To answer this question well I will need to examine several aspects of the situation taking place. The concept of blasphemy will be important to address to understand the conflict. Jesus is quoting Psalm 82:6 and a clear translation of the verse within its context will reveal what Jesus is conveying. Jesus was responding to the accusation of blasphemy and at a first glance it can appear that he was attempting to defend himself with his response. While Jesus appears to be defending himself, he is actually conveying an offensive position of rebuking them and not intending to say that everyone is equal with God as he is.

Blasphemy is normally understood in our age as proclaiming a curse word with the word, "God" included in the cursing. This definition is normally inspired by a misunderstanding of the third commandment in Exodus 20:7, you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. The commandment refers to the taking the name of the Lord upon yourself. It is to assume identification that you are submitted to Him, and then live as if you are not. The concept of blasphemy is more correctly a violation of the first commandment that you are to have no other gods than the true and living God. Blasphemy is to declare that you are a god, that you are the same as or equal with the true and living God. This is why the people said in John 10:33, "For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God." It was a clear recognition that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God. A similar situation is described in Matthew 26:65 and Mark 14:64.

This understanding of blasphemy can also reveal a greater understanding of Matthew 12:31 when Jesus said, "blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men." If blasphemy is in general declaring to be equal with or the same as God, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is declaring to be equal with or the same as the Holy Spirit. Considering this in the context of the Gospel it does make sense to say this. The Gospel is that Jesus died for the sins of the world so the Holy Spirit could be presented as a free gift to anyone who would be willing to receive Him. If a person claims to be equal with or the same as the Holy Spirit, they are claiming they do not need to receive the free gift of the life that will remain within us eternally, the Spirit of Life, the Holy Spirit. The rejection of the Gospel is a sin that will not be forgiven anyone.

In Psalm 82, the author Asaph states that the Living God passes judgment on all of the other gods. He asks how long they will defend the unjust and the wicked ones. They should defend the weak, fatherless, poor and the person who is being oppressed. They should deliver and rescue them. It is in this context that a person is like a god. One who establishes justice, rescues and comes to the aid of others. Given that we are created and formed by the Living God, we can be identified as sons of the Most High. However, it is important to recognize the contrast in the following verse that says they will die like a man and like one of the rulers they will fall. This passage makes a clear distinction that between the living God and his creation in that they will not live on earth forever. The identification with a god is not to say they are gods, but can come to the aid of others as a god would be expected to. The admonition to do good conveys the problem that they were not doing good. Those who were referred to as gods and sons of gods were engaged in evil.

When Jesus responds to the accusation of blasphemy it is often assumed that he is attempting to defend himself. To quote the passage is to also refer to the context of the passage. I believe most of Christianity today has become accustomed to quoting passages out of context, but I do not believe Jesus would do so. Therefore his referring to this psalm and identifying the people with the gods in the psalm was indirectly telling them that they were failing to live up to the expectations that the Most High had for them. They were given the capacity to judge righteously, help those who were being oppressed, but they were failing to do so just as those who were referred to in the psalm. He was effectively telling them that they were not likely to judge righteously and so their judgment of him was not likely to be true. Then he enforced his point by identifying himself as the son of God who did not sin and fulfilled what the people referred to in the psalm were failing to fulfill. That is what would make him unique from them in that he was righteous and they were not. His response was not to correct their understanding of what he previously said, it was to enforce his position that he was in fact without sin and therefore God manifested in the flesh as a man.

The people responded in a manner that clearly conveyed they understood his response. It was clear to them that his response was not a defense of their accusation. Through his referencing psalm 82 and contrasting himself with them he further enforced his position. This is why they still attempted to seize him, but he slipped away out of their grasp. Jesus was not saying that we are gods. Instead, he was quoting a psalm that in its context revealed we are not gods. He used this opportunity to compare the people and himself to challenge them to find any fault or sin in him. It was a public declaration that He was the Living God manifested in the flesh because he was in fact without sin and fulfilled the righteous requirements and expectations of the law as God would.

Aaron Budjen

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