Psalm 82:1-4 and John 10:34

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 6:20 pm    Post subject: Psalm 82:1-4 and John 10:34 Reply with quote

In Psalm 82:1-4 God is speaking to "gods", and John 10:34 Jesus uses this passage.

How do we know this is the passage that Jesus is quoting? Does the word "gods" in Psalms 82 refer to elohim? Can the name elohim refer to earthly rulers?

Were the Jews henotheistic?

Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated. As usual this has come up in conversation with non-believing friends.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2005 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess we know that this is the passage that Jesus is quoting in John 10:34 because Jesus claims to be citing Old Testament scripture, and Psalm 82 is the only Old Testament passage that contains the word that Jesus quotes.

The word translated "gods" in Psalm 82 is "elohim." However, while the Jews, in times of their apostasy, were sometimes henotheistic or polytheistic, it would be a mistake to assume that their inspired scriptures supported these pagan notions.

To justify the use of the word "gods" in this psalm, it is necessary to recognise the variety of ways in which this word is used in scripture. When applied to YAHWEH, the word "God" speaks of the one, true Creator who is uniquely Lord over all the universe. Though the heathen have their own pantheons of imaginary "gods," with reference to authentic deity, there is none like YAHWEH (Ex.15:11/ 1 Cor.8:5-6) and none beside Him (Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6, 8; 45:5).

As for these afore-mentioned imaginary deities of the heathen, the Bible also refers to them as "gods"--though only because that is what their worshippers call them--not implying any similarity between these idols and the true, living God.

Additionally, people are sometimes referred to as "gods," without implying anything about their inherent deity (just as the calling of idols "gods" does not imply their inherent deity). Thus, Moses is said to be a "god" to Pharaoh (Ex.7:1), and the rulers of Israel (apparently) are referred to as "gods" (Ex.22:28). The ruers were apparently referred to in this way so as to indicate their status as representatives of God--or as little gods--in the administration of Israel's government.

It is in this sense that some Israelites were called "gods" in Psalm 82. Some scholars think that the opening verse, "God...judges among the gods," is referring to the demons or the gods of the heathen. However, Jesus said that the statement, "I said, 'You are gods..." was addressed to those "to whom the word of God came" (John 10:35), suggesting human recipients. That the so-called "gods" in Psalm 82 were, in fact, the judges of Israel seems clear from what God says to them: "How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy..." (vv.2-3).

Certainly the "gods" addressed there are neither idols nor demons, since God says to them, "All of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men..." (vv.6-7).

The point of the Psalm is that, even though God referred to these judges as "gods," they should not take that designation too far in their arrogance. They are in fact mere men and will die as such.

Jesus uses the passage to point out the inconsistency of those who took up stones to kill Him. They accused Him of blasphemy for calling Himself the Son of God. He points out that His words are relatively tame compared to the language of their own scriptures, which have referred to mere men as "gods." Jesus is not teaching anything about human divinity (as New Agers sometimes claim, from this passage). He is simply saying, "If you would stone me for saying that I am the Son of God, is it not inconsistent for you to raise no objection to the more shocking language of your own scriptures, which speak of certain men as 'gods'?"
In Jesus,
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had meant to post this earlier but time did not permit. This is excerpted from a private reply that I had sent to Periwinkler.

Before I begin, there are some things that bear mentioning. The ancient Israelites had their own peculiar ways of expressing themselves and of saying things, but what they were actually saying isn't something we just can't relate to today. To the contrary, what they were saying can make perfect sense to just about anyone, but we need a way to interpret what they were saying.

The people of the bible often wrote in what I prefer to call "overlays." In simple terms, they often talked about more than one thing at the same time. If you've ever read poetry, you probably already know what I mean, but for instance, a poet can literally be describing a walk through the forest and be talking about a completely different subject at the same time - e.g., "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. That's exactly what the bible does. The language of Hebrew itself is by its nature extremely poetic. Moreover, it's not just how they talked. It's how they thought.

Before I begin going through psalm 82 itself, let me discuss the word it uses that's the key to understanding this psalm properly. The Hebrew word for "god" - "elohim" - can be understood in several different ways. It does mean "god" of course, but it can also refer to angels. It can even be translated as "judges" as in human judges.

Now, let me go verse by verse and explain what this psalm is talking about:

1 God stands in the congregation of God and judges among the gods:
2 "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Think on this!
3 "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4 "Rescue the weak and needy, and deliver them from the oppression of the wicked.
5 "They [the 'gods'] know nothing, they understand nothing. They continue on in darkness, and all the foundations of the earth are off course.

This whole scenario is a poetic overlay. In heaven, there is a heavenly congregation headed by God and consisting of many angels, but seven angels in particular have been singled out as the judges of human hearts. (See 2 Chron. 16:9 and compare with Zech. 4:10.) These are the seven angels of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3. On earth, Israel's government had been set up as a kingship heading a system of judges who dispensed justice to the people. This psalm talks of the heavenly congregation and the earthly congregation at the same time, overlaying the two.

When the world was created, the seven "eyes" of God, described in Job 38:7 as "morning stars", sang for joy. This same passage in Job poetically refers to these seven angels as the "foundations of the earth." Symbolically speaking, the earth was founded on the principle of justice, as represented by this heavenly high court. Because the earthly judges of Israel were judging unrighteously, it was as if the very foundations of the earth were off course.

Continuing on:

6 "I have declared that you are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.
7 "But you will die like mere men and fall like every other ruler [every other king or judge of the earth, because they were likewise wicked]."
8 Arise, O God, and judge the earth, for all nations are your inheritance.

God was speaking of the judges over Israel as His saints, comparing them to the heavenly angels in office. But because they were wicked, God would remove them from office and set up righteous judges who would justly minister to Israel, ultimately sending the Messiah to rule over them as the ultimate righteous Judge (compare Jer. 23:1-6).

However, when Jesus quoted from Psalm 82:6 (see John 10:33-36), He had something a little different in mind. The Jews believed that God, being a spirit being who was totally removed from the so-called intrinsically "wicked" material world, could not possibly have a son who existed as a being made of intrinsically "sinful" flesh, and yet Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God.

This brings up a very interesting question. Can a God who is a spirit being have a physical, fleshly son? After all, don't things beget things after their own kind (Gen. 1:25, cf. verse 26)?

My own personal belief is that God created Adam and Eve as spirit beings in His own image, but that when Adam and eve fell, they (along with all of creation; compare Romans 8:19-23) became mortal and physical, awaiting a time when everything would be restored to eternal spirit form as it was in the beginning. We are thus "sons of God" not because we are spirit beings like He is, but because we're descended from Adam who was originally a spirit being just like God. We're also adopted into God's own immediate family, rather than just being distant descendants of God, in the same way that Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph into his own immediate family in Genesis 48:1-5.

Anyway, personal beliefs aside, the Jews were claiming that God, as a spirit being, could not have a fleshly son. But Adam was exactly that, and the fact that he and all of his descendants were flesh did not make them all not sons of God as well, as Psalm 82:6 says, so the Jews had no excuse.

Make sense?

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