Evangelical thoughts on gods in John 10:34 & Psalm 82 – Part 9

Read these samplings.  Pardon me if I have placed copy errors in these interesting quotes.  If pointed out, I will quickly correct any problems.  Once again, I have categorized the thoughts into three themes.



Matthew Henry (1710) – [Psalm 82:6-7] They have been honoured with the name and title of gods.  God himself called them so in the statute against treasonable words Exod. 22:28, Thou shalt not revile the gods.  And, if they have this style from the fountain of honour, who can dispute it? . . . Note, Kings and princes, all the judges of the earth, though they are gods to us, are men to God, and shall die like men, and all their honour shall be laid in the dust.  Mors sceptra ligonibus aequat – Death mingles scepters with spades (pp. 451-452).


Joseph A. Alexander (1864) – [Psalm 82:1] The parallel expression, in the midst of the gods, superadds to this idea an allusion to a singular usage of the Pentateuch, according to which the theocratical magistrates, as mere representatives of God’s judicial sovereignty, are expressly called Elohim, the plural form of which is peculariarly well suited to this double sense or application.  See Exod. xxi. 6, xxii. 7, 8 (8, 9), and compare Deut. i. 17, xix. 17, 2 Chron. xix. 6.


F. Delitzsch (1867) – [Psalm 82] Asaph, the seer beholds how God, reproving, correcting, and threatening, appears against the chiefs of the congregation of His people, who have perverted the splendour of majesty which He has put upon them into tyranny (401).


J.J. Stewart Perowne (1878 ) – [Psalm 82] Earthly rulers and judges are not, as they are too ready to think, supreme, independent, irresponsible.  There is One higher than the highest.  As Jehoshaphat reminds the judges of Israel, God is with them in the judgement.  Calvin quotes, to the like effect, the words of Horace, “Regum timendorum in proprios greges, Reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis.”  Men cannot see God with their bodily eyes, but He is present with the king on his throne (hence Solomon’s throne is called the throne of Jehovah, I Chron. xxix. 23), with the judge on the judgement-seat, with all who hold an authority delegated to them by Him. . . . The use of the name “gods” may have been intended to remind the world how near man, created in God’s image, is to God Himself (pp. 104-105).


B.F. Westcott (1881) – [John 10] The reference in Ps. lxxxii. 6 is to judges who indeed violated the laws of their august office, yet even so their office was no less divine. . . . Such a phrase as that in Ps. lxxxii. 6 really includes in a most significant shape the thought which underlies the whole of the Old Testament, that of a covenant between god and man, which through the reality of a personal relationship assumes the possibility of a vital union.  Judaism was not a system of limited monotheism, but a theism always tending to theanthropism, to a real union of God and man.  It was therefore enough to shew in answer to the accusation of the Jews that there lay already in the Law the germ of the truth which Christ announced, the union of God and man (160).


 Arthur W. Pink (1945) – [John 10] These words are plainly addressed to the Jewish magistrates, commissioned by Jehovah to act as His vicegerents in administering justice to His people: who judged for God – in the room of God; whose sentences, when they agreed with the law, were God’s sentences; whose judgment, was God’s judgment, and rebels against whom, were rebels against God (p. 556).


H.C. Leupold (1959) – [Psalm 82] It presents a judgment pronounced by the Lord on the judges or rulers of Israel. . . . Up to about seventy years ago there was a practical unanimity in the church as to the interpretation of this psalm, commentators being agreed that it treated the subject we have just indicated.  Or if there was a slight deviation, it was at least contended that the ones being judged were rulers outside of Israel.  However, since that time a new approach has gained in popularity which insists that the judgment of the minor gods is the subject under consideration.  What seems to have given credence to this approach is the concession, made rather too sweepingly by some, that there is in the Old Testament a major element of mythological terminology, and this is thought of as a manifesting itself particularly in this psalm. . . . The approach is this:  The Lord, Yahweh, assigned the heathen gods to rule over the nations of the earth, each god over a nation. . . . Apart from having no foundation in the Old Testament or, of course, in the New, except a dubious passage in the Septuagint (Deut. 32:8 ) this approach creates far more problems than it solves as is usually indirectly admitted by the proponents of this view when they state, like Weiser, that the solution is actually no solution (p. 592).


R.V.G. Tasker (1960) – [John 10] Jesus points out to them that even within their Scriptures, whose validity is permanent and beyond dispute, men in the persons of the judges receive from God Himself the title gods (Ps. lxxxii. 6).  They were entitled to be so designated, for they represented, however imperfectly, the divine will in so far as they were called to administer God’s word (p. 134).


Leon Morris (1971) – [John 10] It is very difficult to see how this can refer to either angels or gods.  It refers to men, to human judges (p. 526).


James Montgomery Boice (1985) – [John 10] Jesus is quoting from the eighty-second psalm, and when we turn to it we discover that the phrase “You are gods” (v. 6) is used of the judges of Israel (p. 792).


John Philips (1989) – [John 10] The word, elohim, then, was used in Psalm 82 of earthly judges, to whom the world of God was entrusted by virtue of their high office.  The same word is used of Moses. “See I have made thee a god (elohim) to Pharoah” (Exodus 21:6; 22:8, 9, 28).  It is clear that the Holy Spirit had so clothed with dignity the office of a judge in Israel that those who functioned as judges were called “elohim” because they represented God in this capacity.  The word is used even of unjust judges because of the awesome responsibility of the office itself (p. 204).


John MacArthur (2006) – [John 10] The reference is to Psalm 82:6, where God rebuked Israel’s unjust judges, calling them gods (in a far lesser sense) because they ruled as His representatives and spokesmen (cf. Ex. 4:16; 7:1) (p. 445).


Israel and Sinai

D.A. Carson (1991) – [John 10] “God is addressing Israel at the time of the giving of the law.  There is good evidence that many rabbis understood Psalm 82 this way.  The curse that fell on the Israelites was then in consequence of the golden calf episode.  The word of God pre-eminently came to Israel at Sinai (as virtually all Jewish leaders believed), but the subsequent rebellion, compounded by the failure to take the land at the first approach, led to the death of that entire generation.  This interpretation is strengthened when it is remembered that Israel is also called God’s firstborn son (Ex. 4:21-22), generating a typology which Jesus has already claimed to have fulfilled (cf. notes on 8:31ff.). (p. 398 )


Beasley-Murray (1999) – [John 10] “The relation of the passage to Israel’s judges is also unlikely; in John 10:35 the recipients of the saying, “I said, You are gods” are said to be, “those to whom the word of God came (egeneto)”; this is best understood as describing Israel’s gathered tribes about Mount Sinai, as virtually all the Rabbis believed.  In this connection we should recall the importance to the Jews of Exod 4:21-22, “Israel is my first-born son. . . . Let my son go that he may serve me.”  The citation of Ps 82:6 in the context before us accordingly is thoroughly comprehensible in a discussion between Jesus and Jewish opponents of the Church).  The parallelism within Ps 82:6, “you are gods, you are all sons of the Most High,” explains the reproduction of v. 30 (“I and the Father are one”) in the changed form of v 36 (“I said, ‘I am God’s Son’”).  If the thought of Jesus as the representative Son of the people called to be sons of God may be assumed in the context, the “how much more” of v 36 is yet more understandable.” (p. 177)


Gary Burge (2000) – [John 10] “But the single point Jesus is making centers on Psalm 82:6.  Rabbinic interpretation argued that this psalm was addressed to Israel’s tribes as they received the law at Mount Sinai.  It recalled Exodus 4:22-23, “Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so he may worship me.’”  If the word “god” can be applied to those other than God himself in the Scriptures—if someone can be called a “son of God” here in God’s unbreakable word—why are Jesus’ words blasphemy?  In John 10:36 Jesus calls himself “God’s Son,” and this is surely an echo of this historic context” (p. 297).


Colin Kruse (2003) – [John 10] “The statement ‘You are gods’ was understood in later rabbinic exegesis to be God’s word to the Israelites at Sinai when they received the law.  God said to them, ‘You are gods,’ because in receiving the law and living by it they would be holy and live like gods.  But because they departed from the law and worshipped the golden calf while still at Sinai, he said to them, ‘you will die like mere men’. [pp. 243-244]


Craig Keener (2003) – [John 10] “Jesus uses such a “how-much-more” sort of argument in reasoning that, if Scripture as God’s word called Israel (or other humans or other besides the true God) gods on their interpretation, how could they protest if Jesus called himself God’s son, a lesser claim? . . . Indeed, “if Scripture itself can use the term theos of someone besides God himself, how much more appropriate is the use of this term for Jesus”? (p. 829).


Pagan Deities

William A. VanGemeren (1991) – [Psalm 82:1] – A third view, though more difficult, is more likely.  The “gods” are pagan deities.  The gods of the nations are portrayed in this psalm as being nothing more than subjects of God who must render an account to the God of Israel for all their evil and unjust acts.  The imagery of the pagan pantheon of gods is used here dramatically to present God’s judgment on the rule of evil and the darkness of the darkness of the world [and then of course, VanGemeren, requests that you see the scholarly writings of Mattitiahu Tsevat, Peter Hoffken, and Franz Josef Stendebach] (p. 534).



  1. Todd: Citing a bunch of evangelical scholars who have a theological agenda doesn’t get very far in my view.

  2. Blake, do you believe everyone of these guys have a coverup agenda in not promoting real biblical truth on the topic?

    What is the false biblical lens? Seeing O.T. monotheism or the ontological exclusivity of Yahweh Elyon over all other gods?

    When did this agenda begin?

    Honestly, Blake, I think this theological agenda begin with Jewish prophets in the midst of Ugaritic paganism and then continued with Jewish apostles in the midst of Greek mythology.

    Am I fair on that thought?

  3. Todd: Yup, I do. Why go to later Rabbinic interpretation when there is a concurrent interpretation in the DSS that is much closer to Jesus’s own teachings? Each of the “interpreters” is steeped in a tradition that simply must re-interpret the reference to “ye are gods” to really mean “ye are judges with some god-given duties.” The scriptural narrative just makes absolutely no sense with that reading.

    This is the most important question for you to ponder: How does the interpretation that Jesus refers to judges support his claim to be one with God and to be the Son of God made mortal? Honestly, only one with a preset theological agenda would miss the simple fact that the interpretation does nothing to answer the charge of the Jews that Christ, being a mere man, is making himself God. Is the answer: “well, yeah, I’m not really God, I’m just called that because I am like you a human judge that God has appointed to act in the important office as a judge.” Come on, that isn’t a reponse but a capitulation.

  4. That’s a good point Blake. If Jesus really meant that “gods” should be read “judges,” he was a lousy debater.

    The “judges” read really does make absolutely no sense in the context Jesus used it.

  5. Todd: In addition, there is absolutely nothing in the text of John 10 to remotely suggest the “how much more” argument. The argument is essentially that Jesus is saying that it is appropriate for him to claim to be the Son of God because it was deemed appropriate to be considered gods in the sense that they were restored to their pre-fall glory and then fell again” when the law was given at Sinai. Why even go to this rather late Rabbinic tale for which there is no evidence in 1st century Judaism when the text of the Melchizedek scroll shows that Melchizedek was considered to be a god in the council of gods because he acted as God’s chief angel?

  6. 1) Which “Rabbinic tale[s]” did you cover in your third book?

    2) Compare the elohim of Ps. 82 with the incomparable “I AM” of John’s Gospel and all that Jesus is and does in John 10. You don’t think the One is “much more” than the others?

    The gods of Psalm 82 and the God of John 10 is like comparing wicked darkness with perfect light (and love). It burdens me to write a full post on this alone.

  7. Todd: The view that Christ refers to the Jews as “gods” because he has the idea in mind that the Israelites at Sinai were returned to their pre-fall glory when the Law was given is based on a Rabbinic re-telling of the Sinai story. That Rabbinic tale is first known from sources in the middle second century. There are no sources from the first century when the gospel of John was written that would suggest that the writer of that gospel knew of the later Rabbinic tale.

    Your charge that I am somehow faulty in my exegesis because I compared the gods in Ps. 82 with Jesus made me laugh. I’m not the one comparing the gods in Ps. 82 with Christ’s claim to be one with the Father — Christ makes that comparison in John 10. You’ll just have to deal with the text rather than a preconceived belief that precludes such a comparison.

    The Jews charge that Jesus is making himself a god because he claims to be one with the Father. Jesus’ response is that Ps. 82 states “ye are gods” and he cites it because it reminds them of the rest of the verse, “and sons of the Most High.” The Jews knew that this Ps. claimed that gods in the council of gods had been made mortal. Therefore, their implicit assumption that nor mortal could be a divine Son of God, even a god, is false.

    This interpretation is supported by the Melchizedek scroll because Melchizedek is seen as one of the sons of god in the council of El Elyon who is given the divine name as God’s vizier and regarded as higher than all of the other angels. I take it that the parallel with Hebrews 1:7-8 won’t be lost on you. Christ essentially takes the place of Melchizedek on such a view.

    You also might want to consider that many scholars believe that Hebrews may have been written by a priest from Qumran who converted to Christianity. Hebrews seems to be aware of the comparison between Christ and Melchizedek in relation to the Most High and claims that it is Christ, not Melchizedek, who hold the lofty post of vizier and recipient of the divine name as second only the Most High God.

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