I have heard New Agers claim that even the Bible makes the claim that we (people) are gods. They use the words of Jesus in John 10:34. This verse has always puzzled me. What did Jesus mean when he quoted this scripture?
Thank you for your question. Let me see if I can shed a little light on it.
The contexts in both John 10 and the Old Testament Psalm which Jesus quoted (Psalm 82:6) are very important in understanding our Lord's answer to the Jews which were about to stone Him. As they pick up stones, Jesus says, "I've shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning me?" They say, "For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy; and because you, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." (John 10:32-33).
Then Jesus refers to Psalm 82:6 and says, "Hasn't it been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say to Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming'; because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe Me..." (John 10:34-37)
Now let us look at Psalm 82 to determine its context and the theme/purpose of the Psalm. The entire psalm is a scathing rebuke aimed at unjust judges in contrast to the just Judge of all the earth. In reality, Asaph, the author of the psalm, is crying out for God to do something about the corrupt judges of his day; they show partiality, they neglect caring for the downtrodden, the weak, the afflicted, etc. Then in verse 6, God Himself speaks, and says:
"I said, 'You are gods (Elohim),
And all of you are the sons of the Most High."
1. The words, "Elohim" (God)," and "Yahweh" (Lord), are the two major names of God in the Old Testament. It is Elohim that is used here in verse 6.
2. Its meaning in Psalm 82:6 does not imply that men are gods. It rather refers specifically to the fact that God has appointed judges to act in a dignified, God-like manner in the discharge of their God-appointed responsibilities.
3. Actually, the word "Elohim" is also used in verse 1 of both God and men:
"Elohim (God) takes His stand in His own congregation; He (God) judges in the midst of the Elohim (corrupt judges who are acting like Gods--said in sarcasm)."
Notice in John 10 that Jesus reminds these accusers from the first half of Psalm 82:6 that God is the one who appoints the human judges with their awesome responsibility: "Ye are gods." He goes on in the second half of the verse to remind them that sons are supposed to resemble their Fathers: "And all of you are the sons of the Most High." Neither the judges in the psalm nor the Jewish leaders confront Him were reflecting this.
4. In jurisprudence there are two types of authority: de facto and de jure. The Most High God (Elohim Himself) has de facto authority. It is an un-derived authority. He has it because He is God. De jure authority, on the other hand, is derived, or delegated authority. And delegated authority makes one responsible to the one who did the delegating! The second half of verse 6 is a solemn reminder that these judges are called "Sons" of God, because they are to represent faithfully a justice which reflects their "Father," the Judge of all the earth.
5. Now the words of Jesus in John 10 make a lot more sense. If you or I had come to earth as the Messiah, we would probably have been moving about and taking every opportunity possible with people to verbally emphasize who we really were: Elohim. But Jesus didn't do that. He chose rather to imply His identity through the miracles, through the Parables, through His actions. It was as if He was careful that a person came to the conclusion that He was Elohim solely of their own accord, and with no pressure or persuasion on His part, though He was eager for them to come to this very conclusion.
6. Notice that in the dialogue in John 10 with these angry Jews, Jesus could have taken the "bait" and said, "I am Elohim!" But He doesn't. He claims identity with the second half of Psalm 82:6, the one that models a relationship to His Father exactly like what God is desiring from the judges in Psalm 82. Even though Christ is Elohim, He functions during the Incarnation in a de jure capacity to the Father and faithfully carries forth His responsibilities to His Father: accomplishing His mission to redeem the human race (John 3:16).
I hope this answers your question.
Jimmy Williams, Founder
About the Author
James F. Williams is the founder and past president of Probe Ministries International, and currently serves as Minister at Large. He holds degrees from Southern Methodist University (B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.). He also has pursued inter-disciplinary doctoral studies (a.b.d.) in the humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. Over a thirty-five year period, he visited, lectured, and counseled on more than 180 university campuses in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. He also served on the faculties of the American, Latin American, and European Institutes of Biblical Studies.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
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