We are continuing our study of this controversial passage of Scripture in John 10:31-39. This is part two. Let me just remind you that the literary structure of verses 22-39 of chapter 10 is built around two basic questions dealing with the identity of Yeshua. Verse 24 asks whether Yeshua is the Messiah:
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." John 10:24 ESV
Verses 25-30 contain Yeshua's response. Then verse 33 raises the question of whether Yeshua makes Himself to be God:
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." John 10:33 ESV
Verses 34-38 present Yeshua's answer to that question. Verses 40-42 provide Lazarus' summary to this section of Yeshua's ministry. This section is strongly Christological and focuses on Yeshua's deity. Please keep that in mind as we look at this text.
Yeshua concluded His discourse on the shepherd/sheep analogy with the statement:
"I and the Father are one." John 10:30 ESV
Four times in this text Yeshua has called God "My Father" thus making Himself equal with God, just as He did in John 5:17-18. Not only has He described the security believers have in His hand in the same terms that He describes the security His sheep have in His Father's hand. He has also come straight out, and expressed His equality, unity and identity with God in terms that cannot be misconstrued: "I and the Father are one." Notice the Jews reaction to this:
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. John 10:31 ESV
The word "picked" here is the Greek word bastazo, which means: "to carry stones." The Jews carried from a distance some stones in order to kill Yeshua. They want to kill Him because of His claim to deity.
Yeshua answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" John 10:32 ESV
Yeshua is not denying that He claims to be God. He is seeking to show His adversaries that His works give substance to His words. He claims to be God while doing works that only God can do like giving sight to the blind.
Yeshua is also seeking clarification here, why exactly are you going to stone me? So the Jews tell Him exactly why they want Him dead:
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." John 10:33 ESV
Why did they want to kill Yeshua? "For blasphemy—You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God"—the Jews understand Yeshua to be saying that He is God and they interpret His words as blasphemy. From their perspective, He has spoken blasphemy, He, a mere mortal, literally "makes Himself God." The punishment for blasphemy under the Sinai Covenant is death by stoning according to Leviticus 24:16.
If Yeshua was not really claiming to be God, He could have easily corrected the Jews' misunderstanding here. The fact that He did not, is further proof that the Jews correctly understood that He was claiming to be God.
So the Jews say that Yeshua has committed blasphemy because being a mere man makes Himself out to be God. To which Yeshua responds:
Yeshua answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? John 10:34 ESV
So in order to defend His deity, remember the focus of this section is the deity of Christ, He says, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'?" So whatever your interpretation is of this quotation it has to reinforce Yeshua's claim in John 10:30 & 38 that equates Him with God.
"Has it not been written in your Law"—some commentators make a big deal about the word "your" here, but this word is omitted in some manuscripts, one early manuscript has, "Is it not written in the scripture, in the law, that." "Law"—is most often used of the Pentateuch, the Torah, but it is also used at times to refer to the entire Tanakh. We know that Yeshua is quoting Psalm 82:6, no one questions that, but He calls it the Law. Similar usage is found in:
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.' John 15:25 ESV
Here He quotes from Psalm 69:4 and calls it the Law. So by Law He means the Scriptures.
"I SAID, YOU ARE GODS"—here Yeshua quotes Psalm 82:6. Who is the "I" here and who is He calling "gods"? The "I" in the Psalm is Yahweh. Yahweh is saying, "You are gods." The big question is who is He calling gods? If you do a study on John 10:34 or Psalm 82 you will quickly find out that the majority of commentators, scholars, and preachers do not believe in divine plurality. They do not believe in a divine council, they do not believe that there are other gods. They see Psalm 82 as speaking to men who Yahweh calls gods.
The predominant view of Psalm 82 is that it is talking about Yahweh judging Israel's leaders. As I said last week bad translations support this view. They translated elohim incorrectly as "judges." There is NO justification for translating elohim as judges, none! We saw in our last study that elohim is never used of humans unless they are dead and in the spirit realm. Elohim is a place of residence locator. All elohim live in the spirit world. There is never a time in Scripture where a man is called "elohim." This is very important because it makes it clear that Psalm 82 is talking about gods, not men.
Despite the clear evidence of divine plurality that we looked at last week and the fact that elohim is never used of men in the Scriptures, the majority of commentators, scholars, and preachers see Psalm 82 to be referring to Yahweh's judgment on human beings. This is because they deny divine plurality.
Dr. Thomas L. Constable writes:
The identity of the people whom God addressed as 'gods' in Psalm 82:6 is debatable. The most popular and probable view is that they were Israel's judges, who were functioning as God's representatives, and so were in that sense 'little gods.'
D.A. Carson writes:
Although this much is clear, uncertainty abounds as to the identity of those whom God is addressing in Psalm 82. The chief options are: (1) God is addressing Israel's judges, who are corrupting justice in the courts of the land (Ps. 82:1-4). They are called 'gods' because to exercise justice is fundamentally a divine prerogative vouchsafed to certain individuals (Dt. 1:17).
Let's look at his proof text. In this verse Yahweh is talking to Israel's judges, judges is from the Hebrew shaphat, which means: "to judge." To the judges Yahweh says:
You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.' Deuteronomy 1:17 ESV
It tells us that the judges are to judge for elohim. But the judges are never called elohim. They are men who are representing elohim for the people. No where in the Hebrew Bible are the judges appointed by Moses called elohim.
Faith Life Study Bible says:
You are gods, a quotation of Psalm 82:6, which refers either to the divine council or to human judges as God's representatives administering justice on earth.
Hall Harris writes:
The Psalm was understood in rabbinic circles as an attack on unjust judges, who, though they have been given the title 'gods' because of their quasi-divine function of exercising judgment, they will die just like other men.
Really? What rabbis? This view wasn't held by the rabbis until the tenth century AD.
John MacArthur writes:
Jesus says, 'Corrupt judges were called gods.' Maybe sarcastically, maybe ironically. But the word was used for them because they received the Word of God, and they were the instruments of God, and the agents of God.
"Got Questions.org" has this to say:
Psalm 82:1 says, 'God presides in the great assembly; He gives judgment among the gods.' It is clear from the next three verses that the word 'gods' refers to magistrates, judges, and other people who hold positions of authority and rule.
As a proof text that Psalm 82 is talking about human judges some offer these verses:
Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, "Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes." 2 Chronicles 19:4-7 ESV
Judges in verse 6 is from the Hebrew shaphat. These judges were to judge for Yahweh. The word elohim is used in these verses of Yahweh, but NEVER of the judges. Men are never in Scripture called elohim. These men are to judge for elohim but they are not elohim.
These judges are rendering decisions for the nation of Israel— not the nations of the world as is the case in Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32.
Michael Heiser explaining the human view says:
Scholars will say we know that Jesus is quoting Psalm 82:6 and that technically isn't in the Law of Moses. It's not in the Torah, the Pentateuch. So when Yeshua says is it not written in your law, even though He's quoting Psalm 82:6, Yeshua is probably connecting that thought with something in the Torah. And then they say that something in the Torah is Exodus 18.
Let's look at Exodus 18 and see if their argument makes sense.
Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. Exodus 18:1 ESV
Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people." Exodus 18:11 ESV
Jethro is saying here that Yahweh is greater than all elohim. Is he saying that Yahweh is greater than all human judges? No, that's obvious. He is saying that Yahweh is greater than all other elohim/spirit beings.
The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?" And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws." Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. Exodus 18:13-17 ESV
You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, Exodus 18:18-19 ESV
Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. Exodus 18:21-22 ESV
So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Exodus 18:24-26 ESV
So in Exodus 18 Moses appoints judges who will later become identified as the Jewish elders. They are judging the people. Now I hope you're thinking, what does this have to do with Psalm 82? I have no idea! There is nothing in Psalm 82 about Exodus 18. But here is how their argument goes. It's built around verse:
And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God; Exodus 18:15 ESV
Heiser explains their argument:
So the logic here is that when Moses said earlier in the chapter that people come to ask questions of God and they're really asking me and I give them answers, the logic is when Moses appoints these people, these elders to judge the people then that basically means that when they come to those judges, they're coming to elohim as well. So the judges are sort of viewed as elohim. And then we take that back to Psalm 82 and we say the elohim in Psalm 82, those are just people, the Israelite judges from way back in Exodus 18. Now if you're thinking what a convoluted strange hermeneutic, I agree with you.
These human judges that are appointed in Exodus 18 are never called elohim in Exodus or anywhere else. Nowhere in Scripture are human judges called elohim.
A similar view along this same idea is that the "gods" referred to in Psalm 82 are Israelites in general. The commentators will say, "to whom the word of God came," that's obviously a reference to the giving of the law to the Israelites at Sinai. Therefore, the gods are the Israelites. But again, what does Psalm 82 have to do with events at Sinai? There is nothing in the Psalm that points to the gathering at Sinai?
This human view that says that the gods of Psalm 82 are Israelite judges or Israelites in general is the predominate view today. But to a Second Temple Hebrew who would have believed in divine plurality, Psalm 82 was talking about gods not men.
Let me give you another a quote from Michael S. Heiser, who is a Bible scholar who has a Ph.D. in "Hebrew Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages." Heiser says:
Ninety nine percent of Second Temple Judaism believed that the reason wickedness so permeates the earth is not just an extension and is in large part not even linked to what happened with Adam and Eve, but the reason that people are always and universally thoroughly wicked is because of what the Watchers did. Everybody in Paul's circle, everybody in Second Temple Judaism with the exception of four intertestamental references in intertestamental literature, everything says that the reason for the proliferation of evil is the sin of the Watchers, everything? (Michael S. Heiser, "The Naked Bible Podcast" 2.0, Episode 94)
So Second Temple Judaism which is the context of the New Testament believed in divine plurality. They believed that these other gods, the Watchers, were the reason that world was so wicked. Second Temple Literature is filled with divine plurality. Second Temple Literature which is often called "Pseudepigrapha" refers to the books written by Jews between Malachi and the time of Yeshua. In case you think that these writings serve no importance to us, let me read you a passage from The Lexham Bible Dictionary:
Although they are called the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha," these texts are important for New Testament scholarship as well, because the books of the New Testament were not written in isolation from the history, literature, and culture of their time. In fact, New Testament authors were familiar with portions of this literature; for example, the Epistle of Jude contains references to two writings from the Pseudepigrapha (1 Enoch and the Testament of Moses). Second Peter, which was written after Jude (and borrows many elements from Jude), alludes to the Pseudepigrapha, but without explicit reference. This relates directly to issue in canon development and hermeneutics, offering a glimpse into the New Testament world's use of sources outside of Scripture." [The Lexham Bible Dictionary].
Second Temple non-canonical Jewish texts illustrate an ancient tradition of understanding this interpretation of the gods of the nations as real spirit beings that rule over those nations:
(There are) many nations and many people, and they all belong to Him, but over all of them He caused spirits to rule so that they might lead them astray from following Him. But over Israel He did not cause any angel or spirit to rule because He alone is their ruler and He will protect them. Jubilees 15: 31-32
Second Temple literature 11Q Melchizedek uses Psalm 82 to talk about the judgment of the gods. This translation is from García Martínez and Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar: "The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition."
9 it is the time for the «year of grace» of Melchizedek, and of [his] armies, the nation of the holy ones of God, of the rule of judgment, as is written,10 about him in the songs of David, who said: Ps 82:1«Elohim will stand in the [assembly of God,] in the midst of the gods He judges». And about Him He said: [Ps 7:8-9«And] above [it,] 11 to the heights, return: God will judge the peoples». As for what he said: Ps 82:2«How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? [Selah.]
The writer of 11Q Melchizedek associates Melchizedek with being the Christ. It is Christ who is standing in the assembly of God in the midst of the gods and judging them. No Israelite would have been thinking Psalm 82 is talking about human judges or Israelites.
An argument that is often raised against divine plurality is verses like:
"'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 ESV
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, Isaiah 45:5 ESV
"I am Yahweh, and there is no other"—was an ancient biblical slogan of incomparability of sovereignty, not exclusivity of existence. It was a way of saying that a certain authority was the most powerful compared to all other authorities. It did not mean that there were no other authorities that existed. We see this same phrase in:
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, "I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children": Isaiah 47:8 ESV
Here the ruling power of Babylon is proudly claiming in her heart, "I am, and there is no one beside me." The power of Babylon is not saying that there are no other powers or cities that exist beside her, but that she was the ruling power. Yahweh uses that phrase, "I am Yahweh, and there is no other," not to deny the existence of other gods, but to express His absolute sovereignty over them. Yahweh is "God of gods and Lord of lords":
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. Deuteronomy 10:17 ESV
Notice Yeshua's argument:
If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 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'? John 10:35-36 ESV
"If He called them gods to whom the word of God came"—this is not a reference to the Israelites receiving the Law as Sinai. It is about Yahweh's word of judgment coming to the lesser gods, who were ruling corruptly.
He's reminding His Jewish opponents that the Scriptures, their own law actually teaches the idea that there are other divine beings that are called god. They're equal in the sense that they're spirit beings. They are not mere humans. He is affirming the divine view of Psalm 82.
"The Scripture cannot be broken"—this means: "made invalid, subverted." The word for broken, is "luo" in the Greek. Luo means: "dismissed, dissolved, removed, released, annihilated, eliminated." So what is our Lord saying? Scripture cannot be changed. Scripture cannot be loosed, released, removed, dismissed, nullified.
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'? John 10:36 ESV
Is Yeshua saying, "It's okay if I call myself God, Yahweh calls other men god." How does that support His claim to deity? Is He backing away from His claim to deity? Yeshua isn't backing away from the claim at all because in verse 38 He follows it by saying, "the Father is in me and I am in the Father."
John MacArthur writes:
The passage itself in Psalm 82 has no connection to His deity, but He uses that word, "gods," there to make a point from the lesser to the greater, as very often rabbis did, and He did.
Those who hold the human view say that Yeshua's argument is: if corrupt leaders of Israel, who are mere mortals, can be given the title "gods" in Scripture when they serve in their duties as God's representatives, how can they bring charges of blasphemy against Him when it is in His position as the consecrated envoy of Yahweh that He calls Himself "Son of God"?
They claim that Yeshua is using an a fortiori argument. "If mere men can be called 'gods' because of their position as judges, then how much more should I, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, be called the Son of God?" That's not a very convincing argument if that were our Lord's argument because after all they're accusing Him of claiming deity, not simply that He's a God like other men are gods.
The word "consecrated," is an interesting choice of words considering the feast the people are celebrating. The people are celebrating the rededication of the Temple. The word "consecrated" means: "to be set apart as holy." Yeshua, God the Son, is "set apart" by God the Father to consecrate the world to truth (John 17:19). This is a feast that celebrates the consecration of the Second Temple. This old sanctuary is to be replaced by the new and consecrated Temple that is Yeshua's body.
If the "gods" in Psalm 82 were merely human judges and not divine beings, then Yeshua's appeal to this text to defend His claim to deity would make no sense! They certainly would not seek to stone Him as a blasphemer if He appealed to a text about human judges. Yeshua seems to be rebuking the Jews for allowing the existence of elohim other than the Father, but would not accept His claim to be Elohim:
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 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." John 10:37-38 ESV
The "works" of Yeshua are to authenticate His mission in the eyes of the people and to support His claims to divinity. Only God can heal a man who had been lame from birth. Only God gives sight to the blind.
"The Father is in Me, and I in the Father"—this has a specific Old Covenant antecedent and that is Exodus 2:
"Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. Exodus 23:20-21 ESV
This angel pardons transgression. Who can do that but God? "My name is in him"—what does this mean? The four letters, YHVH were in the angel? The Hebrew word for "name" is shem; this comes from neshemah, which we see in:
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:7 ESV
The word "breath" here is neshemah. Your shem is your breath. In Hebraic thought your breath is your character, it's what makes you you. It's what makes you different from everybody else. You can replace the word "name" in the Bible with "character."
In Hebraic thought a name is not merely an arbitrary designation or a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named. In English, we often refer to a person's reputation as his "good name." The Hebrew concept of a name is very similar to this idea. So in Exodus 23:21 when Yahweh says of the angel, "My name is in him," He is saying, "My character, my essence is in him."
For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." Leviticus 11:45 ESV
Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, Judges 2:1 ESV
Who delivered them from Egypt, was it Yahweh or the angel of Yahweh? Yes!:
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. Jude 1:5 ESV
The NASB here says, "that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt"
So who saved the people out of Egypt and then destroyed the unbelievers? We just saw that it was Yahweh and the angel of Yahweh. The New English Translation Note states:
The reading Iesous, 'Jesus, is deemed too hard by several scholars, since it involves the notion of Jesus acting in the early history of the nation Israel. However, not only does this reading enjoy the strongest support from a variety of early witnesses, but the plethora of variants demonstrate that scribes were uncomfortable with it, for they seemed to exchange kurios, 'Lord' or theos, 'God,' for Iesous (though P72 has the intriguing reading theos Christos, 'God Christ,' for Iesous)....As difficult as the reading Iesous is, in light of Jude 1:4 and in light of the progress of revelation (Jude being one of the last books in the NT to be composed), it is wholly appropriate." [See Jude 1:5 NET Note]
So who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt? Was it Yahweh or was it the Angel?
Yes! The Father is in this angel. God is in this angel. That is how the Tanakh says, "This is God in human form." If we take this back to John 10 where Yeshua says, "I and the Father are one" and "the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Yeshua is telling them, I'm God in human form. I'm not only an Elohim, a spirit being, I'm also the Lord of the Council because Yahweh is the Lord of the Council. The Father is the Lord of the Council and the Father is in me. They understand what He is saying and so:
Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. John 10:39 ESV
How does the human view explain the reaction of the Jewish audience here? They are trying to arrest Him, on the heels of picking up stones to stone Him in 10:30. If Yeshua is citing a text that all of them could just as well cite on their own behalf for being sons of God, why would Yeshua's use of it elicit such a response?
This closing section serves to show how completely Yeshua controlled His own destiny. He would not be killed by mob violence; when He would return to Jerusalem He would do so of His own accord and with the certain knowledge He was going up to Jerusalem to die.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. John 10:40 ESV
Yeshua goes across the Jordan to Perea. The ruling class in Jerusalem, from whom Yeshua faced danger, lacked authority in Perea.
Yeshua's ministry is drawing to a close. It is December and in March He will make His last journey to Jerusalem. Therefore, He returns to the site where His ministry began on the far or east side of the Jordan River where He was baptized by John:
Many came to Him and were saying, "While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true." John 10:41 NASB
Many of the Jews believed that John the Baptist was a true prophet. They believed his words, even though he did not perform any miraculous works. And yet the Jews in Jerusalem will not believe Yeshua's words, even though He does many miraculous works.
References to John the Baptist form an inclusio which brackets the record of Yeshua's public ministry to the multitudes in this Gospel (1:19—10:42). The public ministry of Yeshua closes with the words:
Many believed in Him there. John 10:42 NASB
They wanted to kill Him in Jerusalem but in Perea many believe in Him. Why did those in Perea believe when those in Jerusalem wouldn't? They believed because they were His sheep. Yahweh had called them and had given them to His Son. They were called and they came. All that the Father gives Him will come to Him. And all who come to Him believe in Him and are given eternal life.