In this series of posts I will examine the OT passages that are commonly used to show the existence of a heavenly assembly of divine beings surrounding God. My intention isn’t to deny that a heavenly council of spiritual creatures exists, since it clearly does:
“And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, “Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, “I will entice him.” And the LORD said to him, “By what means?” And he said, “I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And he said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.” Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.’” 1 Kings 22:19-23
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9-10 – cf. Psalm 103:20-21; 148:1-2
Rather, my purpose is to show that the passages that are often employed to show the existence of such an assembly, or that the members of this council are actual gods of a lesser sort, are inconclusive and do not really prove such.
According to many OT scholars, the following Psalm affirms that God presides over a heavenly assembly consisting of divine beings that rule the earth, and who are also called the sons of the Most High:
“God (Elohim) standeth in the congregation of God (ba’adat El); He judgeth among the gods (elohim). How long will ye judge unjustly, And respect the persons of the wicked? Selah Judge the [a]poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the poor and needy: Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither do they understand; They walk to and fro in darkness: All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, Ye are gods (elohim), And all of you sons of the Most High (ubaney Elyon). Nevertheless ye shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God (Elohim), judge the earth; For thou shalt inherit all the nations.” Psalm 82:1-8 American Standard Version (ASV)
The following translation, however, takes a different spin on this divine council theme:
God stands in the assembly of El; in the midst of the gods he renders judgment. He says, ‘How long will you make unjust legal decisions and show favoritism to the wicked? (Selah) Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless! Vindicate the oppressed and suffering! Rescue the poor and needy! Deliver them from the power of the wicked! They neither know nor understand. They stumble around in the dark, while all the foundations of the earth crumble. I thought, “You are gods; all of you are sons of the Most High.” Yet you will die like mortals; you will fall like all the other rulers.’ Rise up, O God, and execute judgment on the earth! For you own all the nations.
sn Psalm 82. The psalmist pictures God standing in the “assembly of El” where he accuses the “gods” of failing to promote justice on earth. God pronounces sentence upon them, announcing that they will die like men. Having witnessed the scene, the psalmist then asks God to establish his just rule over the earth.
tn Or “presides over.”
tn The phrase עֲדַת אֵל (ʿadat ʾel, “assembly of El”) appears only here in the OT. (1) Some understand “El” to refer to God himself. In this case he is pictured presiding over his own heavenly assembly. (2) Others take אֵל as a superlative here (“God stands in the great assembly”), as in Pss 36:6 and 80:10. (3) The present translation assumes this is a reference TO THE CANAANITE HIGH GOD El, who presided over the Canaanite divine assembly. (See Isa 14:13, where El’s assembly is called “the stars of El.”) In the Ugaritic myths the phrase ʿdt ʾilm refers to the “assembly of the gods,” who congregate in King Kirtu’s house, where Baal asks El to bless Kirtu’s house (see G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 91). If the Canaanite divine assembly is referred to here in Ps 82:1, then the psalm must be understood as a bold polemic against Canaanite religion. ISRAEL’S GOD INVADES EL’S ASSEMBLY, denounces its gods as failing to uphold justice, and announces their coming demise. For an interpretation of the psalm along these lines, see W. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” EBC 5:533-36.
sn The present translation assumes that the Hebrew term אֱלֹהִים (ʾelohim, “gods”) here refers to the pagan gods who supposedly comprise El’s assembly according to Canaanite religion. Those who reject the polemical view of the psalm prefer to see the referent as human judges or rulers (אֱלֹהִים sometimes refers to officials appointed by God, see Exod 21:6; 22:8-9; Ps 45:6) or as angelic beings (אֱלֹהִים sometimes refers to angelic beings, see Gen 3:5; Ps 8:5). (New English Translation https://netbible.org/bible/Psalms+82; capital and underline emphasis ours)
To say that this is a rather unique, in fact intriguing, view would be putting it rather mildly.
Yet, as the NET notes indicate, not all scholars believe that the Psalter is referring to God’s heavenly beings, since some take the view that this is a reference to God punishing corrupt human rulers who have destroyed the earth due to their wickedness and oppression of the righteous.
Those same scholars who believe that Psalm 82 is referring to the heavenly assembly will often appeal to the following Psalm for corroboration:
“And so the heavens will praise your wonderful deed, O Yahweh, even your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones (biqhal qadoshim). For who in the sky is equal to Yahweh? Who is like Yahweh among the sons of God (bibne elim), a God feared greatly in the council of the holy ones (besod qadoshim), and awesome above all surrounding him? O Yahweh God of hosts, who is mighty like you, O Yah, with your faithfulness surrounding you?” Psalm 89:5-8 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
No one would deny that, in this specific Psalm, the sons of God and the assembly/council of the holy ones refer to the heavenly spirit creatures that dwell in God’s heavenly presence, since the text clearly mentions the heavens and the sky above.
Ironically, however, this particular Psalter actually serves to refute, or at least greatly weaken, the view that Psalm 82 is referring to a heavenly council of lesser divine beings. The only way we even know that these verses from Psalm 89 refer to God’s spiritual host is because of the explicit reference to heavens and sky. In fact, had this Psalm not used these terms we would have no clue whether these beings are celestial or terrestrial. Yet none of these words appear in Psalm 82, and therefore one cannot simply assume that the council mentioned therein is the heavenly one, as opposed to God’s earthly assembly.
This brings me to my next point. The very Hebrew phrases used in reference to God’s council, assembly, congregation etc., are employed for the gathering of human beings on earth who belong to God, whether the nation of Israel or the righteous:
“Then they brought the captives and the plunder and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation (‘adat) of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the chiefs of the congregation (ha’edah) went to meet them outside the camp. And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, ‘Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD (ba’adat YHWH). Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.’” Numbers 31:12-16
“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD (biqhal YHWH). No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD (biqhal YHWH). Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD (biqhal YHWH). No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD (biqhal YHWH). Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD (biqhal YHWH) forever… You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the LORD (biqhal YHWH).” Deuteronomy 23:1-3, 7-8
“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous (ba’adat saddiqim); for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1:5-6
“Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright (besod yasharim), in the congregation (wa’edah).” Psalm 111:1
“My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people (besod ‘ammi), nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD God.” Ezekiel 13:9
These examples show that the bare mention of God’s council in Psalm 82 is inconclusive in establishing that the gods and the sons of the Most High are divine beings who rule over the nations. One can legitimately argue that these beings are the unjust and wicked human authorities/rulers whom God would end up punishing for corrupting the earth.
After all, we do find evidence within the inspired Scriptures for human agents being called gods, such as we find in the case of Moses,
“And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god (elohim) to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.” Exodus 7:1-2 Authorized King James Version (AV)
And the king of Israel:
“My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. Your throne, O God (Elohim), is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.” Psalm 45:1-11
In fact, the Hebrew Bible testifies that the rulers of the nations thought of themselves as divine beings, the offspring of the gods and/or goddesses, who could even rival and challenge the true God of Israel. And what makes their examples rather ironic is that God condemns and punishes them just as he does the gods of Psalm 82:
“When the LORD has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: ‘How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, “Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.” Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: “You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!” Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: “Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?” All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people. May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named! Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.” I will rise up against them,’ declares the LORDof hosts, ‘and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,’ declares the LORD. And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,’ declares the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 14:3-23
“Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”” Isaiah 36:13-20
“The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, ‘He has set out to fight against you.’ And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?”’” Isaiah 37:8-13
“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called tender and delicate… 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’: These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day; the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments. You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” Isaiah 47:1, 8-10
“The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the LORD God: ‘Because your heart is proud, and you have said, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,” yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god—you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth—therefore thus says the LORD God: Because you make your heart like the heart of a god, therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They shall thrust you down into the pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you, though you are but a man, and no god, in the hands of those who slay you? You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken, declares the LORD God.’” Ezekiel 28:1-10
“And he will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert. Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold; for her cedar work will be laid bare. This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else.’ What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist.” Zephaniah 2:13-15
We further find human beings called the sons of God, such as in the case of the nation of Israel, and her kings:
“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” Exodus 4:22-23
“You are the sons of the LORD your God (banim ‘atem YHWH ‘Elohekem). You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.” Deuteronomy 14:1
“Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?… You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.’” Deuteronomy 32:6, 18-20
“Yet the LORD God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father’s house, and among my father’s sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.” 1 Chronicles 28:4-6
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’” Psalm 2:6-10 – cf. 89:19-27
In fact, the Israelites are even called the sons of the living El, language which more closely corresponds to the description of the members of the Canaanite pantheon:
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God (beney El chay).” Hosea 1:10 ASV
In the NT, believers in Jesus Christ are said to be the sons of the Most High, which is the exact description used in Psalm 82:6:
“But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.” Luke 6:35
Thus far we have seen nothing in Psalm 82 that would conclusively prove that the gods of the council are spirit beings as opposed to wicked human rulers who have come under God’s wrath for having corrupted the earth. As we have seen, similar if not identical language is employed for humans and is therefore not restricted to members of the heavenly host.
Psalm 82:7 is also used to prove that the council members of Psalm 82 are spirit creatures, as opposed to human beings:
“Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.” New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The fact that these members die like men must mean that the gods here are not human, or so the argument goes.
The problem here is that this assumes that the Hebrew word typically translated as men refers to mankind in general, as opposed to Adam in particular. Note the following version:
“But ye shall die like adam (ke’adam), and fall like one of the sarim (princes).” Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)
With the foregoing in view, the text may not be actually saying that the gods die like men, but that they will all die like Adam did when the latter sinned against the LORD. This Hebrew phrase isn’t unique to the Psalm, since it appears elsewhere:
“If like Adam (ke’adam) I have covered my transgressions, By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom,” Job 31:33
“But they like Adam (ke’adam) have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.” Hosea 6:7
None of these cases require us to understand Adam as a generic term referring to human beings in general. Rather, at least in the case of Job and Hosea, the context makes it more likely that it is the first man’s rebellion that is in view.
In fact, it makes much more sense that the Psalmist has Adam’s sin in mind since the first man was basically punished for wanting to be like God in knowing or determining right or wrong for himself, by defiantly eating from the forbidden tree:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’… And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’… And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’ therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:1-13, 17-19, 21-24
Adam’s sin was essentially wanting to become a god unto himself as opposed to living in submission to the one true God.
In a similar manner, by corrupting the earth through their wickedness, these human rulers were basically being gods of their own in defiance of the one true God who had appointed them.
Hence, in my view a much stronger case can be made for the human judges/rulers interpretation of Psalm 82 than for the heavenly council interpretation.
Jesus’ Interpretation of Psalm 82
Some appeal to Christ’s employment of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34 to prove that the gods of Psalm 82 are actually divine beings of a lesser sort:
“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 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.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?’ 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.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, “I said, you are gods”? 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 10:22-36
The argument goes that Jesus’ appeal to this Psalm in defense of his Deity only makes sense if the Psalter is speaking of heavenly beings who can be called gods. The point being made is that Jesus’ claim to Divinity isn’t really blasphemous seeing that the Hebrew Scriptures affirm the existence of a host of gods besides Jehovah, without any Jew considering this as blasphemy. The only difference is that Jesus is essentially one with the Father, and therefore greater than all the other divine members of the council.
On the contrary, it is the human view that makes much more sense of Jesus’ polemic. Christ’s interlocutors are scandalized that he would dare make himself equal to the Father in essence, seeing that to them he was nothing more than a flesh and blood human being. Note, again, their response:
“The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’” John 10:36 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The human interpretation of Psalm 82 would therefore serve as an apt rebuttal to the Jews’ objection since, if corrupt human judges can be called gods, then surely it cannot be deemed blasphemous for the man Jesus to claim Divinity seeing that he does the miraculous works that only God does, such as giving everlasting life to all those who belong to him:
“‘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.’ Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.” John 10:37-39
Thus, since Jesus’ deeds prove that the Father is in perfect union with him and working through him, the Jewish reaction is therefore unjustified since it cannot be blasphemy for Jesus as a man to claim to be God, when the Scripture itself calls unjust human rulers gods and sons of the Most High, even though they cannot do what God does and fail to carry out God’s commands. The real difference is that, whereas these corrupt human judges were mere men who were called gods Jesus, on the other hand, is God who became man.
With that said, I conclude this part of my discussion with the words of noted Evangelical Christian scholar and apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr. Bowman does a fine job of showing why the arguments marshaled to support to the divine council view of Psalm 82 are not that convincing:
- The use of elohim in Psalm 82, probably in reference to wicked judges, as cited by Jesus in John 10:34-36, does not mean that men really can be gods.
- It is Asaph, not the Lord, who calls the judges elohim in Ps. 82:1, 6. This is important, even though we agree that Ps. 82 is inspired.
- Asaph’s meaning is not “Although you are gods, you will die like men,” but rather “I called you gods, but in fact you will all die like the men that you really are.”
- The Psalmist was no more saying that wicked judges were truly gods than he was saying that they were truly “sons of the Most High” (v. 6b).
- Thus, Ps. 82:1 calls the judges elohim in irony. They had quite likely taken their role in judgment (cf. point 6 above) to mean they were elohim, or gods, and Asaph’s message is that these so-called gods were mere men who would die under the judgment of the true elohim (vss. 1-2, 7-8).
- Christ’s use of this passage in John 10:34-36 does not negate the above interpretation of Psalm 82.
- The words, ““The Scripture cannot be broken,” in this context probably mean “the Scripture cannot go without having some ultimate fulfillment” (cf. John 7:23; Matt. 5:17). Thus Jesus is saying that what the OT judges were called in irony, he is in reality; he does what they could not do and is what they could never be (see the Adam—Christ contrasts in Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45 for a similar use of OT Scripture).
- The clause, “those against whom the word of God came” (John 10:35) shows that this “word” was a word of judgment against the so-called gods; which shows that they were false gods, not really gods at all.
- Finally, these wicked men were certainly not “godlike” or “divine” by nature, so that in any case the use of elohim to refer to them must be seen as figurative, not literal. (Robert Bowman, The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 1: There is One God http://bib.irr.org/biblical-basis-of-doctrine-of-trinity-part-i-there-one-god)
Lord willing, there’s more texts to cull through in the next segments of my analysis.