I love challenging sections of scripture because it forces me to dig a little to try to figure out what the author intended. In John 10:34-36 we have one of those challenging sections. This passage reads,
“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’?”
This certainly is a difficult passage for us today, but not so for the audience at that time since they attempted to arrest Jesus on the grounds of blasphemy because of his claims. They knew what he meant! So what does Jesus mean by saying the scripture teaches that men are gods?
First we need to notice that Jesus is quoting Ps. 82. 6 which says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.”
Second, the context of this quote of Ps 82 is to challenge the unjust judges of Israel. It is specifically a reference to those in an authoritative role for God.
Third, a judge was someone who was commissioned by God to “be god to men” (Barclay). The authoritative role of the judge came from God’s commissioning, and it was as though they were gods to the people. This is not implying they were divine.
Fourth, the support for the authority role of these judges and the application of the term “god” to them is well stated by Barclay when he says,
“Exodus 21:1–6 tells how the Hebrew servant may go free in the seventh year. As the Authorized Version has it, verse 6 says ‘Then his master shall bring him unto the judges.’ But in the Hebrew, the word which is translated judges is actually elohim, which means gods. The same form of expression is used in Exodus 22:9, 28. Even scripture said of men who were specially commissioned to some task by God that they were gods. So Jesus said: ‘If scripture can speak like that about men, why should I not speak so about myself?’”
Although not all translations have the word “judge” for elohim in Ex. 21:6, some do. The NET translation note says, “the phrase means to God.” They also state that although there is not complete agreement that the word is a reference to judges, they go on to say, “Others have made a stronger case… that it refers to judges who acted on behalf of God.”
Fifth, Jesus goes on to say that those who ruled for God did so as his word was given to them. Jesus is far superior since he was set apart (consecrated by God) and sent to the world as the Word.
Since Jesus is far superior to the imperfect human judges of the Old Testament, who were referred to as “gods,” he is right to refer to himself as the Son of God due to his far superior position and commissioning. He is not a mere man, but in reality, he is part of the triune God!
Father, thank you for the insightful teaching of Jesus. His brilliant analysis of your Word and his clarity for us who follow him. I thank you that he is the set apart one commissioned to save us from our sin. There is no one like him. If anyone on earth qualifies to have the term “God” applied to him it is Jesus. In fact, he is God, the Son!
Following Jesus with you,