John 10:34 – Scripture Twisting 101

Today’s passage  is another famous one that is used by  our Muslim friends. It comes from the New  Testament, the Gospel of John 10:34 and it reads: Jesus answered  them “Is it not written in your law ‘I said you are gods.’ The Jews were upset with Jesus. They  wanted to stone him. That was his  answer. Muslims use this to rebuke the  idea that Jesus is God using this  statement. The context is they’re picking up stones to stone him to death for blasphemy because he claims  that he and the father are one (John 10:30). He says “I and the father are one.” So verse 31, the Jews picked up stones again  to stone him. Multiple times they’re picking up stones to stone Jesus  to death for blasphemy. Very odd if Jesus  is just a Muslim prophet proclaiming  belief in one God. What  sincere Jew or sincere Jewish leader or  sincere Jewish rabbi or Pharisee is  going to be upset by someone who’s just  telling you to believe in one God all  the time. But Jesus is saying things that upset  them a lot so the Jews picked up stones  again to stone him. Verse 32 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.” Over and over again they keep saying “you’re  blaspheming, you’re claiming to be God.” He’s saying something that keeps  insisting to them that he’s claiming to be God and he answers in verse 34. 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 the 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?’ Notice already in this passage we  have Jesus claiming to be the Son of God  very clearly but the reasoning is” if  Jesus is telling people “even in the  Psalms, someone other than God was called  God were called gods, then obviously I mean something along those lines when I  say that I’m the son of God.  I’m not claiming to be the Son of God in any significant sense; I’m claiming to be  the Son of God in some more limited sense and you can’t go ahead and kill me  for that.” In other words, Jesus is  downgrading what he said earlier. Earlier “I and the Father are one.” (Jews said) “you have to die, you’re claiming to be God, you’re claiming to be the Son of God, you have to die” and he’s saying “No, I’m not really  blaspheming. You’re misinterpreting what  I said. I mean something far less  significant than that. I meant something more along the lines of what was said in the Old Testament and so  don’t kill me. I don’t really mean what  you think I mean.”

Number one. If we want to see  what Jesus did not mean by citing the psalm, it’s important we go to the psalm itself to see who are the so-called “gods”. Psalm 82, it’s only eight  verses long but in order to do justice  to this topic we have to just see the context because in Psalm 82, is Jesus  claiming to be one of these gods or is  he making a different point altogether? Let’s see Psalm 82 the verse he cited  and John 10:34. Let’s read Psalm 82. “God  stands among the counsel of God.” Actually here it’s Elohim stands among the counsel of ale. It’s very important  sometimes to know the original languages  so you can distinguish between the  different words used for God. In verse 1, the word God is “Elohim”. It says “Elohim” stands among the Council  of “ale”, which is a singular form for “god”. He renders judgment among the gods (Elohim). So you have an Elohim who’s in  the counsel of ale, judging the Elohim. Notice what the true Elohim God says to these other Elohim. “How long  will you all judge unjustly and accept  partiality of the wicked” and then he’s  telling them “defend the poor and  fatherless, vindicate the afflicted and  needy, grant escape to the abused and the destitute, pluck them out of the hand of the false.” In other words, these  so-called gods, they’re corrupt and evil  rulers, they’re wicked, they’re corrupting justice, they’re aiding the wicked, the  oppressors, the tyrants, they’re  ignoring the plight of the widow, the  orphan, the poor. God is upset, he’s irate to the point now that he’s going to rise in judgment against them. This is the  context. These are not righteous beings. These are evil beings, evil rulers. Notice verse 5, they have neither  knowledge nor understanding, they walk in  darkness. All the foundations of the  earth are shaken. Verse 6: I have  said “you are gods, sons of the Most High all of you. But you all shall die like men  and fall like old princes. Verse 8  says “Arise O God, judge the earth, for you  shall inherit all the nations.” What is Jesus’ point? Obviously Jesus can’t be one of these so-called gods because these  gods are evil, they’re wicked, they’re  corrupt and God is going to destroy them,  strike them dead. The last thing Jesus is doing is  claiming to be one of them. Psalm 82 is  inspired scripture. All the Jews would  would agree with Jesus this is the Word  of God. As such, would the Jews dare call  the psalmist, who wrote this by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a blasphemer for calling these  evil rulers, these wicked corrupt  oppressors “god”? Of course not. Because  he’s inspired to do that. So Jesus’  point is: if evil wicked rulers can be  called gods because they stand in the  place of God and have been invested with  authority from God to judge, although  they’ve now misused that authority, then  how dare you accuse me of blasphemy when  I as the son of God can do everything  the father does to show my unity with  the father? In fact that’s what he goes  on to say. John 10:34 Jesus answered them “Is it not  written in your law “I say you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom  the Word of God came and the scripture cannot be broken (you cannot falsify the scripture, this  scripture is inerrant, infallible), if this  is what the scripture says, then it’s got  to be true, do you say of him whom the  father sanctified and sent to the  world ‘you blaspheme’ because I am the Son  of God? If I am NOT doing the  works of my father, do not believe me. Unlike those corrupt evil so-called gods, I do the works of my  father, show my solidarity, my unity with  him. If I am NOT doing the  works of my father, do not believe me  but if I do them, though you do not  believe me, believe the works that you  may know and believe that the father is  in me, in perfect union, communion,  fellowship with me and I in him. Notice the response again. They tried to  seize him but he escaped from their  hands. Does this sound like the Jews  misunderstood Jesus is claiming essential unity with the father? Why is it  now that after he quotes the psalm and  then makes that point they want to now  kill him all the more? Because he wasn’t  denying that he’s essentially one with  the father. What he was simply denying  was their charge, that in claiming to be  one with the father in essence, he was  blaspheming. Look, I’m doing the works  that the father does. I’m doing miracles.  I’m showing you that I and the father  are essentially one. If I wasn’t, I  wouldn’t be able to do what only God can  do to prove who I am. And yet you accuse  me of blasphemy falsely. To further  prove that Jesus is not putting himself  on their level but on a higher level  equal to the Father, read 10:27-30. My sheep hear my voice and I  know them. Notice what our Lord says. “My sheep hear  my voice and I know them. I give them  eternal life.” Does that sound like a  creature who is like these other rulers  who simply stand in the place of God, speaking with the authority invested in  them by God or does he claim a  prerogative that only God can claim  because notice he says “I give them  eternal life, they shall never perish  nor shall anyone snatch them from my  hand”? Notice that believers are his sheep,  in his hand, who hear his voice and he  gives them never-ending incorruptible life. Then he says “My father who has given  them to me is greater than all, no one is  able to snatch them from my father’s  hand. No one snatches them from my hand, no one  snatches them from the Father’s hand. Why? My father and I are one. And as I said in  previous shows, that verb “are” (esmen) is  “we are” so he’s not the father, he’s distinct from the father but one with  him in ability. This does not sound like  Jesus is claiming to be a creature who  simply speaks for God and is invested  with the authority of God. Sure sounds  like he thinks he’s the God-man, God in  the flesh who’s one with the Father because  he can do what the father does and the  things the father does, only God can do. And he’s doing it on everything on  earth. And they’re seeing the miracles to  testify.

Basically he is calling them hypocrites. That’s exactly what  he’s saying. He’s saying “You hypocrites. If you will not accuse the psalmist of  calling these evil wicked corrupt rulers  gods, whom God is going to destroy in  judgment, how dare you  accuse me of blasphemy when I’m doing  miracles to prove my claim that I’m the  divine Son on a higher level than them.” How much higher? This always comes up not  just by Muslims but also Jehovah’s Witnesses  and other Unitarians. Remember what our  Lord said “My sheep hear my voice, in my  hand.” 

Psalm 95:16 Oh come let  us worship and bow down. Let us kneel  before the Lord our maker for he is our  God and we are the people of his pasture,  the sheep of his hand.  

(Jesus said) “My sheep, in my hand.” Today, if you hear  his voice, do not harden your hearts. Did  you catch it according to the Old Testament? The people of God are Yahweh’s sheep, in  his hand and there to hear his voice.  Jesus shows up and says they are my  sheep, hear my voice, in my hand and I  give them never-ending incorruptible  life. And as the cross-reference to that, Deuteronomy 32:39 Yahweh says “See now that I, even I myself, am he. There  is no God besides me. I kill and make alive. I wound and I heal and  there’s none who can  deliver out of my hand.” Jesus said  there’s none who can snatch or deliver  out of his hand. That’s why the Jews  correctly realized Jesus is speaking as  if he’s God but they were seeing a  flesh-and-blood man and to them they  took it as blasphemy. So no, Jesus is not saying “I’m like these  gods”. Far from it. I’m much higher than  them. His point is: If even evil, wicked  rulers can be called “gods” because they  were given God’s authority to rule and  yet they will be condemned because of  their misuse of that authority, then how  dare you accuse me of blasphemy  when I am the Son of God who does the  very works that God alone can do to  prove my essential unity with the Father.

The final point. Did  you notice what he said in John 10:35? “If he called them gods to whom the Word of God came, and the  scripture cannot be broken”. What he means  is the Word of God came in judgment  against them. That means the  Word of God is higher than these  so-called gods because the Word of God  came from God announcing judgment  against them. What’s ironic is that  this is the gospel that has already  identified Jesus as that very word of  God who has come into the world to  save it but also to pronounce judgment  against these rulers who by their  rejection of Jesus show they stand  condemned. In other words, that word of  God that judged the Old Testament gods is now incarnate. That word has  become flesh and just like the word  pronounced judgment against these  corrupt rulers in the Old Testament, that  same word is now standing in the flesh pronouncing judgment against those corrupt  rulers who are questioning his authority.