By Mike Miller
Many people today are teaching that people are in facts gods (with a lower case “g”). I’m not talking about the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression, which teaches that some can become gods. I’m referring to those in the Word of Faith movement that teach that we have creative power in our words, just like God did when He spoke creation into existence (and they do make the upper/lower case distinction).
The key passage they turn to is John 10:34, where Jesus quotes Psalm 82, saying, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” This, they claim, is clear evidence that people are gods. But is that really what is going on in that text? I’d like to remind you of the single most important factor in reading, understanding, and interpreting Scripture:
In John 10, Jesus is specifically responding to the criticism leveled by the Jews that He was blaspheming because He called Himself Son of God. He quotes Psalm 82, which is a text addressed to the Israelites (though some interpreters think it only addresses Israel’s judges). They had been given the law and were to serve as God’s representatives, but they failed miserably. Thus, while in Psalm 82 God tells them that they were in effect supposed to be His representatives to those around them, they had failed. Instead of being true gods, then, they would die like men (a bit of sarcasm on God’s part perhaps?).
So, in John 10, Jesus points out the absurdity that even though the Jews had been called gods (and “sons of the Most High,” also in Psalm 82), and they didn’t balk at that, they were mad at Him for calling Himself God’s Son. He is showing them how inconsistent their position was.
We don’t need to press Jesus’ words further than He intended them. He was not saying that people are really gods, but was showing the Jews how weak their argument against Him was. I know it’s a tough passage to understand in our context, but based on the rest of Scripture as well as ancient Jewish interpretations of Psalm 82, this perspective seems to be the most reasonable.
If you need help understanding a tough text, please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.