Would Jesus get hired to teach an Old Testament seminary course today?

Jesus certainly had an interesting way of handling his Bible in debates with the religious leaders of his day.

One of these is found in John 10:34-36.

Jesus is in the temple and he is getting grilled by “the Jews”–John’s less than delicate way of referring to the religious elite who opposed Jesus, which obscures that Jesus was a Jew, too. Anyway, his opponents are challenging him to get stop being so coy and just tell them plainly whether he is the messiah. Of course, what they mean by “messiah”–a military holy man to liberate the Jews from Roman control–is being redefined by the Gospel writers around Jesus, but now I’m really getting off the point.

Jesus responds that, if they believed, they wouldn’t need to ask the question. Typical Jesus. He doesn’t take the bait and try to justify himself. He just tells them that they’ll never understand the answer unless they commit first. If Jesus were on the internet, he’d never be drawn into stupid theological debates.

Jesus concludes with a comment that I can’t imagine is designed to do anything other than stick it to the man and pick a fight right then and there: “The Father and I are one”–one of John’s expressions of Jesus’ unique intimacy with God

His audience took this as blasphemy, a claim by Jesus to be God, and so they got ready to do the proper thing, according to the Old Testament, and stone Jesus into oblivion.

Jesus defends himself by quoting the first few words of Psalm 82:6, and with that we finally get to the point of this post.

Verse 6 begins, “You are gods,” and Jesus clearly takes “you” to be the Israelites, those “to whom the word of God came” (vv. 34-35). So, Jesus reasons, if Israel can be called “gods” in Psalm 82, and “the scripture cannot be annulled” (v. 35), they shouldn’t have any problem with Jesus claiming to be one with God.

His audience didn’t buy the argument and tried arresting Jesus, but Jesus “escaped from their hands.”

What’s interesting here is that Jesus says “the scripture cannot be annulled” but he seems bend the particular scripture in question, Psalm 82, beyond it’s breaking point.

Seminarians and other Bible students are taught to respect the context of a passage to make sure you’re not reading something into the text that’s not there. If you look at Psalm 82, it becomes immediately clear that what Jesus says it means isn’t what the psalmist Asaph meant.

The entire psalm is set in the heavenly “divine council,” sort of a heavenly board of directors with Yahweh as CEO, COO, and any other title like that with a C in front of it. (A better known example of this divine council is the first two chapters of the book of Job.)

Apparently, there is a problem with the rulers of the earth, the kings of the nations (see v. 8). They rule unjustly, show partiality to the wicked, ignore the poor and needy–their actions are so bad that “all the foundations of the earth are shaken.” The members of the divine council–the lesser gods (maybe angelic beings) of Yahweh’s court–are to take this message to the rulers.

I say “You are gods,

sons of the Most High, all of you;

nevertheless, you shall die like mortals

and fall like any prince” (vv. 6-7).

The “you” refers to these rulers of the nations, who are “sons” of God, but God will hold them accountable for their actions and so die as mere princes.

Ancient kings were thought to have a pipeline to the gods that others didn’t. “Son of god x…” was a way of describing that. Israel had the same ideology, as Psalm 2 makes clear enough: at the king’s coronation, he is “begotten” of God and “becomes” God’s “son.”

Anyway, in Psalm 82, “you are gods” is not a prooftext that Israel was “divine” but a nod to ancient royal ideology, and what Israel’s God, the high God, is going to do to put these kings in their place.

With that, if you go back to John 10:34-36, you can’t help but see some disconnect between what the psalm means and what Jesus takes it to mean. How is Jesus’ use of Psalm 82 “not annulling” scripture?

If the opposite of “annul” is “uphold,” is Jesus “upholding” scripture here?

It may help to know that anchoring one’s views by means of a creative handling of scripture was part and parcel of Jewish interpretation for generations before Jesus came on the scene. One of those creative techniques was to deliberately isolate a few words or a verse from its surrounding context and work it to make a point.

Jesus seems to be quite at home with this type of creative use of the Bible, not just here but elsewhere in his debates with the religious leaders.

But in formal biblical education in the modern world–especially inerrantist/evangelical/fundamentalist eduction–this type of move is called “eisegesis,” reading meaning into the Bible rather than getting meaning from the Bible (exegesis).

So here’s my point for today. When I see this sort of handling of the Bible within the Bible, it makes me ask whether what we are taught about how to read the Bible properly is actually biblical–or more a modern glitch.

If  how we are taught to handle the Bible “properly” can’t account for the Bible’s own inner interpretive dynamic, and if we claim to “follow the Bible,” we probably need to think about whether we actually are.

If one’s “doctrine of Scripture” sits awkwardly with how Scripture actually behaves, one needs to rethink one’s doctrine.

 

  • John Shakespeare

    I’m uncomfortable with your approach to the NT’s citations from the OT (including those made by Jesus, such as the ‘You are god’s passage. Your view seems to be that Jesus and his followers (in common with lots of Jewish interpreters) simply used the passages they cited to mean more or less what they fancied them to mean, regardless of context. I suppose the prime example of Jesus’s OT citations would be on the road to Emmaus and subsequently in the upper room, where, it seems, he made comprehensive surveys (Moses and the prophets) and showed them as pointing towards his death and resurrection.

    My problem is not the standard Evangelical objection, but something much more basic: reason. How could Jesus rebuke his hearers as ‘fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken’ if there was no shared and rational understanding of what the prophets had spoken? How could he expect ‘the Jews’ to be answered by his citation of Psalm 82 if the meaning he attached to the passage was novel, unique and biased? It would be like my saying ‘You shouldn’t write books about Adam because Kermit the Frog sang “It’s not easy being green.”‘ Your analysis of Jesus’s use of the OT takes us deep into the world of non sequiter.

    Only if ‘the Jews’ could be expected to see the connection between their objection and Jesus’s answer could he reasonably have given the answer. Only if the disciples should really have been able to see in Moses and the prophets all that was to happen to Jesus could he justly rebuke them for their folly, slowness of heart and unbelief. After Jesus had drawn out the relevant passages the disciples’ hearts burned with the increasing light of understanding only because they perceived it to be genuine understanding of the passages in question.

    It must follow from what I have said that I think you have misunderstood the point of Jesus’s citation of the Psalm to ‘the Jews’. Your interpretation is wrong because it would have involved Jesus in irrational, unconvincing and rather pointless proof-texting. I won’t stretch this comment by saying what I think was Jesus’s actual intention in quoting from the Psalm.

    Finally, you describe John’s phrase, ‘the Jews’ as ‘less than delicate’ in that Jesus was himself a Jew. Hmmmm… So, we must presume, was John. It is therefore reasonable to assume that he uses the term as an understood subset of ethnic Jews. Saying, (as does NT Wright) ‘the Judaeans’ doesn’t help, either.

    • John Shakespeare

      Forgive my punctuation. My excuse: I’m old and I had accidentally pressed the INSERT key, leading to confusion.

      I wrote:
      (including those made by Jesus, such as the ‘You are god’s passage.

      I should have written:
      (including those made by Jesus, such as the ‘You are gods’ passage).

      I am very, very sorry.

    • peteenns

      John, I appreicate and understand you point here. Still, what you call “pointless proof texting” is your modern bias showing, if I may. Jewish midrash was highly creative in its use of its Scripture. Your objection that it is unreasonable is actually a common–I would say, the common–evangelical objection to Jesus employing midrash: “If he was trying to convince others, this would never do it because it’s irrational.” Yet, look at Matthew’s use of Hos 11 in Matt 2. Or better, Jesus’ use of Exod 3 in Luke 20. These, too, are midrashic yet were “convincing” given the “reason” of the time.

      As for John and “the Jews,” the tensions with Judaism in John’s Gospel that leads him to say “the Jews” instead of Pharisees, etc.are well known.

      • mark

        Pete, isn’t it the case that Jesus plays even faster and looser at times than would be acceptable even in the midrash of the times? For example, when speaking of the command re divorce, he flatly states: that command was given to the fathers because of the hardness of their hearts, but that’s not how God intended it from the beginning.

        Seems to me that that kind of thing has some implications for inerrancy.

      • Derek

        How is that tension reflected in John 4:22 where Jesus states that “salvation is from the Jews”?

    • Marshall

      Since context has greatly changed, Scripture can’t mean to us today what it meant when it was written. So since we agree it is meaningful today, then we agree that it has more than one meaning. A fragment can mean what it means by itself as well as what it means in context — in multiple levels of context. Since Scripture is the Word of God, it’s the Word of God all the way down. It is commonplace to notice that there are apparent contradictions among various fragments (of various sizes), which is to say that understanding God is a difficult study; no surprise there. The problem with “proof-texting” as usually understood is when some fragment is taken as a trump card; really, insisting on reading from the original context is just another attempt at a trump (Peter’s point). Or so it seems to me.

      … As to being an unconvincing answer, might as well note that “The Jews” are indeed unconvinced, and Jesus once again escapes stoning only by his mysterious slithery means, since his time was not yet.

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    Peter,
    I agree with John Shakespeare. I think your claim that Jesus is taking “you” to mean Israel is not what it means at all. It means what you later say it means in the Psalm. That is Jesus is claiming (rightly) that the Jewish Tanakh says that in some cases people are called Elohim, and that YHVH is called Elohim. “Son or sons” in any case is a Hebraism which means having the attributes of, therefore a son of God is a Godly person.

    • John Shakespeare

      Thanks Donald. That has saved me the trouble.

  • Juniper

    Thank you for the article. I have often wondered about how our current practices of exegesis fits in with what appears to have been the practice. But then I have to wonder if there’s something I’m missing, some emotional (humor, satire, derision) that would be read into the text by the early audience.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    Peter, I think you are right about the way the New Testament writers often used Old Testament passages very ‘loosely’. I notice repeatedly that citations do not relate to the issues they are called upon to support.
    I am no scholar of midrash, but I can see the similarity with that practice.
    Often it seems as though our NT writers observe something that reminds them of a familiar phrase from the OT and just go with it, and I don’t think this is surprising to other Jewish people, including the Pharisees. They were not literalists like many of us are today.

  • J Gomes

    I agree with most of what you write and I am delighted with your approach. However, I find that fundamentalists and inerrantists err, precisely because they take texts out of contexts. If they did read the Bible using tools of critical exegesis, they would not read the creation stories literally. Your article here seems to be handing them a loaded gun, rather than subverting their approach.

  • Ronald Dupree

    Dr. Mike Heiser (whose dissertation focused on “The Divine Council”), seems to have quite a different perspective. His perspective seems to be that Jesus didn’t view the Psalm 82:6 reference to be Israelites, but divine beings. Dr. Heiser’s view seems to be that Jesus is asserting His divinity with the Psalm 82 reference. Maybe we moderns just don’t tend to have the same conception of the divine council that Jesus did? Maybe our problem is not an aversion to eisigesis but an aversion to the supernatural. http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/Psa82John10.pdf

    • peteenns

      That’s an interesting perspective, Ronald, though a bit off the beaten path. To be clear, I do think John’s Jesus here is asserting his divinity, but using the passage midrashically to do so. I feel the force of the polemic might be lost if “you are gods” didn’t refer to humans at least, hence Jesus’ use of the common “lesser to the greater” argument of Jewish polemics.

      • http://cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com Chris M

        Hi Pete,
        I see what you’re saying, that Jesus’ response doesn’t seem to work if those being called “gods” in Psalm 82 aren’t human. But doesn’t that just tell us what John’s (and maybe Jesus’) 2nd temple monotheistic interpretation of Psalm 82 was?
        On its face, the Psalm appears to have YHWH addressing his fellow gods, his fellow sons of Elyon. There’s no mention of the need for this message to be passed on to humans by the members of the divine council. I’m influenced in my reading by Thom Stark’s interpretation in “The Human Faces of God.” Would you disagree with Stark’s reading?

        • peteenns

          Yeah, good point, Chris.

      • Berry

        Jesus is not asserting his divinity, just the opposite.

        He was accused of calling himself a god. But he notes that the Jewish scriptures refer to human leaders as gods. The point is that he is comparing himself to those human kings who were sons of god because they understood and implemented God’s plan.

        Again, he is claiming to be a human representative of YHWH, people of a sort who were called gods in the scriptures.

        Any other interpretation fails to explain why he didn’t agree with his accusers.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Also “Ye heard how I said to you, I go away,
          and I come unto you. If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto
          the Father: for the Father is greater than I.”

          Christology in John is a complex issue (and I would definitely admit I don’t feel I have an expert grasp on its interpretation) but I agree I don’t think plain readings of the text that seemingly presume Jesus equating himself to God are catching the larger more mystical components in John.

        • mheiser

          Please check out my link. This just isn’t the case.

          • Berry

            Your view is not serious. You alter the meaning of the passage to fit your theology. You should alter your theology to fit the meaning of the passage.

    • mheiser

      thanks Ron – the “mortal” view that basically everyone holds to is, frankly, unexamined for its weaknesses. The comments here are illustrative. It makes zero sense, and there is no support for the idea in the immediate contexts OR Psalm 82. I know all the arguments for that view and they are very weak. Part of the problem is that basically no one thinks about the divine council worldview outside Psalm 82. It’s like the assumption is the idea was held in isolation. But, I’m used to that. I posted a link to the paper. This is a good reminder to take the time in 2014 to do a rewrite and submit the thing to a journal.

      By the way, I’m not trying to dismiss the concept of midrash with my view. It just isn’t what’s going on in John 10.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Good point Peter!

    I’ve argued elsewhere that Jesus could not have meant literaly that the entire Torah was true:

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/did-jesus-endorse-atrocities-hat-jesus-greueltaten-befurwortet/

    Fundamentalism is not only out of touch wiht reality but also profoundly inconsistent.

    Greetings from continental Europe.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • mheiser

    Peter – Jesus isn’t taking the verse to refer to Israelites. I know everyone takes it this way. It makes zero sense. Here’s my take (SBL regional paper I’ll be submitting at some point for publication): http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/Psa82John10.pdf

    • Charles Morrow

      I was envisioning you tearing your hair out as I read this.

  • mheiser

    That file on Jesus’ quotation (my regional SBL paper) is one I used for speaking, so it’s a bit incomplete. Here’s a link to a <2 page summary of the last section of that paper (from my divine council article in Lexham Bible Dictionary). It's clearer. http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/JesusPs82.pdf

    • peteenns

      Very compelling stuff, Michael. Thanks for the links. I read the SBL paper too, which filled in some of your points nicely. I think my reading of Jesus’ reading of Ps 82 was assuming the problems Judaism might have with a divine council–not in Israel’s day, to be sure–but in 1st. Palestine day. On that point, of course, I coud be wrong, but I am still not as sure as you are that they would have easily accepted the original meaning of Ps 82 surrounded by Roman polytheism. Have you done any digging on how this psalm might have been interpreted in 2TJ?

      At any rate, if Jesus is really appealing to a divine council in Ps 82 to make his case, it’s nice seeing Jesus having no problem with a divine council in the Israel’s past :-) though it introduces the question of what Jesus believed about a divine council. That could get a bit touchy for some, i think.

      • Guest

        I’m guessing the book of Enoch would have been familiar at the time? It would seem that if the book of Enoch didn’t give polytheism heartburn, Psalm 82 wouldn’t have either.

        • peteenns

          Did you mean to say “monotheism heartburn”? And you mean 1 Enoch, right? Are you referring to the references to angels/fallen angels?

          In Greco-Roman Judaism, monotheism was a crucial boundary marker. I’m not suggesting that they couldn’t have read Ps 82 as Michael is suggesting, I’d like to have more to go on.

          • Ronald Dupree

            Sorry I wasn’t more clear. I was just thinking 1 Enoch and Jubilees could be representative of 2TJ thinking about ‘bene elohim’. My understanding from Mike’s stuff is that the term ‘elohim’ is a generic reference term for any disembodied spirit.
            I’m no Biblical scholar. I just find this stuff interesting. The incongruence between your perspective and Mike’s caught my attention. It seems the crux is whether a ‘bene elohim’ would have been thought of in a same or similar way as a Greco-Roman god. From my lay-person perspective it seems those books could provide insight into how ‘bene elohim’ were conceived of at the time.

  • Norman

    There may be an allusion or tie in to Genesis 6 with the Sons of God (Eloheem) marrying the daughters of men (aw-dawm/Israel). This brought judgment due to corruption and pollution upon the leaders (sons of Eloheem) and upon those they corrupted. I would tend to be cautious in overly simplifying what Christ and the apostles often were doing with the scriptures. I don’t say that from a modern standpoint but from us still not fully grasping their Midrash (hermeneutic) and the principles it utilized. Christ (or the writer of John’s) point may well have been an allusion of judgment upon the Jewish leadership whom were classified as corrupt rulers of the people. That is a common theme we see emphasized over and over in the OT and reflected in the NT as justification for their replacement.

    It brings to mind the saying that “out of Egypt I have called” being possibly misunderstood by modern interpreters as well. The Gospel writer lays out the scene that Israel had become Egypt with Herod acting the role of Pharaoh and thus like Moses whom Christ is being alluded too is called to leave Egypt (or sometimes its Sodom) and then consequently return to the place of liberation where God’s people had become abused and enslaved. Taking Christ to Egypt may very well have been to drive that point home about who had now become Egypt (it is a role reversal for Israel). The Gospel stories were written to illustrate that comparison to the condition of Israel having exchanged places with Egypt to the point of enslaving the people of God. The NT writers constantly used the OT as patterns that Christ and the church fulfilled. When you look for the forest instead of the trees, sometimes Hebrew literature starts to make some sense even to moderns.
    But yes Jesus would likley get fired today and have to join up with Pete and others in order to spread the Good news. ;)

    • peteenns

      Norman, for what it’s worth, re: your second paragraph, that is more or less what I (and most everyone I’ve read, except some evangelicals) say about Matthew–Egypt/Moses connections. That’s Matthew’s schtick. The more narrow point, though, is that Hos 11:1 has to be read midrashically to get that. The Jesus/Moses parallel isn’t “in” Hos, which is a point some wish to make.

      • Norman

        Pete,
        Glad to hear that. I was a little concerned that many of our scholars would not want to embrace the hermeneutic that appears obvious the NT writers did. I keep hearing about how the Early Church played fast and loose with the OT scriptures and that there really was not a common theme of messianic coming embedded in the OT. I really believe that the OT was heavily weighted toward a veiled literature that embraced that concept and the Early Christians embraced it whole heartily. Kind of like Jesus constant use of parables.

        Oh I do believe the tie in with Hosea 11 is there but it’s the context that precedes and follows it that sets the stage for it’s application.

        Thanks
        Norm

        • peteenns

          I think you may have missed my meaning. I am most definitely not saying what you mean when you say that messianic coming is “embedded in the OT.” Rather, the notion of “messiah” was reframed, transformed (pick the word that works for you) by NT writers to account for Jesus’ death and resurrection, which was not part of the messianic playbook–new wine in old wineskins, and all that. To call their handling of Scripture “fast and loose” is, ironically, to be beholden to a modernist hermeneutic rather than an ancient one.

          • Norman

            Pete,
            I’m not saying the NT writers played fast and loose with the OT scriptures. I saying that some critical historical scholars today seem to think they did. I perceive that the NT writers were using a consistent hermeneutic (Midrash if you will) that fell in place (at least in their minds and in their literature) to validate Jesus as the foretold messiah. It seems fairly obvious that is what they perceived. Therefore I’m not going to disagree with your take on their “reframing” the OT to apply as they obviously did. I just believe that generally speaking historical critical scholars try to say the “reframing” is uncalled for in the original context of the OT scriptures which I would debate that nuanced conclusion. I think the OT and especially 2nd T literature definitely calls for a messiah, it just doesn’t spell out all the details that accomplished Christ. Although one might say the Isaiah 53 and assorted other scriptures come very close in some details.
            As a follow up it becomes clear that the approach of the early church required interpreters of the OT as the Eunuch story in Acts illustrates vividly.

            Act 8:30-35 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked,

            “Do you understand what you are reading?”
            And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

            And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

            “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip,

            “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

            Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

  • rvs

    I found your conclusion to be especially inspiring. It is all eisegesis (Christian reader response)! I know that’s not what you are saying, but it’s what I am trying to hear. I certainly think the it’s-all-eisegesis argument is better than the over-the-top exegetical claims made by the fundamentalists (i.e., exegesis-mongering; hermeneutical bullying, which probably happens because such readers have that nagging feeling that Scripture is a bit more like a Shakespeare play than a set of instructions on how to assemble a cabinet).

  • dangjin

    I find it kind of funny that fallible, imperfect and doubting people actually think they can tell the infallible, holy, and perfect Jesus how to read & apply the OT

  • Bill

    Some simple thoughts:

    1. Ascribing the label ‘son of God (X, Y or Z)’ was common in cultures around the Mare. Augustus, née Octavian, for example.

    2. The statement “I and the Father are one” does not necessarily mean ‘the same essence’! The word “one” was ambiguous then as now! Jesus is saying that he has no fear of judgment by God for he is living as a person who could be called ‘a son of God’ because he is an Other-Centered blessing/benefit to those in need as is required to have the label! Same reason for Augustus’ label!

    3. Jesus doesn’t ‘misquote’ the Psalm. He cites the Ps to tell those wanting to judge him (stone the man) that they really should be concerned about God judging them for being self-centered, unjust leaders.

  • Daniel McDonald

    I won’t try to explain this passage, but one thing I have found useful in exploring the Scriptures is to take how a New Testament or Christ expresses an event as a fulfillment of the Scriptures and then read back into the Old Testament to see if you can see or feel around until you see a sort of logic. Like the second inventor, reverse engineering can be used to discover truths you read right over many times. The fact that God’s Word and God Himself could be revealed at all through the Law, the Scriptures, the Prophets, or the gathered nation suggests an incarnation of God into his chosen humanity. Ultimately that one chosen humanity is the Son of David long awaited. In Eastern Orthodoxy sanctification is called “deification” a state of union with God in the divine life. Our lives are connected to God’s life so that we according to St. Peter participate in divine life. I think sometimes we think our Lord and the Apostles were playing loose with the Scriptures when instead they were presenting and showing as revealed the astonishing story of redemption that was concealed until the time it was to be revealed. A sort of reverse engineering helps to see links from the Old to the New that one did not see until he looked back from the later teaching showing the older teaching. The same is true in Ephesians 5 when St. Paul quotes “a man shall leave his father and his mother and the two shall become one” only to simply say that he was talking of Christ and the Church. Then it becomes clear that the son of the woman and the Son of God united in one person had to leave both his father and mother to bring about the redemption of God’s people by marrying himself to the Church. I think “reverse engineering” studying of the Scriptures often allows us to see a wonderful and majestic perspective of the Old Testament laying down the foundation for the New, often in mystery.

  • Josh

    Jesus and Apostles – Using Creative Jewish Interpretation
    = Scriptural arguments accepted
    Early Church (100-400) – Using Creative Jewish Interpretation
    = Scriptural Arguments (accessed by modern standards) Rejected.

    Early church believed them, we don’t.

    I think the answer to your question is no Jesus wouldn’t get hired to teach the OT’. But then again… he probably wouldn’t want the job either…. But He would preach anyhow …. And gain a following of church and society rejects …. And then the seminary would condemn him … Maybe crucify him …

  • James

    I think we read meaning into the Bible whether we like it or not. The human subject always ‘contaminates’ the data and skews the results like in quantum mechanics. Yes, the Bible has its own “interpretive dynamic” which we do well to study (books like the Evolution of Adam help us along that line), but each of us brings our own interpretive dynamic to the text (exposing our very lives to God) and that not just being post modern!

  • Andrew Watson

    why do we seem to be blind to things like irony, hyperbole and exaggeration to prove a point in scripture, where we would understand it that way in other texts.?
    It seem to me that this idea that scripture MUST be taken literally at all points strips away the meaning of passages that were never meant to be taken literally in the first place. The Rulers are called Gods because thats how they view themselves..
    Jesus is saying that they themselves feel they have the authority of God so why are they bothered by him saying that?

  • Paul

    “anchoring one’s views by means of a creative handling of scripture was part and parcel of Jewish interpretation for generations before Jesus came on the scene. One of those creative techniques was to deliberately isolate a few words or a verse from its surrounding context and work it to make a point”

    Jewish rabbis did try to order their ideas and actions with the language of their scriptures. Jesus did follow suit. The goal wasn’t understand the meaning of the ancient text, but bringing out the theological significance of living or thinking a certain way in the present. So OT texts are appropriated and arranged creatively by Rabbi Hillel, Jesus and the apostle Paul. However, that did not mean “anything goes.” They argued back and forth with the fundamental conviction that there was a right way to order one’s life and beliefs. There was a way to discern the theological meaning of events and individuals by looking for parallels in how God’s ways had been described in the past. That is the driving goal behind Jesus, Paul and other NT actors’ use of scriptural language in defining themselves, their community, recent events, etc.

  • SpyPlus

    My pastor would say jesus had the illumination of the holy spirit and passages like these and messianic prophesies are dual fold. You do believe in the magical force of the holy Spirit rather than human reasoning dont you???

  • Janine Hennig

    I’m not sure if this comment has been made before, but it struck me as I read John 10:34 that Jesus refers to the words in the Psalm as “your law” not “the law”. Is Jesus making a point here that “the Jews” were constantly making law out of a whole range of texts and if so, then he could use the words in that Psalm to skirt their blasphemy law because he had another law to annul it?
    Jesus was no doubt aware of the Psalmists words, but to refer to it as “your law” instead of “the law” suggests he had no intention of applying such words as law himself, but is simply throwing back the ludicrous nature of their conduct in making so many laws.
    Thus, when Jesus says “and the scripture cannot be broken” he could also be throwing that statement back at them too. If they were strong believers that the scripture cannot be annulled, then they needed to apply the Psalm at face value and even more so the first section of the Psalm which they were great at ignoring.

  • PeterH

    It seems to me that your whole point is based upon an assumption – that Psalm 82 is about the “kings of the earth” from which, you try to link the expression “sons of the Most High” with the notion that ancient kings marketed themselves as sons of their pagan gods.

    I disagree with this interpretation. I think the psalmist is talking about the rulers of Israel, not the “kings of the earth” generally. As such, Jesus’ use of this context has more potent force. “The Jews” (religious leaders/rulers) to whom he spoke were THEMSELVES “gods” if they believed they understood the word of God correctly. So why should they accuse Jesus of “making himself God” because he also claimed the same thing – to be one with God?

    There’s more! If you think about the expression “sons of God” as meaning “having the same family characteristics” and follow it through John’s gospel and elsewhere in the NT, the message of the Psalmist to Israel’s rulers and of Jesus to the Jewish elite becomes even more powerful. For example: “if you were Abraham’s children you would do the works of Abraham” … “you do the deeds of your father” … “They said to him … we have one Father, God” … “if God were your father, you would love me” (John 10:39-44).

    The “sons of the Most High” were called such in the OT because they represented God to the people. The king also was God’s “son” which is why Psalm 2 says “you are my son; today I have begotten you” and of Solomon “I will be to him a father and he will be to me, a son”. Nothing to do with pagan princes and their deities at all. Therefore the premise fails and along with it, your conclusion about Jesus’ “creative handling of Scripture”.

  • William T.

    You wrote “John’s less than delicate way of referring to the religious elite who opposed Jesus, which obscures that Jesus was a Jew, too.

    This glosses over the fact that there were two kinds of Jews in Jesus day. There were Israelite Judeans who were more than mere citizens of Judea, but also covenant people. This is what type of Jew Jesus was.

    Then there were John Hyrcanus converted Edomites Jews who were of Esau, rather than Jacob – citizens of Judea but not Israelites. These were not only the religious elite but also the political elite too (Herod anyone?) Jesus was not this type of Jew.

    Accordingly, there was tension between ‘true’ Judeans and false “Jews”. Jesus was an Israelite Judean, while many of his opponents were Edomite ‘Jews’.

  • Henry

    It seems to me that Jesus is actually using sarcasm here instead of trying to engage in deep scriptural study. He is referencing Psalm 82 and calling the religious leaders “gods” to criticize their pride. While the religious leaders criticize Jesus for calling Himself God, Jesus criticizes them for acting as if they were gods.


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