Elohim -- human or divine in Psalm 82?

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Sun Sep 3 16:57:38 EDT 2000

Dear George,

You write:

>I agree that the judges were representatives God [in Exodus 22:8-9]. But
>the judges themselves are not
>"gods". Jesus reply in Jn 10 makes far more sense if he is referring to
>divine beings,
>because he is making the claim that he himself is divine. If he was merely
>referring to
>human judges, then he is simply calling himself a man. I don't think this
>is what the
>Gospel is trying to say. On the contrary, it is making the claim that
>Jesus is God.

Jesus is defending his right to call God his Father (John 10:30-31), since
the people had stoned Him for this claim. Yes, the Jews accused Him of
blasphemy because he as a man made himself God (v. 33). Jesus defended his
use of Father and Son as describing his relationship with God by citing
Psalm 82. The argument reasons from the lesser to the greater. If mere
judges had the honorific of "gods," how much more did the Messiah have the
right to call himself the "Son of God." Of course, the Messiah was to be
God's son (Ps 89:26-27). Jesus was the one whom the Father sanctified and
sent into the world (John 10:36), the Shepherd of Israel (John 10:26-27):
"But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep."

If Jesus had argued that the angels were called "gods," the Jews could have
replied that it was one thing for angels to take such a title and another
thing altogether for a man to claim it. It served Jesus' purposes better to
argue that other human beings bore the title of "gods."

>Then what purpose does it serve to say that the "gods" (presuming they are
>men here) would
>die like mere men if they were always going to die as mere men? If it was
>always going to
>be the case, then why say "like mere men"?

No one appointed them as judges so that they could show favoritism to
wicked men, as they were doing (Ps 82:2). The title of "gods" in the sense
of representatives of God had gone to their heads, so that they imagined
themselves free of the divine authority. The psalmist reminds these people
that they are mere mortals. They will have to stand before God and answer
for their actions. They need to wake up and realize their accountability to
God as mere men. Since there is a judgment coming at death, they should
change their behavior now.

> No, in the case of Ps 82, the gods of the
>divine council are condemned to die like mere men because they fail to
>govern the earth
>properly. No one expects the gods to die as mere men, so their
>condmenation to die as mere
>men is quite telling. This Psalsm calls for an end to henotheism with its
>national deities
>each ruling a particular domain, and calls for a new monotheism in which a
>single deity
>governs the entire earth. Notice that the scope isn't simply national
>Israel, but
>universal. The gods of the nations -- not the judges of Israel -- have
>failed to govern
>the world. Therefore God must needs sack this cabinet and assume
>autocratic control

I do not have many study tools here, but both F. Delitzsch and The NIV
Study Bible take Psalm 82 to describe human judges. The study Bible sees
them standing before the heavenly court. Your interpretation is plausible,
but it really seems to be the jurisdiction of men more than angels to
secure justice for the poor and the orphan. These were responsibilities for
the leadership in Israel. The idea that God is chastising the gods of the
nations for failure in this regard seems a bit foreign to me. The OT denies
the reality of the gods of the nations; it does not give them an identity
and then belittle them for failure.

I do not say that your view is impossible. I just do not find it as
probable as the one that I am presenting.

				Harold Holmnyard

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