In John 10:30-36 (NASB), Jesus responds to an accusation of blasphemy by quoting the Old Testament:

30I and the Father are one.” 31The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? 35If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

How is this response to be interpreted? Who are the "gods" referred to in the quotation, and how is Jesus relating them to himself as "Son of God"?

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    This is a reference to Psalm 82:6. (That might help someone wiser than me who's trying to figure this one out.)
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 18:48
  • On this site, personal interpretations are to be avoided, and the text itself looked to for the meaning intended. I would suggest the OPs penultimate sentence should read, "How did Jesus' audience understand his meaning?" On that basis I will offer a belated answer.
    – Anne
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 15:37

11 Answers 11


First, to recap, Jesus had just made some pretty huge claims, culminating in the one you quoted in v30. They Jews were incensed by this, and about to stone him for blasphemy, when he went with the "not guilty" plea, and used this quote from Psalm 82 as his defense.

His argument is this: If God himself (speaking through the Psalmist) can refer to another as 'gods' in some sense, than it is not necessarily blasphemy for Jesus to make himself out to be 'god'. He takes the argument further, but let us pause at that point.

I find it helpful to consider who is being referred to as 'gods' in the Psalm. There main options are

  1. Israel's judges
  2. Angels or (more generally) angelic beings
  3. Israel as a nation, when the law was received.

As to avoid getting too far off the topic at hand (though it could be a great follow-up), I'll skip the reasoning, and jump to what I think is correct here--namely the third option. By understanding Israel to be the referent here, there are a couple of key concepts tacitly imported into Jesus's citation:

  1. The Psalm goes on to say "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you". Whoever is being spoken of as 'gods' is also spoken of as God's 'sons'.

  2. Israel is God's firstborn son. (Ex 4:22) Jesus had not long prior had a lengthy discourse on this typology in John 8:31ff

It is a bit clever, in fact, for him to cite this verse without mentioning this half of it, because, though they hadn't brought it up explicitly, Jesus had been using Father-Son language, and is about to make it even more explicit. Not only is he God, but he is the Son of God.

The mere citation of the verse, however, does not quite prove that he and the Father are one. That is clearly a stronger claim than the Psalm makes. That said, when faced with an angry mob, one cannot say enough for the wisdom in getting them to put down their stones before beginning a theological debate.

So, at least on the base level that the ought to find traction with the initial hearers, the citation of the verse says little more than "Hey, God can called people 'gods', so it's not necessarily blasphemy for me to call myself 'god.'"

But, of course, while giving himself a little breathing room, Jesus is setting himself up for the bigger argument. In the following verses, he says, by way of kal vachomer (קל וחומר‎) argument that he does in fact mean more than the minimum this verse implies.

For although he has just shown that all of Israel can be called 'gods', God the Father had consecrated Jesus and sent him into the world, so he must be worthy of the title 'god' in an even greater sense.

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    Wow! Nicely done. I've read comments that Jesus in John is arrogant and in the Synoptics he's humble to the point of not letting people call him God. (Based mostly on verses such as Mark 1:24-5, I think.) This is a useful story to illustrate why Jesus sometimes held off on claiming all of his titles at once. Thanks. Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 23:30
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    Beautiful answer. I'd be curious however what you think about what makes answers more suitable for here vs. C.SE. In one section here you "skip the reasoning" that would seem to me to be the point of a hermeneutics site and "jump to what you think is correct" which would seem to be what is happening on C.SE in general. Not saying this is a bad answer here, just curious how you see the big picture.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 8, 2011 at 18:32
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    @Caleb, it sounds like what you're getting at is that you'd expect BH.SE to be more exegetically rigorous that C.SE might have been up to this point. Exegetical rigor is definitely called for; there were two main reasons that I skipped it where mentioned: 1) Where I skipped the reasoning, it was for the Psalm, rather than the immediate text in question. 2) I wanted to keep the scope of the question under control. It seems appropriate to me that not every piece of background information would need to be proved in each question, or every answer would be a monster.
    – Ray
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 0:37
  • @Ray: Good thoughts, thanks for detailing that. Those are some good things to think about for what makes an answer good or not specifically on this site.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 19:19
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    Plus 1 for showing the kal vachomer rule interpretation. Meaning, light and heavy, it was a rabbinic method for arguing from something minor we know, we conclude this major. Kinda like an inductive proof in mathematics. An example, "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts, how much more so will your father in heaven give good gifts to his children." Kal vachomer is often indicated by the phrase "how much more so" in English translations.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 18:37


While I would agree with the statements of Ray's answer, that Jesus is giving himself "breathing room" and is setting up (and continuing a larger point) arguments for his deity, I also believe that this text uses a cutting pun that is revealed in a broader examination of the text's context as well as the five separate Hebrew meanings of the word "god." What follows is a portion of a masters term paper on this very passage, hence the length. (If you're interested, i can pass along the other 50+ pages). For those looking for the 'quick and dirty' response, skip down to the section "John 10:34-36 – “I said you are gods."

Analysis of 8:48-10:42

John 8:48-59 – Jesus superiority to Abraham, and threats to stone Him

Our context opens with conflict. In truth, the context here could be explored in 8:39-47 to see Jesus’ counter accusations, and then in 8:31-38 to see the development of the topic of Abraham in the conversation or even further back following connective statements; however, for the sake of not attempting a dissertation prematurely, this section has been chosen as a representative bookend to our passage. It represents the most pointed beginning to the rising conflict that we will see yet again in chapter 10. Our text begins with a conversation between Jesus and an unidentified “we.” While it might seem logical to stop in 8:31 to determine the identity, given that this is the closest identification of His audience, we will come to a dilemma: How can those who believe in him in verse 31 be accusing him of having a demon in 8:48? Following the conversation further back we see that this phrase is meant more as an aside to those who have believed him who are in the midst of a crowd, a crowd that contains some number of Pharisees (8:13) and are making antagonistic remarks that are very consistent with the words of 8:48. Therefore, our scene develops with the characters of Jesus and a crowd of Jews containing Pharisees, but where does the scene take place?

To determine a geographical and temporal setting we must continue our search backwards in the text until we arrive in the treasury of Jerusalem (8:20) after having left Galilee half-way through the Feast of Booths (7:14). Jesus’ choice to return to Jerusalem is not one that was chosen lightly. His travel to Jerusalem will mark the beginning of His long-awaited “hour” (2:4, 7:6, 30). His only ministry outside of Jerusalem after this will be in Bethany with Lazarus’ family (11-12:11). After entering the city, he is accused of having a demon (7:20), suffers an attempted arrest (7:32), and sees divisions as the result of His teaching (7:40-52); His hour is indeed at hand.

As a part of this rising conflict, Jesus enters the dialogue of 8:48-59. Jesus’ point can be indicated on the lips of the audience: “Are you greater that our father Abraham?” and Jesus’ subsequent reply, “Before Abraham was, I am.” John’s usage of ἐγὼ εἰμί here without a supplied predicate or implied predicate demands attention. Where other usages of this phrase have been questioned concerning their implication of Jesus’ claim to be the “I AM,” this passage’s implication is rarely questioned by scholars. If one does not accept this view, they are still faced with the question, “If Jesus is not being stoned for claiming to be God, for what sin are they attempting to stone him in connection to this phrase?”

John 9:1-7 – Jesus heals a man born blind

A theological error in the Biblical setting, as well as the modern setting, is central to the narrative concerning the man born blind; being the thought that “sin and suffering are intimately connected.” The disciples and Pharisees (9:34), like much of the culture of that day, held this opinion, and their question concerning this spawns the healing encounter. While in a broad theological sense it could be said that they are wrestling with the implication and significance of the Fall, it could also be said that they have failed to take into account the entirety of the counsel of the scriptures (Job, and to the error today, Galatians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 12:7). While Jesus does not disavow a general connection between sin and suffering, he completely refutes a specific connection on the individual level between the two. This teaching was derived from secular and religious sources: The Greco-Roman culture taught that the gods and Fate inflicted maladies on those who countered their will; and some Rabbis taught that childlessness was due to sin, even going so far as to speculate on the specific sin of Job’s sons that resulted in their death. John’s usage of ἐπέχρισεν (anoint) has been speculated, given his common use of double entendre, to draw the reader to the focus on the healing property given the ‘anointing’ aspect of other healing events (Mark 6:13, 17, Luke 7:18, 46). Finally, the passage ends with a bit of a word play; the Sent One sends the blind man to the Sent Pool. We are reminded here of another pool, with no intrinsic power to heal, to whom Jesus sent another man; that being Bethesda (5:1-9). Like then, without “the Sent One,” the water means nothing, but rather that God has spoken is all that matters.

John 9:8-23 – Primary investigations into the healing

There are three primary investigations: the neighbors, the Pharisees’ questioning of the man, and then their questioning of the family. The man’s own neighbors find it so impossible to believe that they offer the counter argument that the blind man is missing and that a new man, looking like the first, has come. Perhaps this convoluted scenario is prompted by the assumption that this is absolutely impossible (9:32). The confused populace desires insight into this matter and, therefore, goes to their local religious leaders. No intended harm must be assumed on the part of the neighbors – at the very least, not from the text. Had they intended a legal proceeding against the man, the Pharisees would not be the proper ‘court’ to which to appeal.

As we look to the trial of the blind man before the Pharisees, the word οἶδα (blind) will be repeated throughout the dealing, not only in describing the event, but also on the mouth of Jesus to teach and rebuke in the midst of the event (9:12, 20-21,24-25, 29-31). The Pharisees’ hearing of the event sparks a controversy primarily concerning interpretation of the law: Does Jesus break the Sabbath by healing? The text records that this spawns a division among the Pharisees. What is truly ironic concerning the passage and should not be missed (and in fact Jesus uses later on) is that those with sight are going to a man born blind for guidance, a man who in fact, according to the text, had never physically seen Jesus.

Finally the Pharisees arrive among the family of the man born blind, having apparently fallen into the convoluted explanation of some of the neighbors. John’s usage of ἐφώνησαν not only signifies a transition from one scene to the other, but also invokes images of the power and influence at the Pharisees’ disposal. The parents confirm what they would be expert witnesses in, the state of the child at birth, but, due to the implications of the questions concerning their son’s opinion of Jesus, John informs us of the mental acts of the parents, that they did not answer for fear of the actions of the Pharisees. To the growing population of believers to whom John is writing, this passage concerning parents who refuse to believe along with their son may have been all the more applicable as they faced similar hardships.

John 9:24-34 – Verdict of the Pharisees

Three questions are begged in this section: 1) Is Jesus a sinner, having broken the Law concerning the Sabbath? 2) Are the Pharisees truly disciples of Moses? 3) What is Jesus’ true nature? The dilemma of final questioning is established quickly; the man born blind and the Pharisees are at odds over the most simple of questions: Is Jesus a sinner? The Pharisees establish their position that Jesus is a sinner rather contemptuously, referring to Jesus not by name, but merely as ἄνθρωπος, Sadly, the man born blind comes “with a knife to a gun fight,” responding by contradicting their wisdom and establishing “merely” his testimony as contrary evidence. The Pharisees again enter into the same line of questioning, causing one to take pause. Why would one ask the same question repeatedly? Are the Pharisees hard of hearing?; if not, then are they attempting to trap the man in some slip up in his testimony? Surely this would be below such a court! With the same sarcasm here demonstrated, the man born blind changes his cordial dialogue and employs a mastery of sarcasm and replies by asking if perhaps they harbored some secret desire to become followers of Christ themselves and were, therefore, wishing to hear his story again.

They retort that this man is a disciple of Jesus, but that they are, in fact, disciples of Moses, a “fact” that John seems to question. In reference to the religious leaders, John cites Jesus in 5:45-47 by stating that if they were truly Moses’ disciples they would have believed Jesus. Further, Keener makes the argument that, Hillel, the founder of the dominant Pharisaic tradition of John’s day, believed that those who were truly disciples of Aaron (and by connection, Moses) were those who loved their fellow man and drew them near to the Torah, versus those who thrust them away. Finally, the blind man must set the record straight concerning the origin of Jesus’ coming, an irony not lost on him (9:30). His argument is a simple one – in fact overly simplistic – but is effective in communicating his point. Certainly we should not derive a theology from this man’s words that all things of benefit that are spiritually derived are therefore from God (2 Thes. 2:9). Nevertheless, his point is made: Jesus is doing the will of God, if He was not from God, he could do nothing; and with this the Pharisees have the answer they desire. The Pharisees have prejudged Jesus as a sinner, and now this man has unequivocally identified with Him. By virtue of their logic, the man born blind has called God a sinner, giving them ample evidence to cast him out of the synagogue.

John 9:35-41 – Verdict of Jesus

Jesus’ involvement then is two-fold: to accept the rejected man, and to reject those that cast him out; he does so by way of a play on words with regard to blindness. To the man born blind, he has seen his redemption, the Son of Man, the Coming One, the one lifted up to heal, to judge and reward, and the one who comes to do the will of the Father (1:51, 3:14, 5:27, 6:27, 8:28). On the other hand, those who see, are declared blind to this fact; and having the capability to see, yet choosing to be blind to God’s redemption from sin, means they are still in their sin.

John 10:1-6 – Jesus the true shepherd, not a stranger

Jesus here enters into a παροιμία (figure of speech, allegory, parable), utilizing the imagery of sheep. The parables treatment of the sheep should perhaps be read in light of the treatment of the Pharisees of the blind man. John’s commentary that the crowd did not understand should not be brushed aside quickly given the context. The phrase, “ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν,” is used almost exclusively throughout John’s gospel to introduce a solemn declaration concerning Jesus and his purpose, causing us all the more to take pause at what Jesus is revealing in this section, as well as the one to follow.

John 10:7-21 – Jesus expands and explains; I am the good shepherd

Within this section we see an extended metaphor for God’s people in terms of shepherding. Shepherding was a common metaphor for the relationship between God’s people and Israel used in the Prophets and Wisdom literature (Isaiah 40:11, Psalm 23). In the context of Jesus speaking to an urban crowd and of John writing to a large and mixed audience throughout the empire, the question arises: Why would Jesus, and later John, refer to Him in terms of one of the most universally despised occupations? The widespread perception of these individuals was one in which they were viewed as being rough, unscrupulous, and in some cases, thieves. Certainly Jesus and John have a very pointed reason for including such a literary device. It has been stated in much of scholarship that Jesus leans heavily on Ezekiel 34. What follows is a basic comparison:

John 10:1-18
10:1-6 – False shepherd vs. the true shepherd
10:7-10 – He is the true shepherd; all others are robbers
10:11-13 – He is the good shepherd who lays down his life; the others do not care for the sheep
10:14-18 – He is the good shepherd who knows his own and who will seek them out

Ezekiel 34
34:1-10 – Prophecy against the shepherd of Israel for their mistreatment
34:11-16 – God Himself will become the shepherd to seek and save
34:17-24 – God himself will judge amongst his flock concerning who muddies the waters, tramples the grass, and between the weak and abusive sheep

Therefore, we see that common to both are the following: evil shepherds who abuse (by action or neglect) the flock for their own gain and safety; evil shepherds are rejected; a new God-approved shepherd is introduced, and this “Good Shepherd” cares for the flock and judges rightly. If this passage is in mind in Jesus’ telling of the parable, then what remains to be discussed is how these individuals should be seen. Jesus clearly indicates himself as the Good Shepherd. The evil shepherds who abuse the flock (given the context of the abuse of the blind man) could be easily seen as the Pharisees, as Jesus’ rejection of their ruling in verse 41 would incline that he has rejected them. A few outliers remain: What of Ezekiel’s abusive sheep, and what of David as the shepherd? Yet again, it must be stressed that while we cannot read post-Jamnian practices into the pre-Jaminian world, is it too far a stretch to believe that Jesus, while obviously borrowing from Ezekiel, does not also have in mind the whole text; and likewise his reader; in other words, is what we see here a nascent ‘remez’ usage, perhaps in a far more biblically faithful fashion than it would later be used? Given the nature of the Pharisees’ treatment of the people of their day (Matt. 23:4 and the man born blind, and the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda), it is not hard to imagine that Jesus has these individuals in view concerning people who make it difficult for his people to be ‘nourished.’ Given Ezekiel’s authorship after the deportation to Babylon in 597 BCE, his reference is clearly not to the literal David, but to one of David’s line, allowing this shepherd to be Jesus. Zechariah also offers an extensive shepherding metaphor, but for the sake of brevity it will not be discussed here. It should be mentioned that in the treatment of these passages few commentators give it the place of Ezekiel in consideration, although fascinating parallels abound in that text as well.

Given the preceding context of 10:1-6, that Jesus’ sheep ‘know his voice’ (vs. 4) and the Pharisees cannot comprehend Him, it is more than a subtle implication that they are not of his flock – an enormous statement given that to which Jesus has just alluded: that He is the good shepherd of God’s flock, therefore to be outside of His flock is to be outside of God’s people. Jesus’ words cause a division among the people: some agree with the man born blind’s conclusion that this man cannot have a demon and that He has come from God while others remain steadfast in their condemnation.

John 10:22-23 – Location and Time

We are now moved to the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, the celebration of the purification and rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus on December 25, 165 BCE after its capture, plundering and defiling by the Syrians three years earlier. Jesus returns to the Temple grounds where he would often teach and preach. Given the time of year, his presence in the covered colonnade of Solomon makes sense within the meteorological context; and John points this out, given that this is the area where the first believers would gather.

John 10:24-30 – Inquiry, Response and pronouncement

While Jesus’ conversations concerning the blind man and his parables concerning the Good Shepherd and this context are separated by some unstated amount of time (of what length there is no telling), John’s placement of the two events and the Pharisees’ continued questioning tie the texts together in theme; and furthermore, Jesus continues using the flock analogy to teach in this section (10:26-27), so we should hesitate to put asunder what Jesus and John have joined together. The question remains, in this new scene does the audience remain the same? Perhaps the question they ask in verse 24 informs us as they request to be told παρρησία (plainly) if he is the Messiah which is somewhat the contrary of παροιμία (parable, “hidden saying”) in verse 6. While it may be impossible to determine the audience as remaining the Jews and the Pharisees who had issued judgment against the man born blind in the previous scene, it is certainly not impossible and perhaps likely. Here Jesus plainly states what we have alluded to previously in that they do not hear and believe Jesus because they are not a part of God’s flock (10:26). Here, in fact, Jesus’ indictment against them is all the more strong, cutting them off from eternal life (10:28). Jesus ends with the pronouncement that will be central to the rising conflict in the next section: “I and the Father are one.” The word ‘one’ here is the neuter form hen, versus the masculine form heis, implying unity in action more than unity in person. While it might be tempting then to see this in a non-Trinitarian light, the opposite is in fact the case. Jesus is not the same person as the Father; therefore, we see Jesus praying to Him and being commissioned by Him. While not being one single person, they are rather singularly one in purpose and action, as only one unified being can be; therefore this verse does not stand against Trinitarian theology, but stands rather squarely in support of it.

John 10:31- 33 – The rising conflict

No matter what the modern interpreters’ confusion may be concerning Jesus’ proclamation, the crowds’ understanding is telling – they believe that he is making himself God. Jesus uses a response that establishes the contrast in the situation: the mob attempts to stone him vs. Jesus, who has done good works. Yet given the context of the holiday, it is no small charge that they bring against him. Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, the man whom Hanukkah celebrated deliverance from, claimed himself to be a deity and was successful in causing some Jews to fall away and follow him. Therefore the claim against Jesus that he was “making himself God” was in part to exploit the Jewish nationalism of the ceremony that was being celebrated.

John 10:34-36 – “I said you are gods”

According to most commentators, Jesus now enters into an in-depth etymological study of the word “god” with an angry crowd of individuals holding stones. If this summation seems preposterous, perhaps it is deserved. While Jesus may veil his meaning within this etymological argument (as he has recently veiled his deity within a rather vague declaration), his point is wholly other. To argue the contrary is to ignore the context of the passage and the passage that Jesus quotes. Central here is Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 82, let us again compare:

John 9-10 Vs. 13-34 – The respected rulers/judges of Israel gather and make a series of unjust judgments of a formerly afflicted and destitute man who walked about in darkness, who cannot make arguments on their level
Vs. 35-10:21 – Jesus arises and makes judgments against them

Psalm 82
Vs.1 - God takes his place among the gods/rulers/judges to hold judgment
Vs. 2 – Rebuke of unjust judgment
Vs. 3-4 – Protect, defend, and preserve justice of the weak, fatherless, afflicted, and destitute
Vs. 5 – These have no knowledge or understanding and walk about in darkness
Vs. 6-7 – “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the most high” but you will die
Vs. 8 – God arise and make your judgment

If the context of this passage is truly the totality of chapters 9-10 and further, it is impossible to escape the thematic connection between these verses. If Jesus is not intending the entirety of the context of Psalm 82, then, in fact, the only option remaining is a bizarre veiled attempt to save his life for the time being by means of an etymological study. Alternatively, if we see this text as a part of a large string of rebukes in which Jesus has rejected the ruling of the rulers, called them spiritually blind and remaining in their sin, rejected them from God’s flock, and called them thieves and cowardly hirelings, is it too hard to accept that Jesus and John culminate this pericope with a reference to the Psalms that so succinctly restates not only their sin but also they’re judgment? Perhaps Ridderbos misses the mark most completely; “The assumption is then that the “gods” in the Psalm are judges, and point to Jesus as the coming world judge, the role in which he often reveals himself in John. But this view is not supported in the text. There is no echo here [in John 10] of the judicial role of those addressed in Psalm 82…” In this we agree: There is no echo of judicial judgment, only because of the blaring loudness of chapter 9 that would drown out such an echo. In conclusion, approaching this text from a primarily etymological standpoint would be akin to approaching a Van Gogh painting from the range of one inch; you would have a great appreciation for that one inch, and in the process would miss the entire beauty and subject matter of the work. Is this a plain declaration of Jesus’ divinity? No, but it is equally not an argument of primarily semantics. If we allow the scriptures to interpret the scriptures and apply the premise that this is, in fact, the context of a pronouncement saying therefore, “designed to epitomize a key aspect of [Jesus’] life or teaching,” Jesus’ self-identification with the Father of Psalm 82 who rebukes the leader, as he just has, ties seamlessly with his proclamation of 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” Indeed, the scriptures cannot be broken; God is God, and man is still unjust. Greater study will be given to the word “god” in both Psalm 82 and John 10 in the coming fourth section. Jesus moves on to make it clear that they are attempting to stone one who has been consecrated or sanctified by God himself, which could be an ambiguous reference, in the context of the celebration of Hanukkah and of the consecration of the Temple, to the fact that Jesus is, in fact, the new Temple (2:21).

John 10:37-39 – Jesus appeals to his works

If the crowds will not accept his words, what is there left for them to accept but his actions, his actions that remain in keeping with the will of the Father? Jesus makes no claims that his relationship with the Father is based on His works, but rather the precise opposite: they flow from his identity in the Father. In these words the building controversies of chapters 5-10 come to an end, albeit an incomplete end. He pleads that they will shed their blindness and see his good works, to see his source, and to see the character of his coming; but they remain blind and worse in their blindness their hatred becomes stronger, and they attempt to arrest him.

John 10:40-42 – What did John say of Jesus?

Jesus escapes the scene to cross the Jordan and return to where his public ministry had begun; this marks the termination of his public ministry until the Passion. An interesting reflection is made by the author here, a comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus and John’s testimony of him. The author claims that what John had said of Jesus was true, but what had he said? John made the claim that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away sin (1:29), came from Heaven (2:31), would not be received (2:32), is the giver of Eternal life (2:36), but perhaps most interestingly given our context, John claimed that Jesus was the one who stood in the midst of the Pharisees that they did not know (1:26).

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    Welcome Jesse! This looks like a great and well-thought-out answer. I don't have time to read it in full at the moment, but I look forward to it! I've made a few formatting changes that help me follow along. As you've noticed, the answer may be edited more if you want to fix anything (including anything I might have messed up). Thanks for thinking about and providing a comprehensive answer. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 16:32
  • Thanks so much for the formatting changes, it reads much better now. Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 14:38
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    Since I think we've got our hook set (so to speak), I feel comfortable asking if you might edit this answer down to your central point. I'm notorious for providing long answers and I just can't get through this one. Even narrowing it down to just the John 10:34-36 section is difficult since there are bits and pieces I need to look up elsewhere. We could talk about it in The Library. Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 19:59
  • UGH, while i completely understand the thought here, and agree that it does need to be trimmed, you have no idea how hard it was to trim things down to this point, much less more. I'll make the attempt. Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 20:29
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    No hurry, by the way. I just feel bad that I didn't give your answer the time it deserves and I figure you ought to know the reason. ;-) Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 21:26

Jesus was quoting Psalm 82:6.

I said, “You are Elohim, sons of the Most High are you all.”

Elohim is one of the names of God, but it does not exclusively refer to Him. Elohim, the plural form of the singular noun elo'ah means "one[s] of power and authority," or simply "powers."

Elohim is used throughout the OT to refer to someone that is in a position of moral, spiritual or political authority.

For example, false gods and goddesses are called elohim.

You shall not recognize the gods [elohim] of others in My presence. (Exodus 20:3)

So are angels.

Yet, You have made him but slightly less than the angels [elohim], and crowned him with soul and splendor. (Psalms 8:6)

And so are judges.

...to the court [elohim] shall come both their claims. Whomever the court [elohim] finds guilty shall pay double to his fellow. (Exodus 22:8)

This title was given to Jewish judges because they were agents of God's Law, not because they were God in any way.

Similarly, Moses was called elohim.

...See, I have made you a master [elohim] over Pharoah... (Exodus 7:1)

So, Jesus's argument was basically “I only claimed to be an elohim, not the Elohim.”

  • Nice answer and welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics SE.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 4:35
  • +1 for laying out the concept of elohim. Right, that's the straightforward reading of what Jesus is saying. I would add that he's distinguishing himself from other elohim, because he then says he is the one "whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world" - more distinguished than the elohim being referred to. Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 0:35
  • While it is possible to take elohim to mean judge(s) the LXX translator rejected that and rendered it ἐγὼ εἶπα θεοί ἐστε, Gods not κριταὶ "judges." The claim to be God was in verse 30 "I and the Father are one" which the Jews took to mean equal to God (or Elohim). Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 6:47

From a non-trinitarian point of view, Jesus' answer is pretty straightforward.

The Jews claim he is blaspheming. Jesus then cites the judges in Psalm 82, who are called 'gods'. They are divine because they are representatives of God and have a privileged relationship with God.

The same goes for me, says Jesus, but even moreso. Jesus is a divine representative of God, and has a privileged relationship with God, as he is the begotten Son of God.

If Jesus thought he was God, his answer could be much more straightforward. "It's not blasphemy because God claiming to be God isn't blaspheming, sillies!" He does not do this. Either he's intentionally misleading the Jews (the trinitarian answer), or he's spelling out the nature of his 'one-ship' with God, which is similar to the judges in Psalm 82 but even moreso.

Addendum: to understand why Jesus' answer would be misleading, if Jesus is God, consider the following analogy. Frank puts on a disguise and goes to the bank to cash a cheque made out to Frank. The teller says "I'm sorry sir, but you're not Frank! I'm calling the police!" Frank then responds by saying "You know, there are people other than Frank who are authorized to cash his cheques" instead of telling the teller that he's, in fact, Frank. This is obviously misleading the teller.

Addendum 2: Some trinitarians point to the phrase 'The Father and I are one,' which precedes Jesus' reference to the judges in Psalm 82, as a definitive statement of equality between Jesus and the Father. The first point is that this statement is vague. That is exactly why, on a non-trinitarian reading of the text, Jesus then clarifies by reference to Psalm 82. 'How is it that God and I are one?' 'Look at the judges in Psalm 82, who are 'gods'. But even moreso for me.' But the judges in Psalm 82 are gods, not God. This interpretation of non-equality in the passage is backed up by text throughout the Gospels showing an unequal status between Jesus and the Father, but some immediate references are adequate to show the point. Just prior to this exchange, Jesus says "I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father." Are the sheep and Jesus equal, even though they know each other? No. The Father and Jesus are 'just as' the sheep and Jesus, so are the Father and Jesus equal? It doesn't appear to be what Jesus is claiming. Similarly, Jesus says "This charge I have received from My Father." Why would he need to receive a charge from the Father if they are equal? Similarly, "My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all." If Jesus and the Father are equal, how can the Father be greater than all? And so on throughout the Gospels.

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    Please do not misrepresent Trinitarians - they do NOT say that Jesus was "intentionally misleading the Jews". That is a complete misrepresentation of another's position!
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 21:26
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    I did not say that, nor did it enter my head. Ex 21 & 22 make that point clear as does Ps 82. This does not suggest that Jesus was intentionally misleading the Jews - that is an appalling accusation.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 22:31
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    The claim to be God is explicit equality with the Father, "I and the Father are one." Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 7:02
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    @JesusSaves The context is about the Jews wanting to stone Him for blasphemy which was making Himself equal to God. Apparently they understood Jesus to mean that God was more than the Father. Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 20:39
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    @JesusSaves The text answers your questions: “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.” (John 10:33) Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 21:04

The answer is GODS are GODS.1A fundamental purpose of the Fourth Gospel is to demonstrate the errors in monotheism as taught during the Second Temple period. The Old Testament is unquestionable in stating there are GODS, and the Israelites are to worship the GOD who brought them out of Egypt, who is the GOD of Abraham Isaac, and Jacob. The correct teaching is monolatry, the worship of one GOD from among the pantheon of GODS, not a monotheism which says there is one GOD and not GODS.

Jesus' first response attacks the type of monotheism of the Jews who want to stone Him:

30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 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.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken (John 10) [ESV]

Jesus goes right to the heart of their misunderstanding monolatry: the Scripture states there are GODS. Yet Jesus' response fails to directly address the specific offense which is you being a man make yourself equal to God. Obviously Jesus expects those listening to know the Scripture He is using. They would also know Jesus' did not cite the entire passage:

I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you (Psalm 82:6)

By failing to include you are...sons of the Most High (Elyon) He implies the Jews should apply the rest passage according to their monotheistic belief (i.e. Scripture cannot be broken) because earlier they made this claim:

You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” (John 8:41)

The Jews claim to have one Father, who would be Elyon in the passage Jesus used. So if Second Temple monotheism is going to deny there are GODS, then the Jews must be sons of the Most High. In principle, this is a defense against the charge that a man may claim to be one of the GODS because that is a direct result of the claim to have GOD as Father in the monotheistic system of the Second Temple. That is, the claim to have God as Father means a Jew is one of the GODS in the Psalm. One can imagine the sardonic look on Jesus' face as if to say Didn't you claim to be GODS?

This in no way represents Jesus understanding of the Psalm which becomes obvious as He continues:

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’?2(John 10:36)

Jesus never actually spoke the words *I am the Son of GOD". In fact, this is the first time in the Fourth Gospel where Jesus explicitly says He is the Son of God. Obviously the Psalm speaks of sons (plural) of God and there is no singular Son anywhere in the Psalm, unless the Son and Father are one: Elyon.

1. Capitalization did not exist in either the Hebrew or Greek at the time. To properly understand what was said and written one should not approach the text as if that was even possible at the time. God and god is an anachronistic concept. Thus I will treat the terms as they would be taken by the original audience.
2. εἶπον υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ εἰμι and not ἐγώ εἰμι υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ

  • "this is the first time in the Fourth Gospel where Jesus explicitly says He is the Son of God." How does this fit with John 5:16? "Now because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews began to persecute Him. But Jesus answered them, “To this very day My Father is at His work, and I too am working.” Because of this, the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him. Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." 'calling God His own Father' seems = 'the Son of God'? Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 19:28
  • What is your basis for "A fundamental purpose of the Fourth Gospel is to demonstrate the errors in monotheism as taught during the Second Temple period"? Does the Gospel of John say this is why it was written? Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 23:18

Psalm 82 (Psalm 81 in the Septuagint) is addressed to those in authority, upbraiding them for their mistreatment of those in their care. How long will ye judge unrighteously, asks the Psalmist:

Judge the orphan and poor: do justice to the low and needy. Rescue the needy, and deliver the poor out of the hand of the sinner (Psalm 81:3-4 LXX)*

Yes, ye are gods for the authority you have been given, the Psalm says, but ye die as men.

Jesus challenges his accusers that if those who bear divine authority can be called gods, how can they accuse Him when He himself is the very Son of God and performs miracles only God could perform.

John Chrysostom explains:

What He says is of this kind: “If those who have received this honor by grace, are not found fault with for calling themselves gods, how can He who hath this by nature deserve to be rebuked?” Yet He spoke not so, but proved it at a later time, having first relaxed and yielded somewhat in His discourse, and said, Whom the Father hath sanctified and sent (v.36). And when He had softened their anger, He brings forward the plain assertion. For a while, that His speech might be received, He spoke in a humbler strain, but then afterwards He raised it higher, saying If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works (Homily LXI on John)

* Since the Septuagint is quoted in John, the Septuagint text is presented here. The Masoretic Text reads slightly differently: Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: Rid them out of the hand of the wicked.


To know what Jesus’ audience took his meaning to be, it’s vital to look at the context. What led up to Jesus’ statement where he quoted from the Septuagint version of Psalm 82:6 - “Has it not been 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 sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

Jesus had very recently said many things that caused a lot of Jewish people to say, “He has a devil and is mad. Why listen to him?” Others pointed out that no demonised person could open the eyes of the blind, or speak like Jesus spoke. This caused a division amongst the people. Then came the episode being asked about. Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s porch, during the winter feast of the dedication. A group of Jews gathered around him and challenged him to speak plainly and just say whether he was the Christ, or not. Jesus pointed out that he had already told them, but they did not believe him. If they were his ‘sheep’, they would hear and believe. He gives his sheep eternal life, they shall never perish, and nobody can pluck them out of his hand. But then came this staggering claim:

“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” John 10:28-30 A.V.

This so outraged his audience, they immediately picked up stones to stone him! So Jesus stalled them by asking what work they were going to stone him for. They admitted it was not for any work he had done:

“…but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (vs. 33 A.V.)

When this backdrop is clearly seen, then it is obvious that his audience believed Jesus to be claiming to be more than a man – he was making himself out to be God, and that’s ‘God’ with a capital ‘G’. They were not saying Jesus was claiming to be a little god, a secondary god. The outraged Jews know there was only one true God.

Now Jesus’ response makes sense. He turned the tables on them because they all knew that there was a sense in which the Hebrew scriptures spoke of certain appointed people in the nation as being ‘gods’, which means ‘mighty ones’. Psalm 82:6 clearly states that to be the case. Leaders in the nation who act as representatives of the Almighty are to be viewed with such respect that they view God as standing in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the ‘gods’ as verse 1 of that Psalm depicts. But then God demands to know how long these men in the congregations judge unjustly, and sook up to the wicked. God demands that these unjust judges in the nation defend the poor and needy and save them from the wicked; that they help orphans (verses 3 & 4). These men have a mighty responsibility before God who condemns corrupt leaders and judges as so walking in darkness that the very foundations of the earth are out of course (verse 5).

Then comes the bit Jesus quotes. His audience knew full well what that entire Psalm said, so they would be in no doubt but that Jesus was accusing them of being unjust leaders, despite having an honourary title of “mighty ones” – gods. Therefore, why were they wanting to stone to death one in their midst who did mighty works, spoke God’s truth, helped the sick, widows and orphans? If they demanded respect from the people (and they did), why did they not respect Jesus as a mighty one in their midst? He was worthy of that designation in Psalm 82, (even as a man, let alone the Son of God), whereas they were not.

That is what his audience would understand, and Jesus’ clear message of warning enraged them further. Again they sought to capture Jesus, to kill him for alleged blasphemy, “but he escaped out of their hand” (verse 39). That is how it is to be interpreted – the way they would have interpreted it. The ‘gods’ in the quotation were the human rulers appointed in Israel to represent God in matters of judgment, which included both secular, judicial, and religious rulers. But please note that Jesus never called himself “a god”! He called himself the Son of God (verse 36) adding that the Father is in him, and he is in the Father. No wonder they tried yet again to kill him, for in their view, he continued to blaspheme.


To understand this passage we need to look at a couple of things. First, attention needs to be paid to the way Jesus said what he said.

"It is written, I said you are gods". The first thing we take notice of Jesus is referring to something written and to someone who said it. Jesus is not telling them they are gods. The statement was made in Psalms and we need to go to the Psalm to figure out what he is talking about.

Jesus chose to use this scripture in Psalms to make a case for what the Jews in their minds believe he just said is correct. The Jews are angry at Jesus because of what he has been saying and when Jesus asks why they respond, John 10:33 "you, being a man, make yourself God".

When Jesus chose this verse Psa 82:6  "I said, “You are gods"" There is no doubt Jesus had the entire Psalm in his mind and the Jews would recognize the rest of the Psalm when he quotes this particular passage. We need to look at the entire Psalm to see what is going on here and to determine what Jesus is saying here.

Psa 82:1  A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: We see God holding some sort of council among other gods. Later God announces his sentence against these other gods.

The first thing we see is God written in the Hebrew "Elohim". This is important because this one word unlocks everything. This Elohim holds judgment in the midst of other gods, the word is "Elohim". Elohim has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the Elohim he holds judgment".

What we see here is the word Elohim being used to identify two agents. We will see the first Elohim is identifying what we see later in the chapter "Elyon" the creator God. And the other "Elohim" will be later identified as "sons of God". The best way I have to understand "Elohim", is that the word identifies a category rather than an individual. That category would be "spirits". God (Elohim) is a spirit. The other gods "Elohim" are spirits. We see this when we finish reading the verse Jesus quoted.

Psa 82:6  I said, “You are gods (elohim), sons of the "Most High" (Elyon), all of you; 

Back to John. When Jesus said John 10:30 "I and the Father are one" and again John 10:36 "because I said, ‘I am the Son of God" Jesus put himself in the same category as Elohim and in doing so the Jews had rightly identified that he is making the case that He and God are one, so he stepped up the game and showed himself on the same level of Elyon.

What he just told the Jews is that it should not surprise them that there is more than one Elohim and that Elyon has what he refers to as sons who are also Elohim (spirits). This is what they were having a problem with because it is clearly shown in the law that there is more than one Elohim and more than one son. What he is not saying is that he gets to call himself God because they, the Jews get to call themselves gods because of this Psalm. The distinction in this Psalm is very clear. These are not humans, but Eloyn said these Elohim spirits messed up and they will die like humans. The entirety of the preceding passages is that Jesus is in God and God is in Jesus and here he tells them that what they are thinking is correct. Jesus as "the" son is unique from the other sons in that he is the "only begotten" of the Father. The others were created. The only begotten is "the unique One" because he has no beginning or end just like Eloyn.


Ye are gods, but ye shall die like men. Take it literally. Be clever. Be wise. Jesus said there be some standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the son of man coming in great power. Jesus told Peter to not worry about John, John may tarry until Jesus comes again. Feed my sheep. Those Pharisees put Jesus on the cross and told the public his body had been stolen from the tomb. The only people who saw Jesus when he was raised from the dead, were those who believed on him. You live in a world where “they” have already mingled themselves with the seed of men. They are among us. If their Father can masquerade as an Angel of light, and if Paul told you that you may have entertained an Angel and not known it, surely you believe the word. Remember, a blind man saw men walking as trees, a servant saw a mountain of chariots and horses and angels of fire, graves were opened, the ground quaked, the dead came to life. All of it is real. So start taking it literally and you’ll be amazed. These old gods have been around a long time. And you must remember the last part of the verse… “And fall like one of the princes”.. Start asking who these princes are, and you’ll start figuring out who these gods are - the prince of the power of the air, the prince of Persia, the prince of Grecia…

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    Commented Feb 21 at 14:44

What I'm reading in the On-line Interlinear OT for Pslam 82 is the difference of an apostrophe. The original states:

1ani- 2amrthi - 3aleim - 4athm - 5u·bni - 6oliun - 7kl·km 1I - 2I-said - 3Elohim - 4you - 5and sons of - 6supreme one - 7all of you

So what I think it actually says is: "I have said, Ye [are] gods'; and all of you [are] children of the most High"

Notice the apostrophe in front of the s, denoted by the Hebrew word ubuni meaning sons of and belonging to not equal to.

So inclosing the translator got both the psalmist's quote and Jesus's quote incorrect. What Jesus actually said to those about to stone him was "Are we not the son's of God?" Implying angelic status on some level. Still heretical from their point of view but I think more to the point of what was actually said.

Also the next verse clearly states we will die as men and as we well know gods don't die. I think the psalmist is saying "Though we are children of Elohim and he loves us we are not angels the true sons of God, we are sons of men because we were formed in sin not in pure glory as the angels."


This means exactly what it says. We are Gods. We are of God and one with him, we are not separate. We are souls/beings with all the attributes of prime creator. You cannot make something from nothing and all there was in the beginning was prime creator who had no beginning nor end just as we are. We are not our bodies but beings who occasionally experience this density in a physical body to learn and advance because it's harder. God is not a man/woman but a spiritual loving force. God is pure unconditional love. We experience densities for prime creator. To experience that love you would curl up into a fetal position and weep from that love, longing to be with God, which is home. If you can sense God and feel God, you would not be able to tear yourself away and do anything else but bask in that presence.

When you reach a point that you love as God, unconditionally, you can create your own universe, solar system, etc. Creation expands and will continue to do so indefinitely.

  • Welcome to BHSE! We're a little different here, take some time and review our site directives here before posting. Thank you!
    – Tau
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 7:50
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    You need to "show your work" in order to continue to post. I would strongly urge you to consider modifying your answer with references; as it stands it is in danger of being closed
    – Tau
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 7:56

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