Mark 3:20-30 contains a familiar passage with a long debated phrase:

3:20 Now Jesus went home, and a crowd gathered so that they were not able to eat. 21 When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 22 The experts in the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and, “By the ruler of demons he casts out demons.” 23 So he called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan rises against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand and his end has come. 27 But no one is able to enter a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house. 28 I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin” 30 (because they said, “He has an unclean spirit”). [NET Bible]

What has been the understanding of this "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" and why is it unforgivable? Since other blasphemies will be forgiven (those against the Father and the Son), why will blasphemies against the Spirit not be forgiven?

  • I think it's a SE bug I can't post an answer, there is another take on this that disagrees with all these answers, I will post a full answer with references if SE fixes the "associated rep" bug. St. John Chrysostom said even those who deny the Holy Spirit will be forgiven, the Orthodox Study Bible has this footnote on Matthew 12:32, "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the divine activity of the Spirit, blasphemy against pure goodness. A sin against the Son of Man is more easily forgiven because the Jews did not know much about Christ. (emphasis in original) ...
    – JimLohse
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 13:17
  • The footnote continues: "But blasphemy against the Spirit, whose divine activity they knew from the OT, will not be forgiven because it comes from a willful hardness of heart and a refusal to accept God's mercy. / "The Fathers are clear that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not an "unforgivable sin"; nor does Jesus ever call this sin "unforgivable." St. John Chrysostom teaches that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be forgivable if a person were to repent of it. Jesus makes this declaration knowing that those who blaspheme the Spirit are calling pure, divine goodness 'evil,' ...
    – JimLohse
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 13:21
  • and are beyond repentance by their own choice." The actual line from the NKJV that the Orthodox use is "anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or the age to come." This translation coupled with the traditional understanding of the Orthodox leaves a little more hope for the repentant, according to this theology. Of all the Churches I have dealt with, the Orthodox are the most clear that nothing will prevent a re-baptism / return to the church, this is consistent there.
    – JimLohse
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 13:25

4 Answers 4


Jesus' statement about the unforgivable sin comes in the context of an attack from the Pharisees:

22 The experts in the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and, “By the ruler of demons he casts out demons.”

They recognize that Jesus is doing the work of casting out demons, a good work, but instead of accepting this evidence as testimony about Jesus, they ascribe it to some sort of satanic 'bluff'. This is not totally illogical, it is similar to the line of reasoning Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 11:

14And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. ESV

but it is a distortion of the reality of God's revelation, as hinted in the end of verse 15 quoted above: according to the testimony of scripture evil cannot be hidden indefinitely and it takes an evil unbelieving heart to turn the consistent righteousness and good deeds of Jesus into a mask for evil intent. The Pharisees are ignoring scripture and the normal evidences and signs of a prophet of God: their intent is to condemn Jesus whatever the evidence. This is the unforgivable sin, and it is impossible to convince them of their error because nothing can possibly convince them any more: they are seeing good as evil and evil as good. If, as Jesus asserts, accepting him and his words is the only path to forgiveness, then it is logical that to permanently reject him is "unforgivable".

  • 4
    Ahh! And it is the Spirit of God that guides our conscience. By saying evil is good and good is evil, they are calling the Spirit a liar, thus blaspheming him. And when they blaspheme like that, they will not listen to Him calling them to repentance either. And without repentance, forgiveness is impossible.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 16:31
  • I am so glad I found this answer. Thanks. It's always a good thing to read in context.
    – Double U
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 2:56

There is a helpful passage provided for us in Luke 12:10 that addresses this same issue.

"And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven."

The parallel seems to define "blaspheme" as "speaking against."

This is supported linguistically:

According to Strong's blasphemeo (987) means "to blaspheme, insult, slander, curse." that cross references with phemi which means "to say, declare, affirm." We are left then to discern the meaning of blas, which Strong's does not provide us information on.

However, Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary offers the following insight:

BLASPHE'ME, v.t. [Gr. The first syllable is the same as in blame, blasme, denoting injury; L. loedo, loesus; The last syllable is the Gr.,to speak.]

  1. To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence; to revile or speak reproachfully of God, or the Holy Spirit. 1 Kings 21. Mark 3.
  2. To speak evil of; to utter abuse or calumny against; to speak reproachfully of. BLASPHE'ME, v.i. To utter blasphemy.

He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven. Mark 3. 1. To arrogate the prerogatives of God. This man blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins but God? Math.9. Mark 2.

In regard to blaspheming the Father due consideration must be given to the law concerning those who blasphemed the name of YHWH--Lev. 24:16:

"And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death."

Is this not the name of which Jesus said in His prayer, "Our Father . . hallowed be Your name."

The eternal danger and the reason that this sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven, I suspect is spoken of in Ephesians 4

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

  • This etymology is probably wrong. Correct etymology seems to be lsj.gr/wiki/βλάστη + lsj.gr/wiki/φημί provenance from the light. So Pharisäern were denying Jesus provenance from the holy spit and claimed their own instead?
    – grammaplow
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 5:21

Mark 3:20-30 tells us how the Pharisees attributed Jesus' work to Satan. And yet this, according to Jesus, is forgivable: they have spoken a word against Jesus. However, anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit (i.e. attributes the work of the Spirit to evil), cannot be forgiven.

Jn 16:8-11 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. If I attribute this work to some evil force, the result is that I will not be convicted of my own sin, of God's righteousness, of the necessity of faith in Christ, or of the impending doom of judgment. Without admission of my own sin I cannot accept the gospel, for how can I be saved if I'm not saved from anything? That's why Paul spends almost three chapters discussing sin before moving on to how we can be saved from it.

Thus: just as the Pharisees interpreted Jesus' actions to be of Satan, so anyone who interprets the Holy Spirit's convicting work to be evil, cannot be saved.

Note: This theory has its weaknesses. For instance, Jesus does not in the context of Mark 3 mention the Holy Spirit's convicting work. However, I believe it is still the most likely explanation of the passage.


Blaspheme is a a composition of a root of uncertain origin and phémé (“a saying or report”). Thus – it involves speaking or reporting/writing (note that blasphemous names are written on the scarlet beast in Rev 17:3).

In the context of the Matthew 12 passage, Jesus goes into detail about “words spoken” – words come from the overflow of the heart, men’s words will condemn or acquit them on day of judgement, etc. So – I believe Jesus is truly addressing the words we say and write when he discusses blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus said “you are forgiven” in Mark 2:7, he is accused of blasphemy for he speaks words God alone can speak – equating himself to God.

When Pharisees said “it is by Beelzebub… that this fellow drives out demons”, Jesus cautions them that their words – if against him are forgivable, but if against God – are not forgivable. If they are truly God-fearing, they may think Jesus is Satan “masquerading as an angel of light”. Forgivable. But if they misattribute God’s Spirit work to Satan’s work (opinion: willfully from the heart with full knowledge of the facts), and speak it out loud then that’s not forgivable.

Jesus makes it clear in Mt 12:28 that it is God’s Spirit behind this miracle. So – I think he is warning the Pharisees that any further spoken misattribution of this miracle to Satan will be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He’s saying (paraphrase) “you brood of vipers – how can you say anything good. Better examine your heart as to what words are overflowing from it. You will be called to account for them. And if you are speaking against Holy Spirit (opinion: and know it) – condemnation (no forgiveness)."


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