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John 10:33-36 (YLT):

33 The Jews answered him, saying, `For a good work we do not stone thee, but for evil speaking, and because thou, being a man, dost make thyself God.'

34 Jesus answered them, `Is it not having been written in your law: I said, ye are gods?

35 if them he did call gods unto whom the word of God came, (and the Writing is not able to be broken,)

36 of him whom the Father did sanctify, and send to the world, do ye say -- Thou speakest evil, because I said, Son of God I am?

What is the difference between "God" (capital G, singular) and "gods" (lower case, plural)? Do they have the same definition or different definitions? Or should the meanings of these words be inferred from the context instead, and if so, how should we interpret them?

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  • One is singular and the other plural.
    – Dottard
    Mar 19 at 21:46
  • @Dottard - is that the only difference? Are they equally powerful, omnipotent, omniscient, etc.? Mar 19 at 21:47
  • My answer was a little tongue in cheek! (Sorry) But there was a serious die - the text alluded to in the OT has these both as plural and that is the key!
    – Dottard
    Mar 19 at 21:51
  • "Yesterday, Dad played golf with Fred's dad." — What's the difference between "Dad" and "dad"? Mar 20 at 1:10
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator, but there is a difference. "Dad" is a proper name or a title, while "dad" is a common noun. From my perspective, there could be any number of "dad"s, but only one "Dad". Whether those other "dad"s are imaginary, man-made, or who knows what, it doesn't matter, to me there is only one person worthy of the name and title "Dad". That seems to be the usage in these verses. Mar 20 at 2:14
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In English terms, "God" means the one and only almighty God and "gods" means other created supernatural beings. To understand these terms better, one needs to look into its Hebrew origins as suggested by יהודה's answer.

John 10:34 cites Psalm 82:6: "I said, 'You are "gods" [H430 elohim]; you are all sons of the Most High.'

The Hebrew word elohim can mean both God or gods depending on the context. In Psalm 82:6, a clear distinction is made between gods [elohim] and the Most High [meaning God]. Further, it clarifies that these gods [elohim] were sons of God.

Now, let's go back to John's passage. It is a bit tricky to sort out because of the ambiguity of the word elohim. The Jews complained that Jesus made himself to be God (the Most High).

Jesus' replied that the unbreakable scripture called them gods (elohim, but not the Most High) meaning sons of God. If they were sons of God, how much more that Jesus was the Son of God because Jesus was sent by the Father.

What is the difference between “God” (capital G, singular) and “gods” (lower case, plural) in the context of John 10:33-36?

God means God the Most High; gods means sons of God the Most High. This checks out both in English and in the Hebrew original of Psalm 82:6.

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The significant difference between "God" and "gods" is of whom is being referenced. The word for "God" in Hebrew is אֵל/EL which is not a name but a title which is associated with a being that has power/force. When referring to "The God of Israel" the word EL is usually couple with another word that would specify exactly which is "EL" is being referenced to such as YHWH ELoheem, The EL of Bethel, EL Shaddai, etc.

The word for "god" in Hebrew is אֱלהִים/Eloheem which could be Angels, Magistrates, Rulers, or Judges who stand/dwell/walk-in Divine Authority, and/or also Spiritually Elevated Human Beings.

The difference between "God" and "god" associated specifically with the psalm that Yahshua/Jesus referenced (Psalms 82) in John 10:34-36 was that he responded by showing the people (with evidence) who claimed that he was blaspheming, that we all have the ability and are suppose to elevate and transfigure to develop and establish that intimate relationship with the Creator our Father on an intimate level (John 1:11-14, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Psalms 82:6). We have a divine inheritance and we must be renewed/transformed to inherit it.

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God is omniscience. All encompassing.

Gods, or "gods" are mere Ideologies and are possessions.

gods don't live and aren't beings. They are Ideologies. And God is a character(Person_ specifically himself), & one of utmost significance.

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    – Nigel J
    Mar 20 at 8:41
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Jesus is quoting from Psalm 82

PSALM 82:6 I said, “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High.

By convention, upper case ‘God’ is a reference to the Almighty God, YHWH. Lower case refers to other god(s).

The differentiations between upper and lower case is at the discretion of the translators. It is meant both as a means of respect and to help understanding. The decision as to which, upper or lower, is made by context.

As for whether plural or singular, this is usually made clear via the Hebrew structure. In verse one of Psalm 82, the word elohim is used twice. One, the first occurrence is clearly singular, the second use is clearly plural.

Lower case ‘gods’ are created entities. So not omniscient, not omnipresent. God ‘created’ the [lower case] gods. They were, in fact, sons of God - angelic beings, angels. As to how they became to be ‘seen’ as gods, we see this in Deuteronomy.

In Deuteronomy, Moses is recounting the history of Israel. And he backgrounds the context of their history by explaining what lead to them being a separate nation, the one chosen by God - for himself. We read ....

DEUT 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

These ‘heads of the nations’, those sons of God, became their, those nations ‘gods’. And, they we’re the ‘gods’ the Israelites were repeatedly warned about, and, commanded not to ‘bow’ to, or come ‘under’.

When the first commandment talks about not having any other gods before Me (God) - theses gods being talked about were literal, ‘real’ gods and not ‘just’ stone images.

This section in Deuteronomy is the incident at Babel. When the people of the [whole] world rejected Him. So he essentially divided them up, and put the sons of God (angels) over them. Then he choose Abraham to be the ‘father’ of his nation, the one set aside for his purposes.

So gods = angelic beings, not ‘gods’ that are equivalent to a God. There is only one true God, Only one who is omnipresent, omniscient, Almighty.

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    I see no support for your theory ('gods' of the nations being 'sons of God', angels) anywhere in scripture. Nor do I see any support for the concept of a 'real' god that is not an idol. Except for the personage called 'the god of this world' ie the Devil himself.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 20 at 8:39
  • @Nigel J And, what’s more, you would have widespread support. It confronts much traditional doctrine. That translation of Deuteronomy has only been accepted since the Dead Sea scrolls reflected it - and it being supported by the early Septuagint - very recent! But ‘sons of god’ being angels is exergetically supported. I understand the downvotes!
    – Dave
    Mar 20 at 17:16

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