Did Jesus say … “You are gods”?

Dec 24 2020

Timing is everything.

It was the Feast of Dedication. As the people engaged Jesus in a heated argument over his identity, Jesus quoted a song. Today, we read about the exchange in John 10:22-42, but we hardly know the song.

What Jesus said was, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?” (10:34). The people revolted against Jesus’ title “Son of God,” so Jesus invoked the authority of the Hebrew Scripture and Psalm 82 to validate the designation.

The problem is the next few lines in the song (which to most readers today are unfamiliar) — “But you will die like men and fall like one of the rulers” (Ps 82:7). The Psalm itself is about God judging injustice! Was Jesus trying to enrage his listeners?

But it gets even more interesting because there is a reference in the Mishnah to the songs that the Levites sang in the temple corresponding to the days of the week (m. Tamid 7.4).** On the third day of the week (Tuesday), guess what they sang? Psalm 82!

This song, Psalm 82, was well-known in Jesus’ experience. His words cut like a knife. And the attendees of the Feast of Dedication, the people in the temple court, mobbed to grab him.

** Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 873.

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