Are you a god now, or in the future? An analysis of John 10:34 by Jack Kettler
In this study we will look at John 10:34, then consult cross references, interlinear and commentary evidence, followed with comments and interaction with various theologians.
“Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34)
The reader is exhorted to follow the pattern of Scripture:
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
“I said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:6)
“If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)
Related passages, dealing with the consequences of sin and pride:
“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!’ “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:4-6)
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. So, the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:21-24)
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:14)
“I will be like the Most High,” said the Chaldean king. And God said to him: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15)
“Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the seas’; Yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God.” (Ezekiel 28:2)
“Wicked men exalt themselves, thinking they are like God. God’s judgement against this pride is certain: Therefore, thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness.” (Ezekiel 28:6-7)
John 10:34 Interlinear:
Jesus Ἰησοῦς iēsous 2424 Jesus or Joshua, the name of the Messiah, also three other Isr. of Hebrew origin Yehoshua
answered ἀπεκρίθη apekrithē 611 to answer from apo and krinó
them, “Has it not been 1510 I exist, I am a prol. form of a prim. and defective verb
written γεγραμμένον gegrammenon 1125 to write a prim. verb
in your Law, νόμῳ nomō 3551 that which is assigned, hence usage, law from nemó (to parcel out)
I SAID, 3004 to say a prim. verb
YOU ARE GODS’? Θεοί theoi 2316 God, a god of uncertain origin
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:
(34) Is it not written in your law? —Comp. Note on John 8:17. The passage here quoted is in Psalm 82:6, but the term “Law” is here used in a wide sense for the whole of the Old Testament. There are other examples of this usage in John 7:49; John 12:34; John 15:25; Romans 3:19; 1Corinthians 14:21.
I said, Ye are gods? —In the Hebrew of the Psalm, as in the Greek here, the pronoun is emphatic. “I myself said, Ye are gods?” The words are probably to be understood in the Psalm as spoken by God, who sits in judgment on the judges whom He had appointed, and gives the name of “gods” (Elohim) as representing Himself. See Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1; Exodus 18:15; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:28; Deuteronomy 1:17; 1Samuel 28:13; Psalm 8:5; Psalm 45:6; and comp. Perowne’s Notes on Psalms 82, and article “God,” in Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopœdia, Ed. 3, vol. ii., p. 144 et seq. (1)
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
Jesus answered them – The answer of Jesus consists of two parts. The first John 10:34-36 shows that they ought not to object to his use of the word God, even if he were no more than a man. The second John 10:37-38 repeats substantially what he had before said, left the same impression, and in proof of it he appealed to his works.
In your law – Psalm 82:6. The word “law” here, is used to include the Old Testament.
I said – The Psalmist said, or God said by the Psalmist.
Ye are gods – This was said of magistrates on account of the dignity and honor of their office, and it shows that the Hebrew word translated “god,” אלהים ̀elohiym, in that place might be applied to man. Such a use of the word is, however, rare. See instances in Exodus 7:1; Exodus 4:16. (2)
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:
“Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law. In the law which was given unto them, of which they boasted, and pretended to understand, and interpret, even in Psalm 82:6; for the law includes not only the Pentateuch, but all the books of the Old Testament: it is an observation of one of the Jewish doctors (t), that
“with the wise men of blessed memory, it is found in many places that the word law comprehends the Prophets and the Hagiographa.”’
Among which last stands the book of Psalms; and this may be confirmed by a passage out of the Talmud (u); it is asked,
“from whence does the resurrection of the dead appear, ‘out of the law?’”
It is answered,
“as it is said in Psalm 84:4, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will still praise thee, Selah; they do praise thee”, it is not said, but “they will praise thee”; from hence is a proof of the resurrection of the dead, “out of the law”.”’
The same question is again put, and then Isaiah 52:8 is cited, and the like observation made upon it. Moreover, this is a way of speaking used by the Jews, when they introduce another citing a passage of Scripture thus (w), “is it not written in your law”, Deuteronomy 4:9, “only take heed to thyself”, &c. so here the Scripture follows,
I said, ye are gods? which is spoken to civil magistrates, so called, because of their authority and power; and because they do, in some sort, represent the divine majesty, in the government of nations and kingdoms. Many of the Jewish writers, by “gods”, understand “the angels”. The Targum paraphrases the words thus:
“I said ye are accounted as angels, as the angels on high, all of you;”’
and to this sense some of their commentators interpret it. Jarchi’s gloss is, ye are gods; that is, angels; for when I gave the law to you, it was on this account, that the angel of death might not any more rule over you: the note of Aben Ezra is, “and the children of the Most High”: as angels; and the sense is, your soul is as the soul of angels: hence the (x) Jew charges Christ with seeking refuge in words, that will not profit, or be any help to him, when he cites these words, showing that magistrates are called gods, when the sense is only, that they are like to the angels in respect of their souls: but let it be observed, that it is not said, “ye are as gods”, as in Genesis 3:5, but “ye are gods”; not like unto them only, but are in some sense gods; and besides, to say that they are like to angels, with respect to their souls, which come from above, is to say no more of the judges of the earth, than what may be said of every man: to which may be added, that this objector himself owns, that judges are called “gods”, as in Exodus 22:9; the cause of both parties shall come before “the judges”; and that even the word is used in this sense in this very psalm, from whence these words are cited, Psalm 82:1, “he judgeth among” “the gods”; and both Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret this text itself in the same way, and observe, that judges are called gods, when they judge truly and aright: all which is sufficient to justify our Lord in the citation of this passage, and the use he makes of it.
(t) R. Azarias in Meor Enayim, c. 7. fol. 47. 1.((u) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 91. 2.((w) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 32. 2.((x) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 51. p. 440, 441. (3)
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:
34. in your law] ‘Law’ is here used in its widest sense for the whole of the Old Testament; so also in John 12:34 and John 15:25; in all three places the passage referred to is in the Psalms. Comp. John 7:19, 1 Corinthians 14:21. The force of the pronoun is, ‘for which you profess to have such a regard:’ comp. John 8:17. On the Greek for ‘is it written’ see on John 2:17.
I said, Ye are gods] The argument is both à fortiori and ad hominem. In the Scriptures (Psalm 82:6) even unjust rulers are called ‘gods’ on the principle of the theocracy, that rulers are the delegates and representatives of God (comp. Exodus 22:28). If this is admissible without blasphemy, how much more may He call Himself ‘Son of God.’
34–38. Christ answers the formal charge of blasphemy by a formal argument on the other side. (4)
The issue at stake, can a man become a god?
I’ve ran into a number of nice young people over the years from a unique American religion based in Utah who have told me they hope to become a god someday like the god they worship, who they say rules over planet Earth. When asking what in the Bible would give them such an idea, I am referred to John 10:34 for proof of this. After researching the text, cross references, numerous commentaries and lexical evidence, I am perplexed on how the passage in John would give any support for such a notion.
Right on the surface of this passage you have a verb tense problem. The verb tense, “ye are” is present tense. If these young people are correct in citing this passage, it would seem to be saying that you are a god right now. None of these young people would admit that they were a god now. If the verb tense was “ye will be gods” (future tense) it would have a little more surface plausibility. However, when looking at the overall context involving human judges, this passage has nothing to say about becoming a god sometime in the future or now.
For example, Jesus in John 10:34 is quoting the Old Testament and the quotation is dealing with human judges. This passage is referring to Psalm 82:6-7, which speaks about human judges who would “die like men.” These judges are going to die like men, in other words, they are mere human men and not God. Whoever is teaching these young people that this passage in John could support such a notion as becoming a god in the future is woefully ignorant of the most basic knowledge of biblical hermeneutics, grammatical historical interpretation and knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek languages.
A Strong Warning!
Satan’s ploy to Eve in the garden of Eden was that she would be “like God.” This is a deceitfully false expectation, namely, that men can become like God.
Dr. James White, in his book Is the Mormon my Brother? shows the larger preceding context that will help in the understanding of John 10:34, when he writes:
John chapter ten is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture, for it speaks of the Lord Jesus’ relationship to His people in the terms of the Shepherd and His sheep. In the midst of talking about the glorious salvation that belongs to those who know and trust Christ, Jesus asserts that He and the Father are one in their bringing about the final and full salvation of all those who are given by the Father to the Son (vv. 28-30). When the Lord says, “I and the Father are one,” (5)
In agreeing with Dr. White, I will add that in these verses leading up to John 10:34, you see the working out of salvation for those people given to the Son by the Father. It would not follow contextually or logically that Jesus would then launch into some fragmented disconnected message telling people that people that they are going to become future gods in verse 34. Salvation is not becoming a god, it is from sin and death. Those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” will be before the throne of God singing eternal praises to God. (Revelation 7:9-10) The creator/creature distinction will be true in eternity.
Satan has always lied about men becoming like God. For example, Geerhardus Vos writes:
“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Vos goes on to show more of the Satan’s accusation: “God is one whose motives make His word unreliable. He lies from selfishness.” (6)
From Charles Hodge’s (part 2) Anthropology, CHAPTER VII. The Fall, we learn more:
The Nature of the Temptation.
“The first address of the tempter to Eve was designed to awaken distrust in the goodness of God, and doubt as to the truth of the prohibition. “Hath God indeed said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” or, rather, as the words probably mean, “Has God said, ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The next address was a direct assault upon her faith. “Ye shall not surely die;” but on the contrary, become as God himself in knowledge. To this temptation she yielded, and Adam joined in the transgression. From this account it appears that doubt, unbelief, and pride were the principles which led to this fatal act of disobedience. Eve doubted God’s goodness; she disbelieved his threatening; she aspired after forbidden knowledge.” (7)
From The Fall of Man by J. Gresham Machen we see the lie about becoming God:
“Then at last there comes a direct attack upon the truthfulness of God. “Thou shalt surely die,” said God: “Ye shall not surely die,” said the tempter. At last the battle is directly joined. God, said the tempter, has lied, and He has lied for the purpose of keeping something good from man. “Ye shall not surely die,” said the tempter: “for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).” (8)
John 10:34 quoting Psalm 82:6 does not suggest that men are Gods or will ever be God. It refers explicitly to the fact that God has appointed judges to act in an honorable Godly manner in the exercise of their God appointed duties.
Man, in his fallen nature has an evil desire to be like God. This is the pride of pride! We should desire as the Scripture instructs us in the next two texts.
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
God determines what is right or wrong, not man. In the beginning, God had Adam and Eve depend on Him for interpretation of creation. This includes every fact, which to be true, must be a God interpreted fact. In the fall man, became the would-be determiner or measure of all things, the essence of humanism. Man rebelled against his dependence on God and declared his independence or autonomy. When fallen man places his interpretation upon a fact, there is no certainty that it is true.
Satan offered to Adam and Eve the lie of self-determination. Satan’s deception was that man would appropriate God’s place, determining for himself what was right and what was wrong. In his rebellion, man rejected God’s standards for right and wrong. Instead of God and His Word being the standard, now man in his fallen sinful pride, claimed to be the standard.
Consistently throughout Scripture, the lie and seduction of wanting to be God is condemned throughout!
No, John 10:34 provides no hope for man to become God. We agree with the Psalmist whom Jesus quotes for the end of the matter.
“But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” (Psalm 82:7)
Trust God’s Word, not man’s word:
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5)
“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26)
Food for Thought:
“The charge has been made that it is an a priori procedure to bring in God at the beginning of the process of knowledge. This too is a charge that acts as a boomerang. A priori reasoning is reasoning that does not start with the facts. Now antitheism has arbitrarily taken for granted that God is not a fact, and that if he is a fact that fact does not have any bearing upon the other facts. This we must hold to be an a priori procedure. We hold that the so-called “facts” are wholly unintelligible unless the supreme fact of God be brought into relation with them. We are willing to start with any fact as a proximate starting point, but refuse to admit before the investigation has begun that there can be no such fact as God.” Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, Chapter 15 The Method of Christian Theistic Epistemology
“The method of reasoning by presupposition may be said to be indirect rather than direct. The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to “facts” or “laws” whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to debate. The question is rather as to what is the final reference-point required to make the “facts” and “laws” intelligible. The question is as to what the “facts” and “laws” really are. Are they what the non-Christian methodology assumes that they are? Are they what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are?” Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics, Chapter 4 The Problem of Method
“The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.” – B. B. Warfield
“We cannot use our thoughts and feelings as a standard: only God’s Word is the test.” – R. J. Rushdoony
“Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.” – John Calvin
“The Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom.” – Vishal Mangalwadi
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27). “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29).
1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, John, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.475.
2. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, John, p.1229.
3. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, John, 9 Volumes, John, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 370-371.
4. Contributors, John James Stewart Perowne, Joseph Armitage Robinson, Frederic Henry Chase, Reginald St. John Parry Cambridge, Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, John, (Harvard Depository) p. 222-223.
5. James R. White, Is the Mormon my Brother,?(Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bethany House Publishers), pp. 155-158.
6. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), p. 35.
7. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), p. 128.
8. J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View Of Man, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Banner of Truth), p. 165.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com