22 March 2013

You are gods

After Mass this morning at Our Lady of the Rosary, a parishioner asked me what Jesus means when he says to the mob, "Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, "You are gods"'?"

I was tempted for all of three seconds to make this allusion the focus of my homily. But then I took another sip of coffee and woke up. Explaining the context of this quote in a daily homily would've taken too long.

So, I'll try to explain it here.

First, Jesus is referring to Psalm 82.6:

5  The gods neither know nor understand,
wandering about in darkness,
and all the world’s foundations shake.
I declare: “Gods though you be,
offspring of the Most High all of you,
7  Yet like any mortal you shall die;
like any prince you shall fall.

Here God is addressing the "gods" in heaven and rebuking them for their failure to rule the earth with justice. He passes judgment on them and makes them mortal.

Now, recall the scene described in this morning's gospel passage. . .Jesus is confronted by a mob that wants to stone him for blasphemy. An unjust verdict and sentence given that he is God.  The description of the "gods" in Psalms perfectly describes the mob as well--ignorant, wandering in darkness, unjust, etc.

So, the quote--"You are gods"--is actually an accusation against the mob! But it does double-duty as a reminder that "gods" can be made mortal; thus, showing that Jesus' claim isn't as outrageous as the mob thinks it is.

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  1. Anonymous4:52 PM

    The original Hebrew of this psalm probably uses the word 'elohim' - 'mighty ones' which though plural was employed to respectfully refer to the One God. Like the 'royal we' in Queen Victoria's alleged riposte "We are not amused." In neither the psalm nor Our Lord's quotation from it is there the suggestion of more than one god, although Yeshua's paraphrase eruditely employs the term to deflate his puffed-up attackers.

    1. "In neither the psalm nor Our Lord's quotation from it is there the suggestion of more than one god. . ."

      Exactly. Thus the scare quotes around "gods."

    2. Thank you, anonymous. For Jehova Witnesses use this psalm to prove that St. Paul didn't mean that Jesus is God when he called Him "god".

  2. Thank you - I had wondered about that, too, but hadn't quite made it to my study Bible to look it up.