This is a discussion which explores the way in which Jesus Christ used Psalm 82 in defense of his claim to divinity.
The following is the NIV . I use the NIV simply because it is a widely accepted and used translation among mainstream Christians. I think that for our purposes it will do for now.
A psalm of Asaph.
1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods“:
2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5 “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 “I said, ‘You are “gods“; you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”
8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance
The big question to answer is about the nature of the individuals being mentioned in the psalm that have been colored red. Are they literally gods? Are they humans (human judges, as some Christians believe)? Are they angels? Are they something else?
I propose that they are literally gods. I do not propose that they are gods in the sense of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, metaphysical, non-tangible, transcendent GOD like that described in the creeds of post-biblical Christianity.
Nevertheless, these are gods who can be rightly considered “divine”. These are gods who are the same fundamental ‘genus’ as God the Father/Son/and Holy Spirit. They are not wholly other, and they are not of a different genus/race. They are the same race as GOD the Father/Son/and Holy Spirit, but they are significantly inferior in power, glory, righteousness, and dominion.
Now there are many ways to go about detailing my arguments. There are various avenues to take involving breaking down the actual psalm and studying it in light of the Hebrew, of other biblical passages, and in light of other texts from the same culture. But, I think the simplest way is to study the way in which Jesus Christ used the text.
I assume the reader believes that Jesus Christ understood the true meaning of the text, and that he did not abuse/misuse the text.
(NIV) John 10:30-39
30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him,
32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?
35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—
36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son‘?
37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.
38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
The scene is pretty simple:
1. Jesus claims to be God.
2. The Jews accuse him of claiming to be God, and want to stone him for it.
3. Jesus defends his divinity by an appeal to Psalm 82.
4. The Jews continue to understand that Jesus is claiming to be God, and try to “seize him”.
5. Jesus escapes.
What is important is step 3. Jesus does not back down from his earlier claim of being one with the Father, of being the Son of God, of being himself a god. He defends this claim.
Psalm 82 only works for Jesus’ argument if the ‘gods’ mentioned in Psalm 82 are in fact divine. They must be in some way similar to what Jesus is. They can’t be angels, because Jesus is not claiming to be an angel. They can’t be mortal men, because Jesus isn’t claiming to be a mortal man. They have to be what Jesus is claiming to be in order for his argument to make any sense.
Because Jesus is claiming to be divine/God, the ‘gods’ in Psalm 82 must likewise we divine/gods. Otherwise, Jesus argument simply does not work. The ‘gods’ of Psalm 82 are the same fundamental genus/race that Jesus is claiming to be — gods. Daniel Peterson writes:
But there is another and, for Christians, more fundamental problem. It does not seem that Jesus’ citation of a metaphorical use of the term god, as applied to human beings, would go very far toward justifying his ascription to himself of literal divinity. So understood, Jesus would seem merely to be playing a word game, practicing a semantic sleight of hand, and, in fact, to be committing the logical fallacy of equivocation, wherein a word surreptitiously changes its meaning from one part of an argument to another. (The point of Jesus’ argument is not that the Jews are unrighteous judges, but that it is not blasphemy for him to call himself divine.) It would be as if someone were declaring himself, madly enough, to be a vast ball of fusion-inflamed gases. We would scarcely be convinced if he were to offer, as evidence for the plausibility of his assertion, the fact that Rudolph Valentino, Lucille Ball, and John Wayne are generally called stars, and to demand that we, in fairness, grant the same title to him.
Therefore, Psalm 82 is a classic example of why the bible is not quite as monotheistic as most Christians suppose (just as scholars have long understood). It reveals a council of gods who are subordinate to a preeminent God. These gods are of the same genus/race as the preeminent god, but their role is to serve him and obey him on his council. These are the ‘sons of the Most High‘(vs.6) God.