Valke2, what is the Rabbinic interpretation of


#1

Psalm 82? Here is the text, (Revised Standard Version):

1: God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? [Selah]
3: Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4: Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
5: They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6: I say, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;
7: nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince."
8: Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!

I have been listening to some debates, and some Mormon apologists have used this psalm to claim that there is a plurality of gods and/or that men can become gods. Do you know what the traditional rabbinic interpretation of the phrases, “in the midst of the gods” and “You are gods” is? Thanks in advance.

Pax Tecum,
Jay


#2

As I’m sure you know, Jews are not big on humans turning into Gods. Psalms are always a little tricky for me because it seems that they only make sense if viewed as man’s expression to God, rather than God’s commandment to man. Not the word of God so much as the yearning of man. Here’s what I know about Psalm 82 based on Rashi’s commentary (I am using the Judacia Press translation):

1 A song of Asaph. God stands in the congregation of God; in the midst of the judges He will judge.
(God stands in the congregation of God to see whether the judges judge fairly)

2 How long will you judge unjustly and favor the wicked forever?
(This is God asking the question)

3 Judge the poor and orphan; justify the humble and the impoverished.
(if the poor man is right, don’t rule against him in order to favor the wicked/more powerful)

4 Release the poor and the needy; save [them] from the hands of [the] wicked.

5 They did not know and they do not understand [that] they will walk in darkness; all the foundations of the earth will totter.
(The judges who pervert justice do not understand that because of this iniquity, they will walk in the dark (See Exod. 23:8 regarding “bribery blinds”), Because of their perversion of justice will cause all the foundations of the earth will totter. This is a central belief of Judaism – that the world is sustained by Justice).

6 I said, “You are angelic creatures, and all of you are angels of the Most High.”
(Here God is telling man: “When I gave you the Torah, I gave it to you on the condition that the Angel of Death should not rule over you.”)

7 Indeed, as man, you will die, and as one of the princes, you will fall.
(Indeed, like Adam, you will die since you corrupted your deeds as he did. And as one of the princes the first princes, who died, so will you fall.)

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth, for You inherit all the nations.
(Here Asaph commences to pray that God rise and cut off the corrupt judges from Israel. For everyone is in God’s hands to judge.

I have no idea why the Mormons think this is a formula for men becoming Gods.


#3

I think the difference may be traced to the Hebrew word “Elohim” which can mean God, Gods, princes, judges, or rulers, depending on its context.

I did some very quick research and it seems that Mormon scholars would agree with me, and have called for a re-evaluation of Psalm 82.


#4

btw, thanks for the question. Thanks to you I got to study Pslam 82 for a while.


#5

Thanks for your input. Here’s a quote from a Mormon apologetic article:

Joseph Smith maintained that there was a council or assembly of the Gods held prior to the creation of the earth. “The head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring forth the world. The grand counsellors sat at the head in yonder heavens, and contemplated the creation of the worlds which were created at that time… In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.” (Journal of Discourses 6:5). The idea is also reflected in the creation account recorded in chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Abraham,3 and in D&C 121:32, the latter speaking of “that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was.”

And they even quote from Jewish literature to try to support the idea of men becoming gods:
This idea is also found in the early Jewish Midrash Rabbah Genesis 8:7, in which God says of the creation of Adam, “We took counsel with the souls of the righteous” and adds that "the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, sat the souls of the righteous with whom He took counsel before creating the world."64 The same idea is repeated in Midrash Rabbah Ruth 2:3: "the souls of the righteous with whom the Holy One, blessed be He, decided to create the world… With the Almighty King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, dwelt the souls of the righteous with whom He decided to create the world."65

To me, the whole thing is absurd, but read the article, decide for yourself:

fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2004_King_Follett_Discourse_in_the_Light_of_Ancient_Beliefs.html


#6

I think even the Mormons are trying to back peddle a little bit from this one.


#7

Hi there,

Valke, are you saying that the hebrew word “god” in Psalms 82:6 cannot be traced to “elohim” but “angel” instead ?

May I know what is the hebrew word in Psalms 82:6 for “angel” ? I wonder why many bibles (christian bibles I know) translate it as
"you are gods, sons of the most high"
instead of
"you are angelic creatures, angels of the most high".

I wish I could speak hebrew because I often desperately want to know the original words used in the Old Testament.

Thanks in advance.


#8

I am saying the word “elohim” which is used in Psalm 82 can mean gods, princes, rulers, or judges. IN this case it means judges.


#9

I’m saying the word Elohim can be used for Gods, angels, judges, princes, etc. even if one interperts it to mean “gods” in Psalm 82, I would think that a jewish reading of the Pslam would simply mean that we are all “gods” a/k/a all God’s children. But my understanding is that the word is meant to refer to Judges.

I have a very good anaylsis of this Psalm somewhere but, unfortunately, my bookcases are covered up while I have some work being done on my basement. If I can find it, I’ll post more detail.


#10

If you look at the song Moses led the people in when the crossed the sea of reeds, the same root word is used: “Mi Kamocha B’aylim Hashem” - Who is like You among the Elim, God.

It means Mighty, Powerful. “Who is like You amongst the Mighty”?

when used to refer to God, “Elohim” meaning Almighty, or
the Judge of all.
When used to refer to Judges, it means mighty as in powerful.

It is common in biblical Hebrew than, when using a title to denote respect, the plural is used.


#11

Valke,

I thought you might be interested in this. I found it posted on a Biblical Hebrew language and literature forum. It confirms what you say, and goes into some more detail:

Psalm 82 is “tricky”, because it would seem to imply the existence of other “gods” besides Elohim, using “Elohim” as a (singular) proper name in vs. 1 and then as a (plural) title for the assembled in vs. 6 (this is without going into the appearance of “El” in vs. 1, which the exegetes didn’t recognize).

As an example of Jewish interpretation, I’ll quote P. Birnbaum (Orthodox) Siddur (prayer book), which for vs. 1 has, “God stands in the divine assembly; in the midst of the judges he gives judgment”. For vs. 6 he has: “I thought you were angels, that you were all sons of the Most High.” The interpretation of “Elohim” as judges, whether human or divine, is based on such passages as Ex. 21:6.

So the image is of God convening His heavenly court and warning His angels that if they do not do justice, they will die like mortal men.

This image of the “heavenly court” is taken from Job, Zechariah and other places, and is very common in midrash and liturgy.

As far as Psalm 86:2, I fail to see the problem.

Yigal
Dr. Yigal Levin
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga TN 37403-2598
U.S.A.

lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2002-August/013778.html

Pax Tecum,
Jay


#12

John 10

34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, **‘I have said you are gods’? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—**and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what 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’? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But 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.” 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Ye are gods (theoi este). Another direct quotation after eipa but without hoti. **The judges of Israel abused their office and God is represented in Ps 82:6 as calling them “gods” **(theoi, elohim) because they were God’s representatives. See the same use of elohim in Ex 21:6; Ex 22:9, Ex 22:28. Jesus meets the rabbis on their own ground in a thoroughly Jewish way.

For commentary on John 10:34 follow the link,
forananswer.org/John/Jn10_34.htm

Psalm 82
1God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

2How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

3**Defend **the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

4**Deliver **the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

5They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

6I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

7But** ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.**

8Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

Psalms 82 is simply speaking of unjust human Judges, nothing more. They are like gods ( higher authority ) to isreal because they represent God, just like Moses became a god to Pharaoh, it has to do with those judges misusing their authority.

Exodus 7
1And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.


#13

Thank you Jay. On a personal note, the pslams are my favority part of the Tanakh/Scripture. Much of our service is devoted to singing pslams.


#14

Valke2, do you know what John Lightfoot is talking about here?
How does this quote below from the talmud tie in?

  1. If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

[If he called them gods, &c.] The Jews interpret those words of the Psalmist, “I have said, Ye are gods,” to a most ridiculous sense.

“Unless our fathers had sinned, we had never come into the world; as it is written, I have said, ‘Ye are gods, and the children of the Most High: but ye have corrupted your doings; therefore ye shall die like men.’” And a little after; “Israel had not received the law, only that the angel of death might not rule over them; as it is said, ‘I have said, Ye are gods: but ye have corrupted your doings; therefore ye shall die like men.’”

The sense is, If those who stood before mount Sinai had not sinned in the matter of the golden calf, they had not begot children, nor had been subject to death, but had been like the angels. So the Gloss: “If our fathers had not sinned by the golden calf, we had never come into the world; for they would have been like the angels, and had never begot ten children.”

The Psalmist indeed speaks of the magistracy, to whom the word of God hath arrived, ordaining and deputing them to the government by an express dispensation and diploma, as the whole web and contexture of the psalm doth abundantly shew. But if we apply the words as if they were spoken by our Saviour according to the common interpretation received amongst them, they fitly argue thus: “If he said they were angels or gods, to whom the law and word of God came on mount Sinai, as you conceive; is it any blasphemy in me then, whom God in a peculiar manner hath sanctified and sent into the world that I might declare his word and will, if I say that I am the Son of God?”

philologos.org/__eb-jl/john09.htm#ten


#15

**Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah **

Said Resh Lakish: Come let us render gratitude to our forebears,8 for had they not sinned, we should not have come to the world, as it is said: **I said ye are gods and all of you sons of the Most High; now that you have spoilt your deeds, ye shall indeed die like mortals **etc.9 Are we to understand that if the Israelites had not committed that sin they would not have propagated? Had it not been said, And you, be ye fruitful and multiply?10 — That refers to those who lived up to the times of Sinai. But of those at Sinai, too, it is said, Go say to them, Return ye to your tents11 which means to the joy of family life?12 And is it not also said, that it might be well with them and with their children?13 — It means to those of their children who stood at Sinai. But did not Resh Lakish [himself] say. What is the meaning of the verse This is the book of the generations of Adam?14 Did Adam have a book? What it implies is that the Holy One, blessed be He, showed to Adam every [coming] generation with its expositors, every generation with its sages, every generation with its leaders; when he reached the generation of R. Akiba15 he rejoiced at his teaching, but was grieved about his death, and said, How precious are Thy thoughts unto me, O God!16 Also, what of the teaching of R. Jose:17 The Son of David will only come when all the souls destined to [inhabit earthly] bodies will be exhausted, as it is said, For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth, for the spirit should fall before me and the spirits which I have made?18 — Do not take Resh Lakish’s saying to mean that [if our ancestor had not sinned] we should not have come to the world, but that **they would have become immortal **and] we should have been [disregarded] as if we had never come to the world. Does that mean then that if they had not sinned, they would have been immune from death? But there are written [in the Torah] the chapter about the widow of a man dying without issue, and the chapter about inheritances!19 — These were written conditionally. But are conditional passages written [in the Torah]? — Certainly; for R. Simeon b. Lakish said:20 What is the meaning of the verse, And it was evening and it was morning the sixth day?21 It teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, made a condition with all creation, saying, If Israel will accept the Torah all will be well, but if not, I will turn the world void and without form.

The following objection was then raised: ‘The verse, O that they had such a heart as this alway that it may be well with them and their children22 cannot obviously refer to the abolition of the angel of death, since the decree [of death] had already been made?23 It means therefore that the effect of Israel’s acceptance of the Torah would be that no nation or tongue could prevail against them, as it is said, that it might be well with them and their children after them’?24 He [Resh Lakish] may be of the same opinion as the following Tanna, for it is taught: R. Jose said, **The Israelites accepted the Torah only so that the Angel of Death should have no dominion over them, as it is said: I said ye are gods * and all of you children of the Most High, now that you have spoilt your deeds, ye shall indeed die like mortals.***25 But against R. Jose, too, [it may be argued] that the verse that it may be well with them and their children for ever holds out the promise of well-being but not of deathlessness? — R. Jose may reply: The abolition of death is surely as desirable a kind of well-being as you might wish for. Then how does the first Tanna26 explain the phrase: Ye shall indeed die? — …

Had to be shorten to fit quote limits here follow link for full passage
come-and-hear.com/zarah/zarah_5.html


#16

Hi Valke, thanks for your answers.

How about the word “sons/ children of the most high”-- the word “sons/ children” there-- what is the english transliteration for it ? How is it translated into “sons” but also “angels” ?

And the word “the most high” there, is it the same word as in “gods” as in “you are gods”, thus it sounds like “you are elohim (angelic creatures), children (angels) of elohim” ?

Please pardon my ignorance.


#17

Thanks again


#18

Hi francisca, “ben” can have different meanings based on context. Remember all translation is interpretation.

Here is an entry from a Hebrew Lexicon for your edification.
blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/strongs/1161277828-5290.html blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/words/1/1161277828-3224.html

Someone is taking “sons of the Most High (bene Elyon)” and connecting it in their thinking with “sons of God” in Job to say that they are angels. The word “sons” can refer to human offspring, children, descents, see lexicon entry at link. Since, these “sons” die, they must be human.

Here is how the mormons use psa 82, John 10
fairlds.org/Bible/Reconsidering_Psalms_82_6.html


#19

The Rabbinic Interpretation of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John: John 10:34
James S. Ackerman
Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Apr., 1966), pp. 186-191

links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0017-8160%28196604%2959%3A2%3C186%3ATRIOP8%3E2.0.CO%3B2-1&size=LARGE


#20

More translation issues. And the same reason. The word that Christians interpert (apparently) for god in Exodus 7 can also mean prince, angel, ruler, judge… Here, it means ruler or lord, and I doubt you will find a (non-messainic) rabbi to say differently.


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