“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.” Psalm 82
The psalm that Jesus quotes in John 10:34 is Psalm 82. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?”
The Hebrew word translated “gods” in Psalm 82:6 is Elohim. It usually refers to the one true God, but it does have other uses. Psalm 82:1 says, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.” It is clear from the next threeverses that the word “gods” refers to magistrates, judges, and other people who hold positions of authority and rule.
Calling a human magistrate a “god” indicates three things: 1) he has authority over other human beings, 2) the power he wields as a civil authority is to be feared, and 3) he derives his power and authority from God Himself, who is pictured as judging the whole earth in (verse 8). “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.” Psalm 82:8
This use of the word “gods” to refer to humans is rare, but it is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. For example, when God sent Moses to Pharaoh, He said, “And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” Exodus 7:1
This simply means that Moses, as the messenger of God, was speaking God’s words and would therefore be God’s representative to the king. The Hebrew word Elohim is translated “judges” in Exodus 21:6, Exodus 22:8, 9, and 28.
The whole point of Psalm 82 is that earthly judges must act with impartiality and true justice, because even judges must stand someday before the Judge. Psalm 82: warns human magistrates that they, too, must be judged:
“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” Psalm 82:6-7
This passage is saying that God has appointed men to positions of authority in which they are considered as gods among the people. They are to remember that, even though they are representing God in this world, they are mortal and must eventually give an account to God for how they used that authority.
Jesus had just claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:25-30). The unbelieving Jews respond by charging Jesus with blasphemy, since He claimed to be God (John 10:33). Jesus then quotes Psalm 82:6, reminding the Jews that the Law refers to mere men—albeit men of authority and prestige—as “gods.” Jesus’ point is this: you charge me with blasphemy based on my use of the title “Son of God”; yet your own Scriptures apply the same term to magistrates in general. If those who hold a divinely appointed office can be considered “gods,” how much more can the One whom God has chosen and sent (John 10:34-36)?
In contrast, we have the serpent’s lie to Eve in the Garden. His statement, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), was a half-truth. Their eyes were opened (Genesis 3:7), but they did not become like God. In fact, they lost authority, rather than gaining it. Satan deceived Eve about her ability to become like the one true God, and so led her into a lie.
Jesus defended His claim to be the Son of God on biblical and semantic grounds—there is a sense in which influential men can be thought of as gods; therefore, the Messiah can rightly apply the term to Himself. Human beings are not “gods” or “little gods.” We are not God. God is God, and we who know Christ are His children.