Psalm 82:6 reads, “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”
In John 10, Jesus cites Psalm 82:6 and repeats the statement that “you are gods.” The context is a confrontation between Jesus and the Jews at the Festival of Dedication. They ask Him to reveal plainly if He is the Messiah (John 10:24). Jesus responds that His actions prove He is the Messiah, and then He claims equality with God by saying, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). At that, the Jews pick up stones to stone Him for blasphemy (John 10:31–33), but Jesus reasons with them by quoting Psalm 82:6: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?” Who are the “gods” of Psalm 82:6, and what exactly is Jesus’ point in saying, “You are gods” in John 10:34 (or “ye are gods” in the KJV)?
Let’s start with a look at Psalm 82, the psalm that Jesus quotes in John 10:34. The Hebrew word translated “gods” in Psalm 82:6 is elohim. The term elohim is most frequently used to refer to the one true God, but it does have other uses. Yahweh is referred to as the Elohim above all elohim (Psalm 95:3). Other uses of the term elohim include spiritual beings such as angels (Job 2:1; 38:7); demons, idols, and gods of foreign nations (Genesis 35:4; Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Kings 11:33); and the disembodied dead (1 Samuel 28:13). The Hebrew word elohim is also translated “judges” in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8, 9, and 28. Whom, then, does God call “gods” in Psalm 82:6? There are two main views:
1) The “gods” are supernatural beings who rule under God. Psalm 82:1 says, “God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods.” In the Hebrew, the phrase translated “great assembly” speaks of a divine congregation or a divine council. Some interpret this passage as God warning that those in the divine council who continue making unjust decisions will die “like mere mortals” and “fall like all other rulers” (Psalm 82:2, 6–8). God created hell for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41), and we know He will bring justice to them at the right time. They will fall like mere mortals.
2) The “gods” of Psalm 82 are human magistrates, judges, and rulers who have been granted authority in the earth. In this view, 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 82:6 and 7 warn human magistrates that they, too, must be judged: “I said, ‘You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” According to this view, God has appointed men to positions of authority in which they are considered as gods among the people (see Exodus 7:1). 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 Psalm 82:8. Human rulers 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 use that authority.
Now, let’s look at how Jesus uses this passage. When Jesus quotes Psalm 82, He says that the statement “you are gods” was directed to those “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). That is, those who received the message of God were called “gods.” Jesus had just claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:25–30). The unbelieving Jews responded by charging Jesus with blasphemy, since He claimed to be God (verse 33). Jesus then quotes Psalm 82:6 and says, “If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?” 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 others besides God. If those who hold a divinely appointed office or those who have a divine position in the spiritual realm can be considered “gods,” how much more can the One whom God has chosen and sent (John 10:34–36)?
Mormonism uses these texts as proof texts to show the eventual divinity of man. However, neither of these passages is proof that man can attain godhood. We must beware of the lie that the serpent used to deceive Eve in the garden: “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This was a half-truth. Their eyes were opened (verse 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 and spiritual beings can be referred to as “gods”; therefore, the Messiah can rightly apply the term to Himself. Human beings are not “gods” or “little gods.” They will never become gods. God is God, and we who know Christ are His children.