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Friday, June 13, 2014

No Other god (or God) - Deut. 32:39

(From the RDB Files)

No Other god/God - Deut. 32:39

Translators have different interpretations here. The usual trinitarian translation has God (YHWH) saying something like this:

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” - KJV.

Thus they say that the Word cannot be called 'a god' since God (YHWH) has no god beside Him.

But some trinitarian translators have rendered it this way:

“See ye that I alone am, and there is no other God besides me: I will kill and I will make to live: I will strike, and I will heal, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” - Douay.

“Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” - NKJV.

“Don’t you understand? I am the only God; there are no others. ….” - CEV.

“Now, see that I, and only I, am God! There is no other God! ….” - ERV.

“See, I am the only God. There are no others.” - God’s Word.

“See now that I alone am He; there is no God but Me.” - Holman Christian Standard Bible.

In these renderings there is no other God, but that would not rule out the fact that other ‘gods’ may be with Him.


Even if you choose the “no god with [or besides] me” interpretation, it is not necessarily a trinitarian ‘proof.’ It has to do with the context of God’s statement here. Here it is in context:

32:15“But Jeshurun [Israel] grew fat and kicked— You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation. 16 “They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. 18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth. ….

21 “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, ….

39 “See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” - NASB.


God (YHWH) here has been consistently speaking of Israel’s love affair with false gods. Obviously none of these are acceptable to God - none of these are “with” Him nor are anything compared to the True God. So it is probable that the verse in question is speaking of false gods only.

This does not mean that God does not call God-appointed persons (including men and angels)‘gods.’

The majority, if not all, recognized scholars (mostly trinitarian, of course) admit this. These include scholars from the early centuries of Christendom until now. Some of those I have found are:

"In the language of the OT ... rulers and judges, as deputies of the heavenly King, could be given the honorific title ‘god’ ... or be called ‘son of God’.” - footnote for Ps. 82:1.

And, in the footnote for Ps. 45:6, this trinitarian study Bible tells us: “In this psalm, which praises the [Israelite] king ..., it is not unthinkable that he was called ‘god’ as a title of honor (cf. Isa. 9:6).” - The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1986, tells us:

“The reason why judges are called ‘gods’ in Ps. 82 is that they have the office of administering God’s judgment as ‘sons of the Most High’. In context of the Ps. the men in question have failed to do this.... On the other hand, Jesus fulfilled the role of a true judge as agod’ and ‘son of the Most High’.” - Vol. 3, p. 187.

The highly respected (and highly trinitarian) W. E. Vine tells us:

“The word [theos, ‘god’ or ‘God’] is used of Divinely appointed judges in Israel, as representing God in His authority, John 10:34” - p. 491, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

B. W. Johnson's People's New Testament says for John 10:34-36:

"Is it not written in your law. In Psa. 82. I said, Ye are gods? It was there addressed to judges. Christ's argument is: If your law calls judges gods, why should I be held guilty of blasphemy for saying that I am the Son of God? Sanctified. Set apart." -

And Barnes’ Notes tells us in commenting on John 10:34, 35:

The scripture cannot be broken. See Matthew 5:19. The authority of the Scripture is final; it cannot be set aside. The meaning is,

‘If, therefore, the Scripture uses the word "god" as applied to magistrates, it settles the question that it is right to apply the term to those in office and authority. If applied to them, it may be to others in similar offices. It can not, therefore, be blasphemy to use this word as applicable to a personage so much more exalted than mere magistrates as the Messiah.’ -Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible, Eerdmans, 1978 Reprint, “Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation”:

“65. GOD - is used of any one (professedly) MIGHTY, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, etc., e.g. - Exod. 7:1; 15:11; 21:6; 22:8, 9;...Ps. 8:5; 45:6; 82:1, 6; 97:7, 9...John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28....”

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Abingdon, 1974 printing,

“430. [elohim]. el-o-heem’; plural of 433; gods in the ordinary sense; but spec. used (in the plur. thus, esp. with the art.) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: - angels, ... x (very) great, judges, x mighty.” - p. 12, “Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary.”

The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, 1979, Hendrickson, p. 43:

Elohim [‘gods’]: “a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power.... b. divine ones, superhuman beings including God and angels.... c. angels Ps. 97 7 ...”

The trinitarian New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., 1970, says in a footnote for Ps. 8:6:

“The angels: in Hebrew, elohim, which is the ordinary word for ‘God’ or ‘the gods’; hence the ancient versions generally understood the term as referring to heavenly spirits [angels].”

Some of these trinitarian sources which admit that the Bible actually describes men who represent God (judges, Israelite kings, etc.) and God’s angels as gods include:

1. Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible, “Hints and Helps...,” Eerdmans, 1978 reprint;

2. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #430, Hebrew & Chaldee Dict., Abingdon, 1974;

3. New Bible Dictionary, p. 1133, Tyndale House Publ., 1984;

4. Today’s Dictionary of the Bible, p. 208, Bethany House Publ., 1982;

5. Hastings’ A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 217, Vol. 2;

6. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 43, Hendrickson publ.,1979;

7. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, #2316 (4.), Thayer, Baker Book House, 1984 printing;

8. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, p. 132, Vol. 1; & p. 1265, Vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1984;

9. The NIV Study Bible, footnotes for Ps. 45:6; Ps. 82:1, 6; & Jn 10:34; Zondervan, 1985;

10. New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., footnote for Ps. 45:7; 82:1; Jn 10:34; 1970 ed.;

11. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures, Vol. 5, pp. 188-189;

12. William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 317, 324, Nelson Publ., 1980 printing;

13. Murray J. Harris, Jesus As God, p. 202, Baker Book House, 1992;

14. William Barclay, The Gospel of John, V. 2, Daily Study Bible Series, pp. 77, 78, Westminster Press, 1975;

15. The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible (John 10:34 & Ps. 82:6);

16. The Fourfold Gospel (Note for John 10:35);

17. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown

(John 10:34-36);

18. Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:6-8 and John 10:35);

19. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:1).

20. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament ('Little Kittel'), - p. 328, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985.

21. The Expositor’s Greek Testament, pp. 794-795, Vol. 1, Eerdmans Publishing Co.

22. The Amplified Bible, Ps. 82:1, 6 and John 10:34, 35, Zondervan Publ., 1965.

23. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, John 10:34, 35.

24. B. W. Johnson's People's New Testament, John 10:34-36.

25. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1986, Vol. 3, p. 187.

26. Fairbairn’s Imperial Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 24, vol. III, Zondervan, 1957 reprint.

27. Theological Dictionary, Rahner and Vorgrimler, p. 20, Herder and Herder, 1965.

28. Pastor Jon Courson, The Gospel According to John.

(Also John 10:34, 35 - CEV: TEV; GodsWord; The Message; NLT; NIRV; David Guzik)

And the earliest Christians like the highly respected NT scholar Origen (see DEF study note #1) and others - - including Tertullian; Justin Martyr; Hippolytus; Clement of Alexandria; Theophilus (p. 9, DEF study); the writer of “The Epistle to Diognetus”; and even super-trinitarians Athanasius and Augustine - - also had this understanding for “a god.”

So, it is clear that Deut. 32:39 cannot be understood to say that there are no persons called 'god' with him for angels were called gods. 

However, none of those 'gods' the Israelites had recently taken up (false gods) were with Him.


ForJah said...

I have a hard time understanding whether Jesus is an actual "god" or not. As we see in the writings of Justin martyr, it seems he really believes there are TWO gods. One of those gods is the father and the other is the son. And that the father is the mightiest and Jesus is the second mightiest god.

I really don't understand what it means to be "a god"...Is God a god? Can he be a god? or would saying so imply there are in fact many gods?

tigger2 said...

There have been many messiahs (anointed ones - including kings and priests), but only one vastly superior Messiah!

And yes, there are many gods (including false gods and God-approved gods). But there is only one god who is far above all others. Yes, He is a god, but more than that He is the Most High, Almighty God.