Judges As Types: Why They Are Called gods
Going through S. Lewis Johnson’s “Gospel of John” series, some great insights concerning Jesus’ statement in John 10:34-36:
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came-and Scripture cannot be broken- 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
Here Jesus cites Psalm 82:6, which refers to unjust human judges and calls them gods. What exactly did Jesus mean here? I’ve heard the general “lesser to greater” argument but hadn’t previously considered this text in depth.
one modern commentator has said that what our Lord is doing is simply using an a fortiori argument. That is for a still stronger reason if mere men may be called gods then surely I may be called the Son of God. And it’s not blasphemy for me to be called the Son of God if mere men, unjust judges should be called gods.
This isn’t a fully satisfying answer, though, since – as S. Lewis Johnson notes – after all they’re accusing him of claiming deity, not simply that he’s a God like other men are gods.
Another response given is that Jesus is repelling the technical charge, and that it’s not blasphemy to call someone God who really is God. So if you can call human judges gods then surely you can call someone who is sanctified and sent into the world the Son of God.
This may be the sense that was intended, but S. Lewis Johnson then goes a little deeper: the typology of judges, as a type of God and representing God, and, in the type, showing the unity between the human ruler and God:
Why were judges called gods? Now that’s not the only place. In a couple of other places in the Old Testament they’re also called gods. Why are they called gods? Why is a judge called a god in the Bible?
Obviously it’s not God in the sense of one who possesses full deity, but yet there is some relationship. There is some form of representative unity that exists between a human being called a god and the great Triune God in heaven. Well, judges did have a relationship of limited union with God because they were their divinely delegated representatives. In Israel, a judge was one who should judge under God, and should judge with the judgment of God. In that sense they were in limited union with God, very limited union, similar to Paul’s statement in Romans 13 when he calls the magistrates of the cities, ministers of God.
Think of all of our political men. Of all of the titles that you would think that are least applicable to them, what would stand out most? Well, I won’t ask you to reply. I’ll just reply for myself. What is the least applicable title that I can think of for Senators, and Congressman, and Mayors, and Governors, ministers of God, and yet that’s what they are, ministers of God. By the providence of God they serve in their office. … You see they are magistrates of God. There is a limited sense of union in that they serve ideally and responsibly before God as representatives of him. They talk about representing the people, but they really are ideally the representatives of God. That should be their first responsibility. So there is a limited union then between a magistrate and the Lord God.
In this sense they are types and shadows of a deeper union to come. All of these things were arranged by God so that they would lead up the great union that exists between the Son and the Father, the mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is absolutely on with the Father. So the germ of the union between God and man existed in the law, even in unjust judges. But the Lord Jesus is the one who has perfectly realized the union of God and man in his incarnation and atonement. And that is indicated by the words, “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world.” He perfectly realizes the union between man and God.
Now if you can call those little fellows gods, how much more is it proper and right for him to whom all of those limited unions pointed to call him Son of God? They all pointed forward to him. The prophets in the Old Testament had a limited union with God, but they pointed forward to the prophet. The priests of the Old Testament had a limited union with God, but they looked forward to the priest, the eternal priest, the kings likewise to the King. And the judges looked forward to the judge, and the judge who would do exactly what Psalm 82 said, “But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes,” when you do not respond to the truth of God. It was a very affective thrust because it reminded them not only of the fact of his right to be called the Son of God, but also of his right to be the ultimate judge of all men including the judges, and especially the judges among the Pharisees and Sadducees who were before his face at this present moment.
It’s a magnificent reply.