Blasphemy (in the Bible)

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Blasphemy in the OT involved any word or action offensive to God. The Mosaic Law ordered the stoning of anyone who cursed (qillēl ) God, or blasphemed (nāqab, connected with qābab, "curse" [?]) His name (Lv 24.1016; Ex 22.27). The defiant sinner insulted (giddēp ) God (Nm 15.30), so also did Israel's rebellion against God (Ez 20.27), and the disparagement of God's power by Israel's enemies (2 Kgs 19.6, 22). Israel's enemies and wicked men are also said to taunt or mock (ērēp ) God (Is 37.4, 17, 23; 65.7; Ps 73[74].10, 18; Prv 14.31). To oppress God's people is to despise or spurn or revile (niē ) His name (Is 52.5). Ni'ē appears frequently in connection with God (Nm 14.11; Dt 31.20; 2 Sm 12.14; Ps 9b[10].3,13; Is 1.4). Taking the name of God in vain or falsely is a form of blasphemy (Ex 20.7). Later Judaism refrained from even pronouncing God's sacred name, substituting "Heavens," or "the Name," etc.

In the NT βλασφημία (also in verbal and adjectival form) means "revilement," "slander," or "railing" with men as object (Ti 3.2; Rom 3.8; 1 Cor 4.13; 10.30; Acts 13.45; 18.6, Paul's teaching; Rv 2.9; see also the lists of vices in Mk 7.22; Eph 4.31; Col 3.8; Mt 15.19; 1 Tm 6.4; 2 Tm 3.2). It also denotes a sin against God. The Jews take Jesus' claim to the divine prerogative of forgiving sin (Mt 9.3 and parallels) and to be the Son of God (Jn 10.33, 36; cf. 5.18) as blasphemy. The Sanhedrin condemned Him to death for blasphemy (cf. His use of Ps 190[110].1 and Dn 7.13 in Mt 26.6366 and parallels). The Jews accused St. Stephen of blasphemy because of his teaching on God, Moses, the Temple, and the Law (Acts 6.11, 13; 7.58; cf. Lv 24.1016). Unrepentant men blaspheme God (Rv 16.11, 21). His name is also blasphemed (Rv 16.9; 13.6, by the beast of the sea; see also Rv 13.1; 17.3). The Jews by transgressing the law caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (Rom 2.24; St. Paul here uses Is 52.5, LXX, with his own inspired purpose). Rebellion of Christian slaves would cause blaspheming of the name of the Lord and His teachings (1 Tm 6.1). Since Christ's miracles are done by the power of the Holy Spirit, to attribute them to the devil is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This sin against the holy spirit is unforgivable. A hardened blindness to the coming of the Spirit in power, it totally excludes the divine light of repentance. Other blasphemies, even those against the Son of Man whose divinity is veiled, are forgivable (Mt 12.2532 and par.; Heb 6.46; 10.2628). Christ is reviled (βλασφήμουν) on the cross (Mt 27.39 and par.). The rich of this world blaspheme His name in their ill treatment of the poor (Jas 2.7). To deny Christ is blasphemy (1 Tm 1.13; Acts 26.11). Immoral conduct leads to blaspheming the Christian message (2 Pt 2.2; Ti2.5; see also Rom 14.16). Evil men blaspheme angels (2 Pt 2.10; Jude 8, 10).

See Also: curse.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 251253. g. a. buttrick, ed., The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 4 v. (Nashville 1962) v. 1.

[j. a. fallon]