Thursday, December 01, 2011

Blasphemy Against Creatures and Immaterial Things in Scripture (Not Just Against God) / New (?) Analogical Biblical Argument for Veneration of the Saints and Angels from the Disapproval of Blasphemy of the Same

 Moses (Rembrandt)

Anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant apologist Steve Hays dogmatically (and quite erroneously) proclaimed:

His satire would only be blasphemous if it were directed at God (specifically, the one true God). It isn't possible to blaspheme mere men and women. Your complaint reflects Catholic idolatry. (11-30-11)

Holy Scripture contains the Greek words blaspheemeo [βλασφημέω](Strong's word #987), blaspheemia [βλασφημία] (#988), and blaspheemos [βλάσφημος] (#989). They are often applied to men or angels. Hence Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (one-volume) states (p. 107):

It may be directly against God . . . or angelic beings (Jude 8-10; 2 Pet. 2:10-12). . . .

Persecuting Christians is also blasphemy (1 Tim. 1:13). The community has to suffer blasphemy (Rev. 2:9; 1 Cor. 4:13; 1 Pet. 4:4). Opposition to Paul's message is necessarily blasphemy (Acts 13:45 [+ 18:6]) because it attacks its basic content.

. . . A bad action is blasphemy either because it resists God's will or beings Christianity into disrepute (1 Tim. 6:1; Jms. 2:7; Rom. 2:24; Tit. 2:5).

Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ten-volume set) elaborates:

3. But the Christian, too, is in danger of giving cause for blasphemy. Denial of Christ in persecution would be such. Hence Paul can say of his activity as a persecutor: αὐτοὺς ἠνάγκαζον βλασφημεῖν. Even in partaking of idol meats Christians in bondage could see blasphemy (1 C. 10:30), as distinct from Paul. Violation of the obligation of love even in such matters ὑμε͂ν τὸ ἀγαθόν (R. 14:16) could expose to scandal. False teaching is blasphemy when it perverts from the way of truth (2 Pt. 2:2; R. 3:8). The blasphemy does not have to find verbal expression. Any bad or unloving action can contain it, either because it resists the holy will of God or because it causes the enemies of Christianity to calumniate it (1 Tm. 6:1; Jm. 2:7; R. 2:24; Tt. 2:5). The basis is clearly set out in 2 Cl., 13, 2–4.

(Vol. 1: 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley and G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (624). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans)

Note: Steve Hays attacked the usefulness and methodology of Kittel, when I cited him. I replied with partial or fairly full scholarly support of this famous lexicon, from Helmut Koester (p. 242), E. F. Harrison (p. 57), Marvin R. Wilson (p. 7), David Hill (p. 121), Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning (p. 158), and Thomas F. Torrance (p. 333).

Likewise, The New Bible Dictionary (1962, "Blasphemy", p. 159):

God is blasphemed also in His representatives. So the word is used of Moses (Acts 6:11); Paul (Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 4:12; 10:30) . . . because these representatives embody the truth of God Himself (and our Lord in a unique way) an insulting word spoken against them and their teaching is really directed against the God in whose name they speak (so Mt. 10:10; Lk. 10:16). . . . 
The term is also used, in a weaker sense, of slanderous language addressed to men (e.g. Mk. 3:28; 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Tit. 3:2). Here the best translation is 'slander, abuse'.

Even immaterial things can be blasphemed, such as the "word of God" (Titus 2:5: "discredited" in RSV), "good" [acts] (Rom 14:16), "teaching" or "doctrine" (1 Tim 6:1), "the way of truth" (2 Pet 2:2), "matters of which they are ignorant" (2 Pet 2:12). Follow the Strong's word links for comprehensive documentation of usage.

Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes (#5800: "Blasphemy") also shows a wide application of blasphemy in the Bible:

God blasphemed indirectly

Rejecting his word and his servants blasphemes God Ne 9:26 See also 2Ch 36:16; Ps 107:11; Isa 5:24

Defiling sacred things blasphemes God Lev 22:1-2 See also Eze 20:27-28; 22:26; Mal 1:6-13

Despising the poor blasphemes God Pr 14:31 See also Am 2:7; Jas 2:5-7

Speaking against his people blasphemes God Zep 2:8-11; Ac 9:4-5 To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus Christ; Ac 26:9; 1Ti 1:13; Rev 2:9

Slandering celestial beings blasphemes God 2Pe 2:10-12; Jude 8-10

(M. H. Manser, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999)

Blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) [Strong's word #987] is applied to God (or "his name" -- which, in the Hebrew mind, is the same thing) in  Matt 27:39; Mk 3:29; 15:29; Lk 12:10; 22:65; 23:39; Rom 2:24; 1 Tim 6:1; Js 2:7; Rev 13:6; 16:9, 11, 21.

Blaspheemia (βλασφημία) [Strong's word #988], is applied to God in Matt 12:31; Rev 13:1,5; 17:3.

Blaspheemos (βλάσφημος) [Strong's word #989], is applied to God in Acts 6:11

Here are the relevant biblical passages (RSV):

Blasphemy Against Men, as God's Representatives

Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul, and reviled him. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) Strong's word #987]

Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]


1 Peter 4:4 They are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you; [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]


Revelation 13:6 it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]


Acts 6:11 Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." [blaspheemos (βλάσφημος) Strong's word #989]

Blasphemy Against Angels, as God's Representatives

2 Peter 2:10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

Jude 8 Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

Revelation 13:6 it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

Blasphemy Against the Gospel and Christian Message / Teaching / The Word of God

1 Timothy 6:1 Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω)  #987]

Titus 2:5  to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

2 Peter 2:2 And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

Blasphemy Against the Law

Acts 6:13 and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; [blaspheemos (βλάσφημος) #989]

Blasphemy Against the Temple

Acts 6:13 and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; [blaspheemos (βλάσφημος) #989]

 Blasphemy Against Goodness or Good Acts

Romans 14:16 So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

2 Peter 2:12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them, [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

Jude 10 But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals do, they are destroyed. [blaspheemeo (βλασφημέω) #987]

New (?) Analogical Argument for Veneration of the Saints and Angels from the Prohibition of Blasphemy of the Same

As we have seen above, the Bible looks negatively on what it describes as "blasphemy" -- not just against God, but against holy persons or those set apart for His purposes (Moses: Acts 6:11; St. Paul: Acts 13:45; 18:6; saints in heaven: Rev 13:6; Christians in general: 1 Pet 4:4), and against angels (2 Pet 2:10; Jude 8; Rev 13:6). The same words for blasphemy are used for men, angels, and God.

This is because these men and angels serve as His messengers (2 Cor 8:23), direct representatives (Matt 10:40; Lk 10:16; Jn 13:20), ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20; Phlm 1:9), or witnesses (Jn 15:27; 19:35; 21:24; Acts 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 10:39-41; 23:11; 1 Pet 5:1; Rev 1:2; 6:9). Indeed, Christians are even described as "fellow workers" with Him (1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1; Phil 2:12-13). The Church is equated with Jesus Himself (both being persecuted in the same actions: Acts 26:11, 14-15), and there is also an identification of the Church "Body of Christ" with Christ Himself (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22-23; 5:30; Col 1:24).

The aspect of divinization, or theosis, is a biblical motif of very close identification and union with God:

Acts 17:28 for 'In him we live and move and have our being': . . . 

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Ephesians 3:19 . . . to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 4:13 . . . mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature
In other words, the key is affinity with, or closeness; proximity to God. Just as God can be blasphemed, in a lesser but still very real sense, so can His ambassadors and witnesses. There is the primary Being: God, and the secondary ones: His vessels. They reflect and represent God; therefore, as such, people can scorn and reject and blaspheme them just as they do God.

It seems to straightforwardly follow, then, by analogy, that if a rejection or blasphemy of God can be expressed via an essentially lesser but connected rejection or blasphemy of His ambassadors (the lesser vessel being in close affinity with the greater source), by the same token and principle and logic, conversely, the worship of God can be expressed via an essentially lesser but connected  veneration of His ambassadors.

In this manner, the wider application of blasphemy in Scripture to creatures suggests by symmetrical analogy, a wider application of honoring: expressed in veneration of creatures, which is distinct (but not altogether disconnected) from the adoration that God alone is entitled to, as Creator. The creatures reflect the Creator like the painting reflects the painter, or moonlight, the sunlight that is the source of it.

Moreover, we see that the Bible refers blasphemy of men almost solely to the most eminent of God's followers (Paul, Moses, and perfected saints in heaven): and angels even higher in the scale of things. Thus, by analogy, the relatively greater veneration would be towards those who had attained a higher holiness and sanctity; hence in the Bible we see a differential "system" of blasphemy / veneration not unlike how the Catholic Church ranks lesser and greater saints, with the greater receiving more veneration.

Lastly, the biblical data about blasphemy of immaterial holy things (the gospel, Christian doctrine, the law, the Temple) leads to the opposite analogy of reverence of those same holy things and places ("The Holy Bible": as even Protestants call it; the Holy Land, icons, Church sanctuaries, statues representing saints, etc.). The essential and fundamental, presuppositional  principles of all these things are clearly laid down in the Bible, if not explicitly in every jot and tittle.


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