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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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BLASPHEMY . The modern use of this word is more restricted in its range than that of either the OT or the NT. 1 . In the former it is narrower in its scope than in the latter, being almost universally confined to language or deeds ( 1M Malachi 2:6 ) derogating from the honour of God and His claims to the over-lordship of men ( Leviticus 24:10-16 , cf. 1 Kings 21:10; 1 Kings 21:13 , 2 Kings 19:6 etc.). The contemptuous scorning of sacred places was regarded as blasphemy (see Malachi 2:6 Malachi 2:6; 1Ma 7:38 , cf. Acts 6:13 ), as was also the light and irresponsible utterance of the sacred Name ( Isaiah 52:6 , Ezekiel 36:20 , Deuteronomy 5:11 ), the degradation of Jehovah-worship by conformity to pagan rites ( Ezekiel 20:27 ), and the continued wilful transgression of Divine commands and despising of ‘the word of the Lord’ ( Numbers 15:30 f.). The incident of the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath seems to be a concrete example of blasphemy ( Numbers 15:32 f.).

2 . When we come to the NT, the word is found more frequently, and is employed in a manner more nearly allied to the usage of classical writings. The EV [Note: English Version.] has accordingly tr. [Note: translate or translation.] it often as ‘railing’ or slanderous talk generally ( Matthew 15:19 = Mark 7:22 , Ephesians 4:31 , Col 3:8 , 1 Timothy 6:4 , Judges 1:9 ), looked at, however, on its ethical and religious side. The cognate verb, too, is treated in the same way ( Mark 15:29 = Matthew 27:39 , Luke 22:65; Luke 23:39 , Romans 3:8; Rom 14:16 , 1 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 10:30 , Tit 3:2 , 1 Peter 4:4; 1 Peter 4:14 , 2Pe 2:2; 2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 2:12 , Judges 1:8; Judges 1:10 ), as is also the derived adjective ( 2 Timothy 3:2 , 2 Peter 2:11 ).

One of the most frequent of the charges brought by the Jews against Jesus was that of blasphemy, and when we inquire into the meaning of the accusation, we find that it was the application to Himself of Divine attributes and prerogatives (Mark 2:7 = Matthew 9:3 , Mark 14:64 = Matthew 26:65 , John 10:33; John 10:36 ). On the other hand, the NT writers regarded the unreasoning attitude of the Jews to the claims and teaching of Jesus as blasphemous ( Mark 15:29 = Matthew 27:39 , Luke 22:65; Luke 23:39 , Acts 13:45; Acts 18:6 ). It is interesting also to notice that this is the word put by the author of the Acts into the mouth of the town-clerk of Ephesus when he was appeasing the riotous mob who were persuaded that St. Paul and his companions had insulted the local deity ( Acts 19:37 ).

3 . The legal punishment for blasphemy was death ( Leviticus 24:16 ), and so the Jews claimed the life of Jesus, as the just and lawful outcome of His words and teaching ( John 19:7 , cf. John 10:33; John 8:58 f.). The proto-martyr Stephen lost his life, too, on a charge of blasphemy ( Acts 6:13; Acts 7:58 ), when his enemies, in a violent and sudden fit of rage, forgot the limitation imposed on them as vassals of the Roman Empire (cf. John 18:31; see Westcott, Gospel of St. John , Additional Note in loc ). On the ‘blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,’ see art. Sin, III. 1.

J. R. Willis.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Blasphemy'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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