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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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blas´fē̇ -mi ( βλασφημία , blasphēmı́a ): In classical Greek meant primarily "defamation" or "evil-speaking" in general; "a word of evil omen," hence, "impious, and irreverent speech against God."

(1) In the Old Testament as substantive and vb.: (a ) (בּרך , bārakh ) "Naboth did blaspheme God and the king" (1 Kings 21:10 , 1 Kings 21:13 the King James Version); ( b ) (גּדף , gādhaph ) of Senna-cherib defying Yahweh (2 Kings 19:6 , 2 Kings 19:22 = Isaiah 37:6 , Isaiah 37:23; also Psalm 44:16; Ezekiel 20:27; compare Numbers 15:30 ), "But the soul that doeth aught with a high hand (i.e. knowingly and defiantly),... the same blasphemeth (so the Revised Version (British and American), but the King James Version "reproacheth") Yahweh; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people." Blasphemy is always in word or deed, injury, dishonor and defiance offered to God, and its penalty is death by stoning; (c ) (חרף , ḥāraph ) of idolatry as blasphemy against Yahweh (Isaiah 65:7 ); (d ) (נקב , nāḳabh ) "And he that blasphemeth the name of Yahweh, he shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 24:11 , Leviticus 24:16 ); (e ) (נאץ , nā'ac ) David's sin is an occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14; also Psalm 74:10 , Psalm 74:18; Isaiah 52:5; compare Ezekiel 35:12; 2 Kings 19:3 the King James Version; Isaiah 37:3 ).

(2) In the New Testament blasphemy, substantive and vb., may be (a ) of evil-speaking generally, (Acts 13:45; Acts 18:6 ); The Jews contradicted Paul "and blasphemed," the Revised Version, margin "railed." (So in the King James Version of Matthew 15:19 = Mark 7:22; Colossians 3:8 , but in the Revised Version (British and American) "railings"; Revelation 2:9 the Revised Version, margin "reviling"; so perhaps in 1 Timothy 1:20; or Hymeneus and Alexander may have blasphemed Christ by professing faith and living unworthily of it.) (b ) Speaking against a heathen goddess: the town clerk of Ephesus repels the charge that Paul and his companions were blasphemers of Diana (Acts 19:37 ). (c ) Against God: (i ) uttering impious words (Revelation 13:1 , Revelation 13:5 , Revelation 13:6; Revelation 16:9 , Revelation 16:11 , Revelation 16:21; Revelation 17:3 ); (ii ) unworthy conduct of Jews (Romans 2:24 ) and Christians (1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:5 , and perhaps 1 Timothy 1:20 ); (iii ) of Jesus Christ, alleged to be usurping the authority of God (Matthew 9:3 = Mark 2:7 = Luke 5:21 ), claiming to be the Messiah, the son of God (Matthew 26:65 = Mark 14:64 ), or making Himself God (John 10:33 , John 10:36 ). (d ) Against Jesus Christ: Saul strove to make the Christians he persecuted blaspheme their Lord (Acts 26:11 ). So was he himself a blasphemer (1 Timothy 1:13; compare James 2:7 ).

The Unpardonable Sin

(3) Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: "Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come" (Matthew 12:31 , Matthew 12:32 = Mark 3:28 , Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10 ). As in the Old Testament "to sin with a high hand" and to blaspheme the name of God incurred the death penalty, so the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit remains the one unpardonable sin. These passages at least imply beyond cavil the personality of the Holy Spirit, for sin and blasphemy can only be committed against persons. In Mt and Mk a particular case of this blasphemy is the allegation of the Pharisees that Jesus Christ casts out devils by Beelzebub. The general idea is that to attribute to an evil source acts which are clearly those of the Holy Spirit, to call good evil, is blasphemy against the Spirit, and sin that will not be pardoned. "A distinction is made between Christ's other acts and those which manifestly reveal the Holy Spirit in Him, and between slander directed against Him personally as He appears in His ordinary acts, and that which is aimed at those acts in which the Spirit is manifest" (Gould, Mark at the place). Luke does not refer to any particular instance, and seems to connect it with the denial of Christ, although he, too, gives the saying that "who shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven." But which of Christ's acts are not acts of the Holy Spirit, and how therefore is a word spoken against Him not also blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? John identifies the Holy Spirit with the exalted Christ ( John 14:16-18 , John 14:26 , John 14:28 ). The solution generally offered of this most difficult problem is concisely put by Plummer (Luke ad loc.): "Constant and consummate opposition to the influence of the Holy Spirit, because of a deliberate preference of darkness to light, render repentance and therefore forgiveness morally impossible." A similar idea is taught in Hebrews 6:4-6 , and 1 John 5:16 : "A sin unto death." But the natural meaning of Christ's words implies an inability or unwillingness to forgive on the Divine side rather than inability to repent in man. Anyhow the abandonment of man to eternal condemnation involves the inability and defeat of God. The only alternative seems to be to call the kenotic theory into service, and to put this idea among the human limitations which Christ assumed when He became flesh. It is less difficult to ascribe a limit to Jesus Christ's knowledge than to God's saving grace ( Mark 13:32; compare John 16:12 , John 16:13 ). It is also noteworthy that in other respects, at least, Christ acquiesced in the view of the Holy Spirit which He found among His contemporaries. See HOLY SPIRIT .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Blasphemy'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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