What does the Bible say about Blasphemy? By Jack Kettler
In this study, we will seek to understand what word blasphemy means.
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the glorifying of God in how we live.
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)
Question: What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?
Answer: To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is a verbal or written reproach of God's name, character, work, or attributes. *
Blasphemy; Speaking evil of God or denying Him some good, which we should attribute to Him. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is stating that Jesus did his miracles by the power of the devil (Matthew 12:22-32) and is an unforgivable sin (Mark 3:28-30). Blasphemy arises out of pride (Psalms 73:9; Psalms 73:11), hatred (Psalms 74:18), injustice (Isaiah 52:5), etc. Christ was mistakenly accused of blasphemy (John 10:30-33). **
Words that are synonymous with blasphemy:
Desecration, heresy, abuse, execration, impiety, imprecation, indignity, profanity, profaning, sacrilege, scoffing, swearing, cursing, reviling, railing
Blasphemy refers to defamatory, injurious, or abusive speech against God or against sacred things:
· Taking God’s name in vain is blasphemous
· Mocking the God of the Bible is blasphemous
· Expressions such as “For God's sakes or heavens sake,” and other derivations such as “Gee,” “Gosh,” and “doggone it,” and many others like these are blasphemous
· Denying that God exists is blasphemous
· Committing idolatry is blasphemous
· Diminishing God's Word by disobeying it is blasphemous
· Desecration of a church is blasphemous
· Worshipping false gods is blasphemous
· Practicing divination is blasphemous
· Reducing God to a human level is blasphemous
Scriptures on Blasphemy:
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)
“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)
“And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16)
“But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or resident alien blasphemes the LORD. That person is to be cut off from his people.” (Numbers 15:30 CSB)
“Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD, Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed Me by acting treacherously against Me.” (Ezekiel 20:27)
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31 ESV) Note: The readers of the KJV will notice against the Holy are italicized and not in the Greek text. The KJV translators added these two words. Spirit is a far better translation of πνεύματος (pneumatos) than ghost is.
John Calvin on Matthew 12:31 and blasphemy against the Spirit:
“Therefore, I say to you. This inference ought not to be confined to the clause immediately preceding, but depends on the whole discourse. Having proved that the scribes could not blame him for casting out devils, without opposing the kingdom of God, he at length concludes that it is no light or ordinary offense, but an atrocious crime, knowingly and willingly to pour contempt on the Spirit of God. We have already said, that Christ did not pronounce this decision on the mere words, which they uttered, but on their base and wicked thought.
All sin and blasphemy. As our Lord declares blasphemy against the Holy Ghost to be more heinous than all other sins, it is of importance to inquire what is the meaning of that term. Those who define it to be impenitence may be refuted without any difficulty; for it would have been in vain and to no purpose for Christ to say, that it is not forgiven in the present life. Besides, the word blasphemy cannot be extended indiscriminately to every sort of crimes; but from the comparison which Christ makes, we shall easily obtain the true definition. Why is it said that he who blasphemes against the Spirit is a more heinous sinner than he who blasphemes against Christ? Is it because the majesty of the Spirit is greater, that a crime committed against him must be punished with greater severity? Certainly that is not the reason; for as the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9) shines in Christ, he who pours contempt upon him overturns and destroys, as far as it lies in his power, the whole glory of God. Now in what manner shall Christ be separated from his Spirit, so that those who treat the Spirit with contempt offer no injury or insult to Christ?
Already we begin to perceive, that the reason why blasphemy against the Spirit exceeds other sins, is not that the Spirit is higher than Christ, but that those who rebel, after that the power of God has been revealed, cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance. Besides, it must be observed, that what is here said about blasphemy does not refer merely to the essence of the Spirit, but to the grace which He has bestowed upon us. Those who are destitute of the light of the Spirit, however much they may detract from the glory of the Spirit, will not be held guilty of this crime. We do not maintain, that those persons are said to pour contempt on the Spirit of God, who oppose his grace and power by hardened malice; and farther we maintain, that this kind of sacrilege is committed only when we knowingly endeavor to extinguish the Spirit who dwells in us.
The reason why contempt is said to be poured on the Spirit, rather than on the Son or the Father, is this. By detracting from the grace and power of God, we make a direct attack on the Spirit, from whom they proceed, and in whom they are revealed to us. Shall any unbeliever curse God? It is as if a blind man were dashing against a wall. But no man curses the Spirit who is not enlightened by him, and conscious of ungodly rebellion against him; for it is not a superfluous distinction. that all other blasphemies shall be forgiven, except that one blasphemy which is directed against the Spirit. If a man shall simply blaspheme against God, he is not declared to be beyond the hope of pardon; but of those who have offered outrage to the Spirit, it is said that God will never forgive them. Why is this, but because those only are blasphemers against the Spirit, who slander his gifts and power, contrary to the conviction of their own mind? Such also is the import of the reason assigned by Mark for the extreme severity of Christ's threatening against the Pharisees; because they had said that he had the unclean spirit; for in this manner they purposely and maliciously turned light into darkness; and, indeed, it is in the manner of the giants, as the phrase is, to make war against God.
But here a question arises. Do men proceed to such a pitch of madness as not to hesitate, knowingly and willfully, to rush against God? For this appears to be monstrous and incredible. I: reply: Such audacity does indeed proceed from mad blindness, in which, at the same time, malice and virulent rage predominate. Nor is it without reason that Paul says, that though he was
A blasphemer, he obtained pardon, because he had done it ignorantly in his unbelief,
(1 Timothy 1:13 ;)
For this term draws a distinction between his sin and voluntary rebellion. This passage refutes also the error of those who imagine that every sin which is voluntary, or which is committed in opposition to the conscience, is unpardonable. On the contrary, Paul expressly limits that sin to the First Table of the Law; and our Lord not less plainly applies the word blasphemy to a single description of sin, and at the same time shows, that it is of a kind, which is directly opposed to the glory of God.
From all that has been said, we may conclude that those persons sin and blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, who maliciously turn to his dishonor the perfections of God, which have been revealed to him by the Spirit, in which His glory ought to be celebrated, and who, with Satan, their leader, are avowed enemies of the glory of God. We need not then wonder if for such sacrilege there is no hope of pardon; for they must be desperate who turn the only medicine of salvation into a deadly venom. Some consider this to be too harsh, and betake themselves to the childish expedient, that it is said to be unpardonable, because the pardon of it is rare and difficult to be obtained. But the words of Christ are too precise to admit of so silly an evasion. It is excessively foolish to argue that God will be cruel if he never pardon a sin, the atrocity of which ought to excite in us astonishment and horror. Those who reason in that manner do not sufficiently consider what a monstrous crime it is, not only to profane intentionally the sacred name of God, but to spit in his face when he shines evidently before us. It shows equal ignorance to object, that it would be absurd if even repentance could not obtain pardon; for blasphemy against the Spirit is a token of reprobation, and hence it follows, that whoever have fallen into it, have been delivered over to a reprobate mind, (Romans 1:28.) As we maintain, that he who has been truly regenerated by the Spirit cannot possibly fall into so horrid a crime, so, on the other hand, we must believe that those who have fallen into it never rise again; nay, that in this manner God punishes contempt of his grace, by hardening the hearts of the reprobate, so that they never have any desire towards repentance.” (1)
False accusations of blasphemy:
“Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7)
“The Jews answered him, saying, for a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:33)
If it had been any other man, it these accusations would be correct. In the case of Jesus, it is not, because He is true God.
Acts of blasphemy:
“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29)
“And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13:6)
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words on blasphemy:
A-1 Noun Strong's Number: g988 Greek: blasphemia
Blaspheme, Blasphemy, Blasphemer, Blasphemous:
either from blax, “sluggish, stupid,” or, probably, from blapto, “to injure,” and pheme, “speech,” (Eng. “blasphemy”) is so translated thirteen times in the RV, but “railing” in Mat 15:19; Mar 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col 3:8; 1Ti 6:4; Jud 1:9. The word “blasphemy” is practically confined to speech defamatory of the Divine Majesty. See Note, below.
See EVIL SPEAKING, RAILING.
B-1 Verb Strong's Number: g987 Greek: blasphemeo
Blaspheme, Blasphemy, Blasphemer, Blasphemous:
“To blaspheme, rail at or revile,” is used
(a) in a general way, of any contumelious speech, reviling, calumniating, railing at, etc., as of those who railed at Christ, e.g., Mat 27:39; Mar 15:29; Luke 22:65 (RV, “reviling”); Luke 23:39;
(b) of those who speak contemptuously of God or of sacred things, e.g., Mat 9:3; Mar 3:28; Rom 2:24; 1Ti 1:20; 6:1; Rev 13:6; 16:9, 11, 21; “hath spoken blasphemy,” Mat 26:65; “rail at,” 2Pe 2:10; Jud 1:8, 10; “railing,” 2Pe 2:12; “slanderously reported,” Rom 3:8; “be evil spoken of,” Rom 14:16; 1Cr 10:30; 2Pe 2:2; “speak evil of,” Tts 3:2; 1Pe 4:4; “being defamed,” 1Cr 4:13. The verb (in the present participial form) is translated “blasphemers” in Act 19:37; in Mar 2:7, “blasphemeth,” RV, for AV, “speaketh blasphemies.”
There is no noun in the original representing the English “blasphemer.” This is expressed either by the verb, or by the adjective blasphemos.
See DEFAME, RAIL, REPORT, REVILE.
C-1 Adjective Strong's Number: g989 Greek: blasphemos
Blaspheme, Blasphemy, Blasphemer, Blasphemous:
“Abusive, speaking evil,” is translated “blasphemous,” in Act 6:11, 13; “a blasphemer,” 1Ti 1:13; “railers,” 2Ti 3:2, RV; “railing,” 2Pe 2:11.
Note: As to Christ's teaching concerning “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit, e.g., Mat 12:32, that anyone, with the evidence of the Lord's power before His eyes, should declare it to be Satanic, exhibited a condition of heart beyond Divine illumination and therefore hopeless. Divine forgiveness would be inconsistent with the moral nature of God. As to the Son of Man, in his state of humiliation, there might be misunderstanding, but not so with the Holy Spirit's power demonstrated. (2)
An excellent theological dictionary article on blasphemy:
Definition. In English “blasphemy” denotes any utterance that insults God or Christ (or Allah, or Muhammed) and gives deeply felt offense to their followers. In several states in the United States and in Britain, blasphemy is a criminal offense, although there have been few prosecution in this century. In Islamic countries generally no distinction is made between blasphemy and heresy, so that any perceived rejection of the Prophet or his message, by Muslims or non-Muslims, is regarded as blasphemous.
The biblical concept is very different. There is no Hebrew word equivalent to the English "blasphemy," and the Greek root blasphem- [blasfhmevw], which is used fifty-five times in the New Testament, has a wide meaning. In both Testaments the idea of blasphemy as something that offends the religious sensibilities of others is completely absent.
The Old Testament At least five different Hebrew verbs are translated “blaspheme” in English translations. Translators choose “blaspheme” when, for instance, the verbs “curse” (qalal [l;l'q]), “revile” (gadap), or “despise” (herep) are used with God as the object. No special verb is reserved for cursing or insults directed at God.
However, to curse or insult God is an especially grave sin. It can be done by word or by deed. There is little distinction between the sinner who deliberately abuses the name of the Lord (Lev. 24:10-16), and the one who deliberately flouts his commandments (Num. 15:30-31). For both, the death penalty is prescribed. Similarly, the prayer of the Levites in Nehemiah 9 calls "awful blasphemies" all that Israelites did when they made the golden calf (9:18).
David's flagrant sin with Bathsheba may be called a blasphemy (2 Samuel 12:14), but a more likely translation is that David has “made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt” (NIV). Instead of testifying by lifestyle to the character of the Lord, David's action confirms the blasphemous belief of the nations that the Lord is no different from any other national god.
The New Testament. The Greek root blasphem- [blasfhmevw] can be used of strong insults thrown at other people (Mark 15:29; Acts 13:45; Eph. 4:31; 1 Peter 4:4), or even unjust accusations (Rom. 3:8), but it is more usually used of insults offered to God (e.g., Rev. 13:6; 16:9). Jesus is accused of blasphemy for pronouncing forgiveness and for claiming a unique relationship with God (Matt. 26:65; Mark 2:7; John 10:33).
Jesus picks up the Numbers 15 passage about blasphemy in his famous saying about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). Numbers 15:22-31 distinguishes between unintentional sin committed in ignorance (for which forgiveness is possible), and defiant sin, called blasphemy, for which there is no forgiveness. Jesus teaches that the blasphemy for which there is no forgiveness is that against the Holy Spirit; all other blasphemies, particularly those against “the Son of Man,” may be forgiven. Insults thrown at "the Son of Man" may be forgiven because they are committed in ignorance of who he really is: his heavenly glory does not appear on earth. But to ascribe obvious manifestations of the Spirit to the devil's agency is a much more serious offense not committed in ignorance.
This downgrading of the significance of blasphemy against Christ marks an important difference between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Muslims are bound to defend the honor of the Prophet, for Christians Jesus is the one who says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Rom. 15:3; quoting Psalm 69:9). He deliberately accepts the vilification of others and prays for the forgiveness of those who insult him (Luke 23:34). In this, he sets an example for Christians to follow. According to Peter (Peter 2:19-25), they must accept insult and blasphemy without retaliation, as he did.
There is only one kind of blasphemy that Christians must resist: the blasphemy they will bring on themselves if they cause a fellow believer to stumble through the thoughtless exercise of their freedom (Rom. 14:15-16; 1 Cor. 10:28-30). Stephen Motyer (3)
Westminster Longer Catechism Q. 111-114. The Scriptural proofs are in brackets, and highlighted in yellow. The disciple of Scripture is encouraged to look up the proof texts:
Q. 111. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. [Exodus 20:7]
Q. 112. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, [Matthew 11:9; Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalm 29:2; Psalm 68:4; Revelation 15:3-4] ordinances, [Malachi 1:14] the Word, [Psalm 138:2] sacraments, [1 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28-29] prayer, [1 Timothy 2:8] oaths, [Jeremiah 4:2] vows, [Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-6] lots, [Acts 1:24, 26] his works, [Job 36:24] and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, [Malachi 3:16] meditation, [Psalm 8:1, 3-4, 9] word, [Colossians 3:17; Psalm 105:2, 5] and writing; [Psalm 102:18] by an holy profession, [1 Peter 3:15; Micah 4:5] and answerable conversation, [Philippians 1:27] to the glory of God, [1 Corinthians 10:31] and the good of ourselves, [Jeremiah 32:39] and others. [1 Peter 2:12]
Q. 113. What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; [Malachi 2:2] and the abuse of it in an ignorant, [Acts 17:23] vain, [Proverbs 30:9] irreverent, profane, [Malachi 1:6-7, 12; 3:14] superstitious [1 Samuel 4:3-5; Jeremiah 7:4, 9-10, 14, 31; Colossians 2:20-22] or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, [2 Kings 18:30, 35; Exodus 5:2; Psalm 139:20] ordinances, [Psalm 50:16-17] or works, [Isaiah 5:12] by blasphemy, [2 Kings 19:22; Leviticus 24:11] perjury; [Zechariah 5:4; 8:17] all sinful cursings, [1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Samuel 16:5] oaths, [Jeremiah 5:7; 23:10] vows, [Deuteronomy 23:18; Acts 23:12, 14] and lots; [Esther 3:7; 9:4; Psalm 22:18] violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; [Psalm 24:4; Ezekiel 17:16, 18-19] and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; [Mark 6:26; 1 Samuel 25:22, 32-34] murmuring and quarrelling at, [Romans 9:14, 19-20] curious prying into, [Deuteronomy 29:29] and misapplying of God’s decrees [Romans 3:5, 7] and providences; [Ecclesiastes 8:11; 9:3; Psalm 39] misinterpreting, [Matthew 5:21-22] misapplying, [Ezekiel 13:22] or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it; [2 Peter 3:16; Matthew 22:24-31; 25:28-30] to profane jests, [Isaiah 22:13; Jeremiah 23:34, 36, 38] curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; [1 Timothy 1:4, 6-7; 6:4-5; 20; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:9] abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, [Deuteronomy 18:10-14; Acts 19:13] or sinful lusts and practices; [2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 13:13-14; 1 Kings 21:9-10] the maligning, [Acts 13:45; 1 John 3:12] scorning, [Psalm 1:1; 2 Peter 3:3] reviling, [1 Peter 4:4] or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; [Acts 13:45-46, 50; 4:18; 19:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; Hebrews 10:29] making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; [2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 23:14; Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16] being ashamed of it, [Mark 8:38] or a shame to it, by unconformable, [Psalm 73:14-15] unwise, [1 Corinthians 6:5-6; Ephesians 5:15-17] unfruitful, [Isaiah 5:4; 2 Peter 1:8-9] and offensive walking, [Romans 2:23-24] or backsliding from it. [Galatians 3:1, 3; Hebrews 6:6].
Q. 114. What reasons are annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the third commandment, in these words, The Lord thy God, and, For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain, [Exodus 20:7] are, because he is the Lord and our God, therefore his name is not to be profaned, or any way abused by us; [Leviticus 19:12] especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment; [Ezekiel 36:21-23; Deuteronomy 28:58-59; Zechariah 5:2-4] albeit many such escape the censures and punishments of men. [1 Samuel 2:12, 17, 22, 24; 3:13]
1. John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume XV1 Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 73-77.
2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 123-124.
3. Walter A. Elwell, Editor Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 67.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/blasphemy-blaspheme.html
** CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html