A man is guilty of blasphemy, when he speaks of God, or his attributes, injuriously; when he calumniously ascribe such qualities to him as do not belong to him, or robs him of those which do. The law sentenced blasphemers to death, Le 24:12-16. In a lower sense, men are said to be blasphemed when abused by calumnious and reviling words, 1Ki 21:10; Ac 6:11.
In the sense of speaking evil of God this word is found in Ps 74:18; Isa 52:5; Ro 2:24; Re 13:1,6; 16:9,11,21. It denotes also any kind of calumny, or evil-speaking, or abuse (1Ki 21:10; Ac 13:45; 18:6, etc.). Our Lord was accused of blasphemy when he claimed to be the Son of God (Mt 26:65; comp. Mt 9:3; Mr 2:7). They who deny his Messiahship blaspheme Jesus (Lu 22:65; Joh 10:36).
Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Mt 12:31-32; Mr 3:28-29; Lu 12:10) is regarded by some as a continued and obstinate rejection of the gospel, and hence is an unpardonable sin, simply because as long as a sinner remains in unbelief he voluntarily excludes himself from pardon. Others regard the expression as designating the sin of attributing to the power of Satan those miracles which Christ performed, or generally those works which are the result of the Spirit's agency.
Literally a "railing accusation" against anyone (Jg 1:9). "Evil speaking" is probably meant by it in Col 3:8. But it is more often used in the sense of any speech directly dishonoring God (1Ki 21:10; 2Sa 12:14; Ps 74:18; Isa 52:5; Ro 2:24). Stoning was the penalty, as upon the son of Shelomith, a woman of Dan, and of an Egyptian father (Le 24:11); Stephen was so treated by a sudden outbreak of Jewish zeal (Ac 7:57-60). The Savior would have been stoned for the blasphemy alleged as the ground of His condemnation (Mt 26:65; Lu 5:21; Joh 10:36); but the Romans, to whom He was delivered, used crucifixion.
So the fulfillment of the prophecy (contrary to what might have been expected, seeing that crucifixion was not a Jewish punishment) was brought about, "they pierced My hands and My feet" (Ps 22:16; compare Joh 18:31-32; 19:6-7). The Jews, in spite of themselves, fulfilled the prophecies to the letter (Joh 11:50-52). The hearer of the blasphemy rent his garment, which might never be mended, and laid his hand, putting the guilt wholly, on the offender's head. The Jews, because of Le 24:16, superstitiously shrank from even naming Jehovah. In Ex 22:28, "thou shalt not curse the gods" (elohim) refers to disrespectful language toward magistrates. From Ex 23:13, "make no mention of the name of other gods," they thought themselves bound to turn the idols' names into nicknames, as Baal into Bosheth, Beth-aven for Beth-el, Beel-zebul for Beel-zebub.
When the Jewish rulers, who had such numerous proofs of Jesus' Messiahship, shut their hearts against conviction, and at last stifled conscience and the light so utterly as to attribute His miracles of love, as the casting out of unclean spirits, to the help of the prince of demons, Christ pronounced that they were either committing or on the verge of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit which is forgiven neither in this world nor in the world to come, though all sin against the Son of man can be forgiven (Mt 12:31, etc.; Mr 3:28, etc.).
None can now commit formally the same sin of attributing Jesus' miracles against Satan's kingdom to Satan's help, so evident a self contradiction that nothing short of a seared conscience, and a hardened determination to resist every spiritual impression and even malign the Spirit's work before other men, could have given birth to such a sin. But a man may commit virtually the same sin by continued malignant resistance of the gracious Spirit in one's own heart, with, at the same time, blasphemous and Satanic misrepresentation of it to others. He who has committed it is so given over to a reprobate mind as to have no pang of conscience about it, and the very fear of anyone that he has committed it is proof positive that he has not, for if he had he would have been "past feeling" (Heb 6:4-6; 1Jo 5:16).
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 (1Ma 2:6) derogating from the honour of God and His claims to the over-lordship of men (Le 24:10-16, cf. 1Ki 21:10,13; 2Ki 19:6 etc.). The contemptuous scorning of sacred places was regarded as blasphemy (see 1Ma 2:6; 1Ma 7:38, cf. Ac 6:13), as was also the light and irresponsible utterance of the sacred Name (Isa 52:6; Eze 36:20; De 5:11), the degradation of Jehovah-worship by conformity to pagan rites (Eze 20:27), and the continued wilful transgression of Divine commands and despising of 'the word of the Lord' (Nu 15:30 f.). The incident of the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath seems to be a concrete example of blasphemy (Nu 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 English Version has accordingly tr it often as 'railing' or slanderous talk generally (Mt 15:19 = Mr 7:22; Eph 4:31; Col 3:8; 1Ti 6:4; Jude 1:9), looked at, however, on its ethical and religious side. The cognate verb, too, is treated in the same way (Mr 15:29 = Mt 27:39; Lu 22:65; 23:39; Ro 3:8; 14:16; 1Co 4:18; 10:30; Tit 3:2; 1Pe 4:4,14; 2Pe 2:2,10,12; Jude 1:8,10), as is also the derived adjective (2Ti 3:2; 2Pe 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 (Mr 2:7 = Mt 9:3; Mr 14:64 = Mt 26:65; Joh 10:33,36). On the other hand, the NT writers regarded the unreasoning attitude of the Jews to the claims and teaching of Jesus as blasphemous (Mr 15:29 = Mt 27:39; Lu 22:65; 23:39; Ac 13:45; 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 (Ac 19:37).
3. The legal punishment for blasphemy was death (Le 24:16), and so the Jews claimed the life of Jesus, as the just and lawful outcome of His words and teaching (Joh 19:7, cf. Joh 10:33; 8:58 f.). The proto-martyr Stephen lost his life, too, on a charge of blasphemy (Ac 6:13; 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. Joh 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.
In scripture this does not always refer to speaking evil of God, to which the word is now restricted. The same Greek word is translated 'railing' in 1Ti 6:4; Jude 1:9; and 'evil speaking' in Eph 4:31, as it might well be rendered elsewhere. Blaspheming the name of the Lord was under the Jewish economy punishable by death: the son of Shelomith who had married an Egyptian, was stoned to death for this sin. Le 24:11,14,23. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was attributing the Lord's action of casting out demons to the agency of Satan
in its technical English sense, signifies the speaking evil of God and in this sense it is found
etc. But according to its derivation it may mean any species of calumny and abuse: see
etc. Blasphemy was punished by stoning, which was inflicted on the son of Shelomith.
On this charge both our Lord and St. Stephen were condemned to death by the Jews. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,
consisted in attributing to the power of Satan those unquestionable miracles which Jesus performed by "the finger of God" and the power of the Holy Spirit. It is plainly such a state of wilful, determined opposition to God and the Holy Spirit that no efforts will avail to lead to repentance. Among the Jews it was a sin against God answering to treason in our times.
BLASPHEMY, ?????????, properly denotes calumny, detraction, reproachful or abusive language, against whomsoever it be vented. That ????????? and its conjugates are very often applied, says Dr. Campbell, to reproaches not aimed against God, is evident from the following passages: Mt 12:31-32; 27:39; Mr 15:29; Lu 22:65; 23:39; Ro 3:8; 14:16; 1Co 4:13; 10:30; Eph 4:31; 1Ti 6:4; Tit 3:2; 1Pe 4:14; Jude 1:9-10; Ac 6:11,13; 2Pe 2:10-11; in the much greater part of which the English translators, sensible that they could admit no such application, have not used the words blaspheme or blasphemy, but rail, revile, speak evil, &c. In one of the passages quoted, a reproachful charge brought even against the devil is called ?????? ??????????, Jude 1:9; and rendered by them, "railing accusation." The import of the word ????????? is maledicentia, in the largest acceptation; comprehending all sorts of verbal abuse, imprecation, reviling, and calumny. And let it be observed, that when such abuse is mentioned as uttered against God, there is probably no change made in the signification of the word: the change is only in the application; that is, in the reference to a different object. The idea conveyed in the explanation now given is always included, against whomsoever the crime be committed. In this manner every term is understood that is applicable to both God and man. Thus the meaning of the word disobey is the same, whether we speak of disobeying God or of disobeying man. The same may be said of believe, honour, fear, &c. As, therefore, the sense of the term is the same, though differently applied, what is essential to constitute the crime of detraction in the one case, is essential also in the other. But it is essential to this crime, as commonly understood, when committed by one man against another, that there be in the injurious person the will or disposition to detract from the person abused. Mere mistake in regard to character, especially when the mistake is not conceived by him who entertains it to lessen the character, nay, is supposed, however erroneously, to exalt it, is never construed by any into the crime of defamation. Now, as blasphemy is in its essence the same crime, but immensely aggravated by being committed against an object infinitely superior to man, what is fundamental to the very existence of the crime will be found in this, as in every other species which comes under the general name. There can be no blasphemy, therefore, where there is not an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty, and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God. The blasphemer is no other than the calumniator of Almighty God. To constitute the crime, it is as necessary that this species of calumny be intentional, He must be one, therefore, who by his impious talk endeavours to inspire others with the same irreverence towards the Deity, or perhaps, abhorrence of him, which he indulges in himself. And though, for the honour of human nature, it is to be hoped that very few arrive at this enormous guilt, it ought not to be dissembled, that the habitual profanation of the name and attributes of God by common swearing, is but too manifest an approach toward it. There is not an entire coincidence: the latter of these vices may be considered as resulting solely from the defect of what is good in principle and disposition; the former from the acquisition of what is evil in the extreme: but there is a close connection between them, and an insensible gradation from the one to the other. To accustom one's self to treat the Sovereign of the universe with irreverent familiarity, is the first step; malignly to arraign his attributes, and revile his providence, is the last. The first divine law published against it, "He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord," (or Jehovah, as it is in the Hebrew) "shall be put to death," Le 24:16, when considered along with the incidents that occasioned it, suggests a very atrocious offence in words, no less than abuse or imprecations vented against the Deity. For, in what way soever the crime of the man there mentioned be interpreted,