““You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7; With emphasis on blasphemy

Today we are going to look at blasphemy and let’s look at the third commandment that Moses wrote down:

““You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7; from Olive Tree Software

 This commandment forbids blasphemy in the strongest terms.  Unfortunately, in our society most people don’t go to church.  If they hear the word blasphemy, they probably don’t know what it is or its meaning.  Even if the meaning was known, perhaps they still wouldn’t see the point in it because possibly they are atheists or haven’t thought about what religion is all about.  So, let’s begin by finding out what the English language has to say about it. 

Blasphemy and its root in English

Etymonline says:

” “impious or profane speaking of God or sacred things,” early 13c., from Old French blasfemie “blasphemy,” from Late Latin blasphemia, from Greek blasphemia “a speaking ill, impious speech, slander,” from blasphemein “to speak evil of.” Second element is phēmē “utterance” (from PIE root *bha- (2) “to speak, tell, say”); first element uncertain, perhaps related to blaptikos “hurtful,” though blax “slack (in body and mind), stupid” also has been proposed; de Vaan suggests a connection with the root of Latin malus “bad, unpleasant” (from PIE root *mel- (3)). In Old Testament usage the word applied to a more specific crime, against the reverence for Jehovah as ruler of the Jews, comparable to treason.”

In this section we can see that it is to do with slandering and speaking evil towards God our Trinitarian Creator.  Then below from the same page we are given a definition way back from 1895.  At this time Herman Bavinck was making a serious impact on Dutch society.

    “Blasphemy cognizable by common law is described by Blackstone to be “denying the being or providence of God, contumelious reproaches of our Saviour Christ, profane scoffing at the Holy Scripture, or exposing it to contempt or ridicule”; by Kent as “maliciously reviling God or religion”; and by Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw as “speaking evil of the Deity with an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God.” [Century Dictionary, 1895]” Both quotations From; etymonline.com/word/blasphemy

Contumelious = (of behaviour) scornful and insulting; insolent. From Google search

Basically, blasphemy then is about:

  • denying the existence of God
  • Scoffing at Holy Scripture which tells us about God
  • Impious purpose using derogatory means to insult God and believers
  • To alienate people from the love and reverence of God.

This then is basically what blasphemy is about.  It happens every day in society as Christians are mocked and taken to court for their religious beliefs in the 21st century.  Blasphemy is serious and it shows how low our society has gone since the 1970s.  When I was a child in the 1970’s I used to think to myself:

 “Why are the shops closed on a Sunday?”

I didn’t really understand what the Sabbath was and why the Lord’s Day Sunday is so important (and I went to Church!).  The point is that the population moved away from God in their living.  In the UK and possibly in Europe too in all the countries that participated in World War 1 and World War 2, so many Christian men were slaughtered on the fields of Europe and around the world.  If one goes into various churches thought Great Britain one will see lists of the dead soldiers.  All Christian communities lost the heads of the families.  The man was important in the moral dimension of the family and hence the moral dimension of the morality of the country from which they came.   The UK lost its moral compass for the family, and this has led to ‘alternative families’ although in the first century AD in the Roman world slaves were also a part of family life.  For the Christian the family is made up of only husband, wife and children:

St Paul says:

“Marriage Like Christ and the Church

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Family Relationships

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9”

Using the World Wars as the moral compass we are now as a country a boat without a rudder, and anything goes.  Whether or not one is religious or not look at the facts how society has changed.  Don’t just blame the internet, the rot was already there.  We could have also looked at the French Revolution too for a lot of the root cause too.  Kuyper and Bavinck certainly thought so in their time.

So, when we look at blasphemy, please look at what is going to be said with some empathy.

Moving on from some basic ideas Herman Bavinck explains to us why blasphemy is so wrong.  Here are some Old Testament verses Herman Bavinck look at on page 190 of his Ethics:

  • Bavinck reminds us that in the Old Testament in the Law of Moses (Torah) blasphemy was punishable by death to the Israelite and the foreigner: (Lev. 24:15—16) (vv. 10-16; cf. Exod. 5:2; 14:23-30; 1 Kings 20:23; 2 Kings 18:19—-40; 19:10-18; Dan. 3:15).
  • Contempt for God Numbers 16:30
  • Forsaking God Isaiah 1:4

Contempt for God

30 But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.” Numbers 16:30

This verse is in the context of Korah’s rebellion.  Perhaps they were looking for power.  We have this problem even today when people want to be number 1.  This is also one of the reasons that Satan was thrown out of heaven. 

Turning away from God (Forsaking)

Alas, sinful nation,

People weighed down with iniquity,

Offspring of evildoers,

Sons who act corruptly!

They have abandoned the LORD,

They have despised the Holy One of Israel,

They have turned away from Him. Isaiah 1:4

There are different ways of turning away from God. This is my summary:

  • Love for God and giving him worship which rightfully Belongs to God.
  • Love of neighbour (the image of God), Gods reflection especially the poor, widows and orphans.

After the Lord saved Israel, He made a covenant with them at Sinai.  The covenant kept on being broken through their history and therefore judgement came.

Blasphemy and the New Testament from the point of view of Herman Bavinck

Bavinck says: “In the New Testament to blaspheme is to appropriate what belongs only to God” and then we have this verse:

The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” John 10:33

Jesus was accused of claiming to be God (from the point of view of his critics).  They refused to accept him as the Messiah.  Bavinck goes on to say that they were blaspheming Jesus while he hung on the cross:

And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads Matthew 27:39

Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, Mark 15:29

St Paul before his conversion used to force believers to blaspheme so he could punish them:

6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6

11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. Acts 26:11

God saved Paul from his evil self and gave him a second chance:

13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:13

Bavinck goes on to say that these blasphemies come out of the heart of people:

(Mark 7:20—23)

20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

This is the most serious blasphemy:

“To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to directly oppose the activities of God, whom one acknowledges and must acknowledge as divine. Blasphemy is an outburst of hatred against God and his world dominion because they conflict with the sinful human reality; it is demonic madness. Humans then declare that they are not beings who sin against God, but that God sins against them; they posit their worldview as higher than and superior to God’s, whose view is deemed to be unjust and unreasonable. This sin is committed in thought as well as words.” Blasphemy is thus not a mere denial of God’s existence, properties, and providence, but instead attributing to him the opposite: to deem God to be unjust, cruel, or the like, to mock his assumed holiness and love, and to represent oneself as much holier, wiser, and just.”

From Reformed Ethics volume 2; page 191; edited by John Bolt; Baker Publishing House

Reflection on Blasphemy

For billions of people God who takes on various shape and form in their cultures is seen as Omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient:

  • All powerful
  • Present everywhere
  • All knowing
  • The Ultimate Intelligent being who is responsible for the creation of all known reality

Even though this is a fact, God is slandered every single day!  Religious people and non-religious people need to get on with each other in the world.  This includes:

  • In the workplace
  • With the family
  • At social gatherings
  • In politics.

If a person slanders another person, they can be taken to court and be sued.  There are laws to protect the various religious groups in the UK but somehow when speaking about the Divine Reality, He God can be slandered and there is no comeback.   This has actually been the case since 2008.  The religious make of the UK changed in 2018 in which religion is now the minority view.  Most people are brought up without relgion somehow. This is an interesting graph from wikipoeadia:

From Wikipedia about religion in the United Kingdom

You can see that Christian Protestantism started a downward trend in 1939.  By 2018 the number of none-affiliates started to grow. Then in the 1970’s there is another sharp decline.  At one time shops used to be closed on a Sunday and this has changed.  Religion in the past played a major role in moral values but this is not the case anymore.  As we know marriages, divorces other types of family have been growing.  It isn’t a surprise that the laws against blasphemy were got rid of.  It doesn’t surprise me that same sex marriages have been on the up.  A large section of the British community do not take God very seriously.  With death of the Protestant Christian men from the two World Wars, I believe that the rot set in. 

Secularism on its own is supposed to give an equal playing field for the different interest groups.  Unfortunately, it does not take human nature into account.  Materialism in Europe and Britain has gone off the charts.  Greed has been rampant in British politics for a long time. Brexit was a smoke screen for this greed especially for those in power.  Religious values are all the time getting replaced by utilitarian values and in welfare terms each person has a price tag on their life.  So, if one is medically ‘not whole somehow’ then they have less money thrown to their upkeep.  It is not religious ethics that is doing this kind of thing.  In religion the human being has an innate value because each one of us no matter what is wrong with us has been a special creation.  Secularism and science working in tandem do not see the human being this way.   If one holds to the sanctity of life and all that this entails one is marginalised as ‘right wing’. 

Religious people seem to be under a lot of pressure at the moment and are ostracized for their faith.  They are ostracized for their views about the Sabbath, Sunday, blasphemy, heterosexual relationships being too narrow minded.  Religious people are not narrow minded but rather the opposite.  Their faith gives them stability in this turbulent world.  The Trinity gives us the bedrock for living in any society:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 John 3:16-18

Or Irenaeus’ great statement about our humanness:

Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, “Let Us make man.”

(From ‘ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.i.html’)

Most people then speak out of ignorance about blasphemy.  Uneducated in the realms of Religious Education.  However, as believers we can say that when God created the world it was good.  The sin of Adam and Even sent humankind into a spiritual death.  We are the emissaries of a divine call.  We love God and we love our neighbour whoever they may be.  Christ died for the sins of the world because he loves the creation this includes reaching out to those alienated from God with the message of the Gospel by the Father and through the two hands of God; the Holy Spirit and the Son of God.

Scripture Index

Blasphemy and the New Testament quotations

(Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29)

39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads Matthew 27:39

29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, Mark 15:29

(Matt. 26:65)

65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; Matthew 26:65

(John 10:33)

33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” John 10:33

(Acts 18:6; 26:11)

6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6

11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. Acts 26:11

(1 Tim. 1:13)

13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:13

(Rom. 2:24)

24 For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written. Romans 2:24

(Mark 7:20—23)

20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23

(Matt. 12:32)

32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32

(Mark 3:28-29)

28 “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— Mark 3:28-29

(Luke10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. Luke 12:10 12:10)

(10:26)

26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, Hebrews 10:26

(1 John 5:16-17)

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. 1 John 5:16-17

Bavincks OLD Testament verses on Blasphemy

15 Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16 In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17 So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 25:15-17

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2

23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24 At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Exodus 14:23-30

23 Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they. 1 Kings 20:23

19 Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have? 20 You say (but they are only empty words), ‘I have counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me? 21 Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 22 But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? 23 Now therefore, come, make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 24 How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants, and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25 Have I now come up without the LORD’S approval against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.’”’”

26 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, “Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 27 But Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?”

28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 Thus says the king, ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; 30 nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, “Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern, 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die.” But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” 33 Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? 35 Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’”

36 But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s commandment was, “Do not answer him.” 37 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of Rabshakeh. 2 Kings 18:19-37

10 “Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? 12 Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?’”

Hezekiah’s Prayer

14 Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 2 Kings 19:10-18

15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:15

30 But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.” Numbers 16:30

20 For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Deuteronomy 31:20

4 Alas, sinful nation,

People weighed down with iniquity,

Offspring of evildoers,

Sons who act corruptly!

They have abandoned the LORD,

They have despised the Holy One of Israel,

They have turned away from Him. Isaiah 1:4

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