05 July 2024

Blaspheming other people and things than God.

BLASPHEME blæs'fim verb. Say something about God (or holy things) which isn’t true. Slander.
2. Speak irreverently about God or holy things. Sacrilege.
[Blasphemer blæs'fim.ər noun, blasphemous 'blæs.fə.məs adjective, blasphemy 'blæs.fə.mi noun.]

As you can see, in the definition I just used (which I also used in my article on the subject), blasphemy is slander or irreverence towards God or holy things. And for some Christians, they insist only God can be blasphemed, and not holy things:

  • Don’t speak ill of the LORD.
  • Don’t speak ill of the LORD’s name; if someone uses his name for other stuff, like the names of altars and churches, you wanna carefully distinguish between the thing named for the LORD and the LORD himself.
  • Don’t say evil things about the trinity.
  • Nothing against Jesus.
  • Especially nothing against the Holy Spirit, ’cause there’s no coming back from that one.
  • For Roman Catholics, who believe the elements of holy communion literally become Jesus during the ritual, blaspheming them counts as blaspheming Jesus, so don’t. (One particular famous Catholic comedian will make Jesus jokes… but weirdly, will never make fun of the Eucharist, ’cause somehow that crosses the line.)

So don’t touch God; but these folks think it’s totally okay to blaspheme holy things, because they’re just things. They’re not God; they’re not divine; saying we can blaspheme them suggests they might be divine, but we worship nothing and no one but God. So you can’t blaspheme the holy bible, because we don’t worship the bible. (Or shouldn’t!)

Thing is… people kinda do have the ability to blaspheme the bible. If “blaspheme” means to slander, or speak irreverently about, of course there are people who slander and speak irreverently about bible. Antichrists do it all the time. When they say the bible’s a bunch of bunk, and claim it was written by delusional prophets, how isn’t that slander and irreverence? In other words, blasphemy?

Thing is, the people who insist only God can be blasphemed, wanna limit the use of the word “blasphemy” to God. When you’re slandering the bible, “slander” is fine. When you’re slandering God, “blasphemy” is the appropriate word. Because slandering God is a much bigger deal than slandering his prophets and apostles. One indicates the damaged relationship we have with God; the other just indicates we lack reverence for holy things and people. And a damaged relationship with God is obviously the bigger deal.

My own personal habit is, like those people, to only use “blasphemy” when we’re talking about slandering God, and not when we’re talking about slandering a church, a book, a preacher, a Ten Commandments monument, and other such things. But I gotta agree that yeah, technically, slander and blasphemy are the same thing.

And that’s a fact we see in the bible, ’cause the authors of scripture use βλασφημέω/vlasfiméo, “blaspheme,” to talk about other things than just God.

Oh, you want examples? I got examples.

Many Christians only use “blasphemy” to refer to God, and that includes bible translators. You’re gonna find a lot of bibles which only translate vlasfiméo as blasphemy when it has to do with God… and as all sorts of other things when it doesn’t. But the apostles didn’t treat vlasfiméo as an extra-special word for God, or even pagan gods; Ac 19.37 they used it same as other ancient Greek-speakers, and used it to simply mean slander.

Sometimes against God. Sometimes not. Paul used it about himself!

Romans 3.8 CSB
And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, “Let us do what is evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

“Slanderously claim” translates βλασφημούμεθα/vlasfimúmetha, “we are blasphemed.” Yep, very same verb as vlasfiméo. Yep, Paul’s not writing about God, but himself and his fellow apostles. People are slandering them! It’s not a different word. We make it a different word ’cause of our customs, but in the original text it’s the same word.

Paul uses it again later in his letter.

Romans 14.16-17 CSB
16Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, 17for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

“Slandered” translates βλασφημείσθω/vlasfimeístho. Yep, still a form of vlasfiméo. Yep, Paul’s not writing about God; he’s writing about food. Specifically, food that was offered to idols, food which the Roman Christians might’ve bought to eat ’cause it was inexpensive, and they don’t care about pagan gods, ’cause they’re not real anyway. But this practice seriously freaked out other Christians, and Paul wrote chapter 14 to warn people: Don’t do that around other, weaker Christians. If at all! Don’t make ’em stumble. But still: He’s writing about food. Blaspheming food.

You getting the idea, or do I need to give you another example? Okay, another example.

1 Corinthians 10.30 CSB
If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I criticized because of something for which I give thanks?

“Criticized” translates βλασφημοῦμαι/vlasfimúme, “I am blasphemed.” Again, it’s Paul talking about people blaspheming him. And once again, the topic is food offered to idols—and if he thanked Jesus for it before eating it, what’s the problem? But of course various Christians had a huge problem… and instead of giving Paul the benefit of the doubt, just assumed he was up to evil, and slandered him. Or blasphemed him; same thing.

There aren’t many other examples in the New Testament of vlasfiméo used to describe slander towards various people, practices, and things. But they’re there; and you’ll find a few examples in the Septuagint too. My point is the word wasn’t limited to God in the scriptures. Limiting it to God is a human custom. One which we can follow or not.

Either way, don’t slander!

Now yeah, it’s a bigger deal to slander God than it is to slander other people. Lying about who God is will damage our relationship with him, and it has the potential to lead others astray.

Lying about other people will damage our relationship with those people, and likewise lead others astray… but it’s less likely that people’s salvation is at risk. Although it might be. Slander someone who’s authentically proclaiming Jesus, and you might drive ’em away from Jesus. Either way it’s not good.

And way, way too many Christians are quick to slander others. They hear a rumor some minister is misrepresenting Jesus, and they help spread that rumor like the gossips they are. They hear some partisan claim that a politician or candidate is doing evil, and if that person’s in their party, immediately dismiss it; and if that person’s not in their party, immediately spread it. Confirmation? Investigation? Maybe not bearing false witness against people? Nah; they have axes to grind.

Maybe we should treat slanders and blasphemies all the same. It’s all evil. Don’t be evil!