blas'-fe-mi (blasphemia): 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) (barakh) "Naboth did blaspheme God and the king" (1Ki 21:10,13 the King James Version);
(b) (gadhaph) of Senna-cherib defying Yahweh (2Ki 19:6,22 = Isa 37:6,23; also Ps 44:16; Eze 20:27; compare Nu 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) (charaph) of idolatry as blasphemy against Yahweh (Isa 65:7);
(d) (naqabh) "And he that blasphemeth the name of Yahweh, he shall surely be put to death" (Le 24:11,16);
(e) (na'ats) David's sin is an occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (2Sa 12:14; also Ps 74:10,18; Isa 52:5; compare Eze 35:12; 2Ki 19:3 the King James Version; Isa 37:3).
(2) In the New Testament blasphemy, substantive and vb., may be
(a) of evil-speaking generally, (Ac 13:45; 18:6); The Jews contradicted Paul "and blasphemed," the Revised Version, margin "railed." (So in the King James Version of Mt 15:19 = Mr 7:22; Col 3:8, but in the Revised Version (British and American) "railings"; Re 2:9 the Revised Version, margin "reviling"; so perhaps in 1Ti 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 (Ac 19:37).
(c) Against God: (i) uttering impious words (Re 13:1,5,6; 16:9,11,21; 17:3); (ii) unworthy conduct of Jews (Ro 2:24) and Christians (1Ti 6:1; Tit 2:5, and perhaps 1Ti 1:20); (iii) of Jesus Christ, alleged to be usurping the authority of God (Mt 9:3 = Mr 2:7 = Lu 5:21), claiming to be the Messiah, the son of God (Mt 26:65 = Mr 14:64), or making Himself God (Joh 10:33,36).
(d) Against Jesus Christ: Saul strove to make the Christians he persecuted blaspheme their Lord (Ac 26:11). So was he himself a blasphemer (1Ti 1:13; compare Jas 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 of Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come" (Mt 12:31,32 = Mr 3:28,29; Lu 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 Mr 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 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 (Joh 14:16-18,26,28). 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 Heb 6:4-6, and 1Jo 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 (Mr 13:32; compare Joh 16:12,13). 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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