W. Terry Varner
July 2, 2017

We live in an age that gives little thought to what the Bible describes as blasphemy. In fact, many people, non-Christians and sadly Christians, blaspheme God and their fellow human beings. What is the meaning and the penalty of blasphemy?

The Meaning of Blasphemy. Blasphemy is from the Greek word blasphemeo meaning ‘“to slander, blaspheme, insult,’ especially with regard to speech” (Mounce 67). Webster defines it variously: “insolence, imprudence, nerve, gall, disrespect.”

The Old Testament uses the word blasphemy in the sense of speaking against, reproach, cursing, insulting, and reviling God, instead of honoring and respecting God. In the New Testament, blasphemy is used in the same sense as it is used in the Old Testament.

The biblical phrase, “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel” (Ps. 72:18) emphasizes that God is to be praised and honored rather than man having the gall, the nerve, or the insolence to reproach God by insulting, cursing, and reviling Him.

In the Old Testament, blasphemy was generally committed by the heathen or pagans. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Do not be afraid of the words . . . with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me” (2 Kings 19:6). It is also used of “reproach” (2 Kings 19:23; cf. Ps. 44:16; Isa. 52:5).

The Penalty for Blaspheming: The penalty for blaspheming in the Old Testament would not set well in our present culture with the many who disrespect God by cursing, rejecting, speaking pejoratively, and u sing His name in vain. The penalty was death by stoning. This was the penalty in the case of Shelomith’s son, from the tribe of Dan, who “blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed” (Lev. 24:11-16; cf. 1 Kings 21:9ff.).

The penalty for blasphemy in the new testament was not death by stoning, but rather will it would not be “be forgiven him” (Matt. 12:32). The loss of forgiveness would entail the loss of eternal life in heaven.

The Study of Blasphemy in the Bible. In the Old Testament, sometimes the behavior of the Israelites incited or caused the heathen to blaspheme by their bad example and moral lapses. Nathan told David that his sin with Bathsheba, and all its consequences “have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Sam. 12:14). when the Israelites rendered worship to idols, God Jehovah told Ezekiel to say, “In this too your fathers have blasphemed Me, by being unfaithful to Me” (Ezek. 20:27). God and His name is blasphemed or profaned by Israel when she was faithless and disobedient.

In the New Testament there is an extension of the meaning of blasphemy. Not only can God be blasphemed but also His representatives like Moses (Acts 6:11). Paul and his work in the church (Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:30). Jesus in His ministry (Mark 2:7), in His trial (Mark 14:61-64), and at Calvary (Matt. 27:39; Luke 23:30).

Human unresponsiveness to God often leads to a confusion of moral issues wherein evil is embraced as if it is good and bad as if it is evil. It is bad when men blaspheme men, but to blaspheme God is evil (cf. Jude 9). God warned Israel through His prophet Isaiah, “Woe to them who call evil good and good evil.”