Blasphemy

A word used to denote all forms of evil speaking against God or His perfections, such as slander, defamation, detraction, reproach, or cursing. While in the Greek NT such evil speaking when aimed at man is also termed blasphemy (Rom. 3:8; 14:16; 1 Pet. 4:4), it is usual to limit blasphemy to a crime against God.

The most serious form of blasphemy is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28, 29; Luke 12:10). From the earliest times there have been many varying explanations of this sin. The context of the words of Christ on the subject leads us to see it as the Pharisees' sin in deliberately attributing to Satan what they saw in Christ to be a work of the Holy Spirit, and in stubbornly seeking to spread their pernicious slander to others.

Many commentators have seen the sin mentioned in Heb. 6:4–6 and 10:26–31 as a peculiar form of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, chiefly because these passages speak of a sin that will never be forgiven. The sin these texts describe is that of Jews who professed to be Christians, giving up Christ to return to the sacrificial system of the temple. The indications are that such people were never saved. According to Heb. 6:9, they evidently did not possess the things "having salvation," as the Greek text puts it. Once they gave up Christ's one-and-only sacrifice for sin, there remained no other and there was nothing left for them but the certainty of judgment.

The connection between the sin of Heb. 6 and that of Matt. 12 seems to be established by the description of the spiritual experiences of those Jews who apostatized. They had been "enlightened"; had "tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost" (probably meaning they had experienced His supernatural power); and had "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:4–5). Like the Pharisees of Matt. 12, they knew by abundant proof through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ was the true and only Saviour. In such circumstances, giving Him up for animal sacrifices may aptly be termed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Some commentators find another equivalent of the sin of Matt. 12 in John's reference to "the sin unto death" (1 John 5:16). There is no reason to identify the two sins and no evidence that John so understood the sin unto death. This is a sin Christians could commit. It is better to see it as a description of the sin Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 11:30–32. There he speaks of believers sinning and being unwilling to judge their own sin. The result is that the Lord calls them to an early death, so that they would not be condemned with the world. This seems to show that the sin unto death is not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 67). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

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