I Said, You are Gods: Pastoral Motives Manifest in Patristic Citations of Psalm 82:6

Charles R. Schulz, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis


Schulz, Charles R. “I Said, You Are Gods: Pastoral Motivations for Patristic Citations of Psalm 82:6 (LXX 81:6).” PhD diss., Concordia Seminary, 2020. 386 pp.

The early church fathers frequently cited Ps. 82:6 (LXX 81:6), “I said, You are gods and all sons of the Most High,” a passage Jesus himself quoted (John 10:34) to defend his own title as the Son of God. Scholars agree that the patristic use of verse underwrote the developing doctrine of deification, which promised that Christians would become “gods” in some sense by bearing God’s image and likeness and participating in Christ and his saving work. In order to deepen and focus our understanding of the significance and role of this passage for patristic theology— and particularly for pastoral practice—this study identified every use of the verse in extent texts from the first six centuries of Christian history (from the middle of the second century through Maximus the Confessor). The categories of pastoral employment of the passage include the defense of monotheism, instruction in Christology, exhortations to virtue, praise for salvation, delineations of authority roles in church and state, and eschatological depictions of glorification to come, with shifting emphasis amid the shifting contexts over the course of the centuries. While Ps. 82:6 (LXX 81:6) happened to lay the foundation for the doctrine of deification, the immediate reasons for its citation arose out of the near historical context with its accompanying pastoral needs and concerns. The survey of the usage of this text also illustrates the patristic practice of intertextual exegesis and precise reading of the Bible (ἀκρίβεια), as well as constructive engagement with classical philosophical concepts. The church fathers emerge as pastoral practitioners, motivated by the care of souls, who boldly deployed this perplexing text for the practical goals of proclaiming Christ and calling human beings to experience the fullness of his salvation—as gods. Their examples hold the promise of inspiring pastors today toward fresh contemporary and creative engagement with the text. The appendix offers the reader 123 newly translated patristic passages with citations of Ps. 82:6 (LXX 81:6).