Saturday, June 27, 2009

King James: God Says Kings Are Like 'gods'

According to King James I, who ruled England and Ireland from 1603 and 1625 (and Scotland from even earlier), God held monarchs in very high esteem. So high, in fact, that monarchs are basically "gods."

In his famous (or infamous) Works (published 1609), King James I wrote:

"The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself are called gods. There be three principal similitudes that illustrate the state of monarchy: one taken out of the word of God; and the two other out of the grounds of policy and philosophy. In the Scriptures kings are called gods, and so their power after a certain relation compared to the divine power. Kings are also compared to fathers of families: for a king is truly Parens patriae, the politique father of his people. And lastly, kings are compared to the head of this microcosm of the body of man.

Kings are justly called gods, for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth: for if you will consider the attributes to God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God hath power to create or destrov make or unmake at his pleasure, to give life or send death, to judge all and to be judged nor accountable to none; to raise low things and to make high things low at his pleasure, and to God are both souls and body due. And the like power have kings: they make and unmake their subjects, thev have power of raising and casting down, of life and of death, judges over all their subjects and in all causes and yet accountable to none but God only. . . . "

Here's my question...

Where exactly in the Bible does God call kings 'gods'? I'm a pastor and I can't find it. Perhaps someone here can point it out.


Addendum: Tom Van Dyke, in the discussions, pointed out that James I was probably referring to Psalm 82 and John 10. So....

New Question(s) for the Discussion Area:

1. Is God deliberately referring to kings as "gods," or is Asaph mocking these kings for viewing themselves as "gods"? **For those who don't accept divine inspiration of the Bible, feel free to modify the question as follows: "Does Asaph believe God sees kings as lesser gods or is Asaph mocking kings that see themselves that way?"

2. Is Jesus endorsing the "Divine Right of Kings" (albeit as part of a larger discussion) in John 10?


FYI - I just published an article titled "Can Christians Rebel Against Government?" over at Suite101, where I'm the editor for the Protestantism section.


Tom Van Dyke said...

It's Psalms 82 and John 10.

Sort of.

Brian Tubbs said...

Hey, Tom, okay thanks. I've heard the Psalm 82 phrase before, just didn't remember the passage. Thank you.

I like your phrase "sort of," because Asaph is the one who calls the kings "gods" in Psalm 82, and there are two interpretations of this...

One is that Asaph is referring to demons or pagan gods and declaring God's superiority over them.


That Asaph is mocking kings who see themselves as "gods."

I've not heard anyone say that God is calling kings "gods."

Brian Tubbs said...

As for John 10, it's funny how many times I've read that chapter, yet I never connected it with Psalm 82. Thanks for enlightening me, Tom! :-)

I've always focused on the Good Shepherd portion of the chapter.

I'm reading commentaries on John 10:34-36 now. Interesting.

Brad Hart said...

Cool post, Brian! Where did you get that quote? That's pretty interesting. Not that it's a shock to see a monarch make the connection to God, but that sure is quite a bold thing to proclaim.


I too found the Psalms connection and John 10 interesting. I wonder if the translations are different in other bibles besides the King James version or not. I'm sure there's not much difference, but it would be funny if there was.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, I just knew where to google, Brad. I didn't quite have it at my fingertips, but had run across it in another study. My memory's at least that good.

Google [and the link] told me where the theory came from. I don't think it held up under "rational" interpretation very well, although in some quarters, it was "standard."

Me, that level of "rabbinical" scholarship makes my head hurt, and at least rabbinical Judaism has Hebrew texts to lean on. I'm some sort of theistic irrationalist or something.

And mebbe someday we'll talk about Averro√ęs [Ibn Rushd], Maimonides and Aquinas, the meeting of the three Abrahamic religions via Aristotle, the great, little-known story in The History of Ideas.

Brian the Rev. Mr. Tubbs is quite apt in looking back and locating James I [James VI King of Scots] near the start of the controversy.

What followed was the 1600s civil war[s] of England/Scotland, Anglicans and Presbyterian/Calvinists, Parliament vs. the King, the Puritan Revolution, Cromwell, the Glorious Revolution, and I'm running out of room here as we arrive at the American Revolution.

King of Ireland said...

"God held monarchs in very high esteem. So high, in fact, that monarchs are basically "gods." "

I would disagree. Look at all he said monarchs would do when the people of Israel asked for a King in 1 Samuel.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That's actually a good Biblical line of argument, King. By most accounts and analyses of the Torah, Israel did fine under the "Judges" like Samuel. When they demanded God give them a king, they got Saul, who was a total asshole.

King of Ireland said...


I wrote a whole book on Church History called "How Institutions Destroy Moves of God" based on authoritarian structures and the tendency of God's people to ask for them instead of interact with God themselves.

It goes into the whole reason for judges. I was going to get into some of this in my next post in response to Frazer. It gets back to God's original intent for government.

But I agree we need a break from the Frazer stuff for a while. Though Romans 13 keeps coming up.

King of Ireland said...


Your linked article was good. I would disagree though with the part about God's kingdom. Jesus prays that His kingdom could and that it would be on earth as it is in Heaven. I think modern Christianity errors on being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.

I disagree with the Religious Right on many things but to counter that by just giving government over for other view points to focus on is abdication of duty to me.