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For the ancient Greek, to blaspheme was to use “abusive words” by which to destroy another's reputation. In Judaism the object of such blasphemy was finally always God, against whom it was so serious a sin that the penalty was death (Lev. 24:11f.). Used more broadly in the NT, the concept is controlled throughout by the thought of reviling God's name, a discrediting of His Word, or an abuse of His majesty (e.g., 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:5; Rev. 16:11, 21). Jesus was accused of blasphemy by the Jews, and it was on this charge that they called for His death. Stephen and Paul also were so accused. The most heinous sin of all, according to Mark 3:29, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.*

In the Middle Ages, to vilify the church, the Virgin Mary, the saints, or the sacraments was blasphemy. The penalty of death for such offenders against God was sanctioned by the Council of Aachen in 818, but this was seldom in fact carried out. In the post-Reformation period enactments against blasphemy continued in force in Protestant countries (e.g., in Britain from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries). With the growing secularization of society following the Enlightenment,* blasphemy came to be regarded rather as a crime against the good order of the state. It remains on the statute books in many countries as punishable by law to deny God, ridicule Christ, and profane the Bible, but in practice the law is not easily invoked where God, Christ, and the Bible are no longer highly revered.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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);

(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).

(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:

See Holy Spirit.