Speech, thought, writing, or action manifesting irreverence toward God or anything sacred (Ps 74:10, 18; Is 52:5; Rv 16:9, 11, 21). Expressions of contempt for destiny or deity are commonplace in primitive religion. False charges of blasphemy brought against Jesus (Mt 26:6466; Jn 10:33), Stephen (Acts 6:11). Saul compelled Christians to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). Transgressions of God's people caused God's name to be blasphemed (Ro 2:24). Blasphemy is to be distinguished from atheism, sacrilege, and criticism of religion. But in moral theol., it is often regarded as a sin against the virtue of religion. In 16th and 17th c. Eng. it was dissent from the current religious dogma.
Blasphemy was severely punished under Jewish (Lv 24:16: 1 K 21:10), Greek (considered a crime against God and soc.), Justinian, medieval laws. In most countries it is still forbidden by law; since the Enlightenment, however, it is regarded as an offense against soc. rather than God. Christians regard it as a grave or mortal sin. EL
G. D. Nokes, A History of the Crime of Blasphemy (London, 1928).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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