On page 57 Ehrman begins a new section in which he wants to demonstrate how texts within the Bible and relevant Jewish literature describe angels as both “God” and “human.” His first example comes from Psalm 82, which is small enough to quote in full:
1 God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers (Heb. elohim).
2 How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Selah.
3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.
7 “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.
Now I must readily admit that the psalm in itself does not explicitly indicate to whom God is speaking. Are the ones rebuked actually angels, as Ehrman contends? Ehrman argues, based on 82:1, that “God’s own congregation” refers to the heavenly angelic council, and cites the opening chapters of Job as a parallel. However, angels are never mentioned in Psalm 82. Likewise, the Hebrew word translated as “congregation” in my translation above, edah, is no where mentioned in Job 1-2. The word edah is, however, mentioned with reference to the congregation of Israel when they gather together as a group (Pss. 74:2; 111:1; Prov. 5:14; etc.).
It would also be strange for God to rebuke angels for failing to take care of the needy, fatherless, weak (Ps. 82:2-4). These commands were given to Israel, and in particular, their leaders (as often seen in the rebukes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and others).
Much more likely is the 82nd psalm referencing Israel’s human judges. Yes indeed, they are called elohim, the Hebrew word for God, in 82:1, 6. This is not surprising in light of the fact that judges are elsewhere called elohim (see Exod. 21:6; 22:8, 9, and perhaps Ps. 58:1). This point is readily admitted by standard lexicons (BDB p. 43; HALOT 1:53). The judges were responsible for taking care of the needy within the congregation of Israel.
The interpretation of the rebuked in Psalm 82 as the Israelite judges is strengthened when we look at the Talmud. In b.Sahn 6b-7a the rabbis render Ps. 82:1 as:
“And it is said, ‘God stands in the congregation of God and in the midst of judges he judges.'”
“Now perhaps a judge might say…”
R. Judah said [the statement by the judges], “Mr. So and so, you are liable. Mr. So and so, you are innocent.”
“It is a religious duty to say to them, “Do you want me to judge the case or to arbitrate it?”
The rabbis seem fairly conformable with ascribing the important functions of the elohim to the judges. Note what also said in b. Sota 47b:
For it is said, “He judges among the judges” (Ps. 82:1).
Another piece of data which is deemed helpful is the Targum on the Psalms. I will quote its rendering of Psalm 82 here in full (italics are the Targum’s emendations, not my own):
1. A hymn composed by Asaph. God, his presence abides in the assembly of the righteous who are strong in Torah; he will give judgment in the midst of the righteous judges.
2. How long, O wicked, will you judge falsely, and lift up the faces of the wicked forever?
3. Judge the poor and the orphan; acquit the needy and the poor.
4. Save the poor and needy, from the hands of the wicked deliver them.
5. They do not know how to do good, and they do not understand the Torah, they walk in darkness; because of this, the pillars of the earth’s foundations shake.
6. I said, “You are reckoned as angels, and all of you are like angels of the height.”
7. But truly you will die like the sons of men; and like one of the leaders you will fall.
8. Arise, O Lord, judge all the inhabitants of the earth; for you will possess all the Gentiles.
Note how in verse 1 the congregation are the righteous ones who are strong in Torah. The elohim in 82:1 are clearly identified as the righteous judges. Verse two labels them as wicked, albeit their previous designation as righteous. The fifth verse states that the judges don’t know Torah (otherwise, presumably, they would vindicate the helpless). Verses six and seven make the contrast between their reckoned status as angels and their humbled status as the sons of men.
In short, it seems that Ehrman’s interpretation of Psalm 82 does not, after closer scrutiny, actually support his claim that angels are described as God and human. The psalm seems better suited if interpreters identify the rebuked elohim as God’s judges, the human rulers who judge on God’s behalf, thus effectively taking the title of elohim onto themselves as God’s agents.