Would you please explain Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7? Did God create man a little lower than the angels or God?


Let us look very closely at both passages.

In Psalm 8:4-5, David wonders about the purpose of the creation of man. We read, in the New King James Bible: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.”

David proceeds in the next verses to show that man has received dominion over the animal world (verses 7-8).

In the margin of the New King James Bible, it is stated that in the Hebrew, the word for “angels” is “Elohim,” which means “God.” (Compare the footnote in the Elberfelder Bible and the Schlachter Bible.) While translations such as the New International Version and the Living Bible render it, “angels,” the Revised Standard Version, the English Revised Version and the American Standard Version say, “little lower than God.” So also the revised Luther Bible (“Gott”) and the Menge Bible (“Gottheit”).

The Schlachter Bible also comments that the phrase, “a little lower” can be rendered as, “for a little while lower…”

Commentaries offer different explanations.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says:

“Than the angels – So this is rendered by the Aramaic Paraphrase: by the Septuagint; by the Latin Vulgate; by the Syriac and Arabic; and by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb 2:7, who has literally quoted the fourth, fifth, and sixth verses from the Septuagint. The Hebrew, however, is… ‘than God.’ So Gesenius renders it, ‘Thou hast caused him to want but little of God; that is, thou hast made him but little lower than God.’ So DeWette, ‘nur wenig unter Gott.’ So Tholuck renders it, ‘nur um wenig unter Gott.’ This is the more natural construction, and this would convey an idea conformable to the course of thought in the psalm, though it has been usually supposed that the word used here… ‘Elohiym’ – may be applied to angels, or even men, as in Psalm 82:1; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9.

“Gesenius… maintains that the word never has this signification. The authority, however, of the Aramaic, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, would seem sufficient to show that that meaning may be attached to the word here with propriety, and that somehow that idea was naturally suggested in the passage itself. Still, if it were not for these versions, the most natural interpretation would be that which takes the word in its usual sense, as referring to God, and as meaning that, in respect to his dominion over the earth, man had been placed in a condition comparatively but little inferior to God himself; he had made him almost equal to himself.”

We note from the foregoing that the word “Elohim” can refer, on rare occasions, to human judges (whose potential it is to become God), or to pagan gods; but a plural verb is then associated with “Elohim,” whereas, when “Elohim” is used to describe the true God, it is usually associated with a singular verb. However, there are exceptions, and as we explain in our booklet, “God Is A Family,” the word “Elohim” can refer to the God Family, consisting of the Father and the Son, or to either one of the two God beings. What is important to note here, however, is the fact that the word “Elohim” is never used to describe angels.

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible agrees, stating:

“The original is certainly very emphatic… Thou hast lessened him for a little time from God. Or, Thou hast made him less than God for a little time.”

This comment is also remarkable in that it seems to say that it is the potential of man to become, after a little while, equal with God. And this is exactly correct, as we will explain.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says:

“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels…. Than Elohim, ‘than God’, as this word usually signifies: and could it be interpreted of man, as made by God, it might be thought to refer to the creation of him in the image and likeness of God… Sometimes the word ‘Elohim’ is used for civil magistrates, as in Psalm 82:6; because they are in God’s stead, and represent him; and, on account of their majesty, authority, and power, bear some resemblance to him…”

Wesley’s Notes state:

“But the words more literally rendered are, Thou madest him a little less than God.”

The Ryrie Study Bible states:

“Hebr. Elohim, usually translated, as it should be here, ‘God.’ The psalmist views man, created in God’s image, as little lower than God.”

The Nelson Study Bible states:

“The Hebrew text is, ‘You have made him to lack little of God.’”

It is true that God made man, in his present state, a little lower and for a little while lower than the angels, but God shows us too that it is man’s destiny to enter the Kingdom of God as immortal God beings, far above angels, and with the destiny to rule over angels (compare Hebrews 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:3). God does not give aid to angels, but to the seed of Abraham (Hebrews 2:16). We are specifically told, in Hebrews 2:5, that the world to come is not going to be in subjection to angels, but to man, made immortal.

On the other hand, it is also very true, and seems to be the primary meaning in Psalm 8:5, that man was made for a little while lower than God. God created man in His own image, according to His likeness. He did not create him as a spirit being, but from the dust of the ground. Man has to qualify to be changed into a spirit being and to enter the Kingdom or Family of God. So, for a while—during this life time—man is made lower than God, but in the resurrection, he will be like God (1 John 3:2). In fact, he will BE God and in that sense EQUAL with God—a member of the God Family, a child of God the Father and a brother or sister of Jesus Christ, who is in the image of the Father (Hebrews 1:1-3) and who is God Himself (John 1:1). Man will share the divine nature of God—He will be equal with God, fully God, even though he will always be UNDER the authority of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

In light of this understanding, let us now focus on Hebrew 2:7. Paul is quoting, or better paraphrasing the passage in Psalm 8:5 (a careful comparison between Hebrews 2:6-8 and Psalm 8:4-6 shows that  the wording is not identical). Paul is trying to convey an important  truth which is included in the book of Psalms, even though the emphasis there was slightly different.

In the New King James Bible, Hebrews 2:7 reads:

“You have made him a little lower than the angels…”

Here, the Greek word “aggelos” means literally, “messenger” or “agent,” and it is commonly referring to angels.

Paul proceeds to explain that the dominion that God had intended for man is not limited to rule over animals (as David had limited it in Psalm 8), but that man is destined to rule over everything, emphasizing: “For in that He put ALL in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him” (Hebrews 2:8). But Paul continues to explain that even though God has put all things in subjection under his feet, we do not yet see all things put under him (verse 8). However, Paul says, we see Jesus, “who was made a little lower than the angels… crowned with glory and honor” (verse 9).

While Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and while He was changed into an immortal Spirit being—the same God being that He was before He became a Man—this transformation has not yet occurred for man. Man is still awaiting his future resurrection or change to immortality.

In the context, it is clear that Paul could not have said that Jesus, who was God and the Immanuel (“God with us”), was made for a little while lower than God. Even though Christ gave up His divinity and became a human being (Philippians 2:5-7; John 1:14), He was still the very Being that He had always been—He was still God, but in the flesh, so that He could be tempted by Satan to sin, and so that He could die. It only made sense to say that Jesus became a little lower—or for a little while lower— than the angels—in authority and even in respect to His appearance. Angels are higher than mortal men—they are spirit beings and cannot die. Christ became a little lower, or for a little while lower than the angels, because He became a mortal being and could and did die.

The context of the entire passage shows that Paul wanted to make the point that Christ did not assume or take on the nature of angels, but of men (Hebrews 2:16, compare the Authorized Version and the margin of the New King James Bible), and that, in the resurrection, He did not assume the nature of angels, but of God, “having become so much better than the angels” (Hebrews 1:4), and all the angels have become subject to Him (1 Peter 3:22).

The Ryrie Study Bible explains:

“‘a little lower’. This may mean (1) for a short time, or (2) more likely, a little lower in rank. In the order of creation, man is lower than angels, and in the incarnation Christ took this lower place.”

There is no contradiction or even discrepancy between Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7, because when referring to man, both statements are correct (compare the Nelson Study Bible, comments to Psalm 8:5-8). Man was made (for a little while) a little lower than both angels and God, with the potential of becoming God and ruling over angels. However, in regard to Christ, the Son of God the Father and God Himself, it only made sense to say that Christ, when He came in the flesh and became flesh, was made a little lower or for a little while lower “than the ANGELS,” to be crowned in His resurrection with honor and glory in the Kingdom of God.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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