Psalms 8:5 – Are we only a little lower than God? Or heavenly beings?

Some of us may have the idea that humans are just a little bit less than God. Do we humans deserve this elevated status? I prefer to not think so because I know how depraved we human beings really are. I wonder if perhaps our renderings of Psalm 8:5 may have given us this false impression. Here is how the RSV and ESV rendered Psalm 8:5

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (ESV)

Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. (RSV)

In this context, the ESV has this correctly rendered Elohim (מֵאֱלֹהִים) as “heavenly beings” rather than “God”. This can also be translated as “mighty ones” or even “a god”. Some also translate this as “angels”. This TNIV has also used “heavenly beings”, but the NRSV stuck with “God” but included in footnotes “divine beings or angels.” The NASB also used “God”. In this regard, I think the ESV made an improvement over the RSV.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

4 thoughts on “Psalms 8:5 – Are we only a little lower than God? Or heavenly beings?”

  1. I agree sometimes even as believers we project ourselves upon who God is. We create our own image of God in our image, not the proper way, as being in the image of him.

    We have little understanding of the doctrine of God. Especially here in America where the church has been watered down to the point that even lost people think they are saved because they don’t understand who God really is. If we really understood who God is we will truly see our need for Christ and His righteousness.

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  2. According to a footnote in the NKJV,

    “Psalm 8:5 Hebrew Elohim, God; Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, and Jewish tradition translate as angels.”

    This appears to be a textual variant. Could this be a case where the ESV took the middle ground in using “heavenly beings”?

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  3. Hi John. Sometimes we also project our image of God upon our image of humans too. That can also give a distorted view of who God and humans are. It is God who gives people the faith to believe in Jesus, and grace to receive salvation. May God enlighten our eyes to see God.

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  4. Hi Michael, it is unclear because Elohim has also been translated as “heavenly beings”, “angels”, and “God.” It’s a similar case to Gen. 3:5. I looked up the NET bible and found this footnote:

    “The psalmist does appear to allude to Gen 1:26-27, where mankind is created in the image of God and his angelic assembly (note “let us make man in our image” in Gen 1:26). However, the psalmist’s statement need not be limited in its focus to that historical event, for all mankind shares the image imparted to the first human couple. Consequently the psalmist can speak in general terms of the exalted nature of mankind. The referent of אֱלֹהִים (’elohim, “God” or “the heavenly beings”) is unclear. Some understand this as a reference to God alone, but the allusion to Gen 1:26-27 suggests a broader referent, including God and the other heavenly beings (known in other texts as “angels”). The term אֱלֹהִים is also used in this way in Gen 3:5, where the serpent says to the woman, “you will be like the heavenly beings who know good and evil.” (Note Gen 3:22, where God says, “the man has become like one of us.”) Also אֱלֹהִים may refer to the members of the heavenly assembly in Ps 82:1, 6. The LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the OT) reads “angels” in Ps 8:5 (this is the source of the quotation of Ps 8:5 in Heb 2:7).”

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