God or Angels?

Q. I have heard many teachers claim that in Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7 the word “angels” is mistranslated and should be God resulting in the text reading: “… a little lower than God” with the idea being to bolster man’s dominion status. The notion that there’s an error always generates in my mind thought of well if this translation is wrong what else is wrong and that leads to the doubt of the Bible being infallible, the breathed, and inspired Word of God. Others I have heard say that you have to be a Hebrew/Greek scholar because God spoke to his man using these languages and translators have taken liberties. I would like your opinion. Thanks.

A. The Hebrew word “elohim” in Psalm 8:5 is almost always translated “God” or “gods” depending on whether it is speaking of deity or not (it’s a plural word), although it can mean “angels”. Psalm 8:5 is the only time it’s translated that way in the Old Testament and then only in some English translations.

But the Greek word “aggelos” in Hebrews 2:7 is almost always translated angels. This could be due to the fact that it is an accepted meaning of the Hebrew word and the context of Hebrews 1-2 is the superiority of Jesus over angels. The writer was using the phrase “son of man” to refer to Jesus and worded the Greek translation of Psalm 8:5 so it could be read, “You made him for a little while lower than the angels”. This is confirmed in Hebrews 2:9 where he mentioned Jesus by name. Some study Bibles carry this alternate translation in a footnote.

His point was when Jesus became man, He became lower than the angels for a little while, but he was then crowned with glory and honor, implying that after His resurrection He was raised above them again. You can see how this changed the focus of Psalm 8:5 from man in general to the Son of Man in particular.

It is true that some liberties have been taken with the English translations, mostly to accommodate the theological biases of the translators. But they only become problematic in a small percentage of cases. For most people any legitimate English translation will be more than sufficient. It’s only when someone embarks upon a serious study that knowing the actual meanings of words in their original language becomes helpful, and there are a number of study aids available that can help those who lack a formal education in the Bible’s original languages.

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