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Please decipher Psalm 8:5, 6.

מה אנוש כי תזכרנו ובן אדם כי תפקדנו
ותחסרהו מעט מאלֹהים וכבוד והדר תעטרהו

Who are humans that You have in memory and son of man whom you sustain

Whom you reduce a little less than from G-d and glory and honour on whom you crown

In particular is my question on the first half of verse 6.

All the English Bibles translate as

You have made him a little lower than angels.

But I am reading the plain Hebrew as

Whom you have caused to be a little lesser from G-d.

There is nowhere else in the Bible where מאלֹהים in translated as Angels.

Can anyone refute, thro grammatical analysis rather than thro preconceived doctrinal framework, that my reading is wrong?

Grammatically, which is more likely the correct translation? Does is mean that I have been reading it wrong.

I am using the Jewish enumeration of the verses.

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One thing to note, it's not "[less/ lower] from..." One common usage of the prefixed מ is comparative. Therefore, it would be translated as "[less/ lower] than..." –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Mar 21 at 23:12
    
As a Christian, I've been raised on the reading "lower than the angels" since that made it into the New Testament citation (Hebrews 2:7) through the Septuagint. But I actually prefer the literal translation of the Hebrew "lower than God," for doctrinal reasons: it mitigates Calvinism's diminishing of man as nothing. Man is only a little lower than God. –  david brainerd Mar 27 at 1:07
    
I also like the JPS's "a little less than divine" which compromises between those who read it as "God" and those who read it as "gods," I suppose. But I note that my Koren Humash says "lower than the angels," but it is sort of a Jewish revision of the KJV so that's not too surprising. –  david brainerd Mar 27 at 1:10

1 Answer 1

As I am sure you know, the Hebrew word אֱלֹהִים is a plural noun and literally means “gods”, but in the Old Testament it is also the name of the God of Israel. In passages like this both meanings are (from a grammatical point of view) equally possible. In the Jewish and Christian Bible translations there is definitely a tendency to play down any potentially polytheistic reading of the scripture. In this particular passage the translators did not want to say “a little lower than the gods”, as this would imply that there is more than one god, but they were evidently also uncomfortable with the idea that man is only “a little” lower than the one God. Thus they chose to interpret אֱלֹהִים as angels (LXX: βραχύ τι παρ’ ἀγγέλους; Vulgata: paulo minus ab angelis, and similarly in other ancient translations.) But this is a question of exegesis and not of hermeneutics.

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2  
"A question of exegesis and not of hermeneutics." Care to explain the difference? –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Mar 21 at 21:17
    
Hermeneutics is about the literal meaning of the text. Exegesis is about interpreting the text in the setting of a given religious point of view. –  fdb Apr 8 at 9:47
    
Hermeneutics: the science of interpretation; exegesis: critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text. (from dictionary.com) So, hermeneutics is basically the science of exegesis. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Apr 8 at 18:29
    

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