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Most translations render Hebrews 2:7 like the NIV: "…a little lower than the angels…", but several modern translations (eg NET, NASB etc) have a different sense like the ESV:

7You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, ESV

The ESV does not give Psalm 8 the same sense however:

5Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. ESV

Is the Greek ambiguous or are there clear textual indications that Hebrews 2:7 text should be read the way these modern translations indicate?

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  • Is the Hebrew in Ps 8:5 more clear? – Ralph M. Rickenbach Feb 29 '16 at 12:59
  • @RalphM.Rickenbach There is not much variation in the translations – Jack Douglas Feb 29 '16 at 16:02
  • Haven't we had this question before? hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/8643/… – fdb Mar 3 '16 at 20:59
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    In my opinion, it's legitimate to ask about the Greek separately -- there is plenty in the OG translations that differs from the MT, and the author of Hebrews (and his contemporaries) took plenty of opportunities to build arguments from such quotations that invoked context different from their original place in the Hebrew Bible. (No doubt the translation "angels" in the other question originated with the Greek, but it's ostensibly about the Hebrew and a different question than the rank vs. time issue.) – Susan Mar 4 '16 at 12:47
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The ESV, NASB, et al aren't wrong per se, since βραχυ can include a reference to time.

Thayer's definition:

  1. short, small, little
    1. of place, a short distance, a little
    2. of time, a short time, for a little while

Basically the ESV is doing a very slight but extremely justifiable interpretation for this verse.

5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. - Hebrews 2:5-9 (ESV, emphasis mine)

The author of Hebrews directly applies this to Jesus, who was already described as being superior to angels in chapter 1, even "upholding the universe by the power of his word (v3)." Therefore while Jesus was made lower than the angels when He was a man, it was indeed only for a little while. For after His resurrection He was crowned with glory and honor and "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (v3-4)."

Note that the King James Version includes "Or, a little while inferior to" as an alternate reading for Hebrews 2:7 in the margin:

Hebrews 2:7 KJV marginal note

Additionally, the word translated "little" in Psalm 8:5 is מְעָט, which can also include a reference to time as can be seen in Psalm 37:10 (NJKV)

For yet a little while [מְ֭עַט] and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.

Of which John Gill brings out in his commentary on Psalm 8:5

The duration of this low estate was "a little while"; for so the Hebrew word מעט may be rendered, as it is in Psalm 37:10, and the Greek βραχυ τι, used by the Septuagint, and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, as it is in Acts 5:34....

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It should be noted that To the Hebrews, like the preponderance of NT authors had as their OT a bunch of Koine Greek scrolls as their source texts, not the Hebrew scrolls. This is evident here because the Hebrew has "lower in rank than God" while the Greek OT and To the Hebrews have "lower in rank than the angels".

But to answer your question, it appears that BDAG has "lower in rank than the angels" based on it being a quote of Psalm 8:6 but notes immediately after that that the same construction is used in Isaiah 57:17 to refer a brief time:

βραχύς, εῖα, ύ (Pind., Hdt. +) prim. ‘short’. ① pert. to having little length, short, of space: βραχύ (so Thu. 1, 63, 2; 2 Km 16:1) διαστήσαντες a little farther on Ac 27:28. ② pert. to being brief in duration, brief, short, of time: β. (τι) for a short time (Ael. Aristid. 13 p. 276 D.) Ac 5:34; Hb 2:7 (quotes Ps 8:6, which refers to rank; in Is 57:17 β. τι denotes time), 9; μετὰ β. a little later Lk 22:58. ③ pert. to being low in quantity, little, small (1 Km 14:29, 43; Jos., Bell. 1, 597, Ant. 9, 48 ἔλαιον βραχύ): a small amount β. τι a little J 6:7 (cp. Thu. 2, 99, 5). διὰ βραχέων in a few words, briefly Hb 13:22 (besides the exx. in FBleek ad loc., s. also Just., A I, 8, 3; Tat. 41, 3; Ocellus Luc. 35; Ptolem., Apotel. 1, 1, 3; Lucian, Toxaris 56; Ps.-Lucian, Charid. 22; Ael. Aristid. 13 p. 183 D.; Achilles Tat. 7, 9, 3; PStras 41, 8 διὰ βραχέων σε διδάξω; EpArist 128; Jos., Bell. 4, 338). LTrudinger, JTS 23, ’72, 128–30.—1 Pt 5:12 P72.—B. 883. DELG. M-M.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 183). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Under the entry for PARA BDAG has:

③ marker of comparative advantage, in comparison to, more than, beyond ἁμαρτωλοί, ὀφειλέται π. πάντας Lk 13:2, p 758 4 (PSI 317, 6 [95 A.D.] παρὰ πάντας; Jos., C. Ap. 2, 234 παρὰ τ. ἄλλους ἅπαντας; JosAs 10:6 παρὰ πάσας τὰς παρθένους; Just., A I, 20, 3 παρὰ πάντας ἀδίκως μισούμεθα). κρίνειν ἡμέραν παρʼ ἡμέραν (s. κρίνω 1) Ro 14:5. π. πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν B 11:9 (prophetic quot. of unknown orig.). π. πάντα τὰ πνεύματα more than all other spirits Hm 10, 1, 2. ἐλαττοῦν τινα π. τινα make someone inferior to someone Hb 2:7, 9 (s. ἐλαττόω 1 and cp. PGrenf I, 42, 12 [II B.C.] ἐλαττουμένων ἡμῶν παρὰ τοὺς δεῖνα). εἶδος ἐκλεῖπον π. τὸ εἶδος τῶν ἀνθρώπων (s. ἐκλείπω 4) 1 Cl 16:3.—After a comp. (Thu. 1, 23, 3; ApcEsdr 1:22; Tat. 2, 2) Lk 3:13; Hb 1:4; 3:3; 9:23; 11:4; 12:24; B 4:5 (cp. Da 7:7); Hv 3, 12, 1; Hs 9, 18, 2.—When a comparison is made, one member of it may receive so little attention as to pass fr. consideration entirely, so that ‘more than’ becomes instead of, rather than, to the exclusion of (Plut., Mor. 984c; PsSol 9:9; EpArist 134; Just., A I, 22, 2) λατρεύειν τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα serve the creation rather than the Creator Ro 1:25 (cp. EpArist 139: the Jews worship τὸν μόνον θεὸν παρʼ ὅλην τὴν κτίσιν). δεδικαιωμένος παρʼ ἐκεῖνον justified rather than the other Lk 18:14. ἔχρισέν σε … παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους (God) has anointed you and not your comrades Hb 1:9 (Ps 44:8). ὑπερφρονεῖν παρʼ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν Ro 12:3 (Plut., Mor. 83f παρʼ ὃ δεῖ). παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας Hb 11:11 (Plut., Rom. 25, 6 παρʼ ἡλικίαν; cp. ἡλικία 2a).—παρὰ δύναμιν beyond their means (s. δύναμις 2) 2 Cor 8:3.—After ἄλλος (Pla., Lach. 178b, Leg. 3, 693b; X., Hell. 1, 5, 5; Demosth. 18, 235) another than 1 Cor 3:11.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 757–758). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

So it appears to me that the grammar suggests "a little while lower than the angels" and many translate it that way but BDAG and other translators, reliant on the Hebrew text translates as "a little lower than". The translators do not agree for strong reasons. My own tendency would be to go with "briefly [lower in rank] than the angels" because I doubt that the author of To The Hebrews was familiar with the Hebrew. Honestly, it might even read "briefly among the angels" because without the Hebrew one has to supply the word "lower" which is not present in the text.

I don't pretend to resolve the matter but I hope I've shown the way that the awkward transmission from Hebrew to Greek has made the translation corrupt and this is evident in the various translations.

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  • I am bemused by this dichotomy between "a bunch of Greek scrolls" and "the Hebrew texts". Were the Hebrew texts not also written on scrolls? – fdb Mar 3 '16 at 21:07
  • I didn't intend to create a dichotomy of the formats which would have all been on scrolls; I'll edit the OP. – user10231 Mar 4 '16 at 18:38
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Only the Hebrew masoret, as verified by the qumran scrolls, is the legitimate text. All others that do not agree with it should correct themselves.

We need to read the plain and simple Hebrew the way it is written rather than dancing around the text, trying to translate or interpret away its raw and simple meaning.

Every place the phrase is found in the Bible, [מאלֹהים] is translated as "from G'd". Why translate this passage differently?

The plain and simple Hebrew:

מה אנוש
what is humankind

כי תזכרנו
that shall You think about us

ובן אדם
and son of man

כי תפקדנו
that shall You focus on us

ותחסרהו מעט
And then you lessen him a little

מאלֹהים
than/from G'd

וכבוד והדר
and glory and honour

תעטרהו
shall you adorn him

This passage is related to Hosea 2:16.

והיה ביום ההוא
And that day is appointed/existent

נאם יי
declares the LORD

תקראי אישי
you shall call Me my husband-peer

ולא תקראי לי עוד
and shall you no longer call me

בעלי
my husband-master

The latter rainד must align to the former rain

If anyone confesses to being a Bible fundamentalist, then you must stay true to being a Bible fundamentalist, and read the Bible as written in the original Hebrew, faithful to its literal grammar and structure, unbiased by latter rains.

It is the latter rains that needs to align with and be biased by the leading/former rain, not the other way around.

כי נתן לכם את המורה לצדקה
As He gives you the leading/former rain in rightful progression

ויורד לכם גשם מורה ומלקוש בראשון
brings down to you a storm of leading/former rain and the latter rain in that of the first/lead.

מורה being the idiomatic "former" rain means "guide", "leader".

You don't modify the Hebrew scriptures to satisfy the theology of your Christian scriptures. You must read the Hebrew independently and then modify your Christian scriptures and theology to satisfy the Hebrew scriptures.

Latter scriptures must be guided and biased by the Hebrew scriptures, not the other way around. IF there is any disagreement or conflicts, the latter scriptures must secede and concede that it is not a latter rain to the leading rain.

If the passage in its original form violates our theology and concept of salvation, then we must modify our theology and salvation to align with the passage. Rather than adding beyond iotas and concepts to modify the original meaning of the passage.

The corollary to these passages

The human race is the chosen race. Jews are merely the people chosen to reveal that fact. Jews are merely the yenta to arrange the marriage of humankind to the Creator. Any theology that proposes that they replace Jews are silly and mindless because why would you focus on being the yenta rather than being the bride?

G'd wants to marry a bride who is smart, spontaneous and independent-minded. A bride who is able to make decisions on her own. If you don't agree, then you must be a misogynist because you prefer your wife to be dumb, submissive, unquestioning, without a mind of her own, fearful of you.

If you have the right and privilege to have a spouse who is smart, spontaneous and independent minded, why would you deprive G'd of such a spouse? Is G'd lesser than you, less privileged than you?

G'd wants His bride to be His equal. Regardless what the singularity theory says, it is not possible for the created to be more intelligent than the creator. So G'd has no choice but to settle for a human race that is just a little lesser, who is asymptotically His equal.

It might take us another 8 billion years, but in the Almighty's plan we will eventually be where He wants us, the human collective, to be.

G'd the intelligent-systems engineer

The ultimate fantasy of a machine-intelligence engineer, is to create a machine-intelligence that will be as intelligent as she is - presuming that she is very smart and intelligent, ... ahem. At every stage, she throws conflicts and failure conditions at her intelligent machine to percolate her machine to higher intelligence and decisions.

So too, G'd throws at the human race, diseases, conflicts, catastrophes, famine, etc, to force us, to coagulate the human network to percolate us to higher collective intelligence and decisions.

The Sabbath

is the only interface between Creator and creation. The only path of salvation.

For those who believe in that particular god Jesus, even your god is said to have said

Come unto me all who are heavily burdened, and I shall give you Sabbath.

If you are dynamics systems engineer, you would notice that quiescent or zero points are required and found in every system that needs to achieve stability. In information systems, in electronic circuitry, in chaotic systems, zero quiescent points are necessary for stability and synchronization.

The harshness and rigours of the forces of evolutionary development that G'd forces on humankind in His strategy to achieve a spouse equal to His stature, and then from which we need that hiding place in the Sabbath, a quiescent point independent of time and space.

The Sabbath is the only avenue to achieve salvation for humankind, such that even an atheist who observes Sabbath will have (though unknowingly) a relationship with G'd.

Responsibility of humankind to play-god

It is the expected responsibility for humankind to learn and come to grips that we have to play-god to the Universe, in our responsibility to achieve equality with G'd.

It is we the human collective who decides if killing unborn babies is acceptable. It is we who will decide if gay marriage, human cloning is acceptable. G'd has laid that responsibility on our shoulders.

It is our responsibility to create new life forms, to extend human life and to one day technologically achieve eternal life for the human race. Do not use the allegory of Babel to irrelevantly renege on this responsibility.

We are the co-creators of the Universe

In Genesis 2,

ויכל השמים והארץ
וכל צבאם
ויכל אלהים ביום השביעי
מלאכתו אשר עשה
וישבת ביום השביעי
מכל מלאכתו אשר עשה

Then completes He the heavens and the earth
and all their forces
and completes G'd on the 7th day
his task/commission which He did
and then rests on the 7th day
from all His task/commission which He did.

[מלאכת] is the participative derivative of [מלאך], where [מלאך] has been erroneously translated with the pagan term "angel". In the original Hebrew of the Bible, there are no "angels", but only commissioners of tasks. [מלא] means "fulfill", to fill up - therefore, "my cup overflows".

[יכל] means completing not finishing. "Complete" as in a "complete" list of inventory.

G'd merely completes His task/commission without finishing creating the Universe. G'd merely made the material available and according to Qabalah tradition scattered that inventory. And we the human race will assemble the Universe to our own volition. There are near infinite, a dynamically-chaotic finite, number of possibilities how we humans will assemble this Universe. It is not a jigsaw puzzle because a jigsaw puzzle implies there is one and only one final outcome dictated by G'd. The outcome and finality of the Universe is determined by us the human collective.

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