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Psalm 8:5 New International Version

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.

English Standard Version

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

In https://biblehub.com/psalms/8-5.htm, 21 versions use "him" and 3 versions use "them".

You made him a little
וַתְּחַסְּרֵ֣הוּ (wat·tə·ḥas·sə·rê·hū)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Piel - Consecutive imperfect - second person masculine singular | third person masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 2637: To lack, need, be lacking, decrease

Why do 3 versions translate this as plural?

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  • Hebrews 2:7 makes it very clear : But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death – Nigel J Sep 3 '20 at 21:02
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Here we must be very careful. The Hebrew word translated "God" in the OT is most often אֱלהִים (elohim) which does not mean the same as the NT word Θεός (theos). The Hebrew אֱלהִים (elohim) most often refers to God Almighty, the LORD, YHWH, etc; but not always. Here are a few times where it clearly does not.

  • Ex 4:16 - "Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.
  • Ex 7:1 - The LORD answered Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.
  • Ex 21:6 - then his master is to bring him before the judges [elohim]. And he shall take him to the door or doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he shall serve his master for life.
  • Ex 22:8 - If the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges [elohim] to determine whether he has taken his neighbor’s property.
  • 1 Sam 28:13 - “Do not be afraid,” the king replied. “What do you see?” “I see a god coming up out of the earth,” the woman answered.
  • Ps 82:6 - I have said, ‘You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.’ (Quoted in John 10:34).

Now, the Hebrew word in Ps 8:5 is definitely אֱלהִים (elohim) which makes the text literally, "Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!" as per the NASB. See also CSB, HCSB, ISV, NAS1977, ASV, ERV, WEB, YLT. Most other translations follow the LXX which was apparently the source of Heb 2:7 which translated אֱלהִים (elohim) as "angels".

Now to the second question: Singular or plural?

The Hebrew in both Ps 8:4 & 5 is singular.

what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than God/angels; You crowned him with glory and honor.

All these pronouns refer to "man" אֱנוֹשׁ (enosh) and the "son of man" אָדָם (adam) (in V4) which both refer to "man" as "mankind" assuming the collective noun for all mankind which is singular.

However, some versions make this more explicit by translating "adam" as "humans" such as the NIV:

"what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them ... "

I prefer the the use of the collective singular in this case.

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Notice that the Psalm 8:5 [NIV] mistranslation of Psalm 8:6 [MT] is considering "human beings" plural - an inaccurate translation of the two distinct figures discussed in the Hebrew [MT] : "Man" (אֱ֖נוֹשׁ) and "Son of Man" (בֶן־אָ֜דָ֗ם).

Psalm 8:4 [NIV] "what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"

Psalm 8:5 [MT] "what is Man that You should remember him, and the Son of Man that You should be mindful of him?" (מָֽה־אֱ֖נוֹשׁ כִּֽי־תִזְכְּרֶ֑נּוּ וּבֶן־אָ֜דָ֗ם כִּ֣י תִפְקְדֶֽנּוּ )

Psalm 8:6 [MT] "Yet You have made him slightly less than-angels, and You have crowned him with glory and majesty." (וַתְּחַסְּרֵ֣הוּ מְ֖עַט מֵֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וְכָב֖וֹד וְהָדָ֣ר תְּעַטְּרֵֽהוּ ).

  • If you keep the associative order of each (condition) in Psalm 8:5-6 [MT] : (Man, Son-of Man) with the order of each property in (Less than Angels, Crowned with Glory), then you can see the verses assign:
  • {"Man" (אֱ֖נוֹשׁ) : "Less than Angels"} ;

  • {"Son-of Man" (בֶן־אָ֜דָ֗ם) : "Crowned with Glory"}

  • Regarding the Hebrew translation of "Angels": Instead of Elohim (God), the term used in Tehillim (Psalm) 8:6 is "Me-Elohim" (מֵאֱלֹהִים) = from-God. Traditionally "Angels" are messengers : "from-God" (מֵאֱלֹהִים).

[https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16229/jewish/Chapter-8.htm]

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Dottard's answer to this question provides a very useful list of different readings for ELOHIM, but conspicuously absent is the usage of ELOHIM for "angels". "Sons of ELOHIM" is the proper phrase for "angels", though the proper word for "messengers" is MAL'AK.

Some take Ps 82:6 to refer to the divine council. "Angels" is without precedent and "divine council" is on thin ice. But if it does refer to the divine council, then it might mean that the psalmist understood "let us make man in our image" to be addressed to heavenly beings at creation. And if so, then Jesus concurs, at least with that reading of Psalm 82:

[Psa 82:1-8 NKJV] (1) A Psalm of Asaph. God stands in the congregation of the mighty (EL); He judges among the gods (ELOHIM). (2) How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah (3) Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. (4) Deliver the poor and needy; Free [them] from the hand of the wicked. (5) They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable. (6) I said, "You [are] gods (ELOHIM), And all of you [are] children of the Most High. (7) But you shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes." (8) Arise, O God (ELOHIM), judge the earth; For You shall inherit all nations.

[Jhn 10:35-36 NASB] (35) "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), (36) do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?

So if this understanding is correct, and ELOHIM in Psalm 8 refers to the divine council, and they are "children (sons) of God", then the response of the Jews makes sense:

[Jhn 10:35-39 NASB] (35) "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), (36) do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? (37) "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; (38) but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." (39) Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.

If this reading is correct, then Jesus is saying that he was on the divine council while in heaven and while man on earth he was lower than the divine council, but when he received his exaltation, the mightiest angels were put under his control, to which Paul concurs:

[Psa 8:4-8 NASB] (4) What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? (5) Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! (6) You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, (7) All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, (8) The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

[1Co 15:27 NASB] (27) For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.

[Eph 1:22 NASB] (22) And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

Hebrews is very specific:

[Heb 2:5-8 NASB] (5) For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. (6) But one has testified somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? (7) "YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; (8) YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

The NASB reading has "for a little while lower" which introduces another can of worms regarding the transmission from the Hebrew or even the Greek. It seems plausible to me but I'm not qualified in the Hebrew or even the Greek enough to tell if that's grammatically possible. It appears to me as it is, or at least possibly. Perhaps it warrants its own question. Hopefully someone can supply the answer in a comment.

Note: The part about sheep and oxen in Psalm 8 strongly suggests that he's talking about mankind, in the original Psalm, but passages from the OT are generally recast in the NT as applying to Jesus.

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