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Should the word elohim in Psalm 8:5 be translated into gods/angels/or god? The NIV translates it this way:

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

Another translation, the New Living Translation, has:

Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor

The Hebrew is me'elohim (מֵאֱלֹהִים).

Usually elohim followed by singular words is translated into "god", while elohim followed by plural words is translated by "gods".

Some translators translate it here as "angels". Some translate it as "God". None translates it as "gods".

Is this justified?

It looks like some translations have no problem seeing elohim as plural but downgrade the being(s) into "angels". The other see elohim to mean "god", but keep it singular despite the plural word.

8

The Greek translation of the Psalms, included in the Septuagint, chose to translate 'elohim as αγγελους ('angels') in Psalm 8.5 (LXX 8.6).

In the second half of the first century, the new testament text Hebrews quotes the Septuagint translation of this verse exactly, reiterating the opinion that the 'elohim were understood as angels by at least some Jews over the course of at least a few centuries.

So, at the very least, the more recent translations of Psalm 8.5 are not introducing an unsubstantiated take on the word 'elohim. Interpreting 'elohim in Psalm 8.5 as referring to angels has been done for more than two-thousand years.

In a similar issue of translation, Psalm 82.5 says:

'elohim stands in the assembly of 'el; he judges among 'elohim.

Even though the word 'elohim is used twice, the two instances are unanimously translated as referring to two different classes of entities, the former superior to the latter:

God stands in the divine assembly; he judges among the [gods / angels / divine beings].

This again displays an identification of 'elohim with 'angels'. But in at least one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 11Q13, the human Melchizedek is also identified as the first of the two uses of 'elohim in Psalm 82.5, the one usually identified as capital-g 'God'.

But the key part of your question is:

Is this justified?

That depends on the semantic range of the word 'elohim.

In English, the word 'god' tends to be used in a very narrow manner. It is most often used in specific reference to the god of the bible, often called simply 'God' (i.e. YHWH, the God of Israel). The word is also often used to refer to a singular, all-knowing benevolent entity in a more general sense, with the god of the bible being implied at best. Either way, for most English-speakers, the word 'god' carries the inherent meaning that there is only one such being.

In Hebrew, the 'elohim word-family (e.g. 'elohim, 'eloah, 'el, 'elah) has a much wider semantic range. Beyond the obvious use of these words for YHWH, these words can be used for pagan gods, for angels, and even human rulers or leaders (e.g. Psalm 82.6, at least as understood by the author of John 10.34-35).

And the existence of texts like LXX Psalm 8.6 or 11Q13, cited above, are ample demonstration that 'elohim was sometimes understood by ancient Jews and Christians to refer to angels or humans, depending on the context.

So yes, the choice of translating 'elohim as 'angels' in Psalm 8.5 is justified. 'Angels' was included in the semantic range of meaning for 'elohim.

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Elohiym literally just means "strengths" or "powers," and that's how it should be translated. Angels, gods, judges and God are all "powers." Everything else is theological baggage.

Psalm 82.5 is literally: "Powers stands in the assembly of power; he judges among the powers."

Psalm 8.5 is: You have made them a little lower than the powers and crowned them with glory and honor.

That's what they wrote, why has the church or why do we make a bunch of other things out of it? The meanings of the words we can see in Strong's, as you probably know:

430 'elohiym, el-o-heem’ - gods in the ordinary sense, plural of 433: 'elowahh, el-o'-ah; a deity or the Deity:--God, god, from 410: 'el, ale - shortened from 352; strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty YHWH (but used also of any deity):--God (god), X goodly, X great, idol, might(-y one), power, strong.

The word Powers is used for God because of course he or it is THE ultimate power.

http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/alphabet_early.html: The root EL (written as אל in the Modern Hebrew alphabet, Strong's #410 meaning the "strong authority"), is made from the two letters Aleph, a picture of an ox head representing the concept of "strength" from the strength of the ox; and the letter Lamed, a picture of a shepherd staff representing the sound "L" as well as the concept of "authority," from the authority of the shepherd over the flock.

(Sorry i'm new just doing the best i can with what i got. Feel free to guide me with how i posted this.)

  • Thanks modicumx, this is a fairly good early answer, in terms of the elements you've got here. I would encourage you to Edit this to re-structure it a little. Mainly to order the answer a bit more logically, moving from your evidence towards your conclusion rather than the other way around. Consider adding emphases such as headings, quotes (>) and bold / italics to make your answer clearer to readers. Also, you may find referring to a lexicon rather than just a concordance could be helpful to testing/strengthening your argument. – Steve Taylor Apr 12 '17 at 11:40
  • I think your answer is implying it should always be translated as "powers", but it frequently (and clearly) is used in reference to kings and lords (of nobility, not divinity) - similar to the way "leige", "my lord", "your grace", "Emperor", or "my King" in English. Why would extending translation of Israel's deity when referenced this way as "God" (his proper name translated to English) not fall under this same practice? Shouldn't translators be consistent in translation and why should Ps. 82:5 be an exception? – James Shewey Apr 12 '17 at 15:39
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Elohim has 3 distinct meanings.

  1. Plural gods, dieties

  2. The diety the God the

  3. A personal name of GOD.

It depends in the context used.

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. Paragraphs, bullet points, etc. must be separated by blank lines. – enegue Oct 18 '17 at 7:26
  • This answer is a good start. If you could show examples of where each meaning is used and then apply that to the verse in question, it would be better. – Frank Luke Oct 18 '17 at 16:08

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