Some Trinitarian apologists have actually had the audacity to claim the Hebrew's writer is mistaken to quote this Psalm in reference to angels.
Examination of the Claim
1. What the Hebrews Writer is quoting
The common Hebrew word for angel is mal'ak. The Hebrews writer is quoting Psalm 2:7 where the word in question in the original Hebrew text is not mal'ak but is rather elohim which is the Hebrew word normally translated as "God" or "gods."
What is man that you are mindful of him? Or the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than elohim (Psalm 8:5).
2. The Septuagint (LXX)
The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament translated by Jews themselves a couple of centuries before Jesus was born. We know from all the passages the Hebrews writer quotes, that he is quoting the Septuagint which reads, "You have made him a littler lower than the angels." In other words, the ancient Jews translated the Hebrew word Elohim in this passage as "angels" and the inspired writer of Hebrews is accepting this translation to be correct since he uses it and accepts that it is indeed a reference to angels.
Analysis of the Evidence
1. The Jewish Understanding
Ancient Jewish scribes translated the word elohim into Greek as "angels" when they translated the Old Testament into Greek. Obviously, they were understanding this passage, and the word elohim, to refer to angels or they would not have translated the verse as they did.
2. The Inspired Hebrews Writer's Understanding
The Hebrews Writer also understands that the word elohim to be a reference to "angels." In other words, he is endorsing the Jewish translation of the Hebrew word elohim as "angels." Unless we wish to entertain the inspired writer made a mistake, and that we really cannot trust the words of the inspired writers of Scripture, we must take his word for it.
Additionally, the writer is writing to the Hebrews, the Hebrew people whose native language is Hebrew. They would have known how Psalm 8:5 reads in the Hebrew text. However, it is possible that this letter was written to the Alexandrian Jews. There is evidence that they were not as conversant in Hebrew as other Jews and these people were indeed the main reason the Greek Septugint was written. So it is remotely possibly they only read from the LXX and that is why the Hebrews writer is quoting from this version of the Hebrew scriptures.
However, the Hebrews writer is still endorsing this translation. The only recourse is to suppose he was ignorant of the original Hebrew text. Given the flavor and content of the book of Hebrews, this seems extremely unlikely. The entire book is to Jews and is written within an expected understanding of the framework of Jewish thought and culture. Even if one was to entertain the notion that the writer did not know the original Hebrew text of Psalm 8:5, one is still left with the problem that the Holy Spirit then did not guide the writer to the truth but allowed him to perpetuate an error.
3. Paul to the Galatians
Paul also appears to indicate that the Jews referred to angels as "gods" in his letter to the Galatians although they are not truly gods by nature. Compare Galatians 3:19 and 4:3, 8-10 (cf. Acts 7:53, Col 2:15,18).
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator....the Law was our tutor to lead us to Christ... Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave... he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. (Galatians 3:19-4:8).
4. Old Testament Passages
Several Old Testament texts also point in the same direction:
the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. (Deuteronomy 10:17).
There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. Psalm 86:8
For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:3
For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Psalm 96:4-5.
Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, Who boast themselves of idols; Worship Him, all you gods. Zion heard this and was glad, And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced Because of Your judgments, O LORD. For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. (Psalm 97:7-9).
For I know that the LORD is great And that our Lord is above all gods. (Psalm 135:5).
Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 136:2).
I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. (Psalm 138:1).
The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery. (Daniel 2:47).
Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. (Daniel 11:36).
One must remember also that graven images were not understood to be gods themselves but representations of divine beings that were understood by the nations to be gods.
5. Psalm 82
The gods (elohim) stand in the congregation of God (El)
In the midst of the gods (elohim) He judges.
This verse is controversial. Many scholars believe it is actually referring to the judges of Israel especially in view of verse 6, "You are gods (elohim) and all of you are sons of the Most High but you shall die like men." If that is the case, the judges of Israel are being identified as elohim. But if humans can be identified as elohim it would certainly stand to reason that angels could be identified as elohim especially when we regard the theophanies in the Old Testament where angels are addressed as if God Himself is being addressed. We also know from the book of Job that angels are sons of God, sons of the Most High. So how can anyone argue that men can be called elohim but deny that angels can be called elohim? Even further, if angels are sons of God, would it also not make sense to refer to El and the sons of El as "Elohim" just as the Bible refers to Anak and the sons of Anak as "Anakim"?
We are compelled by the evidence to accept the fact that the Hebrews writer accepts and endorses the ancient Jewish translation which translates the Hebrew word elohim as "angels." Unless the Scriptures are wrong, we are therefore compelled to conclude that angels are elohim.
Created: March 11, 2011
Last Updated: January 8, 2014