“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honour.” Ps. 8:4-5 (KJV, emphasis added)
“What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” Ps. 8:4-5 (NASB, emphasis added)
I was in a Bible study class a few years ago where the above scripture was discussed. The scripture was read by someone from the KJV and then in discussing it, someone else in the class criticized the KJV for translating the word angels incorrectly. In the Hebrew text the word used is elohim which, according to the gentleman who spoke, only refers to God. So he stressed that mankind was made a little lower than God and we are at least equal to or superior to the angels.
Although it’s true that elohim refers to God the majority of the time in scripture, we must compare scripture with scripture to find out what the translation of the word should be. Our answer is found in Hebrews 2 where the writer describes this Psalm as being messianic–
“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: …
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:7, 9)
Bible versions, such as the NASB, that translate the word as God in Psalms turn around and translate the word as angels in Hebrews. Why? The word angels is how it really should be translated in the context of scripture since the Psalm is messianic and spoke of how Jesus would humble himself to take on the form of feeble humanity. The KJV translators got it correct because they knew the importance of comparing the whole word of God to make sure they translated properly. They knew that the New Testament revealed what was concealed in the Old Testament.
But God always supplies us with two or three witnesses as verification, so let’s see if anywhere else in scripture we find the principle of man being lower than the angels–
“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” Luke 20:34-36 (emphasis added)
In this passage, Jesus clearly states that once the saints are given their resurrected bodies, they become equal to the angels. We understand from the scriptures our resurrection is a promotion from our present corrupt state. Therefore, if we get a promotion to become equal to angels, then we are at this time lower than (inferior to) the angels.
Still, there is one more witness attesting to the fact that angels are presently higher than us. Peter spoke about prideful humanity in 2 Peter 2. He talked about rebellious sinners who are so full of themselves that they have no regard for government authorities or spiritual authorities in heaven and how they go so far as to rail against spiritual beings.
Then in his explanation of how angels in heaven do not rail against other angels like prideful humans rail against certain angels, Peter states in 2 Peter 2:11 that angels are “greater in power and might” than humans. This means they are higher than us in the ranks of God’s creation.
So, saints of God, let’s not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.
–Harry A. Gaylord–