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Bible Q

Was Jesus previously in heaven, but made lower than the angels for a short period?

This question refers to Hebrews 2:7:

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

This is a quotation from Psalm 8:5. The original word “a little” in Hebrew (haser me’at , lack a little) can only mean less. The verb determines this. The Greek word “a little” (brachu) is more open, it is used for both “a little while” and “a little distance” in the NT.

Here in Heb.2:7, the ESV rendering is somewhat influenced by theology. The idea is being taken that Christ was temporarily reduced from heaven and placed under the angels on earth is not supported by anything in either Ps.8 or Heb.2

Psalm 8:5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[1] and crowned him with glory and honor.
[1]Or than God; Septuagint than the angels (ESV footnote)

Hebrews 2: 5 Now 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.


The original word in Ps.8:5 is elohim, a word that is one of several Hebrew -im nouns which has the same form in the singular and the plural. When it occurs at the end of a sentence like this, without a plural or singular verb to guide the reader, it is impossible to tell whether singular or plural is intended. This explains the two different possibilities given by ESV — “than the heavenly beings”, “lower than God”, and also the Greek Old Testament readings “than the angels”

The Greek Old Testament readings “the angels” is not a possible translation of “elohim“, it has been listed by the ESV for reference only, to explain the difference between the NT Ps.2:7 and Ps.8:5 in Hebrew. However no Hebrew manuscript has “angels” (malakim) in this verse, all manuscripts have elohim, “God” or “gods”.

Victorian commentators

There is some confusion here among Victorian commentators who sometimes misread that God (elohim) was talking to angels (elohim), and explained the verse in this way.  Unfortunately that is based on two mistakes.

  • Firstly elohim is one of several -im nouns in Hebrew where plurality is determined by the verb, elohim with singular verb (as translated “God made” in Mark 10:6 etc.) just means “God said”, whether “God said” to man, angels, whoever.
  • Secondly if God was talking to angels then that would be Hebrew malakim not elohim. The identification of “angels” as a possible meaning of elohim in some 19thC lexicons is based on comparing Heb.2:7,9 with Ps.8:5 without realising that Heb.2:7,9 is not answering a question concerning Ps.8:5 in Hebrew (which has “gods”) but Ps.8:5 LXX in Greek (where “gods” has been switched for “angels”).

The original Jewish translators of the OT changed “gods” to “angels” in 3 cases, because they were offended by the poetic language.

Does Heb.2:7 legitimise the Greek version of Ps.8:5?

That doesn’t mean that Heb.2:7 is confirming those 3rdC BC translators were inspired or even correct, Heb.2:7 is simply dealing with a wrested scripture: this is the only time in the NT that an apparently OT verse is described as “It has been testified somewhere” (ESV), or “someone has said in a certain place” (KJV Greek). This is not a normal way to introduce OT scripture, and shows that the writer of Heb.2:7 was aware that the Greek did not accurately reflect the Hebrew.

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