In the continued pursuit of outlining the errors of King James Only-ism I will be examining a Hebrew mistranslation from Psalm 8:5. To view previous entries click any link below.
Psalm 8:5 (God or angels?)
Let us first look at the texts in question.
For thou hast made him a little lower then the Angels; and hast crowned him with glory and honour (KJV 1611)
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. (KJV)
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! (NASB)
The translation in question is whether the word “angel” or “God” should be used. Let us first turn to the text below and see what is written in the underlying manuscript(s).
Psalm 8:6 וַתְּחַסְּרֵ֣הוּ מְּ֭עַט מֵאֱלֹהִ֑ים וְכָב֖וֹד וְהָדָ֣ר תְּעַטְּרֵֽהוּ׃
For those who have ever read Hebrew OT they will notice that the verse numbers in the Hebrew Bible don’t always line up with the verse numbers in the English Bible. If you want to look this passage up you will need to use Pslam 8:6 not 8:5.
Understanding the Hebrew translation
The word in question is ” מֵאֱלֹהִ֑ים” ([m]Elohim) and it is slightly complex because it’s actually the word “אֱלֹהִ֑ים” with a prefix “מֵ“(min). The word is the Hebrew word for God or gods and it’s completely dependent on context. Yes, that word is plural. However, that is not the point of this topic. The prefix “מֵ“(min) is a shortened form of “מִין“(min) which is a preposition indicating “from” or “within” or even “out of”. When the min is added to Elohim the “in” on the “min” changes to a slightly different vowel structure and the “n” drops off completely. Since the vowel point indicates a tsere vowel under the first letter the root word had a definite article (the). So the best rendering would be “the God” or “the gods.” This, of course, can be taken many ways theologically and idiomatically.
Now, the Hebrew word for angels (staying with the plural noun) is “מלאכים” (malakim). Even a non-translator can see that it angels and gods do not have any overlap. The words are not even close. So how did this happen? Why would the translators purposefully say “angels” and not “gods/God”?
As one defender (Dr. John Hinton Ph.D [who does not actually have a Ph.D in any related field and adding the “Dr.” and the “Ph.D” is redundant]) of the KJV puts it “If a translator is not being guided by the Holy Spirit he cannot hope to understand the Bible above the most superficial level.“ He then goes on to explain why the underlying Hebrew text is wrong and it should have been angels and not God. The reasoning is because Psalm 8:5 is requoted by the author of Hebrews (2:7) and the author followed the Septuagint (Greek) edition of the OT which says angels. In fact, the NT routinely quotes the OT from the Greek version and the Septuagint does not always match the Hebrew texts. It’s clear that the KJV translators “corrected” the manuscripts which implies a certain amount of theology was added into the transmission of the texts.
Thus, we are left with a question to answer. Is the Septuagint correct or the Hebrew manuscripts? If the Septuagint is correct then that means the Hebrew manuscripts underlying the KJV are corrupted. If they don’t say angels (and they don’t) then they are wrong. And I am told many times over again that their are two lines of manuscripts (which is wrong) and that the KJV is translated from the uncorrupted line of manuscripts. So then why is this error in the KJV manuscripts?
In conclusion, I would submit that the KJVO movement needs to decide what their actual argument is. If they still hold that the “real” issue is the manuscripts then they need to address this issue. If they hold that the KJV manuscripts are 100% correct then they have to explain why the translators clearly chose to change the text when translating into English. This would be a blatant mistake in the translation.
For the sake of accuracy and getting to the root of the matter I need to update this post with some further conversation. After discussing a few things with a friend on this matter I believe that “the gods” and “the angels” may have more overlap in the Greek and Hebrew worldview as I gave them credit for. As such, it is quite possible that either translation would be acceptable for early church, but only for the early church. As times change so does language.
I think for the modern era and for the purpose of English speakers, we should consider a different rendering all-together. The general idea in the first century was that there was a divine council which closely paralleled the Hebrew idea of heavenly hosts. Both could have been described as heavenly beings, with varying degrees of overlap. Today we don’t have the same semantic range for those words…. especially not in English. I would suggest re-working the English to suggest “the gods” are heavenly beings of some nature but not angels. The idea of an angel is too clearly defined in English.
In light of these ideas I am going to hold off on considering this to be an error in the KJV. Though, I think it’s borderline error status, I think since these words have been interchangeable for so many early texts that it would be unfair to criticize the KJV translators on this one item. It’s a complicated issue.