Translation Errors In The King James Version: Psalm 8:5 (God or angels?)

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.


Update 4/14/2016

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.

3 thoughts on “Translation Errors In The King James Version: Psalm 8:5 (God or angels?)”

    • It depends on whether or not is the old testament or the new testament. For the old testament I like the NASB. For the new testament I like the NRSV. My only complaint with the NRSV is that they sometimes paraphrase things more than I’d like… But certainly less than the NIV. Its similar to the ESV methodology.

      Keep in mind also, that no perfect translation exists.

      • “no perfect translation exists”

        I find that supports the 1611 for what is the 1611 if not a well translated endeavor of many men in a legal form?

        Not unlike like the Septuagint which our Lord quoted from, no?

        This argument the words are outdated should (IMO) do more to influence a student to learn the old words vs argue for a new version.

        Take passion for example, meant then suffering, now mostly used to describe entangled lovers, or, to describe someones attachment to something, passionate about learning for example, to which I circle back to etymology vs accepting a new version which will change words that at some point someone may well change again, even if just for copyright reasons.

        Back to your claim “no perfect translation exists”

        For a time we had signs, some claim to still have these, tongues, healing, prophecy etc, these were used to introduce faith to non believers.

        Can I argue people still have them, should I?

        I can question them, I would think a modern day healer would be very well known, like Jesus himself was known for, and many pharmacies would be far less busy, but they were done away with, replaced with what?

        1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

        That which is perfect being the assembled word of God, perfect meaning complete, everything needed is there, in 80 books, no?

        You don’t believe it?

        Well, that’s faith in a nutshell isn’t it, belief, and should you not believe it then believe something else, but to argue a modern version which changes meanings to modern thinking, and which must to be able to sell it, well, seems like an unnecessary risk when the 1611 already contains what was intended. (complete/perfect)

        I’m a convert to Catholicism and used the 1611 to get there, its important to understand the King was and is the head of the protestant church, so many of the footnotes may have been placed with regard that the main text might not have backed the King, IDK, often the footnotes serve a better understanding, they are for you to discern but not found in digital editions that I’ve found.

        Also, the 1611 contains italicized text, it indicates the translators put it there to help the reader, those words were not actually translated, something else I’ve not seen in digital translations.

        The point is in both cases nothing is hidden from the reader.

        I don’t get that confidence from new translations, and the KJV without the apocrypha is not the 1611.

        I believe a perfect translation does exist, but is under attack, so be it, serve who you may, just leave me my 1611.


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