Lower than the angels

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"A little lower than the angels" is a phrase from Epistle to the Hebrews Chapter 2. It is a citation of Psalm 8:5 and a frequent locus of Christological controversy throughout the history of Christianity and theology.

Source passages[edit]

The original phrase is drawn from Psalms 8:5, however the author of Hebrews follows the Greek of the Septuagint with the reading "lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:7) instead of the Hebrew "lower than God."[1] The original Hebrew text is usually construed as "you made him [man] lower than God", while the Septuagint has the meaning "you made him [man] lower than the angels".[2]

History of exegesis[edit]

The passage occupies a central place in Tertullian's Adversus Praxean.[3]

The passage was the occasion of the break in friendship between Erasmus and Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples. Lefèvre argued that the passage in Hebrews, although it clearly says "angels" in the Greek, should still be understood according to the original source in the Hebrew text with "lower than God", while Erasmus argued that exegesis of Hebrews 2 should follow the Septuagint of Psalm 8:5. Erasmus took the controversy to the extent of publishing seventy-two reasons why his interpretation was to be preferred.[4]


  1. ^ James W. Thompson Hebrews 2008 Page 62 "following the LXX with “lower than the angels” (2:7) instead of “lower than God” as in the Masoretic Text, the author fits the passage to his comparison of the Son with the angels. In the extended citation in 2:6–8 the author follows the LXX but omits Ps 8:6a, “You have given him dominion over the works of your hands,” before continuing the interpretation of the psalm in 2:8b–16. In the words “he subjected” (2:5)"
  2. ^ Radu Gheorghita The Role of the Septuagint in Hebrews 2003 Page 46 "The Hebrew text is probably best construed as "you made him [man] lower than God", while the Septuagint conveys the meaning "you made him [man] lower than the angels". By using the Greek text of Ps. 8 the Author not only understood the Psalm in the translation tradition of the Septuagint, but also expounded its message by building on the particular meaning of aggelos in Ps. 8:6 LXX."
  3. ^ Edgar G. Foster, Angelomorphic Christology And the Exegesis of Psalm 8:5 in Tertullian's Adversus Praxean 0761833145 2005
  4. ^ John Sandys-Wunsch What Have They Done to the Bible?: A History of Modern ...0814650287 2005 - Page 67 "The dispute between Erasmus and Lefevre was caused by a textual divergence between the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Septuagint. Both Erasmus and Lefevre agreed that this verse refers to Christ, not to mankind in general, as it did in ... ..The extent of Erasmus's annoyance is shown by the fact that he gave seventy-two reasons why his interpretation was to be preferred"