Let’s Examine Hebrews 2:5-9 in Detail
Earth Subject to Man
5For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that You remember him? Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him? 7You have made him for a little while lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And have appointed him over the works of Your hands; 8You have put all things in subjection under his feet. ”For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
Jesus Briefly Humbled
9But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
. . .NASB95
The publishing feature of the NASB versions having all Old Testament quotes set in capital letters is helpful in some ways. But for this example it is not helpful at all because it masks the fact that this reading should not be “the Son of Man” but instead it should read “the son of man” or more literally “a son of man”. I found it interesting that in copying the text for this Gem from the NASB95 that the small caps of the Old Testament quote automatically changed and went to lower case as above. Now that is fascinating. In the 2020 Edition of the NASB “THE SON OF MAN” has been changed to “A SON OF MAN”. If you remember back to our investigation into Hebrews 1:2 and “the Son”, “a son” or “Son” we have something similar here but in this case it is not an anarthrous use of the lack of a definite article. It is a more usual result of Greek grammar that when the definite article is not present (as in this case) then the reading is indefinite – i.e. “a son of man”. That is “man” and the “sons of man”.
Among the thirty English versions that I have loaded on E-Sword, all record “the son of man” (lower case) in Hebrews 2:6 except for:
- [GW] Instead, someone has declared this somewhere in Scripture: “What is a mortal that you should remember him, or the Son of Man that you take care of him?
- [TLB] No, for in the book of Psalms David says to God, “What is mere man that you are so concerned about him? And who is this Son of Man you honor so highly?
The God’s Word and The Living Bible versions are the only ones which leave the verse to read ‘the Son of Man’ as though it were the title given to Messiah, which is incorrect and not at all what the writer intended.
These three literally record “a son of man”
- [LSV] and one in a certain place testified fully, saying, “What is man, that You are mindful of him, || Or a son of man, that You look after him?
- [NLT] For in one place the Scriptures say, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, or a son of man that you should care for him?
- [YLT] and one in a certain place did testify fully, saying, ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or a son of man, that Thou dost look after him?
Others more creatively make it clear the connection is to mankind and not to the Messianic term ‘Son of Man’:
- [CEV] Somewhere in the Scriptures someone says to God, “What makes you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for weaklings such as we?
- [ERV] It is written some place in the Scriptures, “Why are people so important to you? Why do you even think about them? Why do you care about the son of man? Is he so important?
- [GNB] Instead, as it is said somewhere in the Scriptures: “What are human beings, O God, that you should think of them; mere human beings, that you should care for them?
- [MSG] It says in Scripture, What is man and woman that you bother with them; why take a second look their way?
- [TPT] But the Scriptures affirm: What is man that you would even think about him, or care about Adam’s race.
This is a complicated passage made so by the way the versions handle it. On occasions in the Gems I have given you input from the commentaries, but in this case the commentaries, lexicons and versions result in a confusing picture and don’t add to our understanding. In many cases the commentators get bogged down in linguistic gobble-de-gook, discussing whether the interpretation should be based on the degree of contrast or the timing of the contrast while analysing the passage in linguistic terminology. Some make much of the comparison between the Masoretic Hebrew Text (MT) and the Septuagint reading (LXX). The MT has the reading “Yet Thou hast made him a little less than God (Elohim) while the Septuagint reads “You have made him a little less than angels” [aggelous] from a general interpretation of [elohim] to mean heavenly entities including ‘angels’.
What is man that you are mindful of him? or the son of man that you visitest him. You have made him a little less than angels, you have crowned him with glory and honour.
- But what is the main thrust of the passage?
- What is the thread of the argument?
- How should the little less than angels be understood here in verse 7 and 9?
- Who is a little less than angels: mankind or Jesus?
The statements regarding man and Jesus made lower than the angels found in the two verses, Hebrews 2:7 and 2:9 in many ways only serve to cloud our theology of Jesus in relation to the angels. Note how the NASB divides the passage above. I haven’t given you the whole text of the second portion in what I clipped above. I have only used enough to show you the NASB divides the text into two.
- Earth Subject to Man (Heb 2:5-8)
- Jesus Briefly Humbled (Heb 2:9-18)
My suggestion now is that you read the whole passage again with the above division knowing what you know now related to the difference between the MT (Hebrew) and LXX (Greek Old Testaments) remembering that the writer of Hebrews always quotes from the Septuagint version. Consider also the fact that in the first section (Heb 2:5-8) the writer is not focusing on Jesus at all but mankind. Now see if you can make sense of it all.
Don’t just read the first section, read on to cover the second section as well; both Hebrews 2:5-8 and 2:9-18. Read it through several times to ensure you get the full impact of what the writer has written. I am hoping “the penny will drop” for you to use an old idiom. Or that understanding will dawn on you as to what the writer is meaning in this whole passage. It follows on and clarifies the case he has been presenting since his opening statement in Hebrews 1:4.
I hope I have given you enough clues for you to put it all together and that I have cleared up at the same time the erroneous thinking that in the first part he was referring to Jesus. But also that you are left in no doubt that beginning with verse 9, the writer returns to This Son he was demonstrating to be so much greater than the angels. What amazes me is that we will be dealing with the second section later in the week as we approach the events of Easter. I couldn’t have timed it better if I had tried.
Being certain of Scripture’s authority is humility. Being certain that my interpretation is always right is arrogance.Rick Warren
I believe in the absolute inerrancy of Scripture, I do not believe in the inerrancy of my interpretation – or yours either.Ian
Be careful that you don’t end up holding on to your interpretation of God’s Truth more dearly than the Truth itself.Ian
Most of the Bible doesn’t require interpretation, just common sense and obedience!Ian