[b-hebrew] Psalm 8:6(5) and vav-consecutive

Steve Miller smille10 at sbcglobal.net
Sun Jul 27 23:50:07 EDT 2008

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stephen & Rebecca Shead 
> Steve,
> My points below do not correspond with yours, but here are my 2 cents'
> worth...
> 1. I agree with Ted that the fall is NOT on view at all in Psalm 8.
> Consider:
> - the creation of the heavens  in v.4, which forms the context of the
> consideration of humanity's special status,
> - the parallelism of 8:6a and b (Ted's point),
> - the clear allusion in vv.7-9 to Gen 2, with no mention whatsoever of the
> disruption of this dominion brought about by the fall.
> This last point, I think, is very important. It is fascinating that David
> (or the Psalmist) chooses to describe exclusively the idealistic pre-fall
> dominion of humanity, without no acknowledgement of the present human
> struggle to exercise this lordship in a fallen world. Indeed, it is the
> *absence* of reference to Genesis 3 which is striking here. (In the NT,
> the
> writer of Hebrews, in ch.2, draws attention to this feature of the Psalm.)
[Steve Miller] Stephen, thank you for answering.
I had understood Heb 2 to say almost the opposite of what you are saying
"Now in subjecting all things to him [man], He [God] left nothing [on earth]
unsubject to him, but now we do not yet see all things subjected to him, but
we see Jesus who was made a little inferior to angels because of the
suffering of death crowned with glory and honor so that ... he might release
those who through fear of death through all their life were held in
Jesus' being lowered below angels was due to the suffering of death, but
man's being lowered below angels is due to something else? In chs 1 & 2 of
Hebrews, the writer implies that man is greater than angels. In what sense
then does he mean that man is a little less than angels? 

> James Mays (I think? going from memory) says that this pre-fall focus at
> the
> same time gives the Psalm, paradoxically, a forward-looking,
> eschatological
> note.
> Conversely, if the fall is on view in v.6a, the absence of present realism
> in vv.7-9 would be simply bizarre.
> 2. As for the piel of XSR "make less (than)" or "cause to lack (compared
> with)" in v.6a, I don't think you've sufficiently taken into account the
> following M(+ "a little". To be *only* a little less than, or lacking
> from,
> ELOHIM is surely the highest honour! (Compare the subtle difference in
> English between "caused him to be *a* little less than" and "caused him to
> be little less than" - perhaps the latter is a better translation here?)

[Steve Miller] I think this is a very good point if it were true. You are
correct that I had not paid much attention to M(+ before. Since you have
pointed out the significant difference between "a little" and "little", I
checked it out. (ie. It's quite different to say "Bodily exercise profits
little" vs "Bodily exercise profits a little".) From what I see of the usage
of M(+, "a little" is the correct meaning. Do you know of any uses of M(+
where "a little" does not work, but "little" does?

> 3. With the translation of ELOHIM ("God", "gods", "heavenly beings", ...),
> it partly depends on how you would translate Genesis 1:26-27 - if indeed
> this is on view in Psalm 8:6 (as I think it is). Some observations:
> - Even if ELOHIM in Genesis 1:26-27 is translated "gods" or "heavenly
> beings", it is undeniable that God himself is at least included in the
> ELOHIM there, because of the 1st person pronoun: "Let us make humankind in
> OUR image...". That is, ELOHIM cannot refer *only* to angels. How then is
> being little less than ELOHIM anything other than an honour? On the
> contrary, to claim to be equal with ELOHIM could be considered blasphemy.
> - I would argue that Genesis 1:27 at least suggests "God" for ELOHIM,
> despite the singular/plural difficulty. The reason is the AB-B'A'
> parallelism of Gen 1:27a-b: "ELOHIM made humankind in *his* (sing.) image;
> in the image of ELOHIM he made him".

[Steve Miller] I have no doubt ELOHIM in Gen 1:26-27 means God, not gods. 
You do have a point. If David had Gen 1:26-28 in his thoughts, which I agree
he did, why would he use ELOHIM with a different meaning in the Psalm? Why
didn't he use the word malachim, if that was what he meant? I think the word
malachim doesn't work as well in Psalm 8. It means messenger, and does not
emphasize the aspect of immortality.

> - You said: "Does anyone know of any place in the Bible where someone
> talks
> to God (or anyone) in the 2nd person, and in the same sentence still
> addressing God, refers to God in the 3rd person? That lacking, I think the
> meaning must be 'gods', not 'God'."
> Maybe someone can come up with an instance (I haven't tried hard), but I
> think your condition is too restrictive for such a definitive conclusion.
> The question is whether we see this kind of phenomenon in BH, or
> alternatively whether there are factors which make it plausible in this
> context.

[Steve Miller] There are many instances of talking to God as 2nd person in
the Bible, while using pronouns such as "Yourself". So I don't think I'm
being too restrictive.
> In fact, Gen 1:27b may be an instance of something similar: "...in the
> image
> of ELOHIM he (implicitly, ELOHIM) made him". Moreover, if Gen 1:26-27 is
> on
> view in Psalm 8:6, it wouldn't be surprising to see an explicit reference
> to
> ELOHIM, even if this is whom the Psalmist is addressing. In fact, note
> that
> the Psalmist initially addresses him as YHWH (v.2), not ELOHIM. Is the
> name
> variation because YHWH is not the same as ELOHIM here, or because of the
> allusion to Gen 1:26-27?
[Steve Miller] Gen 1:26-27 leaves no doubt that God created man in His own
image. Using a pronoun for ELOHIM there could give an opening to think that
man was created in man's own image, as each animal was created after its own
You ask good questions. Here is one for you: Since David had Gen 1:26-27 in
his mind in writing Psalm 8:6, why didn't he say, "You created him in the
image of God? Or even, "You created him a little lower than God". Why say
"You caused him to lack in comparison to ..."? Doesn't lack mean not to have
something that you should have? 

Another question for you: If it was fact that ELOHIM in Ps 8:6 means "gods"
which is equivalent to "angels", would you then think that Ps 8:6 refers to
man's fall?

> An example which may be closer to what you're looking for is Abraham's
> conversation with YHWH in Genesis 18:22-33. Although Abraham initially
> addresses YHWH in the 2nd person (v.23), he subsequently addresses him
> sometimes as "my/the Lord" (Adonay) with 3rd-person verbs (vv.27,30-32),
> and
> sometimes with 2nd person verbs. Of course, this is a different sort of
> "conversation" and a different grammatical construction - but it shows
> that
> such variation in address is indeed possible.

[Steve Miller] What Abraham says sounds good when translated literally into
English. But "You [God] lowered him a little below God" does not. I think
the straightforward translation is the best the vast majority of the time,
and it is far more straightforward to translate ELOHIM as "gods" when God is
already the subject. 
> 4. The vav-consecutive at the start of Psa 8:6: I'm no expert here, but
> your
> argument is highly speculative. Even if we accept your "the action in v6
> follows some implied action" theory, there is an explicit action in the
> context which it would more plausibly follow: the creation of the heavens
> and of the heavenly bodies in v.4. But I'll leave the syntax for others.

[Steve Miller] Yes, I agree it is guesswork on my part. That's why I put it
to this list to get shot at. It is my own theory. However the creation of
the heavens in v4 is not an action that can be followed by a
V4  For I see Thy heavens, a work of Thy fingers, Moon and stars that Thou
did establish.
"that Thou did establish" is parenthetical delimited by ASHER. And "a work
of Thy fingers" is a noun. These could not be the preceding action to a

Thanks again.

-Steve Miller

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