Ever wonder why Hebrew 2:7 (RSV) indicates that we were made a little lower than the angels while Psalms 8:5 (RSV) from which the writer of Hebrews is clearly quoting, states we were created a little lower than God?
The Bible arose out of a polytheistic culture that envisioned a senior god, often with a consort, and lesser deities that ruled over various nations. In Scripture these gods are simply heavenly figures subordinate to the Most High God. (Ps 82:1, Ps 29:1, Ps 89:6, Ex 15:11) “When the Most High gave heritages to the nations, when he made divisions among mankind, he assigned the realms of the nations to the various deities.” Deut. 32:8
Genesis 10 details the Table of Nations – 70 or 72 depending on which manuscript one uses. These 70 nations are spoken of in other ancient literature as being ruled by the 70 sons of El. It was believed that each nation had its own god protector who was confined by the boundaries of the land where he was worshipped. An example of this belief is found in 2 Kings 5:17. In order to make sure that his new God, Yahweh, would accompany him back to Syria, the cured Naaman took with him two mule loads of Israeli dirt.
The psalmist praises the dignity of man by proclaiming he was created only a little lower than the gods. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek in the inter-testamental period, this word, gods, or ‘elohiym’ (plural) was rendered angels, ostensibly to remove the threat of polytheism. Elsewhere in the Greek Septuagint it is the Hebrew word “messenger” (mal’ak) that is translated as angel.
The writer of the book of Hebrews chose to quote from the Septuagint in chapters one and two. The scholars who prepared the King James Version and who had both Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to work from were probably influenced by this familiar passage in Hebrews in their choice of the word angels for the verse in Psalms 8. Modern translations, however, will use the word gods or God in Psalms 8.
So what does this exegesis of Psalms 8 have to do with ENDITNOW? It is much more fun to talk of gods and angels and a culturally understood concept of lesser deities than to deal with the identification of the word “them” used in this passage. You know, “You have made them a little lower than God.” and “You have given them dominion.” “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them.” (Ps 8: 4-6, RSV)
By using the words ben a’dam in verse 4, the psalmist not only refers to the Genesis 1:27 account where human beings were made in the image and likeness of Almighty God but also to the passage in Genesis 5:2 where God creates male and female and calls their name, a’dam or human. The lesser deities mentioned by the psalmist in verse 5 form the heavenly counsel. (Job 1:5, Ps 82:1) In rank and privilege, human beings are only slightly removed from the realm of the sons of gods and were created to exercise dominion and power on this earth. The psalmist maintains they (human beings) were crowned rulers by God himself, deputized as vice-regents to participate in divine honor.
If one can correctly exegete the them in verses 4-6 as referring to both males and females then it is evident that God remembers women, he cares for women, he makes women in his image, he crowns women with glory and honor, he gives women dominion over his works and puts under the feet of women all things. ENDITNOW.org is a campaign designed to create awareness, especially among Adventist church members, of the extent of violence against them in today’s world.
ADRA and Women’s Ministry are to be commended for addressing this issue. I would urge all readers of Spectrum to log onto ENDITNOW.org and sign the petition against violence. According to their web site, violence against women and girls includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse. It’s easy to see the results of physical violence from domestic abuse and to take pictures of it in the emergency room. It’s easy to recognize the crime of rape and make laws that condemn this sexual violence. But emotional and physiological violence is much harder to see, identify and legislate against.
A recent report on Spectrum by Altia Bryd of the Hope Channel’s new television series featuring Kalthoum Qewar was very encouraging. It is good to know that the Arabic Channel will be covering issues important in women’s lives. According to Ms. Qewar, women in Muslim countries are often seen as second-class citizens. Then she makes an astute remark. “The only thing that can help women is to be free in the soul, from the inside.”
Free in the soul. Free from the inside out. Free to take control of one’s own life and destiny. Free to exercise collaborative dominion. Woman who are sold into slavery and prostitution against their will are not free. Women who are forced into child marriages at very young ages or subjected to female genital mutilation (FGC) are not free. But neither are woman who have to ask permission before taking any action, women who have decisions made for and about them without their participation in the process, women who are taught by their religious authorities that God wills them to be in subjection to men, women who are second class in their societies and in their church life.
One’s religion and the teachings of one’s church should reinforce and uphold the integrity and dignity of an individual and offer equal opportunity for self determination and the expression of one’s faith and spiritual growth. At least that’s how I read Psalms 8 and the ENDITNOW initiative.