Lower than angels: What Hebrews 2:7a teaches us about theological anthropology

In this paper, I will argue that Hebrews interprets Ps 8:5a as a post-fall reality. Humans sinned and, only then, were made “lower than the angels.” It’s a minority report that deserves a wider hearing, especially for what it can freshly teach us about humanity’s original status and future glory (for the relevant literature, see, esp., Compton 2015; Peeler 2018; Maston 2021).

To make my case, I’ll argue along the following six lines: Hebrews 2:5–9 (1) reads Psalm 8 anthropologically—i.e., it’s about humans, including Jesus, but not just Jesus; (2) focuses on humans generally in 2:5–8, before specifically focusing on Jesus in 2:9; (3) insists that humanity’s non-regal status—we are not crowned—is a post-fall reality; (4) reads Ps 8:5b–6 (“crowned them with glory and honor” and “put everything under their feet”) as an unrealized promise, not a present reality; (5) interprets βραχύ τι in Ps 8:5a LXX as a temporary reality, not an original order of being; and, finally, (6) asks us to read the anticipated reality implied in Ps 8:5a (i.e., temporarily “lower than angels” qua “one day above angels”) as parallel to Ps 8:5b (“crowned them with glory and honor”).

I will conclude, moreover, with (at least) four reflections on the implications of my thesis, including what it says about (1) Adam’s pre-fall (but also pre-perfected) status; (2) Jewish and early Christian traditions about humanity’s pre-fall status (on the former, see Gäbel 2007; on the latter, Hienstand 2017); (3) humanity’s original telos and (4) the hermeneutical method of Hebrews.
Compton, Jared (2015), Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews, LNTS 537, New York: T&T Clark.
Gӓbel, Georg (2007), “Rivals in Heaven: Angels in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in Friedrich Vinzenz Reiterer, Tobias Nicklas, and Karin Schöpflin (eds.), Angels: The Concept of Celestial Beings—Origins, Developments and Reception, DCLY, New York: de Gruyter, 357–76.
Hiestand, Gerald (2018), “‘Passing Beyond the Angels’: The Interconnection between Irenaeus’ Account of the Devil and His Doctrine of Creation,” Ph.D. diss., University of Reading.
Maston, Jason (2021), “‘What Is Man?’ An Argument for the Christological Reading of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2,” ZNW 112: 89–104.
Peeler, Amy L. B. (2018), “The Eschatological Son: Christological Anthropology in Hebrews,” in Jason S. Maston and Benjamin E. Reynolds (eds.), Anthropology and New Testament Theology, LNTS 529, New York: T&T Clark, 161–76.

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