Psalms 8:5 – Are we only a little lower than God? Or heavenly beings?

Some of us may have the idea that humans are just a little bit less than God. Do we humans deserve this elevated status? I prefer to not think so because I know how depraved we human beings really are. I wonder if perhaps our renderings of Psalm 8:5 may have given us this false impression. Here is how the RSV and ESV rendered Psalm 8:5

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (ESV)

Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. (RSV)

In this context, the ESV has this correctly rendered Elohim (מֵאֱלֹהִים) as “heavenly beings” rather than “God”. This can also be translated as “mighty ones” or even “a god”. Some also translate this as “angels”. This TNIV has also used “heavenly beings”, but the NRSV stuck with “God” but included in footnotes “divine beings or angels.” The NASB also used “God”. In this regard, I think the ESV made an improvement over the RSV.

TNIV vs. ESV: Who is winning so far?

I have tried not to get too involved with the battle of the bibles but here I am again with another post on it. I love my bibles so I can’t help it; it’s almost like a sport but with a religious twist to it. The TNIV bible sales are picking up and I think that it has the potential to become as popular as the NLT. Thus far, the TNIV is on its way to becoming more popular than the ESV. I went to a couple of bible bookstores in town and browsed their shelves. In the first bookstore, there were at least 20 copies on the shelf. In the second bookstore, there were at least the same number. This says a lot about how the sales of the TNIV are going. Just from my observation of the shelves of the local bible bookstores, I can safely predict that bible sales of the TNIV are going to increase steadily in the next few years. What about the ESV? Well, it’a dramatic difference with the ESV. One store had only 3 copies of the ESV. A second store in town also had about 3 copies. It was really pathetic to see only 3 copies of the ESV in each store. Even the HCSB, God’s Word, and the Message bibles had more copies than the ESV. If this doesn’t say something about the bible sales of the ESV, I don’t know what else it can mean. It has now been a few years since the ESV has arrived onto the bible scene but it has not made a big impact in bible sales–at least where I live. Last month, I spoke to the regional representative from the Canadian Bible Society (Canadian counterpart to American Bible Society) and asked him how the sales of the ESV were going in this region. He told me that it was not going very well at all, and it seems to be the same story in other areas of the country too-at least in this part of Canada. And I haven’t even mentioned the big box bookstores yet. They seem to carry more of the TNIV than the ESV.

Take a look at the uncanny similarities from Romans 8:2-5:

ESV:
2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

RSV
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4 in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

I don’t see how the ESV has differentiated itself enough from the RSV. What value has the ESV brought that makes it better than the RSV? There are some value-added improvements but they are not substantial enough for it to be considered a large enough improvement over the RSV. If the future 2nd edition of the ESV does not contain more improvements over the first edition, it will not have a chance against the TNIV. It is not differentiated enough from the RSV for people to feel justified to make a purchase. If the ESV translators had made more of an effort to improve or change the way it reads from the RSV, it might be a different story today. Sure there is not a huge difference between the TNIV and the NIV but at least the TNIV translators have made more changes in the area of gender-neutral language, plus some textual improvements over the NIV. These changes have given the TNIV more value over the NIV. In the end, when it all comes down. It is marketing that makes or breaks a bible (or even a book for that matter), but the quality also has a large part in its success too. In the world of business marketing, what differentiates one product from the other is in the value it provides for the reader. Perhaps, in the future, the publisher of the ESV should push for bigger improvements. So who is winning so far? You tell me.