Jesus – lower than the angels

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

In Hebrews, Jesus was said to have been made “a little lower than the angels”. Calvinists, such as Gene Cook, have interpreted this to mean: “Jesus set aside his godhead while retaining the attributes such that he became lower than the angels.” To be “lower than the angels”, in the Calvinist mindset, is to not be God. As one pastor told me:

“..[Jesus] gave up the independent use of those attributes but he never gave up any of the attributes, per se, otherwise he would cease to have been God. You can’t continue to be God and not have the attributes of God.”

Thus Jesus must “set aside” his Godhood to become man. The Calvinist goal with Hebrews 2:9 is to find some understanding that lets Jesus retain what Calvinists believe is important for Godhead while still maintaining that this verse has meaning.

Not only is the Calvinist/Augustinian interpretation on face value absurd and gnostic, but it neglects the very context of Hebrews. The context is that although man is below the angels, God has given dominion to man. The text is playing off of the fact that although man is “lower” (less powerful) than the angels that man has dominion over the angels. Likewise Jesus has dominion over the angels:

Heb 2:5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.
Heb 2:6 But one testified in a certain place, saying: “WHAT IS MAN THAT YOU ARE MINDFUL OF HIM, OR THE SON OF MAN THAT YOU TAKE CARE OF HIM?
Heb 2:8 YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.
Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
Heb 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

It is in this context that man’s status of “being lower than the angels yet having dominion over them” is contrasted to Jesus “being lower than the angels yet having dominion over them”. Lower is in the context of power. Jesus did not have power in and of himself. Angels have inexplicable power. In 2 Kings 19:35, one angel kills about 200,000 people in one night. There is a gapping power void. Jesus was lower than the angels in power. The author of Hebrews plays on this one feature to make his point.

The entire thrust of the whole passage is to prove to his audience that Jesus was superior to the angels. Jesus would be in charge of the apocalypse, not the angels. Apparently, in the time of the author there were rumors that Jesus a powerless messenger. Hebrews counters that idea. One would think that if the author was trying to communicate the strange idea that Jesus was “setting aside” his Godhead to make himself “lower than the angels” that this point would be explicit as to heighten the overall point of the chapter. Instead, what is present is a desperate attempt to show that Jesus, although less powerful than the angels, would be superior to them in the coming apocalypse. The context does not fit an Augustinian understanding.

Because Godhood is not synonymous with omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience or any other Greek concept, Jesus can be lower than the angels yet be divine. As Will Duffy pointed out to me, the entire passage undermines the basic concept of immutability, the heart of the Augustinian concept of God. The Augustinian obsession with extra-Biblical attributes forces them into strange interpretations of these texts.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Calvinism, God, Jesus, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Open Theism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jesus – lower than the angels

  1. Pingback: Fisher on Jesus being Lower than the Angels | God is Open

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