Is Psalm 8 a Messianic Psalm? Reading Psalm 8 as Christian Scripture

Andrew T. Abernethy
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Wheaton College, Illinois

A dilemma arises for Christian readers of Psalm 8.[1] On its own, Psalm 8 is an unlikely candidate to receive the label “messianic.” It focuses mainly upon God’s ways with humanity in creation, not the Davidic office.[2] It ponders reality as it is now, not hopes for the future.[3] The NT, however, applies Psalm 8, or at least parts of it, to Jesus, the Messiah, at times in view of the world to come. So, should Christians relabel Psalm 8 as a “messianic psalm” and read it exclusively through this lens? This brings us to the hermeneutical crux of interpreting most psalms. The key issue is not whether Christian readers should change the “label” (i.e., “Messianic”) that we attach to this psalm. What is most important is if and how the theological message of the psalm can be appropriated in a wide range of ways, including messianically, in light of the canonical context. From this vantage point, Psalm 8 may not have been written originally to top the charts under the category “Messianic Psalm,” but its theological message can still grant perspective on God’s ways with his messiah, along with God’s ways with humanity and his people. Therefore, though I do not think Psalm 8 is “messianic” in the strictest sense, its theological message can still be appropriated for messianic purposes, a move that started before the time of Christ. I will illustrate such an interpretation of Psalm 8 in a three stage process that considers the Psalm (i.) as a distinct unit, (ii.) as part of the Psalter and OT Canon, and (iii.) in dialogue with the NT.[4]

Reading Psalm 8 as a Distinct Unit

Any interpretation of Psalm 8 must begin with the psalm as a distinct unit. As we follow its structure, its message becomes clear. Psalm 8 opens and closes with a refrain:

O Lord, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth! (8:1a, 9 NSRV)

This refrain draws us into what Psalm 8 is all about. It is a corporate (“our”) expression of praise to YHWH as the Lord (“LORD, our Lord”). So, though Psalm 8 is known for its theology of humanity as rulers within creation (8:6[7]), the psalm’s main objective is to direct praise to the Lord of the lords of creation, the Lord of humanity and creation.[5] The entire earth is the arena of God’s majesty according to the refrain, and the body of Psalm 8 directs praise to God for two ways that his majesty is evident in “all the earth.”[6]

The first section (8:1b–2) of the body of Psalm 8 praises God in light of how he acts in this world through small, unimpressive, and weak avenues to silence his foes. Verses 1b–2 read:

You have set your glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger (ESV)

These verses are perhaps the most enigmatic in Psalm 8. Numerous questions arise. How are infant mouths a source of strength? How can such mouths cause enemies to desist?[7] While conclusive answers to these questions are not forthcoming, we can still gain a sense for what these verses are saying. At the start of this section (1b–2) and the next (3–8), the psalmist begins by looking to the “heavens” (šmym), above which God has set his resplendent glory in verse 1b. Starting with the might and expansiveness of God’s glory in the heavens prepares for a contrast in verse 2 with God’s ability to establish strength (or “praise” in the LXX) through the tiniest and weakest of all human beings— nursing infants and their tiny mouths. How this takes place is not clear, but the power stemming from the mouth of these infants—perhaps evident in their loud, forceful cries—differs from the enemies of YHWH, who will cease.[8] The psalmist is in awe of how the Lord whose majesty is above the heavens can show glorious strength through weak infants, silencing his foes.

The second section of Psalm 8 praises the Sovereign for giving seemingly insignificant humanity a privileged status within creation (8:3–8).


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

As in the first section (1b–2), the psalmist begins by reflecting upon the heavens—the sky, the moon, and the stars, all of which are the works of God (vs. 3). Such splendor in the heavens leads the psalmist to ponder why God would be mindful of human beings (vs. 4). God’s attentiveness to and privileging of humanity brings the psalmist to a point of awe. Though the mention of the “son of man” in verse 4[5] could lead some Christian readers to think the messianic king is being referred to, it is important to observe that in the OT (and even intertestamental literature) “son of man” (ben-’ādām) is not a Messianic title but an expression that conveys the quality of being human.[9] The psalmist is in awe that the very God who crafted the skies has an interest in humanity. What is more, God privileges humanity by making them a little lower than heavenly beings, granting them royal attributes like glory and prestige, and by assigning them the task of ruling over everything that God has created, particularly every animal of the ground, sky, and sea (5–8[6–9]). In verses 3–8, then, the majesty of the Lord is evident because he grants humanity the royal task of governing God’s creation.

Thus, Psalm 8 praises YHWH as the Lord whose majesty fills all the earth (8:1a, 9). This majesty is apparent through how God works in unexpected ways in the earth. Though his glory is above the heavens, it is through the mouth of weak, vulnerable infants that God manifests strength while his enemies come to nothing (1b–2). Though God’s fingers have created the glories of the sky, he has remarkably directed his concern to seemingly insignificant humanity and accorded them with the privileged role of governing God’s creation, particularly the animal realms (3–8).[10]

Reading Psalm 8 as Part of the Psalter and Old Testament Canon

Although we must start with the rhetoric and theology of the psalm as a discrete unit, the canonical context of Psalm 8 as a part of the Psalter and Old Testament canon informs how we should interpret and appropriate Psalm 8. There are three points of orientation when undertaking a canonical reading of Psalm 8.

1. Read Psalm 8 in Light of Its Neighboring Psalms[11]

It is not uncommon for readers of Psalms to view the psalms like a collection of sea shells—where upon being approved, a shell is thrown into a bag with the collection of other worthy shells. Psalms are not simply 150 poems that have made the cut and are now thrown together into a random assemblage; instead, there is intentionality behind their arrangement. Although the jury is still out on how extensive the Psalter’s arrangement is, an important starting point is to read a few psalms prior to and a few psalms after the psalm of interest to gain a sense for how your psalm might fit into the theology of that particular neighborhood in the Psalter.

Reading Psalm 8 in light of Psalms 6–7 and 9–10 exposes several insights on how the Psalter might be inviting the believing community to interpret and appropriate Psalm 8. I will note two related points that are most relevant to our purposes.[12]

First, Psalm 8 shares the motif of “foes” (ṣôrēr; 6:8, 7:5, 7; 23:5) and “enemies” (’ôyēb; ’yb 3:8; 6:11; 9:4, 7) with the surrounding psalms.[13] In Psalm 6, David’s eyes melt away with tears due to his “foes” (6:7[8]), and he yearns for all of his “enemies” (6:11) to be put to shame. In Psalm 7, David wants God to act against his “foes” (7:6[7]), though if he is guilty God should allow his “foes” and “enemies” to overtake him (7:5[6]). Psalm 9 continues this focus as David asserts his trust that God will turn his “enemies” back (9:3[4], 6[7]). Set directly in the midst of these laments, Psalm 8 praises God because he can and does silence “foes” and “enemies” through unexpected means like infants (8:2[3]). It seems, then, that the theology of this rather obscure verse (8:2[3]) strategically informs the psalms around it. If God is praiseworthy for overcoming foes through unexpected means in creation in Psalm 8, surely God can intervene to ward off the foes that David is asking God to intervene against in the neighboring laments.

Second, and related to the previous point, by placing Psalm 8 in this neighborhood, there a level of mutual illumination where God’s ways in creation particularize with David and God’s ways with David accord with God’s ways with humanity. On its own, Psalm 8 praises God as the Lord in view of his ways within creation in general. If this is how God acts with humanity in general, surely this has implications for how one can trust God to act on behalf of the Davidic king who laments in the surrounding psalms. The Lord who silences his foes through infants will also act on behalf of a weak Davidic king to silence David’s and Israel’s foes. If God has granted humanity a privileged dominion over creation, then God, the King (10:16), will certainly graciously appoint David to a role of dominion within his kingdom. Thus, within this neighborhood of Psalms, Psalm 8’s theology of how God acts through unexpected means within creation serves as an analogy for God’s ways with his Davidic king to grant him victory over foes. Though not a messianic psalm, Psalm 8’s creation theology can be appropriated for messianic purposes through its placement amidst other psalms that focus on David.[14]

In summary, the resonance that derives from Psalm 8’s placement among these psalms instills confidence that God can overcome enemies and conveys the idea that God’s remarkable ways with humanity are a pattern for comprehending God’s relationship with the Davidic king. Before the time of Jesus, then, the message of Psalm 8 was already contributing to an understanding of God’s ways with the Davidic king and Israel as a whole.

2. Read Psalm 8 in Light of the Big Picture of the Psalter

Not only do neighboring psalms cast light on how to interpret Psalm 8, but the larger arrangement of the Psalter can guide our reading too. Most scholars agree that Psalms 1–2 serve as a dual introduction to the Psalter. Significant for our purposes is the observation that Psalms 1 and 2 introduce the interrelationship between humanity and the Davidic king. Psalm 1 opens the book with a vision of the blessed person being the one who meditates upon God’s law instead of going the way of the wicked; such a faithful person will flourish, while the wicked will perish. In Psalm 2, the blessed person is the one who takes refuge in God and his Davidic King, whom God has established in Zion. When one reads Psalms 1 and 2 in conjunction, several insights emerge. For one, the established Davidic king of Psalm 2 certainly, at a minimum, embodies the ideal of the faithful person in general from Psalm 1, for only such a person will last. In other words, if it is the one who faithfully lives according to Torah who will flourish according to Psalm 1, then the Davidic king who is unshakably established in Psalm 2 would certainly be faithful like the blessed person in Psalm 1. Second, Psalm 2 reminds us that it is ultimately God’s kingship (“the one enthroned in heaven …” 2:4) which offers security both for the faithful Davidic king and for the faithful from Psalm 1. When one reads Psalm 8 in light of the Psalter’s dual introduction, this endorses the possibility of reading what Psalm 8 says about God’s ways with humanity in all of creation in light of God’s ways with David, just as God ways with humanity in general in Psalm 1 inform an understanding of the Davidic king in Psalm 2. This move parallels reading Psalm 8 in light of its neighboring psalms. Additionally, with an emphasis upon God’s kingship in view from Psalm 2, a reader remembers that Psalm 8’s ultimate focus is upon how majestic is the Lord of the lords of creation. The God who silences foes through weak vessels and grants humanity dominion is also the one who can silence David’s foes and establish his rule under God’s dominion.

A similar dynamic unfolds as one turns to the rest of the Psalter. While Davidic kingship seems to be rejected due to the sin of Davidic kings and Judah in Psalm 89, there is an increasing focus upon God’s kingship in Books IV and V of the Psalter. One finds, however, in Psalm 144, a psalm of David, where the psalmist uses language nearly identical to Psalm 8:

“LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?” (Psalm 144:3)

Although this question probes God’s ways with humanity in general both in Psalm 8 and 144, Psalm 144 develops this question in a direction that leads to praise for God as the one “who delivers his servant David” (144:10). God, the King of creation, who cares for humanity, can be expected to continue his care for David too, according to Psalm 144. Amidst the Lord’s continuous care for humans within creation, God’s ways with humanity point to an enduring confidence that God, the King, will remain faithful to his promises to David. Thus, when one reads Psalm 8 within the larger context of the Psalter, its theology of God’s ways with humanity in creation is readily applicable for discerning how God will work wondrously through the line of David within his creation.

3. Read Psalm 8 in Coordination with Similar Concepts within the Story of the Old Testament

Psalm 8 must also be read in relationship to the rest of the Old Testament. The creation account of Genesis 1 corresponds with the concepts of in Psalm 8.[15] The psalmist, using his own language and expression, is in awe of the privileged place that God gave humans in governing over all realms of creation according to Genesis 1. Although the fall takes place in Genesis 3, Psalm 8 can still extol the wonders of God in the way he works within creation and with humanity. In addition, Psalm 8 also relates to Job 7:17, where Job asks a similar question to the one in Psalm 8 and Psalm 144:

What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention? (Job 7:17)

Job’s use of this conventional question has a take on it that differs from David’s. For Job, the doctrine of God’s mindfulness of humanity is a disconcerting truth. For David in Psalm 8, however, this leads him to extol God for such wondrous ways. It is apparent, then, that Psalm 8 certainly aims to offer a voice of comfort in light of God’s ways with humanity.[16]

In addition to Psalm 8 sharing an outlook with Genesis 1 and Job 7, there is also the larger storyline of the Old Testament that a reader should be mindful of. The Old Testament story is one of a creator King forming humanity to serve as his rulers within creation (Gen 1:26–28), yet these very humans rebelled against their creator (Genesis 3). Graciously, however, the Creator also set out to be a redeemer of humanity, first by establishing a covenant with Noah to re-establish God’s intentions with creation (Gen 9:1–3). While Noah’s offspring continues the track of human rebellion against the creator, God initiates redemption by promising Abraham that his offspring would be God’s chosen people, a fruitful and multiplying people who will fill the Promised Land (cf. 1:22, 28; 9:1; 17:20; 28:3; 35:11; 48:4; Exod 1:7). In a sense, Israel would become a microcosm for God’s ways with humanity in general, being fruitful and multiplying under God’s blessing in Canaan. As God’s redemptive relationship with Israel progressed, the Davidic king took on the role as the main representative of Israel (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 72), God’s head of the “new humanity.” This enables a reader to understand David both as a representative of Israel, yet also a representative for God’s plans for humanity in general. If this is a correct understanding of the storyline of scripture,[17] it is possible to understand the creation theology of Psalm 8 in light of God’s relationship with Israel (a microcosm of humanity) and also David (the head of this microcosm).

In summary, canonical reflections on Psalm 8 within the Old Testament results in probing how one might understand Psalm 8 within the book of Psalms and within the context of the Old Testament itself. All directions seem to endorse a reading of Psalm 8 that enables its creation theology to frame God’s ways with Israel and David.

Reading Psalm 8 as Testimony to Jesus in Dialogue with the New Testament

The next step in reading Psalm 8 is to ask, “How does Psalm 8 bear witness to Jesus and God’s ways with his church?” There is a major temptation at this stage in the process to domesticate the meaning of Psalm 8 to how the NT uses it. There are several problems with this, one of which is that only four of nine verses in Psalm 8 are quoted in the NT. Should we say that only those four verses can bear witness to Christ? Also, did not the early church view the OT as capable of teaching about Jesus prior to the formation of the NT (2 Tim 3:15)? In my opinion, NT quotations of Psalm 8 are just one avenue among several for considering how Psalm 8 might be interpreted “messianically,” in light of Christ.[18] In line with this, after considering the quotation of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2, I will then reflect upon how else this psalm may bear witness to Jesus aside from NT quotations.

Hebrews 2:6–8 is the longest quotation of Psalm 8 (LXX) in the New Testament. In order to grasp its usage, the larger argument of Hebrews 1–2 must be kept in mind, particularly its concern to argue for Jesus’ superiority over angels and how this relates to inheritance in the world to come. The book of Hebrews opens by declaring that Jesus’ ascension as Son to the right hand of the Majesty in heaven reveals his superiority to angels (1:3–4). To defend this claim, the writer compiles a catena of OT quotations to expose how the Son’s exaltation over angels accords with OT expectations.[19] Angels never receive the status of being God’s “Son” (1:5; Ps 2:7; 2 Sam 7:14) and are expected to worship the Son (1:6; Deut 32:43 DSS/LXX). Also, the OT expects for there to be an everlasting kingdom with the Son in its midst (1:8–12), where all enemies will be under his feet (1:13); such expectations are never associated with any angel. Thus, the Son’s uniqueness in his status as Son and his dominion amidst an everlasting kingdom makes him superior to the angels who are to worship him.

In view of the Son’s status as superior to angels in his heavenly majesty at God’s right hand, the writer of Hebrews now explores the implications of this in chapter 2 in view of Jesus’ humanity. The current, exalted status of the flesh-and-blood Jesus above angels requires a reframing of how humanity had previously been understood. Psalm 8:4–6 serves as a typological catapult for probing the implications of Jesus’ bodily exaltation upon his ascension. For one, the claim in Psalm 8:5 (LXX) that humanity was “made a little lower than the angels” is affirmed and advanced upon. Yes, indeed, Jesus, along with humanity, was lower than angels in the present world (Heb. 2:9a). Since, however, the flesh-and-blood Son is now at the right hand of God in majesty and supreme over angels (1:3–4, 6), Psalm 8:5 cannot be the final word for human destiny. The next phase of the drama, of which Jesus is the forerunner, will position humanity, who are the recipients of salvation (2:16), with the flesh-and-blood Jesus in a status that is superior to angels.[20]

Second, the statement that humanity is “crowned with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5) must be reframed in light of Jesus. Through Jesus’ suffering and atoning death, he now is crowned with a “glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9) that is far greater than the “glory and honor” accorded to humans as God’s rulers in this world. In fact, it is through Jesus’ suffering and exaltation that he brings “many sons and daughters to glory.” Thus, though humans have a level of glory and honor now, what Jesus has accomplished as the human Son for God’s human “sons and daughters” points to a far greater glory in Jesus and for God’s children within the world to come.

Third, Jesus’ exalted glory invites us also to reframe Psalm 8’s claim that God has “put everything under their feet.” In Psalm 8:6, the term “everything” has a restricted range; everything in the animal realms in the world today is under the feet of humanity (Ps. 8:6; Heb. 2:8b). In Jesus, however, “everything” in Psalm 8 becomes a token that points to a more extensive reality, since angels (1:3–4) and the world to come are now subject to him (2:5). By implication, though “everything,” in a more extensive sense, is not subject to humanity now (2:8b), there is a “flesh-and-blood” Son who does reign over everything and his human brothers and sisters will share in having “everything” subject to them in the world to come.[21]

Thus, Hebrews 2 reframes the theology of Psalm 8 in light of Jesus’ exaltation above angels and sovereignty over them in the world to come. Yes, in Psalm 8, humans, including Jesus in his incarnation, are a little lower than angels; humans do have glory and honor; humans do have everything in the animal realms subject to them. There is, however, more to the story. Due to Jesus taking on flesh, establishing himself as superior to angels in his ascension (1:3–4), and ruling over the world to come (2:5), humans will one day be superior to angels, share in a far greater glory with Jesus, and will find all things subject to them alongside of Jesus.

There are a few other NT quotations of Psalm 8 that could also warrant our attention. In Matthew 21, the religious leaders are furious that children are praising Jesus, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” In response to the indignant leaders, Jesus quotes from Psalm 8:2[3]: “From the lips of children and infants, you, Lord, have called forth your praise.” Jesus is not claiming that Psalm 8:2 is a direct prophecy about this event, but is exposing how its theology illumines what is taking place. God is using unexpected means, namely children, for his purposes, so the leaders should know that what is transpiring in the temple aligns with God’s pattern of action. If God acts this way within creation throughout time, certainly such action can be expected around the Messiah.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul portrays Christ as the second Adam (15:22). Using as “greater than” typology, Paul quotes from Psalm 8:6b[7b] to speak of everything eventually being put under Christ’s feet, even death (1 Cor. 15:27). Though Psalm 8 emphasizes how everything in the natural created order is placed under the dominion of humanity, Paul argues then how much more does the resurrection of Christ usher in a dominion over all things, even death itself.

Thus, the writer of Hebrews and other New Testament writers draw upon the theology of Psalm 8 with the assumption that its creation theology can enable a comprehension of Jesus and the future of humanity in light of Christ, although the Christ-event invites an extension of this theology.

We should not, however, restrict a Christian reading of Psalm 8 to NT quotations. We should be asking: “How does this passage teach me about God’s ways through his Messiah and with his people today?” This will lead to insights that point us to Christ in ways besides the NT quotations. For example, since Psalm 8 is praising God in light of how God works through unexpected means, like infants or through humanity, can Psalm 8 not also lead us to worship God in light of how he has acted through the weakest and most unexpected of all means, the cross, to show his great power? Can Psalm 8 not also inform us about why God would choose the weak and unimpressive in this world to be his church (1 Cor 1:18ff)? As we look around at God’s creation in the heavens, should we still be astounded that God shows such care for humanity? Of course. Can we see this to a greater extent now that God’s care is so evident in Christ’s coming to redeem? While these points operate in concert with similar concepts in the NT, they are not directly tied to Psalm 8 by a quotation in the NT. It is vital, I believe, for Christian readers of Psalm 8 to consider deeply the rhetoric and theology of Psalm 8 and then ask how the theology of the psalm as a whole accords with Jesus Christ, whether or not a verse is explicitly quoted in the NT.


So, is Psalm 8 a “messianic psalm”? No and yes. It is not a messianic psalm in terms of genre or its main thrust as a discrete unit, as its focus is upon God’s glory in how he acts in unexpected ways in creation. Its theological message, however, can be appropriated to illuminate God’s ways with the Messiah and his people, as has been done since the formation of the Psalter and throughout the NT.

  1. See Walter Moberly, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 1–4, on the hermeneutical decision to read the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture.
  2. Allen P. Ross represents this sentiment: “The psalm is not a messianic psalm. It speaks of the present, that is, that God by his grace has made mankind to rule over all creation.” A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume I (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 290.
  3. Richard Whitekettle, “Taming the Shrew, Shrike, and Shrimp: The Form and Function of Zoological Classification in Psalm 8,” JBL 125, no. 4 (2006): 749–765.
  4. For an exhaustive examination of Psalm 8, see Hubert James Keener, A Canonical Exegesis of the Eighth Psalm: YHWH’s Maintenance of the Created Order through Divine Reversal, JTISup 9 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2013).
  5. “To put human dominion at the center of things without the context of God’s sovereignty is positively dangerous.” J. Clinton McCann, Jr., A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993), 59.
  6. While all agree that the 8:1[2] and 8[9] frame this psalm, there is great debate in terms of its subdivision. Compare, for instance, Keener (and Jacobson. Keener, A Canonical Exegesis, 58, subdivides the body as:

    A. Reversals One and Two (1b–3[2b-4])

    Insignificant heavenly bodies (1b, 3[2b, 4])

    Imbedded paradigmatic reversal: babes and infants/enemy and avenger (2[3])

    Majestic heavenly bodies (3[4])

    B. Reversal Three (4–8[5-9])

    Insignificant human (4[5])

    Majestic human (5–6[6–7])

    Denouement (7–8[8–9])

    Jacobson in The Book of Psalms (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 120, subdivides the body as:

    St. 1 Praise to God in all the earth (1a[2a])

    God’s glory in creation—the question of human worth (1b–4[2b–5])

    St. 2 Answer: crowned with glory—responsible for creation (5–8[6–9])

    Praise to God in all the earth (9[10])

    Goldingay (Psalms: Volume 1 [BCOTWP; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 154) divides the psalm into three sections, with vv. 1–2 praising YHWH; vv. 3–4 wondering at God’s involvement with humans; vv. 5–9 marveling at God giving humanity such glory in their dominion. I subdivide the body of this psalm at 1b–2[2b–3] and 3–8[4–9] for several reasons, which is similar to Guthrie and Quinn (George H. Guthrie and Russell D. Quinn, “A Discourse Analysis of the Use of Psalm 8:4–6 in Hebrews 2:5–9,” JETS 49/2 (2006): 235–46) and Childs, though he only speaks of 3–8 [4–9] as a body (“Psalm 8 in the Context of the Christian Canon,” Interpretation 23 [1969]: 21).

  7. Jacobson (The Book of Psalms, 123–124), Goldingay (Psalms, 155), and Mays, Psalms (Interpretation; Louisville: John Knox, 1994), 65–66, read the first half of verse 2 with the final part of verse 1.
  8. See Keener, A Canonical Exegesis, 52–57, for a helpful argument building upon the work of Lund that mouths are often an instrument of God and that “babies” can symbolize all who are vulnerable.
  9. When ĕnôš (‘mankind’) parallels ‘son of man’, as it does in 8:4, it always refers to humanity (cf. Isa 56:2) in general. “Son” (ben) can often be used to predicate an indication of a quality, this is why age is designated by “son (ben) of … years” (e.g., Gen. 12:4). “Son of man” can be applied metaphorically to Israel (Ps 80:18) and even Ezekiel (e.g., 2:1, 3). In these instances, the focus is upon how Israel and Ezekiel are human entities with whom God was relating. See Michael Goulder, “Psalm 8 and the Son of Man,” NTS 48, no. 1 (2001): 18–29. Whether or not one agrees with his conclusion that Paul came up with the title “Son of Man” for Jesus, Goulder exposes how “Son of Man” was not a title until during and after the time of Jesus. Even Daniel 7:13 is not a technical title. See also David M. Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews (NTSup 141; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 121.
  10. For an exploration of how Psalm 8 might express human dominion over animals, some of which were clearly outside of the realm of physical human mastery, see Richard Whitekettle, “Taming the Shrew, Shrike, and Shrimp: The Form and Function of Zoological Classification in Psalm 8,” JBL 125, no. 4 (2006): 749–765. He argues that cognitive mastery through being able to classify these animals is one means of dominion.
  11. While many of the insights in this section derive from my own inquiry, Keener offers a number of similar reflections, though his are confined to Psalms 7–10. Keener, A Canonical Exegesis of the Eighth Psalm, 67–73.
  12. A third point might relate to the function of Psalm 8 as a hymn of praise amidst the laments in Psalm 6–7 and 9–10. Those laments anticipate a time when the psalmist (David) will praise the name (šēm) of the Lord (7:17[18]; 9:1[2]) [Patrick D. Miller, “The Beginning of the Psalter,” in The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter (ed. J. Clinton McCann; JSOTSup 159; Sheffield: JSOT, 1993), 83–92, esp. 89–90], but Psalm 8 is a hymn that praises the majesty of God’s name in the present.
  13. Cf. Miller, “The Beginning of the Psalter,” 89.
  14. The inverse is true too. The theology of David’s laments is democratized to become the words of all of God’s people (Miller, “The Beginning of the Psalter,” 89–92). Mays, Psalms, 67, however, states: “The theory of ‘democratization’ suggests that the office was transferred to all people when there was no longer a king in Israel. That does not do justice to the prominence of the anointed king in the Psalter.” A middle ground can be found in recognizing that David’s prayers can be appropriated by Israel as a whole, while recognizing that this does not automatically dissolve the office of the king.
  15. Linguistically, there are many differences between Psalm 8 and Genesis 1. Terms for dominion (rdh, mšl), birds (‘op, ṣippôr), fish (singular [dagat] vs. plural [degê]), and ways of describing the land animals (“beasts” vs “beasts of the field”) differ.
  16. Childs, “Psalm 8,” 29.
  17. For more, see Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP, 1992).
  18. See Christopher R. Seitz, The Character of Christian Scripture: The Significance of a Two-Testament Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011) on this point.
  19. For an extensive analysis of the relationship between the Son’s supremacy, the world to come, and the angles, with particular attention to Hebrews 1:6 and 2:5, see David M. Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews (NTSup 141; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 45–144. See, however, Guthrie and Quinn (2006: 239–240) who reserve the subjection of the world to come to Jesus, not humanity. It is unclear how the hope that many sons and daughters will come to glory through Jesus factors into their explanation.
  20. “[T]he author thinks that humanity will one day be restored to dominion over the world to come. But, as part of his understanding of the character of the penultimate age, he also believes that one human, the messianic uios anthropou, has already gone ahead of the people and entered that realm” (Moffitt, Atonement, 122). Keener cautions against overemphasizing the messianic over the anthropological, for a double focus seems to be in view (Keener, A Canonical Exegesis, 178–179). This fits with Moffitt’s schema of the penultimate world at the moment—Jesus, a human, is now exalted over the world to come, but humans at the moment are not though they will be. As Keener puts it: “In the process of moving from the heavenly exaltation of Christ to the earthly ministry of Christ, the argument also moves from focusing exclusively upon God and his glory (Hebrews 1) to focusing on Christ, redeemed corporate humanity, and their shared glory (Hebrews 2).” Keener, A Canonical Exegesis, 179.
  21. Moffitt, Atonement, 127.