Manuscript support for the TNIV rendering of Hebrews 2:6

The TNIV Bible has been widely criticised for its rendering of the latter part of Hebrews 2:6, a quotation from Psalm 8:4. In TNIV this reads:

What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Compare NIV:

What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

The common complaint is that TNIV has lost the reference in this verse to Jesus, the Son of Man. In response to this the CBT (I presume) have defended their rendering in one of their Most-Requested Passage Explanations, of which this is a summary:

“Son of man” is not a messianic reference in Psalm 8:4 or Hebrews 2:6. Rather, it is used of human beings in contrast to God.

Interestingly I just spotted some manuscript evidence to support this position in a post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. Peter Head examines the slightly variant text of this verse in the very early (about 200 AD) biblical manuscript P46, and writes:

if P46 had wanted to indicate that ‘Man’ and ‘Son of Man’ were christological titles it could have used nomina sacra for ANQRWPOS [i.e. anthropos, that word again!].

In other words, the copyist of this very early manuscript did not understand “son of man” here as a reference to Jesus, because the words are written in the normal way and not marked as a divine title.

Now it would be interesting to know, but I don’t, whether Greek manuscripts are consistent in not using special nomina sacra forms (abbreviations marked by an overline) in this verse, and whether they do use those forms when “Son of Man” certainly refers to Jesus. But Wikipedia does confirm that the nomen sacrum ΑΝΟΣ for anthropos is used elsewhere in P46. (It really is amazing what obscure information can sometimes be found in that infamous online encylopaedia.) So there is certainly evidence here to support the TNIV rendering of this verse.

I certainly hope that the CBT sticks to their guns on this verse, perhaps encouraged by this further evidence, and does not bow to any pressure to change back to “son of man”.

0 thoughts on “Manuscript support for the TNIV rendering of Hebrews 2:6

  1. But we can see that huios for “son” was in nomina sacra and it is not for mention of human “sons” in Gal. 5:7. I wonder why Peter didn’t mention that.
    I also don’t know why he said that tis was masculine.

  2. Thanks, Sue. I didn’t think of looking at the enlarged image as presumably you did. Yes, in P46 huios “son” is written as a nomen sacrum. On the face of it this undermines both Peter Head’s point and mine by suggesting that “son of man” here was understood as a Messianic title. But then Peter is an expert on nomina sacra, and I am not. I’ll ask him on the ETC blog.

  3. Yeah, it probably wasn’t a really strong point about the nomina sacra (especially because this would be the only place in P46 where it occurs so there are no parallels to compare). It also presumes that the scribe was highly conscious in his deployment of such things (which for P46 sometimes seems clear, and then in other places seems random). I was really only trying to make a point about reading marks!
    By the way, P46 does use NS for ANQRWPOS, but only very occasionally compared with the full version.

  4. That comment by CBT is rather wooden, binary and defensive in my view. Can they really think that Hebrews spends a chapter comparing Jesus with angels, quotes a Psalm comparing Son of Man with angels, tells us that this is about Jesus (2.9) and not think that Hebrews takes the Psalm as “messianic”?

  5. Peter, thanks for your comments. Clearly the P46 evidence is not strong either way.

    Concerning the psalm, you can hardly blame the CBT for being defensive in response to the barrage of criticism about “errors” that they have been subjected to from certain quarters. Clearly the psalm is understood as in some sense “messianic” in that it prefigures the ministry of Jesus. But that is not the same thing as saying that the psalmist, when writing “son of man” or whatever, was actually referring to Jesus – nor even that the author of Hebrews thought these words actually referred to Jesus. The author surely had a more sophisticated understanding, that the psalm was originally about humanity in general but was fulfilled in Jesus.

  6. I was beginning to wonder if there was anything left of my argument in this post when I saw Peter Head’s latest instalment of his series on this part of P46. In the first section of this he notes how ancient manuscripts put a kephalaion or paragraph marker before Hebrews 2:9, which he finds strange. However, as I explained in a comment on Peter’s post, this accords perfectly with my interpretation of this passage, which is also that of the CBT as linked to above.

    The strange thing to me is that TNIV has not followed the logic of the CBT’s arguments, as well as the ancient manuscripts, by making a paragraph division at 2:9 rather than 2:10.

  7. Pingback: nomina sacra

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