In the comment thread to a post by Suzanne, a number of people ask about the sense of the Hebrew idiom in Psalm 8:6a, and the sense of the corresponding idiom in the oldest translation of it, the Old Greek or Septuagint.
The Hebrew isn’t terribly difficult so long as one parses the syntax correctly. Compare the following texts and phrases, which I translate in concordant fashion for ease of comparison:
לְמִי אֲנִי עָמֵל וּמְחַסֵּר אֶת־נַפְשִׁי מִטּוֹבָה
For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure? (Qoh 4:8)
לְהָרִיק נֶפֶשׁ רָעֵב וּמַשְׁקֶה צָמֵא יַחְסִיר
Causing the hungry person to go without,
and the thirsty he deprives of drink (Isa 32:6)
נָגִיד חֲסַר תְּבוּנוֹת
a prince deprived of ( = lacking) understanding (Prov 28:16)
a person deprived of sense (Prov 24:30)
חיסר אחת מכל סממניה
He deprived (it) of ( = left out) one of its ingredients (Talmud Bavli, Keritot 6a)
a few out of many (Jer 42:2)
the littlest of all the nations (Deut 7:7)
וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים
You deprived him of little of (that which characterizes) God (Psalm 8:6)
In short, the phrase מעט מאלהים is best construed as an object phrase along the lines of מעט מהרבה ‘a few of many’ and אחת מכל סממניה ‘one of its ingredients.’ The verb חסר is used, in both the D and H stems, to refer to the act of causing someone to be deprived of, or lack something. The adjective חסר followed by a noun in the construct state, as in ‘a person deprived of understanding,’ is used in a similar way.
But these idioms do not imply that someone is caused to lack something that someone once had. The context may indicate that such is the case, or not. In the case of Ps 8:6, there is no reason to think that the reference is to something other than humankind’s godlike status conferred from the start according to Gen 1. In the same way, I might say “I deprived the pot I made of little of my usual attention to detail,” or “I left out of the novel little of the Sturm und Drang one has come to expect in my writings.”
As far as the Greek is concerned, the same point holds. The idiom in Greek in and of itself does not imply a fall from a higher to a lesser status. It sometimes simply means to ‘cause someone to be inferior to’ someone else. A look at the glosses offered in the standard lexica and examples cited there confirms this. The verb may be rendered as follows: ‘make inferior,’ but only in the sense of ‘cause to be inferior.’ That is what it means in OG Psalm 8.
Subsequently, the Old Greek translation was read in the context of the Christ event. In that light, its sense was reconstrued in Hebrews 2, as explained, for example, by William L. Lane (WBC 47A; Dallas: Word, 1991, 42-47):
The expression βραχύ τι may be qualitative (“a little lower than”) or temporal (“for a little while”). In Ps 8 it is almost certainly qualitative, and this has influenced the translation of this verse in the NIV (“You made him a little lower than the angels”). The understanding of the writer to the Hebrews, however, is made clear when this portion of the quotation is taken up in [2:]9 and the expression βραχύ τι is placed first for emphasis: Jesus was “for a short while” made lower than the angels. [we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone]. This has been the dominant understanding of the expression ever since the Humanist Controversy between Erasmus and the Parisian humanist Jacobius Faber Stapulensis (see Feld, ARG 61  5–35). So RSV, NEB, NASB, JB, TEV, et al.
Lane goes on to note:
In the NT Ps 8 is almost invariably cited in association with Ps 110:1 (1 Cor 15:25–27; Eph 1:20–22; cf. Phil 3:21; 1 Pet 3:22). The tandem arrangement of the two OT texts that speak of subjecting everything beneath the feet (Ps 110:1 and Ps 8:7) provides evidence for a common exegetical tradition upon which Christian writers drew. In Hebrews the quotation of Ps 8:5–7 is preceded by the quotation of Ps 110:1 (1:13), with no intervening citation (cf. Lindars, New Testament Apologetic, 50–51, 168–69; Loader, NTS 24 [1977–78] 209–13). The quotation conforms to the Old Greek version, but the clause “you made him ruler over the works of your hands” (Ps 8:7a[MT 6a]) has been omitted.
The meaning of the Hebrew text of Ps 8:5 (=Ps 8:6 LXX) is ambiguous; the radicals in the Hebrew phrase could signify “little lower than God” (rsv) or “little lower than the heavenly beings” (niv). The Greek translators resolved the ambiguity by referring explicitly to the angels (παρʼ ἀγγέλους), and this interpretation is found in the Targum as well. This element of the text required explanation if the incomparable superiority of the divine Son to the angels was to be maintained.
The extravagance of the statement in [2:]8b is mocked, of course, by human experience, and the writer immediately adds, “we do not yet [οὔπω] see everything subject to his control.” The temporal expression οὔπω is crucial, for it indicates that the writer found in the quotation a prophecy that will eventually be fulfilled. He regards Ps 8:7b as a legal decree, the realization of which is yet deferred (cf. Michel, 71; Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 104–5). The recognition of the present unfilled state of affairs prepares him to see that the promised subjection has reference not to humankind in general (v 8) but to Jesus (v 9), whom God has appointed “heir of everything,” κληρονόμον πάντων (1:2).
This understanding is made explicit in v 9, where it is evident that the writer interpreted the two lines of Ps 8:6 without reference to the synonymous parallelism of the Hebrew text. From the perspective of the psalmist, to be made “little lower” than a heavenly being is to be “crowned with glory and honor.” But for the writer the two members of the parallelism expressed two phases in the life of the Lord. He explains that the first line concerns Jesus’ temporary abasement, while the second speaks of his subsequent exaltation and glorification. This christological reading of the text also accounts for the omission of the first member of the following parallelism (Ps 8:7a). The three lines reproduced by the writer combine to form a confession of faith that celebrates the three successive moments in the drama of redemption, i.e., the incarnation, the exaltation, and the final victory of Jesus, the first pertaining to the past, the second to the present, and the third to the future. The departure from the original Semitic parallelism produces a distinctly confessional understanding of the quotation (Linton, “Le Parallelismus Membrorum,” 495–96; cf. Delling, TDNT 8:42).
In short, the fundamental terms of the psalm in Hebrew are:
(1) earth and (the night) sky
(2) divinity, associated with the sky; humanity, associated with the earth
Man is the godlike creature who marvels at his own place in the universe.
The fundamental terms of the psalm in Hebrews are:
(2) ‘son of man’ = his Son
(3) the angels
Jesus is the one whom God abased to a level below that of the angels for a little while, under whose authority nevertheless, per Psalm 110, God will one day place all things.