The Worship Of Jesus
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:04 PM
Abstract and Summary:
The Biblical usage of the term worship applied to Jesus means to bow down to in honor and submission, in the same way as to a king or other person of high rank. Many men and angels in the Bible are worshipped acceptably in this way.
There are ten different Greek words that are translated as "worship" in the KJV: Of these only Proskuneo (which is the most common) is ever used about Jesus. Latruo, also translated as "serve" is frequently used to express the idea of giving reverence to Yahweh, and seems to describe the exclusive worship of the Deity.
Proskuneo means to bow down, prostrate oneself in homage, do reverence, adore, make obeisance. It has only that one meaning, which is true in all occurrences. It applies not only to divine worship but also to the respect paid to a human lord, or to anyone in a position of power. It actually describes the physical action of bowing, kneeling or prostrating in respect or entreaty. The use of the word makes no implication as to the perceived humanity or divinity of the object. This is clearly seen from the use of Proskuneo in Matt 18:26 (the parable of the two debtors) where it is applied to the debtor pleading for mercy from his human lord, and from Rev 3:9 where the church at Philadelphia is told that the false Jews will worship at the feet of the church. The KJV translates Proskuneo about 14 times as "worship" with Jesus as the object. In the vast majority of these cases, it can be seen from the context that the "worshippers" had no intent to imply any divinity in Jesus. The wise men for example worshipped him as "King of the Jews," as did the Roman soldiers who mocked him in feigned worship at his trial. Strong's defines proskuneo as "to fawn or crouch to," and likens it to a dog licking his master's hand. This makes a meaningful picture in Matt 15:25 when the woman of Canaan came to Jesus begging him to heal her daughter and said "the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." By understanding proskuneo, we can see that as she said that, she was actually on her knees, begging like a dog for the crumbs of his healing.
The meaning of the English word "worship" has changed since the 16th century, when according to the Oxford English dictionary, it meant, "To honour; to regard or treat with honour or respect. To salute, bow down to. To honour with gifts. To confer honour or dignity upon." It could be used of any human lord, noble or magistrate. Vestiges of the old meaning are still seen in such things as calling certain English magistrates "your worship." The KJV copied the word from Tyndale. Because the English meaning has now changed to limit the meaning to divine worship, most of the more modern versions, even with their obvious trinitarian bias, use the word worship much more sparingly about Jesus. The New English Bible for example never uses the word "worship" about Jesus, with the possible exception of Rev 5:14. The NIV, RSV and NASB cut the 14 instances down to about 7. In each instance where there is a parallel in another gospel, the parallel passages all say something like fell at his feet, fell down before him, or some other explanation that is in keeping with the definition above of. Most newer versions omit Luke 24:52 as being without manuscript authority, but either way it means the same as above. Even the heavily trinitarian paraphrase Living Bible translates Matt 14:33 as "sat there, awestruck," instead of worshipped, although the use of proskuneo would indicate that they actually fell off their seats in awe. In the KJV, many of the occurrences of the "worship" of Jesus make it clear that the meaning of prostrating is the correct understanding, by including such phrases as 'fell down" (Matt 2:11), "held him by the feet" (Matt 28:9).
The Hebrew word "Shachah" is nearly the exact equivalent of Proskuneo, and the LXX typically translates shachah as proskuneo. Shachah is the most common Hebrew word translated as worship, and it is applied acceptably not only to God, but also to men and angels. Two examples in the KJV are :Joshua 5:14 - Joshua worshiped the angel ("man"), the "captain of the Lord's host." I Chronicles 29:20- The people worship the LORD and the king (David). Also in Daniel 2:46 - Nebuchadnezzer worshiped Daniel, which is a Chaldee word (Segad) with an equivalent meaning. There are many other examples of shachah being applied acceptably to men or angels, though translated differently into English.
Much of the confusion on the issue of worship stems from the few cases where worship is rejected as inappropriate. The worship of angels is condemned in Col 2:18, but a different Greek word is used there (threeskia) which should be translated religion. The angel in Rev19 and 22 rejected John's attempt to worship him, however this is the only case of an angel rejecting worship. In that case, the angel appears to be representing and speaking for Jesus (22:7,12 "Behold I come quickly"), and he redirects John's worship to God rather than to Jesus. We should recognize that this is in context of a symbolic vision. Likewise, although Peter rejected Cornelius' worship, many other faithful men accepted being bowed down to, for example the Philippian jailor fell at Paul's feet in Acts 16:29 without apparent rebuke. The incident of Peter and Cornelius does illustrate that in the church we are fellow servants (as the angel in Rev 19 and 22 calls himself) and that we should not be "lording it" over one another. It is also apparent that in attempting to worship Peter, Cornelius knew that Peter was a man, not God, and was in no way trying to attribute divinity to Peter.
Jesus refused to worship the tempter in the wilderness, citing a command against idolatry (Deut 6:13-14), because the tempter, like false gods, did not deserve worship. He said we are to "serve" (Gk. Latruo) only God. There is no scriptural command or prohibition against bowing down to a human ruler.
Of the 14 or so times that Jesus is worshiped in the KJV, all but two are prior to or at his ascension. The possible two subsequent cases of the worship of Jesus are by the angels (Heb 1:6) and perhaps in the vision in Rev 5:14. There is no statement in the Acts or Epistles that Jesus was an object of worship by believers in a sense similar to the worship of God. We bow to Jesus (Phil 2:10) as Lord and King in homage, reverence, obedience and praise. Jesus is held in higher honor after his exaltation to the right hand of God than before, yet all the examples of his being worshiped by mortal humans are before that, not afterwards. There are no scriptural examples or instructions indicating that we are to render divine worship to Jesus.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:06 PM
Jesus Christ is described in fourteen places in the King James Version Bible (KJV) as being worshipped and accepting that worship (see chart appendix 3). We know that Christ is worthy of great glory and honor, but should we in fact worship him in the sense that we worship God? Clearly it is vitally important to understand what it means to worship Jesus. Trinitarians sometimes argue that the worship of Jesus in the Bible is evidence of his identity with God, contending that we are to worship only God, and if Jesus is worshipped then he must be God. Do these scriptures in fact tell us that we are to worship Jesus and in what way and is that meaning of worship exclusive to God?
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:08 PM
We should notice immediately that if we refer to any of the newer translations, such as for example the Revised Standard Version (RSV), New International Version (NIV) or New American Standard Bible (NASB) the number of incidents in which the word worship is used about Jesus drops from fourteen to about six. The New English Bible (NEB) has none. As we shall see, this is not because the KJV translation was poor, but rather because the meaning of the English word worship has changed over the centuries, as have many other English words with meanings unfamiliar to modern readers of the KJV, such as “ghost” (spirit), “charity” (love) and “aweful” (awesome). The encyclopaedic Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists as a second, obsolete definition of worship (verb): To honour; to regard or treat with honour or respect. To treat with signs of honour or respect; to salute, bow down to. To honour with gifts. To invest with, raise to, honour or repute; to confer honour or dignity upon.” And (noun): “The condition (in a person) of deserving, or being held in, esteem or repute; honour, distinction, renown; good name, credit . . . (Common down to 16th c.). So, the English word worship commonly meant the act of honouring a person, not necessarily a deity.
Although the (1611) KJV was translated at the turn of the 17th Century, the now obsolete usage had not completely disappeared at that time and further, the language of most or all of the passages in which in the KJV cites the “worship” of Jesus was actually copied verbatim by the KJV translators from Tyndale’s translation of a century earlier. It is probable that these translators were comfortable with the older language, and also possible that it meshed as well with their Trinitarian biases. The word "worship" has several meanings in modern English. Several different English words are used in the Bible to convey these various meanings. Appendix 5 describes four of these with the Greek and Hebrew source words and their typical translations.
An example of the older usage of the English word worship is seen in this excerpt From Le Morte D' Arthur, written in the 15th Century by Sir Thomas Malory:
“Then King Arthur came out of his tower, and had under his gown a jesseraunt of double mail, and there went with him the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Sir Baudwin of Britain, and Sir Kay, and Sir Brastias: these were the men of most worship that were with him.... For by my faith, said King Ban, they are the best fighting men, and knights of most prowess, that ever I saw or heard speak of, and those eleven kings are men of great worship; and if they were longing unto you there were no king under the heaven had such eleven knights, and of such worship.”
This usage is clearly seen in scripture in Luke 14:10, where the honor in which a guest could be held at a feast is called “worship:”
“But when thou are bidden, go and sit in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee. Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.”
The modern versions all translate the Greek word “doxa” there as “honor” or “respect,” and it clearly has no connotation of attribution of divinity.
To people raised in western democracies of the 20th Century, the idea of “worshipping” a human may seem quite foreign and blasphemous. To people of earlier times, it would be second nature to bow in homage to royalty, magistrates or to anyone with the direct, personal power of life and death over you. If you failed to lower your head to the monarch, the monarch might well lower it for you by having it removed from your neck. When all men were declared to have been created equal, it became incongruous that one equal should bow to another. Citizens of western democracies today are likely to take pride in bowing to no man. Consequently the meaning of the word worship has come to be restricted to the honour or respect paid to a deity, since it is only to a deity that people now bow. We will see that the older meaning of worship is in fact a good translation of the Greek source word (Proskuneo), which means to bow down in respect, to prostrate, to kneel, pay obeisance, honour or homage, regardless of the object of that homage. The modern versions have generally translated the word in such a way as to make that meaning clearer.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:10 PM
The second point we should notice is that while about ten different Greek words are translated into English as worship in the KJV, only the Greek work “Proskuneo” is translated worship in respect to the worship of Jesus (see Appendix 1 for the other Greek words for worship). Since most of the other Greek words for worship are exclusive to the worship of a deity, we might suspect that Proskuneo has a different meaning that is less exclusive and may include other than divine worship. We will find that in fact to be correct.
From Strong’s Greek dictionary
From G4314 and probably a derivative of G2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog
licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively)
prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines Proskuneo as “to make obeisance, do reverence to.” And it says, “It is used as an act of homage or reverence.” Zondervan’s Analytical Greek Lexicon defines Proskuneo as: “To do reverence or homage by kissing the hand; in N.T. to do reverence or homage by prostration; to pay divine homage, worship, adore; to bow one’s self in adoration.”
The best way to determine the meaning of a word is to see how it is used in context. Although Proskuneo is usually translated “worship” in the KJV, we will see that from the context and from newer translations that it would be better translated as “bow down”, “prostrate”, “beg”, or “entreat”. The NEB generally translates Proskuneo as “bowed low,” “fell prostrate,” or “paid homage.” Benjamin Wilson’s “Emphatic Diaglott” (with its rare non-Trinitarian bias) typically translates it as “prostrate” or “do homage.” See Appendix 3 for a summary of the uses of Proskuneo we will look at in this article. It applies to the respect paid to a human lord, or to anyone in a position of power, as well as to God. It in fact describes the physical act of prostrating, kneeling or bowing down in respect or entreaty. The use of the word makes no implication as to the perceived humanity or divinity of the object. This is clearly seen from the use of Proskuneo in Mat 18:26 (the parable of the two debtors) where it is applied to the debtor pleading for mercy from his human lord.
Matt 18:25-26 KJV:
“25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.”
Proskuneo is here translated “worshipped” in the KJV, but less archaicly translated “begged” in the NIV, “imploring” in the RSV, “prostrated himself” in the NASB and “fell prostrate” in the NEB. The servant clearly was not intending to imply any divinity in his creditor. Vine quotes in regard to this passage the note of the American Committee in the RV “At the word ‘worship’ in Matt 2:2 etc, add the marginal note ‘The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to man (see chap 18:26) or to God (see chap 4:10)’” Notice also that the worship is often further defined in the text by the degree of bowing down: Bowing the head (as in prayer), bowing from the waist (“bowing low”), kneeling (on one knee, as before a king), kneeling on both knees (“falling down”), prostrate (face on the ground), and grasping the feet (in reverence or submission).
In Revelation 3:9 we see an example of Proskuneo applied to the human members of the church at Philadelphia”
”9. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
In this reference where it is obviously not talking about the worship of God, the NIV and the NEB translate the phrase as “come and fall down at your feet.” The RSV and NASB both say, “come and bow down at your feet.” So we see that where the object of Proskuneo is human, the modern translations have been unanimous in changing to a more modern English wording instead of “worship.”
It will also be obvious from the context of most of the scriptures where Proskuneo is applied to Jesus that the older meaning of worship is intended, not the modern meaning. The next few references will make this clear:
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:19 PM
Matt 8:2 KJV:
“2. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”
The parallel account in Mark 1:40 says, “beseeching him and kneeling down to him.” The parallel passage in Luke 5:12 says, “fell on his face and besought him.” The leper was obviously bowing down begging to be healed and so the NASB translates it as “bowed down,” the NEB as “bowed low,” and the NIV and RSV as “knelt.”
Matt 9:18 KJV:
“18. While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.”
We can see a pattern, that Proskuneo is frequently used where someone is kneeling or bowing to beg or entreat Jesus. Again the NASB translates it here as “bowed down” and the NIV and RSV as “knelt”. The parallel passages in Mark 5:22 (“fell at his feet and besought him greatly”) and Luke 8:41 (“fell down at Jesus feet and besought him”) also clearly support this. What the ruler did was the physical act of prostrating in entreaty.
Matt 15:22-28 KJV:
“22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 28. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
Again the use of Proskuneo for begging. (NASB = “began to bow down before him,” NIV & RSV = “knelt”). The parallel account in Mark’s gospel (7:25) says, “fell at his feet.” There is a play on words here which is missed in the KJV, for Proskuneo means “to kiss like a dog licking his master’s hand,” and the woman refers to dogs eating the crumbs from the master’s table. The correct translation of Proskuneo enlivens the account, when we understand that when the woman referred to dogs begging for crumbs, she was herself on her knees begging like a dog for Jesus’ healing.
Matt 20:20 KJV:
“20. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.”
Again, Proskuneo is used of entreating for a favor, and the NASB translates it as “bowing down” and the NIV and RSV as “kneeling.”
Mark 5:1-7 KJV:
“1. And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. 2. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3. Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4. Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7. And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. 8. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.”
In this example, the demoniac is certainly not “worshipping” Jesus in the modern sense of that word. Rather, he is begging Jesus to go away and leave him alone. Again NASB = ”bowed down before” and NIV = “fell on his knees in front of” (although the RSV inconsistently retains the use of the word “worshipped”). The parallel Luke 8:28 says, “he cried out, and fell down before him.”
In the above examples we can see another common thread: frequently those who prostrated themselves were people who thought themselves particularly unworthy to merit help (the leper, the foreign woman of Canaan, the foreign lunatic, the debtor in the parable) or were asking the almost impossible (the ruler asking for the resurrection of his daughter).
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:21 PM
Hebrews 11:21, which is a puzzling reference in the KJV, becomes more clear now that we know the correct meaning of Proskuneo:
“21. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.”
The Old Testament reference here is to Genesis 47:31, which says:
31. And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.
So we see here that Proskuneo in Hebrews 11:21 is the Greek equivalent of “bowed himself” (Hebrew: “shachah”) in Genesis 47:31. The Hebrew “shachah” is closely equivalent to the Greek Proskuneo. The Septuagint frequently translates shachah as proskuneo. (See Appendix 2 for more detail on the meaning of these two passages).
In Mark 15:19 we see the example of the Roman soldiers who are said in the KJV to have “worshipped” Jesus, but were clearly mocking him as “King” (because of his assertion that he was the King of the Jews) not as “God”. This makes it clear that Proskuneo was used of paying respect to a human king (even though in this case it was feigned):
“17. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, 18. And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19. And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.”
Again Proskuneo is clearly connected to kneeling or prostrating. The NASB says “kneeling and bowing before him,” the NIV says “falling on their knees they paid homage to him,” and the RSV says “knelt down in homage to him.” The parallel in Matthew 27:29 says, “they bowed the knee before him.”
The next two scriptures, both regarding the same incident, illustrate the concept of paying homage to a king rather than to a God. The wise men came to worship Jesus as King of the Jews. This is the respect, honor or reverence that would be paid to a human king, not necessarily to God.
Matt 2:1-2 KJV:
“. . .behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
And then when they arrive at the house:
Matt 2:11 KJV:
“11. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
Note again that Proskuneo involves falling prostrate. Notice also that in Matt 2:8, Herod, who clearly had not the slightest hint that this newborn King was the Son of God (and proved that by attempting to have him murdered) also said that he would come and “worship”. It would surely not be credible to suggest that Herod set out to knowingly kill God, but rather to eliminate a potential rival as king. So Herod was using the term to mean giving honour to a human king, not in the sense of worshipping a god.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:23 PM
The next three scriptures show the disciple’s reaction to Jesus in fear.
Matt 28:8-10 KJV:
“8. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”
It is obvious from the fact that they held him by the feet, that they had to fall down or prostrate themselves, which is how Proskuneo should have been translated. It is also clear from Jesus’ response (“Be not afraid”) that he recognized that they were reacting in fear and reverence of him. So this passage would be better translated as does the “Diaglott” as “prostrated to him.”
Matt 14:32-33 KJV:
“32. And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”
Again, the disciples were in awe of his power, having been in fear for their own lives. Ironically, the Living Bible (not usually a reliable translation and heavily Trinitarian) paraphrases this passage as “sat there, awestruck,” which probably carries the proper emotion, although it would seem that they did not merely “sit there” but fell off their seats (or to their knees) in awe. The parallel account in Mark 6:51 says, “they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure and wondered.”
Matt 28:16- 17 KJV:
“16. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.”
This verse is one of the least clear of all the examples, with a context that does not make the actions or intent obvious. It would be consistent with the previous examples to translate it as does the Diaglott, “prostrated to.” It may help to compare this with the disciple’s actions at the Transfiguration in Matt 17:6-7: “6. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.” In that mountain where Jesus was proclaimed by God as his Son, and where we might most expect the disciples to worship, they prostrated themselves in fear, but are not described as “worshipping” in the modern sense.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:25 PM
Luke 24:51-52 KJV:
51. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
The RSV, NEB and NASB* all omit the phrase in verse 52 “they worshipped him” as lacking manuscript authority. This is consistent with the following verse: “53. And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” The ultimate praise and worship is due to God. On the other hand, it would be neither surprising nor inappropriate for the disciples to prostrate themselves at the sight of Jesus ascending into heaven, however the parallel accounts in Mark and Acts do not mention them doing so.
John 9:38 KJV (the man born blind):
“35. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36. He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37. And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”
In this example, the prostrating comes after the healing rather than before, but the connotation is the same. Oddly, although the Gospel of John is by far the predominant source of supposed suggestions of the divinity of Christ, this is the only case in John of Proskuneo applied to Jesus.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:26 PM
Scofield and others give Phil 2:9-11 as an example of supreme worship to be paid to Christ, however the reference most strongly suggests that the true glory is not to Jesus, but to God the Father: “
9. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Here neither worship nor Proskuneo are used, but other words are used to describe the same concept of bowing the knee before Jesus. Again, the reference is to the physical act of prostrating, and the ultimate glory is to God the Father.
In Heb 1:4-6 the angels are told by God to “worship” Jesus:
“4. Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6. And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
This passage shows that the worship of Jesus is derivative from the reverence to the Father. That is, that the Father commands His angels to worship the Son. The Son could not do so on his own. The combination of this verse with the previous (Phil 2:10) may be the sources of the hymn verse “All hail the power of Jesus’ name. Let angels prostrate fall,” for falling prostrate would be the better translation of the Greek. Christ, as God’s Son, rules over the angels and is therefore worthy of their homage or obeisance. See Appendix 4 regarding the Old Testament source of the quotation.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:28 PM
The next four examples are sometimes cited as proof that men and angels reject worship, including that implied by Proskuneo:
Matt 4:9-10 (and similar Luke 4:7-8) Used by the tempter in the wilderness in asking Christ to sin, and by Christ in resisting:
“9. And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (Greek: “Latruo”).
In this case, Jesus says that it would be wrong to offer “Proskuneo” to the tempter. The “only” applies to Latruo, rather than to Proskuneo, as Latruo is never acceptably applied to any but God, and never to Jesus. The temptation was to offer this homage (proskuneo) to someone who did not deserve it and who had no legitimate claim to it. We should also recognize that there was no one who had the power to give Jesus what the tempter was offering, except for Jesus himself, who had just been given the Holy Spirit without measure. Ultimately then, Jesus was being tempted to misuse that power to serve himself, to wallow in pride at his own commendation by God, to misuse God’s power to elevate and glorify (worship) himself instead of God; To, in effect, make himself a god, and he was rejecting that self-worship as inappropriate and forbidden. When we look at the passage that Jesus quoted to the tempter (Deuteronomy 6:13-14) we see that what is prohibited there is bowing down to other gods, not paying respect to a human ruler. So the scripture Jesus quoted is a commandment against idolatry, not against paying homage to a human. We will come back later to consideration of who are acceptable objects of worship.
In Acts 10:25-26 Peter rejects Proskuneo:
“25. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”
Cornelius must have known that Peter was no god. His action again shows that it was common to prostrate before a man in a high position, and Peter was coming as the representative of God. The NIV translates Proskuneo here as “in reverence.” Peter was no king or ruler, he was just a man like Cornelius and had no claim to deserve obeisance. In the ecclesia, we are all fellow servants and equals. There are no rulers or lords in the ecclesia except for the Lord Jesus. It is inappropriate for fellow servants to bow down to other fellow servants. This is likely the reason the we see fewer instances in the New Testament than in the Old Testament of bowing down to rulers. It is ironic that the Catholic Popes, who falsely claim succession to Peter, now routinely accept the obeisance that he rejected. Peter’s rejection of this reverence may also have had to do with his own particular feelings of unworthiness after his frequently repeated rebukes by Jesus, including in the vision that took him to Cornelius. Notice by contrast that in Acts 16:29 the Phillipian jailer falls at Paul’s feet and Paul does not rebuke him.
Acts 14:11-18 Paul and Barnabas in Derbe prevent the people from offering sacrifices to them. The word worship or its Greek source words are not used in this instance. It was not simply reverence that was being offered to Paul and Barnabas, but actual pagan sacrifice, which would have rightly horrified any Jew or Christian.
Rev 19:9-10 and 22:8-9 KJV are nearly identical passages where worship (proskuneo) is rejected by an angel: Looking at the passage in Rev 22:8:
8. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. 9. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
Again the clear meaning of Proskuneo as falling prostrate (“at his feet”). The pronoun antecedents are difficult to trace back, but it appears this angel may be the one mentioned in 17:1, who was one of the angels who had the seven vials, and who talked with John. The angel rejects the worship for he says he is a fellow servant. We should notice that this angel speaks Jesus’s own words as if he were Jesus himself (verses 7 and 12: “behold I come quickly,” and v 22, “I, Jesus”). He directs worship not to Jesus, but to God. Also, angels in Revelation are not always heavenly angels, as for example the angels of the seven ecclesias to whom the seven letters are addressed, where “angels” appear to refer to what we might call the secretaries of those ecclesias. In addition to calling himself a “fellow servant,” There are several other hints that the angel of Rev 19 and 22 was also, in John’s vision, a man, for he says that he is “of thy brethren the prophets,” and in Rev 21:17, he measured the wall at four cubits, “the measure of a man, that is of the angel.” In Rev 22:16 he says, “I, Jesus have sent mine angel to testify . . .” this could be compared with Matt 11:10, where Jesus, quoting from Mal 3:1, uses the same words about John Baptist: “Behold, I send my messenger,” (Greek = aggelos, same word as angel). If this is an actual heavenly angel, it is the only case in scripture of an angel rejecting worship. Rather, it appears to be more a representative vision of Jesus himself. That these passages in Revelation are somewhat unclear regarding who was rejecting worship and why needs to be considered in light of the figurative, symbolic vision of the Revelation. Given the many passages to the contrary (see next page), this passage should not be taken as proof that only God is to be worshipped, but simply that in this particular instance, for whatever reason, John’s attempt at worship was inappropriate.
In Colossians 2:18, Paul warns against “worshipping of angels,” however “worshipping” is there translated from the Greek word Threeskia (see App 1) which is translated in its three other occurrences as “religion.” This shows that while it is appropriate to bow before an angel, this can be taken too far if the angel is made the object of religion, that is, treated as a god. We see this very problem happening today in the “New Age” religions which have adopted angels as a religion.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:30 PM
If we look at some of the instances where Proskuneo is used of God himself (there are about 20 in total, of which ten are in John 4:20-24), we see that the same meaning of prostrating at the feet is frequently evident.
I Cor 14:25 “. . .falling down on his face he will worship God.”
Revelation 4:10 “fall down . . .and worship.”
Revelation 7:11 “fell before the throne on their faces and worshipped God”
Rev 19:4 “fell down and worshipped God”
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:31 PM
Some have contended that it is never proper for anyone but God to accept reverence or being prostrated to, but there are many, many contrary examples in scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. Just a few examples:
Gen 18:2 - Abraham to the angels (whom he thought to be men)
Gen 19:1 - Lot to the same
Gen 23:7 - Abraham to the children of Heth
Gen 37:7, 9 - Joseph’s father, mother and brothers to him in prophetic vision
Gen 42:6 - his brothers to Joseph in Egypt (visions of Gen 37 fulfilled)
Gen 48:12 - Joseph before his father Jacob
Numbers 22:31 - Balaam to the angel
Joshua 5:14 - Joshua “worshipped” the angel (“man”), the “captain of the Lord’s host.”
Ruth 2:10 - Ruth to Boaz
I Samuel 20:41 - David to Jonathan
I Samuel 24:8 - David to Saul
I Samuel 25:23 - Abigail to David
II Samuel 15:5 - The people to Absalom
II Samuel 9:6, 9:8 - Mephibosheth to David
II Samuel 24:20 - Araunah to king David
I Chronicles 29:20 - The people “worship” the LORD and the king (David)
All of these examples are translated from the Hebrew Shachah, which is essentially a synonym for Proskuneo and is the same and most common Hebrew word used for the worship of God.
Note also Daniel 2:46 where Nebuchadnezzer “worshipped” (KJV) Daniel, where the Chaldee equivalent of shachah (segad) is used for worship, which the NIV translates as “fell prostrate.” This is the same Chaldee word that Daniel’s three friends refused to render to the image, showing that it is acceptable to bow to people in honor, but it is not acceptable to bow to idols.
There is sometimes assumed to be a scriptural command to worship no one but God. This is not quite the case. The actual commands are to not worship other (false) gods. There is no scriptural admonition against bowing down to a human ruler or monarch. Clearly in the modern meaning of the English word worship, because the modern English meaning is limited by definition to the worship of a deity, any such practice would violate the commandment not to serve other gods. Worship in the older sense however, applied to men in position of honour or respect, is nowhere forbidden in scripture. The closest the scripture comes to this is in Jesus’ reply to the tempter, which we have discussed above. It is clear that Jesus could not have meant that it is forbidden to bow down to human lords when there are so many examples of this by faithful men and women.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:33 PM
Of the 14 times that Jesus is worshiped in the KJV, all but one are prior to or at his ascension. The single subsequent mention of the worship of Jesus is by the angels (Heb. 1:6). There is no statement in the Acts or Epistles that Jesus is an object of worship by believers in a sense similar to the worship of God. Honor, yes. Submission, yes. Praise, yes. We bow to Jesus (Phil. 2:10) as Lord and King in homage, reverence, obedience and praise. But the use of the word worship could mislead or confuse the reader into thinking that a religious or divine worship is being referred to. Jesus is held in higher honor after his exaltation to the right hand of God than before, yet all the examples of his being worshiped by humans are before that, not afterwards. This is a very important point. We actually find no direct instruction anywhere in scripture for us to worship Jesus in the modern sense of the word. There is not the slightest indication that the church was instructed to render religious worship to Jesus, and no evidence that the first century church ever did so. The concept of church worship of Jesus as God is entirely and completely absent from scripture. It is an unscriptural concept.
We need to differentiate between the special kind of worship that is due to God alone, and the kind of worship that is due to Jesus and others. It is clear that homage is due to Jesus as God’s Anointed one, the true King and Lord, the Son of God. We should not minimize the honor and glory due to Him in whom we see the Father made manifest. Clearly Jesus is due far greater honor, respect and homage than any mortal ruler. We, even more so than the angels, should indeed bow before him, but not in the same sense that we worship God. Indeed, we ought to fall prostrate before the feet of Jesus and say, as did the leper: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” It is also clear from the uses of Proskuneo with respect to God the Father that the word can also be used to express that special honor and fear that is due to God alone, but that is only one way the word can be used. The connotation that comes through most clearly from the great majority of the examples is of the same homage, reverence, entreaty or fear that could legitimately be paid to anyone in a position of great honor, power or authority.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:34 PM
Greek and Hebrew words translated as worship in the KJV
Proskuneo (Strongs G4352) (KJV tr. Worship 59) To bow down. See full definition in main text.
Latruo (Stongs G3000) To minister to God, i.e. to render religious homage; serve, do the service, worship.
(KJV tr worship 4 and serve 17) Used by Jesus of God: “Him only shalt thou serve.
Sebazomai, (Strongs G4573) To venerate, adore, worship
Sebasma, (Strongs G4574) Something adored i.e. an object of worship (god, altar etc): devotion,that is worshipped.
Sebomai (Strongs G4576) To revere, i.e. adore: devout, religious, worship
(13 instances total of the three - always used of God)
Eusebeo (Strongs 2151) to be pious, i.e. (towards God) to worship or (towards parents) to respect (support): show piety, worship. Used twice, once of idols, once of piety at home, but see similar Eusebeia (G 2150)
Theosebees (Strongs G2318) Reverent of God, i.e. pious: “worshipper of God”, used only once
The above five related words are all derived from the same root ‘seba’ meaning awe or fear.
Doxa (Strongs G1391) Dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, worship. Trans “Worship” once. Usually translated glory.
Therapeuo (Strongs G2323) to wait upon menially, i.e. (fig) to adore (God) or (spec) to relieve (of disease): cure, heal, worship. (tr worship only once, usually tr heal or cure)
Threeskia (Strongs 2356) Religious worship, usually external ceremonial observance, religion. (tr worship 2, and religion 3)
See also Phobeo, Latria, and Leitourgia, which express aspects of worship, but are translated into different English words.
Hebrew & Chaldee Words:
Shachah: (Strongs H7812) See definition in main text. Translated in KJV bow down (51), stoop (1), crouch (1), do obeisance (5), do reverence (5), fall down (4), beseech (1), worship (99)
Segad (Strongs H5457): Chaldee used only in Daniel. To bow down, do obeisance, worship (12)
Abad: (Strongs H5647) To work, by impl to serve. When translated as “serve” or “service” it is used for religious service. Also translated “worshippers”(5) in regards to Baal.
Atsab: (Strongs H6087) To make an idol, grieve, worship only 1 time
See also Abodah, Sharath and Yare below, which express aspects of worship but are translated into different English words.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:36 PM
The Hebrew word for bowed in Genesis 47:31 is Shachah, which corresponds almost exactly to the Greek Proskuneo. Shachah is the most common Hebrew word for worship, but is also frequently translated as bow, bow down, fall down, stoop, do obeisance, do reverence. It is unmistakably used both for the worship of deities and for paying respect to humans. The translators appear to have had difficulty with both Genesis 47:31 and the quotation of it in Hebrews 11:21. The context of Genesis 47:31 may suggest that the bowing was in physical collapse. Jacob was about to die (Gen 47:29 and Heb 11:21). Two verses later (Gen 48:2) we are told, “Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.” Then in ch 49:33 Jacob “gathered up his feet into the bed and died.” So his bowing might have been simply in physical weakness from his grave condition. However, only the Diaglott among the more modern translations is willing to omit “worshipped” from Hebrew 11:21. This may be because Proskuneo and Shachah are not usually used of the simple physical act of bowing without any implied homage or reverence, however there are several instances of Shachah so used, particularly of bowing in mourning (Psa 35:14 and 38:6). The NIV and the NASB insert italicized words into Genesis 47:31 (“bowed himself in worship”). The NEB inserts “God “ after worshipped in Hebrews 11:21, seemingly without foundation, which is especially odd as it interprets Genesis 47:31 as “sank down over the end of the bed,” supporting the idea of it being merely a physical collapse. An alternative meaning is that Jacob was bowing in respect to his son Joseph who had just granted Jacob’s wish by swearing to bury him in the land of Israel. This would fulfill the prophetic vision of Joseph where he saw the sun, moon and stars worshipping him, as I am not aware of any other scriptural fulfillment of that vision. Joseph's brothers bowed to him when they came to Egypt to buy grain and he revealed himself to them, but Jacob is not described as bowing to Jospeh in any instance other than this one. In Genesis 48:12, when Joseph seeks Jacob’s blessing on Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph “bowed (same Heb word Shachah) himself with his face to the earth,” apparently in respect toward Jacob. I believe that the reason this incident is included in the “faith chapter” in Hebrews 11 is because of the faith that Jacob showed in asking Joseph to bury him in the promised land rather than in Egypt, where he had lived for the last 17 years. His faith was in the promise of the land, yet to be fulfilled, even while he was dying. This is consistent with Hebrews 11’s next example (11:22) where Joseph is lauded for his faith in giving instruction concerning his own burial also in the promised land. The inclusion of the word “worship” by the translators obscures the intent of the two scriptures, as it appears to imply that it was the worship which was the act of faith.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:38 PM
(All translated as “worship” in the KJV)
Matt 2:2, 8, 11
NEB: pay homage
Diaglott: do homage, reverence, honor,
no parallel passage
NASB: bowed down
NEB: bowed low
Mark 1:40 "beseeching him and kneeling down"
Luke 5:12 "fell on his face and besought him"
NASB: bowed down
NEB: bowed low
Mark 5:22 "fell at his feet and besought him greatly"
Luke 8:41 "fell down at Jesus feet and besought him"
NEB: fell at his feet
Living Bible: sat there awestruck
Mark 6:51 "were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure and wondered"
NASB: began to bow down before him
NEB: fell at his feet
Mark 7:25 "fell at his feet"
NASB: prostrated himself
NEB: fell prostrate
no parallel passages
NASB: bowing down
NEB: bowed low
no parallel passages
NEB: falling prostrate
Diaglott: prostrated to him,
no parallel passages
NEB: fell prostrate
Diaglott: prostrated to him
no parallel passages, but:
compare to Matt 17:6-7
NIV: fell on his knees in front of
NASB: bowed down before
NEB: flung himself down
Luke 8:28 cried out and fell down before him
RSV: knelt in homage
NIV: falling on their knees they paid homage
NASB: kneeling and bowing before him
NEB: knelt and paid mock homage
Matt 27:29 they bowed the knee before him
NASB: some editions omit*
parallel passages: Mark 16 & Acts 1 omit
Diaglott: threw himself prostrate
no parallel passage
NIV: in reverence
NEB: in reverence
compare Acts 16:29
NEB: pay him homage
May be quote from Deut 32:43 LXX proskuneo, or from Psalm 97:7, Heb: shachah
RSV: bowing in worship
NEB: worshipped God
quoted from Gen 47:31 bowed himself
RSV: bow down
NIV: fall down
NASB: bow down
NEB: fall down
no parallel passage
RSV = Revised Standard Version
NIV = New International Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NEB = New English Bible
*The NASB omitted the phrase: “and they worshiped him,” until the most recent revision, which reinstated it.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:39 PM
The reference in Heb 1:6 to the Old Testament is similar to a phrase contained in the LXX Deut 32:43, “Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him.” This phrase is omitted from most other manuscripts of Deuteronomy, and so does not appear in most English translations. The NEB follows the Qumran (“Dead Sea Scrolls”) manuscript, translating it as, “bow down, all you gods, before him." Whether in fact this is truly the source of the quotation in Hebrews could perhaps be questioned, as the context in Deuteronomy does not appear relevant to the context of the quote in Hebrews 1:6.
John Thomas* suggests that Psalm 97:7, which reads, “Worship him, all ye gods,” (KJV) could be the source of the quote, although the editor’s note disagrees. Thomas is making the point that the angels are sometimes referred to as Elohim. Apart from the question of whether Heb 1:6 is quoting Psalm 97:7, there still remains the problem that the context of Psalm 97 has no obvious reference to Messiah, or to God bringing his firstborn into the world, which makes it questionable whether it is the true source of the quote in Hebrews 1:6. Interestingly, Deut 32:43 also says “gods,” so in either case John Thomas’s point is made that the angels are referred to as Elohim. In context Psalm 97:7 seems to be speaking of idols being humbled by God, rather than of the angels worshipping God. That is, the previous phrase says “Confounded be all those who serve carved images, who boast themselves of idols.” Verse 9 says that Yahweh is “exalted far above all gods,” which again seems to express the point that it is false gods that are being spoken of as bowing down to Yahweh, rather than the angels.
*Elpis Israel 14th edition, 1966 p 38. And also in Phanerosis.
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:40 PM
1) Bowing down: in submission, homage, respect, entreaty, fear, obeisance etc.This bowing may involve progressively more humble physical postures:
a) Bowing the head, as in standing prayer
b) Bowing from the waist, “bowing low”
c) Kneeling on one knee, as before a king
d) Kneeling down on both knees (a salaam): falling down
e) Prostrate, flat on the ground, face down.
f) grasping or touching the feet in reverence and submission
This form of worship in the Bible is legitimately offered to anyone in a position of respect, honor, or authority.
Typical Source Words:
Hebrew: Shachah, Segad
2) Religious Service: This implies the performing of acts of obedience or submission to the Deity, either legitimately (to God alone) or illegitimately (to false gods). It is not merely ceremonial acts, but obeying the commandments, keeping the laws, doing what we are supposed to be doing in true service to God.
Typical Source Words:
Greek: Latruo (trans worship or serve) . Latria (service)
Hebrew: Abad, abodah (typically trans. Serve or service)
3) Reverence, awe, fear, respect, piety: Indicates the attitude and feeling that a person has, or should have, legitimately toward God alone.
Typical Source Words:
Greek: Sebazomai, venerate, adore, sebasma, the object of worship, sebomai: devout religious worship, usebeo: respect, piety
Doxa: glory, to give glory to
Hebrew: Yare - fear
4) Ceremonial or ritual worship: Indicates the types of ‘service’ done in a ceremonial way in public assembly, as at the temple. Since that often includes some form of bowing, the words in (1) above are also sometimes used to express this concept
Typical Source Words:
Heb: Abodah, Service of God
Greek: Leiturgia, Service or ministry of God
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:43 PM
Worship is derived from “worth - ship:” The condition or state of being worthy.
The Oxford English Dictionary(1) lists the (now obsolete) definition of worship. This is the definition of worship as generally used in scripture:
Wor’ship (verb):“To honour; to regard or treat with honour or respect. To treat with signs of honour or respect; to salute, bow down to. To honour with gifts. To invest with, raise to, honour or repute; to confer honour or dignity upon.” (noun): “The condition (in a person) of deserving, or being held in, esteem or repute; honour, distinction, renown; good name, credit . . . (Common down to 16th c.).”
The Westminster Bible Dictionary(2) defines:
"Wor'ship. Respect and honor shown to a person (Luke 14:10, in RV glory), but this sense of the word has become obsolete. Respect which implies that the object thereof possesses divine attributes (Matt 14:33*; 15:25*; Rev 14:7). Man is forbidden to give this worship to any but God alone (Ex 34:14; Matt 4:10; Acts 10:25; Rev 19:10). The same outward act may be civility shown to man, as when people bowed down to Esau, to Joseph, or to the king (Gen 33:3, 42:6; II Sam 24:20) or worship rendered to God (Gen 24:52, RV; Ps 95:6), the same Heb. word being used in all these passages. The performance of this outward act to idols was strictly forbidden (Ex. 20:5)." (*erroneous)
Webster’s New World Dictionary(3) and most other current dictionaries give the modern definition of worship, which has come to be associated only with the religious sense of this meaning. This is but one of the ways that the word is used in scripture.
1. a) Reverence or devotion for a deity; religious homage or veneration
b) a church service or other rite showing this.
This concept of religious worship is often conveyed in Scripture by other words such as serve, service, fear, minister, sacrifice.
(1) Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: © Clarendon Press, 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press.
(2) The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. John D. Davis, rev by Henry S. Gehman, © 1944 The Westminster Press, Philadelphia.
(3) Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, David B. Guralnik © 1976 William Collins + World Publishing Co. Inc, Cleveland, OH
Posted 19 September 2003 - 11:44 PM
From Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
G4352 proskuneoô pros-koo-neh'-o
From G4314 and probably a derivative of G2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog
licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively)
prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship.
From Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (excerpts only):
“To prostrate oneself; to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence; hence among the orientals, esp the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence [to make a ‘salam’]; hence in the N.T. by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication. It is used a. of homage shown to men of superior rank (cites Matt xx.20 and the Jewish high priests so spoken of in Josephus b.j.r,5,2). [it may perh. be mentioned that some would bring in here Heb.xi.21 explaining it by the (Egyptian) custom of bowing upon the magistrate’s staff of office in taking an oath]. b. of homage rendered to God and the ascended Christ*, to heavenly beings, and to demons.” (*erroneous)
Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines Proskuneo as “to make obeisance, do reverence to.” And it says, “It is used as an act of homage or reverence.”
Zondervan’s Analytical Greek Lexicon defines Proskuneo as: “To do reverence or homage by kissing the hand; in N.T. to do reverence or homage by prostration; to pay divine homage, worship, adore; to bow one’s self in adoration.”
Shachah: Essentially equivalent to the Greek Proskuneo and is so translated in the Septuagint.
From Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary:
H7812 shaòchaòh shaw-khaw'
A primitive root; to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in
homage to royalty or God):—bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly
beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon:
1. Bow down, prostrate oneself before a monarch or superior, in homage, etc:
2. Before God, in worship, etc. 3. Before other gods.
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