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Worship or Obeisance? Translating the Greek word "proskuneo"

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In the NWT, every time the Greek word "proskuneo" is used in reference to God, it is translated as "worship" (Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4, Jn 4:20, etc.). Every time "proskuneo" is used in reference to Jesus, it is translated as "obeisance" (Mt 14:33, 28:9, 28:17, Lk 24:52, Heb 1:6, etc.), even though it is the same word in the Greek (see Gr-Engl Interlinear).

Especially compare the Greek word "prosekunhsan" used with reference to God in Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, and 19:4 and used with reference to Christ in Mt 14:33, 28:9, and 28:17. What is the reason for this inconsistency? If the NWT was consistent in translating "proskuneo" as "worship", how would the verses above referring to Christ read?

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Vine's Expository Dictionary states this:

'PROSKUNEO,  to make obeisance, do reverence to (from pros, towards, and kuneo, to kiss), is the most frequent word rendered to worship. It is used of an act of homage or reverence'.

 Surely context must determine the way this word proskuneo or pro·sky·neʹo is translated, rather than a consistency of English expression. If the word were rendered as "worship" in every case for consistency as suggested, then Rev 3:9 would have the 1st Century Christians receiving worship from those Jews in Philadelphia who come to recognize Jehovah's new arrangement involving the Christian congregation. The related word here is rendered as "bow" in the 2013 NWT, footnote "do obeisance".

The word worship in English can mean to "regard with great respect, honor, or devotion", and, in Britain, "Your Worship" is used in addressing or referring to an important or high-ranking person, especially a magistrate or mayor. However, in my experience, the word is far more likely to be understood in it's other guise of "reverence offered to a divine or supernatural being" especially when used in a Biblical context. (Webster's definitions).

Jesus simple statement at Matt 4:8-10 helps me to see the need for this consideration of context. He told Satan: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship [form of pro·sky·neʹo], and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” So using "obeisance" when this word is applied to created beings, rather than "worship", seems consistent with it's meaning. Most importantly, a consideration of the context of it's use in scripture, should relate particularly the example of Jesus Christ who "gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God" (Ph.2:6). This makes it clear that Jesus, unlike Satan, would never misappropriate or embezzle "worship". Worship belongs only to Jehovah God.

The 1954 Watchtower 1 January  30-31 has a Question from Readers article for further reasoning on this subject.

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(Philippians 1:9) “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound still more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment.”

 

(1 John 5:20) . . .. 20 But we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us insight so that we may gain the knowledge of the one who is true. And we are in union with the one who is true, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.

 

(Exodus 20:2, 3) 2 “I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You must not have any other gods besides me.

 

(Matthew 4:8-10) 8Again the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him: “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”

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In the United States, or at least many parts of it, this question might not have even come up 100 years ago, because it would have been so widely recognized that "worship" and "bowing down" were closely related, but the specific meaning would have been determined by context.

In many countries the remnants of this "confusion" still exists in the language. Words related to respect for authority of a husband, or a "reverend," or noble "lord," or a king, or God -- they still contain a lot of this historical overlap. In the Bible, a false God was known as Baal, but Jehovah was also referred to as Baal, and a husband could also be referred to as Baal. (Baal could mean "master" or "owner.") In many languages the words for husband still have these implications. Mister and Master are titles that have stuck. Bowing before authority was easily understood to mean different things through context. The word "worship" itself was still used until recently to refer to earthly "lords" and "kings." (Might still be used by some residents of England to refer to the Queen as "your worship.")

Note this definition from the OED, under the heading "worship":

I. 1.I.1 a.I.1.a The condition (in a person) of deserving, or being held in, esteem or repute; honour, distinction, renown; good name, credit. Obs. exc. arch. (Common down to 16th c.)

The word "worship" in some contexts meant no more than "worthiness." In fact that's the English etymology: worth[y]-ship.

Whether the NWT got it exactly right in all cases is a different discussion, but there is no question that the word always required context. Language, in this case, also changes connotations and some of the meanings are lost. So translating "worship" might have been just fine 100 years ago, and needs to be clarified now, due to obsolete meanings.

 

 

 

 

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I have asked myself the same question, Jay Witness.  If I line it all up, this is the breakdown:

In reference to God, the word for “worship” is used in John 4:23 1 Cor 14:25; Heb 11:21 Rev 4:10; Rev 5:14

For idolatrous images or Satan I found: Luke 4:7; Matt 4:9; Acts 7:43

In reference to Jesus, the same word for worship elsewhere is translated "obeisance" or "bowed down" in Luke 24:52; Mark 5:6; Matt 2:2,8,11;8:2;9:18; 14:33; 15:25; Matt 28:9; John 9:35,38; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; Heb 1:6

 Where all other bibles use “worship”, why would the NWT never, in any case, use it when referencing Jesus?  Heb 1:6 is especially interesting when checking the WT Kingdom Interlinear where it reads,

“But when he again brings his firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all God’s angels WORSHIP him”.

Yet the RNWT contrastingly uses the word “obeisance”. This is something to rightly consider, since he has been given the authority to judge mankind.  Our life is in his hands, and God expects honor be given him as we honor our God.  Ps 110:1,2

“ For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.  For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  John 5:21-23

The word for “honor (G5091) from Strong’s:  τιμάω timáō, tim-ah'-o; from G5093; to prize, i.e. fix a valuation upon; by implication, to revere:—honour, value.

G5093 - valuable, i.e. (objectively) costly, or (subjectively) honored, esteemed, or (figuratively) beloved:—dear, honourable, (more, most) precious, had in reputation.

If we are to revere the Son just as we hold in high esteem the Father; then it seems to me these scriptures in John 5 give full evidence that worshiping the Son is expected by the Father; but not necessarily on the same level.  John 17:22; Exod 20:3

Definition of worship from the dictionary:  “to honor or respect (someone or something) as a god. : to show respect and love for God or for a god especially by praying, having religious services, etc. : to love or honor (someone or something) very much or too much.”

 Using the argument against worshiping Jesus, found in Matt 4:8-10, Jesus is speaking to Satan and not another human.  Jesus reminded him where his worship should lie, since Jesus worships the Father; the angels worship the Father and Satan should worship the Father. Instead, Satan demanded worship be given him.  Under no other account that I’m aware of did Jesus stop a human from giving him worship.

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”  Rev 5:13

We keep the position of authority in mind when giving worship to God and Christ. 

“For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”  1 Cor 15:27,28

If the word “worship” is used in reference to demons or idols in the NWT, how much more so should it be used for Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

 

 

 

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In the NWT, every time the Greek word "proskuneo" is used in reference to God, it is translated as "worship" (Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4, Jn 4:20, etc.). Every time "proskuneo" is used in reference to Jesus, it is translated as "obeisance" (Mt 14:33, 28:9, 28:17, Lk 24:52, Heb 1:6, etc.), even though it is the same word in the Greek (see Gr-Engl Interlinear). Especially compare the Greek word "prosekunhsan" used with reference to God in Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, and 19:4 and used with reference to Christ in Mt 14:33, 28:9, and 28:17. What is the reason for this inconsistency? If the NWT was consistent in translating "proskuneo" as "worship", how would the verses above referring to Christ read?
 

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There is no inconsistency. We are talking about Jesus while on earth as a human right? And we are talking about Jehovah God, right? So are they equal in anything? Who gets exclusive devotion? Christ in heaven, would he be worshipped? Would we at anytime give him any devotion? While he was here in the flesh, though he was in fact the Messiah, and many felt the need to show such esteemed honor, many times he shunned it, for he also knew what Jehovah said to Israel about worship. Why would he allow to happen to him exactly what Satan wanted from him for all the kingdoms? Remember language speaks a picture and when we read the picture it tells should be a correct one. Again common sense is powerful.

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              שׁחה         schacah

      In our modern western culture worship is an action directed toward Elohiym and Elohiym alone. But this is not the case in the Hebrew Bible. The word shahhah is a common Hebrew verb meaning to prostrate oneself before another in respect, or simply, obeisance. We see Moses doing this to his father-in-law in Exodus 18:7. From a Hebraic perspective obeisance is the act of getting down on ones knees and placing the face down on the ground before another worthy of respect.
      scha-cah         Bend Down (verb)         7812         To pay homage to another one by bowing low or getting on the knees with the face to the ground.

      The English word obeisance is a valid translation for the Hebrew schacah and the koine Greek cognate proskuneo?

      obeisance [oh-bay-sanss] : a bow or curtsy showing this attitude [Old French obéissant obeying]; an attitude of respect or humble obedience; a gesture of respect, as a bow; homage or an act of homage; a gesture or movement of the body, such as a curtsy, that expresses deference or homage; an attitude of deference or homage [collectively taken from Amercian Standard, Collins Basic English, and Ologies, etc]

      The above is quite consistent with the Hebrew schacah, and the koine Greek cognate proskuneo - It means bow down or lie down in recognition of higher authority whether that be by Jacob toward Esau, Judah's brothers toward Judah, Nebuchadnezzar toward Daniel, malak toward Jesus whom was raised up in authority over the malak, and all things toward Jehovah - including Jesus bowing down to his god and father, Jehovah [Matthew 4:10; John 20:17, et al]. That is all it has ever meant - to bow down in recognition of relative higher authority. Could be your dog toward another dog,or another dog toward your dog, or even your dog toward you when you come home.

      Proskuneo toward Jesus has always been acceptable. Proskuneo toward Jesus as or in the place of Jehovah is defined as blasphemy in both the Hebrew and Greek texts.

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      It is also out of theological bias from which so many employ the same translational approach, but add certain individual humans to switch from "bow down" to "worship" - such as Jesus wherein many late period Christian organizations raised Jesus to the level of Jehovah. Both approaches demonstrate theological bias, but one has support of the remainder of the biblical texts, and the other, the later especially, does not.


      Original Word Word Origin

      proskuneÑw from (4314) and a probable derivative of (2965) (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand)

      Definition
      to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
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      4 But he answered: “It is written: ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Jehovah’s mouth.’”
      5 Then the Devil took him along into the holy city, and he stationed him on the battlement of the temple 
      6 and said to him: “If you are a son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written: ‘He will give his angels a command concerning you,’ and, ‘They will carry you on their hands, so that you may not strike your foot against a stone.’” 
      7 Jesus said to him: “Again it is written: ‘You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.’”
      8 Again the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 
      9 And he said to him: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.” 
      10 Then Jesus said to him: “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” 
      11 Then the Devil left him, and look! angels came and began to minister to him."
      (Matthew 4;1-11) NWT
      jw.org

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