Semantic range of PROSKUNEW

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Jun 24 1998 - 16:11:14 EDT

I think that the question about the meaning of PROSKUNEW is probably fairly
clear: the two basic meanings seem to be (1) to prostrate oneself, or (2)
to worship (probably by extension of the first meaning).

Let me depart from the Greek a little and state that I'm a little confused
about an objectioin someone made to various English words used to translate
PROSKUNEW. I'm not sure what distinction is being made between worship,
obeisance, and homage in English. If worship is seen in the sense of
"devotion", then I can't see a reason to object to "obeisance" as a
translation of PROSKUNEW, since it basically means bowing before someone as
a sign of respect or submission. Homage is a word that originally meant to
acknowledge oneself as the vassal of a lord. If anybody gave me worship,
obeisance, or homage, I would be rather surprised - it isn't a normal thing
to do to anybody who isn't a king, your owner, a god...someone who has
absolute authority over you. I think any of these phrases would be
perfectly appropriate to express our response to God.

Edgar Foster points out Matthew 18:26 and Revelation 3:9 as examples of
PROSKUNEW used with respect to someone other than God (without anyone else
objecting). In Matthew 18:26, the slave, falling before his master,
worships (PROSKUNEI) him, saying, "have patience with me and I will repay
you everything". This guy is holding nothing back, throwing himself
completely on the mercy of the master, who is a human being. In Revelation
3:9, the speaker says that the "synagogue of Satan" will be made to worship
(PROSKUNHSOUSIN) before the feet of the church at Philadelphia. In either
case, the implications are prostating oneself, holding nothing back, and
honoring. This is not a casual greeting!

Is this an accurate depiction of the meaning of PROSKUNEW?



Jonathan Robie

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