Re: Semantic range of PROSKUNEW

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Jun 24 1998 - 20:52:42 EDT

At 02:45 PM 6/24/98 -0700, Edgar Foster wrote:

>I stick with my original contention that PROSKUNEW can properly be
>expressed to a creature (whether he or she is your superior).

I find this contention surprising. If I look at Louw & Nida's glosses, I
see these:

   a worship 53.56 [L&N...4077]
   b prostrate oneself before 17.21 [L&N...1517]

BAGD describes it this way:

"used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before a person and
kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc.; the Persians
did this in the presence of their deified king, and the Greeks before a
divinity or something holy; (fall down and) worship, do obeisance to,
prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully in Attic Gk
and later"

Take a good look through BAGD, and I don't think you'll get the impression
that the word is used for people who are your status or lower, or that it
is used lightly at all.
>There IS a difference, Jonathan. "Worship" (in English) is only
>properly rendered to God. Lexically speaking, homage COULD be directed
>toward a human. But, obeisance does not necessarily imply worship. It
>can simply mean to "bow" or "fall down before" someone or something
>(See Rev. 3:9 NIV).
I'm going to drop the English discussion, and just suggest that people look
in their dictionaries if they have questions about the meaning of these
words. One of these days we should start a B-English mailing list...

>Worship should only be directed toward God. Conversely, obeisance
>neither always involves worship nor devotion (cf. the Hebrew SHACHAH).

Both the Greek PROSKUNEW and the English "worship" are used to describe
worship of those who are not God. Both words are used in conjunction with
statements that we should worship God only, e.g.


Matt 4:9 (NASU) and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if
You fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus ^said to him, "Go, Satan! For
it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.' "

Perhaps it could be argued that KAI AUTWi MONWi LATREUSEIS is the only
thing that is exclusively for God, and that TON QEON SOU PROSKUNHSEIS does
not require us to worship him only, but that makes no sense in this
context, since the conversation goes like this:

Satan: Worship me and I'll give you all this!
Jesus: It is written: worship the Lord your God and serve him only.

LATREUSEIS might be an example of Hendyasis? Could this mean "you shall
serve only God in worship"? I'm sure I'l get some opinions on this one...I
may be way off here...

>In Jaroslav Pelikan's wonderful series _The Christian Tradition_, the
>great Iconoclastic Controversy is discussed. The iconoclasts were very
>disturbed that the orthodox were rendering devotion to icons. The
>orthodox retorted, however, that "the worship of mortals, for example
>of kings, was nevertheless permissible" (Pelikan 2:126).
This is proof that the word devotion is used for things other than God,
which is, I think, the very thing you said you were disproving.

>The point I want to make here is that the Greek Church (even back to
>Origen of Alexandria in Contra Celsum) has persistently made a
>distinction between "worship" rendered to BOTH God and creatures, and
>"worship" (hE LATREUTIKH) that is to be directed only to God (Pelikan
>2:126). PROSKEUNEW can be gievn to BOTH God and man; hE LATREUTIKH is
>only to be given to God. But even in the case of PROSKEUNEW, there is
>a distinction made between PROSKEUNEW rendered to creatures and
>PROSKEUNEW directed toward God.

This is very interesting, and I don't have it at hand. Can anybody type it in?

>Semantically, I could express PROSKEUNEW to you, Jonathan, without any
>pangs of conscience. :-)

It's not something I'm particularly used to, Edgar! It might be fun once,
but after a while, I think I'd find it uncomfortable. Hey, if you prostated
yourself at my feet, would you have to agree with my posts?

>I really don't think that PROSKEUNEW is
>restricted to those who have absolute authority over you (See below).

But what you cite below seems to illustrate that it *is* restricted to
those who have absolute authority.
>Concerning Rev. 3:9 David Aune makes the following pertinent points:
>"The occurrences of PROSKUNEIN in Revelation can be grouped into three
>overlapping meanings . . . PROSKUNEIN is used (1) in connection with
>the cult of the Beast . . .

Worshipping the beast as the one who reigns with all authority...

>in connection with hymns of praise
>directed toward God or the Lamb . . .

Who have absolute authority...

>the prostration of the Jews before the Philadelphian community . . .

Which will be given absolute authority over them...

>those who worship in the temple (Rev. 11:1) . . .

Before him who has absolute authority...

>the prohibition of worshiping an angel . . .

Because they do not have the authority of God.

>This prostration [in Rev. 3:9] has no religious significance but is
>simply the traditional (oriental) expression of homage and honor,
>which we have chosen to translate "grovel" (Aune 52A:238).

Grovel, eh? Hey, I don't grovel before someone unless they have some pretty
serious authority!

Texcel Research

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