Re: Semantic range of PROSKUNEW

From: Larry Swain (
Date: Thu Jun 25 1998 - 02:40:04 EDT

As one who has not participated in this discussion, I hope maybe I can shed
a point or two. First, your references to Origen and the later Iconoclast
debate are interesting and correct. However, they are beside the point.
The references demonstrate that at least as early as the second century CE
the Church (or at least Origen's corner of it) was beginning to attempt to
deal with the issue being debated here and to clarify that "worship" to God
is, must be, of a different degree than that offered to humanity and that
this clarification was still occurring 500 years later. It does not
however, shed much light on what is happening in NT Greek.

Next, you mention that BAGD doesn't rule out PROSKUNEW being used in
reference to inferiors or equals. While this in and of itself is true, it
is required of you that in order to make this assertion, you must also
provide evidence. So I ask: are there uses of this word in Koine in the
circumstances you posit? I am not aware of one, nor have I seen any
referred to in the usual tools that we use. Without such supporting
references, your argument doesn't carry much weight.

In reply to your question regarding Mark 5:6, the point Jonathan has made
is that PROSKUNEW is used of one of lesser stature giving "respect" (an
attempt to use a word that gets the idea across and not one with loading-I
suspect that this isn't doing the job, but I have no other) to one of
greater stature. So to translate this verse as the demon-possessed man
"falling on his knees" (or face or genuflecting or doing obeisance) is
fine, but it the declaration of Jesus as Son of the Most High demonstrates
that the demoniac is "respecting" one of greater stature than he. So
again, your citation of Earle is not really germane to the point you wish
to make. More to your point about this verse would be a discussion of the
semantic field of LATREUSEIS-how should/can it be translated here.

Matt 4.10 similarly-the problem here however is not a linguistic or
grammatical one, but rather an interpretive one, which is beyond the limits
of this list. That is: is Jesus greater than Satan or will Jesus recognize
Satan as greater? The rest of the discussion surround the meanings of
things obfuscates the issue.

Getting down to the end of your last post you indicate that your main
argument is that PROSKUNEW does not necessarily have religious import. I
don't think Jonathan or anyone else would disagree with this. IN fact I
seem to read Jonathan saying the same thing.

At the end you cite a couple of verses in support (chiding Jonathan to read
in context). The first one, Gen 23.7 where Abraham prostrates himself
before the Hittites-yes, they were "superior" to him in two ways. First,
he is a sojourner among them and is conscious that as a guest he is very
dependent on their good will. Basic Near East hospitality customs-one
"respects" one's hosts. Second, the context of the passage suggests that
Abraham is here addressing the leaders of the community, and again as
people of position over a guest among them he offers them his respects
before asking the favor he has to ask.

The Isaiah 49:23 passage only works in fact IF PROSKUNEW is a lesser
offering respect to a greater. The whole passage is talking about the
great reversal God will affect for Israel-those who now are Kings and
Queens will be as servants to them-those who now receive genuflection from
you will genuflect to you. That is to say the first shall be last the last
first. A reversal of roles is what is in view here, and it loses its punch
and makes much less sense in my opinion if PROSKUNEW simply means to bow

I'm not at all certain what meaning you attach to the observation that only
the One on the throne receives "worship" in that passage.

My .02

Larry Swain
Academic Computer Specialist
Rocky Mountain College

b-greek home page:
To post a message to the list,
To subscribe,
To unsubscribe,[]

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:50 EDT