Re: Semantic range of PROSKUNEW

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Fri Jun 26 1998 - 00:28:14 EDT

At 11:42 AM 6/25/98 -0700, Edgar Foster wrote:
>---Jonathan Robie wrote:
>> >At 07:04 AM 6/25/98 -0700, Edgar Foster wrote:
>> >I understand Jonathan to be saying that PROSKUNEW is only given to
>a superior, a deified king, a lord, a god, and cannot serve as a sign
>of respect between two friends. I disagree.< <
>> >Can you give me some examples of PROSKUNEW being used as a sign of
>respect between two friends during the New Testament era? I've heard
>this assertion several times, but I haven't seen an example of it yet.
>To me, prostating oneself and kissing someone's feet is not a gesture
>of equality.< <
>It has already been shown by Rolf that PROSKUNEW can hardly just be
>rendered to a superior. Neither the Semitic background of PROSKUNEW,
>neither the LXX can be used in support of this idea. True, in the NT
>it seems that PROSKUNEW is constantly being rendered to superiors, or
>pseudo-divinities. I think that Rev. 3:9 is an exception to this
>"rule," however. But are there cases in the first century of friends
>bowing down to friends? There are no unequivocal examples in the NT
>that I know of, and there may be a reason for this. According to Rev.
>22:9, John was prohibited from 'falling down' PROSKUNHSAI
>Jesus Christ's coming changed the relationship between men, other men,
>and angels. What was permissible in the OT may have no longer been
>permitted in NT times. This would be a good matter to look into.
>> >You must also remember that the primary person we are discussing
>here is Jesus. What is the PROSKUNEW rendered to Jesus in the Bible? I
>am arguing that the PROSKUNEW given to Jesus was not religious (i.e.,
>it was not worshipful). I think that Jonathan has different thoughts
>here.< <
>> >Jonathan doesn't know whether this was religious worship or not
>yet, or whether it might have been religious worship in some passages
>but not in others. He is currently still convinced that PROSKUNEW is
>only given to a superior, a deified king, a lord, a god, etc.< <

        Something that hasn't been done in this discussion is to enumerate and to
consider as a group some of the instances when PROSKUNH was seen as
inappropriate. We might mention instances of PROSKUNEW found in Esther at
3:2 bis and 3:5 where Mordecai has refused to PROSKUNHSQE before Haman, but
I especially mean those in the NT. There is the case of Jesus not bowing
to the tempter, Peter who corrected Cornelius when the latter bowed down
before him, and John who was admonished for bowing down before the angel
who brought him the Apocalypse. In each of these cases, the impropriety of
the PROSKUNHS had to do with the worship of a created being as opposed to
God. I won't quote the passages that establish this fact as we are all
familiar with them and their admonitions to worship only God.

        In each of these cases PROSKUNH was inappropriate; yet, in all the
instances in which PROSKUNH is directed toward Jesus, never does he
admonish or correct those who offered it. Shouldn't this strike us as a
singular response that requires explanation. People bowed down before Him
as Cornelius had bowed before Peter and as John had bowed down before the
angel. He received this action and expression of ... what shall we say ...

>Concerning methodology, let me just say that I'm a semi-believer in
>Hegelian dialectic and the words of Peter Abelard: "Doubt leads to
>inquiry, inquiry leads to truth." While I neither fully subscribe to
>Hegelianism nor Abelardian thought, I enjoy the
>thesis-antithesis-synthesis that occurs here on B-Greek. I learn from
>everyone and the inquiry here does help to elucidate the truth.

        That sometimes works alright for a while. It reminds me of three friends
who went to a cabin in the mountains. When they arrived, they decided to
each take a task and so get the cabin ready more quickly for their
three-day stay. One was to unpack, another was to clean the place to make
it habitable, and the third was to cut firewood for the stove. The latter
left the cabin with a piece of firewood of a size to fit in the stove. An
hour and a half later, everything had been unpacked and put in order, the
cabin was clean and livable and the woodcutter had brought in enough wood
for the three-day stay.

        But when they began to put some of the firewood in the stove, they found
that most of the pieces were too long and didn't fit. "Didn't you take a
piece of wood to use as a guide for size?" his friends asked the one who
had cut wood.

        "yes," he answered, "I used it to cut the first piece and then used the
piece I had cut to measure the next one and then used that next one to
measure the third ... until I had cut enough wood for three days." Since
most of what he had cut didn't fit in the stove, he had to go back out and
cut all the pieces to the size of the one he knew was the right length.

        Concerning methodology, I believe there are such things as absolutes whose
truth will be established eschatologically - i.e. when the sticks have to
fit into the stove.

David Moore

David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
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