Re: Semantic range of PROSKUNEW

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Fri Jun 26 1998 - 12:31:43 EDT

Steve Long wrote:

>>worship, is to follow the principle of Athanasius and Plato and beforehand
>>decide that the OUSIA Jesus is God. To go the other way and use the word
>Please forgive my ignorance, but could you explain this principle in
>layman's terms? I understand that OUSIA is substance, but I've never heard
>of Anthanasius' principle.

Dear Steve,

The way Athanasius reasoned in some instances is as follows: We know that
LOGOS (Jesus) is not a creature but God. Therefore, if we find passages in
the Bible saying that he is created, the words do not carry the usual
meaning, but the divine OUSIA (LOGOS) changes the meaning of the words, so
"created" therefore becomes "begotten", and one begotten is eternal.

Two quotes from: "Four discourses against the Arians", Discourse II, from
"The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers", IV, pp 349,350:

"For terms do not disparage His Nature; rather the Nature draws to Itself
those terms and changes them. For terms are not prior to essences, but
essences are first, and terms second. Wherefore also when the essence is a
work or creature, then the words "He made" and "He became", and "He
created" are used of it properly, and designate the work. But when the
Essence is an Offspring and Son, then "He made" and "He became"and "He
created" no longer properly belong to it, nor designate a work; but "He
made" we use without question for "He bagat"."

"This being so, when persons asks whether the Lord is a creature or work,
it is proper to ask of them this first, whether He is Son and Word and
Wisdom. For if this is shewn, the surmise about work and creation falls to
the ground at once. For a work could never be Son and Word; nor could the
Son be a work."

One quote from a book which is worth reading, E.P Meiering., 1974,
"Orthodoxy and Platonism in Athanasius Synthesis or Antithesis?", Leiden,
Brill, p 92.

"God is the eternal, unchangeable, always identical, real Being, says
Athanasius, using both language and arguments which are also found in the
Platonists. He is then confronted with the difficulty that many Biblical
texts seem to contradict this ontological conception of the divine,
especially of the Son. By making use of the Platonic theory that the words
are secondary to the matter signified by them, he can explain those texts
in such a way that they corroborate his doctrine of the ontological
divinity of the Son." .

Remember that the distinction between what was created and what was
begotten, that they were opposite terms, did not exist before the council
at Nicaea in 325, but was decided overnight at the assembly!

When we study the Greek text of the NT, our goal is to let the words and
clauses teach us who God and his son are. Athanasius turned this upside
down, started with his preconceived ideas about God and the Son, and when
the words did not fit, he changed the meaning of the words. With PROSKUNEW
the meaning of the word is not changed by anybody on the list, but because
the word both can have the sense "worship" and "bow down", we cannot use it
to prove that Jesus was worshipped. If we use the word as a proof for that,
we have implicitly or explicitly already decided that Jesus is God, as did
Athanasius. So the argument is circular.


Rolf Furuli
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

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