Jesus at prayer (was: Re: Semantic range of PROSKUNEW)

From: Tony Prete (
Date: Sat Jun 27 1998 - 16:55:02 EDT

At 12:38 AM 6/27/98 -0700, you wrote:
>David L. Moore wrote:
>> George Blaisdell Wrote:
>> >As I am recalling, and I am not all that great a GNT student, [ask
>> >anyone!!] Jesus does NOT bow down, even to hO QEOS ~ Instead He
>> >'raises the eyes of Him' in prayer to hO QEOS. Does Jesus bow
>> >down??? I would really like to know!
>> Check out Mat 26:39 and parallels. Although it doesn't use
>> does say that He prostrated Himself face down in prayer to the Father.
>Thanks David.
>26:39 does indeed have Jesus prostrate in supplication to hO QEOS,
>asking for something for himself.


The above stated "Mat 26:39 and parallels" raises an interesting question
about when the synoptics use different words to present the same pericope.
In this case, three different verbs are used. Matthew, as noted above, uses
 PROSKUNEW, which I always understood to be the standard Israelite
description of one's posture during prayer and might be translated into
English as "prostrate." Mark, on the other hand, uses EPINATE EPI THS GHS,
which I took to mean a literal "falling on the ground" or "collapse." Luke
has yet another verb, QEIS TA GOVATA, which is literally "bending the
knees," or what we might describe as "kneeling."

Why the three different expressions for what is depicted as essentially the
same action? Are they simply synonyms, or do they reveal a different
understanding? My own speculation has to do with just how desperate the
gospel writer wanted Jesus to appear--and oddly enough, the progression
parallels the commonly accepted chronology of gospel writing: Mark,
Matthew, Luke. In Mark, the immensity of what he's facing hits Jesus so
hard that he literally cannot stand up but collapses to the ground. In
Matthew, he's also on the ground, but in the common Jewish posture of
prayer--which reveals little about any interior turmoil. In Luke--written
presumably for a gentile audience--the Jewish form of prayer (let alone the
actual collapse) is replaced by what I assume to be a more widespread and
equally proper prayer posture, kneeling. (In John, of course, there is no
"agony in the garden" at all, and Jesus remains in total control throughout
the experience.)

I'm wondering if there's any significance to the differences, especially
whether they parallel the style and message of the synoptic writers.
Perhaps someone might want to look at the words used by each gospel writer
to describe the entire "agony" scene, checking whether this same
progression regarding Jesus' mental state is evidenced.

Finally, a somewhat related question. Recently, I heard someone making a
case for the significance of the Mt. of Olives in the life of Jesus and of
the Israelite people. Without getting into too many details, I have a
question that pertains specifically to Greek. This person used KATA TO EQOS
(Lk. 22:39) to indicate that the Mount was a place Jesus went to
frequently. Is that a fair assumption, based just on the Greek? It's only
in Luke.


Anthony Prete
212 Marne Avenue
Haddonfield NJ 08033-1444

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