From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jun 07 1999 - 12:55:44 EDT

<x-rich>At 12:21 PM -0400 6/7/99, Jim West wrote:

>At 09:46 AM 6/7/99 -0400, you wrote:


>>> Now, I'm not a scholar in Greek, so I'm goin to pick yall's brains
for a

>>> while. Here is my question: Could not the word "proskuneo" which

>>> commonly translated as "worship" also mean "obesiance"?


>The notion comes from judicial language. The accused was brought
before the

>judge and made to lie prostrate on the ground. If they were found

>the judge would place his foot on their neck- if innocent, the judge

>stoop over and lift their face with his hand.

I'm not sure whence this item of information derives. So far as the
traditional uses of the GREEK verb are concerned, LSJ at Perseus offers

fut. -ÉsÖ Hippon.32 (tm.), Plat. Rep. 469a: aor. prosekunÉsa Xen.
Cyrop. 5.3.18; poet. proseku^sa Aristoph. Kn. 640, imper. proskuson
IBID=au=Aristoph. Kn. 156, Soph. Phil. 776, inf. -kusai IBID=au=Soph.
Phil. 657, part. -kusas IBID=au=Soph. Phil. 533, au=Soph. Phil. 1408
(troch.): pf. -kekunÉka LXX <italic>Ex.</italic>32.8, OGI196.2 (Egypt,
i B.C.):--

* Pass., pres. inf. proskuneisthai Eur. Tro. 1021: aor. prosekunÉthÉn

* <italic>make obeisance</italic> to the gods or their images,
<italic>fall down and worship</italic>, c. acc., Hdt. 2.121, etc.; gÉn
te p. hama kai ton theÖn Olumpon Soph. OC 1654, cf. Aesch. Pers. 499,
Aristoph. Kn. 156: prov., hoi -kunountes tÉn Adrasteian sophoi, of
deprecating the wrath of Nemesis, Aesch. PB 936, cf. Plat. Rep. 451a;
ton phthonon de proskuson Soph. Phil. 776; steiche proskusas chthona,
to avert divine wrath, IBID=au=Soph. Phil. 1408 (troch.); of sacred
places, <italic>do reverence to</italic>, pat rÖia hedÉ theÖn
IDEM=Soph. El. 1374; tas thÉkas Plat. Rep. 469b; tÉn tholon Dem.
19.314: abs., Aristoph. Kn. 640.

<bold>2. </bold>esp. of the Oriental fashion of <italic>prostrating
oneself before</italic> kings and superiors, abs., Hdt. 1.119, au=Hdt.
8.118: c. acc., p. ton Dareion <italic>make obeisance</italic> to him,
IDEM=Hdt. 3.86; proskunein didaskontai ton basilea [hoi elephantes]
Arist.<italic>HA</italic>630b20; prospiptÖn p. Hdt. 1.134, cf. au=Hdt.
7.136; pantes se proskunoumen hoid' hiktÉrioi Soph. OT 327; proskunÖ
s', anax, prospitnÖn Eur. Orest. 1507 (troch.), cf. Xen. Cyrop. 5.3.18,
au=Xen. Cyrop. 8.3.14, Plut. Them. 27, Arr. l.c., etc.; kupsas ho laos
prosekunÉsen LXX <italic>Ex.</italic>12.27; oudena anthrÖpon despotÉn
alla tous theous p. Xen. Anab. 3.2.13; p. tous hubrizontas hÖsper en
tois barbarois Dem. 21.106: ironically, p. tina hÖs hieron kai
thaumaston Plat. Rep. 398a: later c. dat., LXX
<italic>Ge.</italic>24.26, al., Ev.Matt.2.2, au=Ev.Matt. 2.11=lr,
Ev.Jo.4.23, D.C.67.13; tÖi theÖi J.<italic>AJ</italic>9.13.2. (Orig.
perh. <italic>throw a kiss to</italic> the god, cf.
Apul.<italic>Met.</italic>4.28: the gesture is probably represented in
Sumerian and Babylonian art monuments.)

<bold>II.</bold> later, <italic>kiss</italic>, sou -ÉsÖ tÉn cheira
BGU423.15 (ii A.D.); to prosÖpon, tÉn opsin, tous podas, PLond.3.1244.4
(iv A.D.), PGiss.22.5 (ii A.D.), PGen. 91.6 (vi/vii A.D.).

<bold>2. </bold><italic>greet</italic>, spoudazousa -Ésai se (by
letter) BGU 615.8 (ii A.D.); elthÖ pros humas hina humas -ÉsÖ dia
pollou chronou PLips. 110.19 (iii/iv A.D.), cf. PGiss.17.11 (ii A.D.).

<bold>3. </bold><italic>welcome respectfully, respect</italic>,
prosekunÉsa sou ta grammata POxy.237 vi 37 (ii A.D.), cf. PTeb.286.22
(ii A.D.), etc.; tÉn theian antigraphÉn hupo pantÖn proskunoumenÉn
OGI262.27 (Baetocaece, iii A.D.).

</color>The uncompounded verb KUNEW means simply "kiss"; although this
may be fanciful, I've always imagined that this is derivative from KUWN
and a dog's way of licking to fawn upon a person: the old saying is,
"If you mess with a dog, it'll lick you in the mouth."

>The hebrew concept of "lifting the face" (as in, the Lord lift your

>countenance... etc) equals a declaration of innocence in a judicial


>The act of lying (lieing??) (that doesn't look right, does it) before

>judge also became the posture used when appearing before God- this

>into the notion that when one "worshipped" one was prostrate on the

>in the presence of the judge of the universe. Thus, obeseience is

>absolutely legitimate as a rendering of "proskunew" which in any event

>"to bend to".

This would seem to imply that the meaning of the Greek verb derives
fundamentally from Hebrew usage. I know we've had this out before, but
the difference of viewpoint persists.

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University

Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243



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