Date: Tue Jun 08 1999 - 14:41:49 EDT

Blessed be God!

Hi again.

Got to thinking about this some more: As Mark Johnson wrote, and
others seem to concur,

> The Greek word proskyneo, rendered "worship" ... is used ...
> in the Septuagint for a Hebrew term, shachah, meaning "to bow
> down."

However, if proskunew, which means "bow down", translates a verb that
means "bow down", why are we translating it "worship"? Or even
"obeisance", "render homage", or anything else?

In particular, "worship": The word that has normally corresponded to
our idea of "worship" in later Greek (since the Bible) is "latreuw".
In Classical Greek this originally meant "to work for hire, to be in
servitude or service", but then it came to mean "to be devoted to, to
serve (gods) with prayers and sacrifices, to render due service", etc;
its noun, "latreia", first meant the "state of a hired laborer". In
patristic Greek these words came to mean that "worship" ascribed to
God alone, and are technically opp. to the "douleuw/douleia" accorded
to the saints and the Theotokos. In the LXX, "latreuw" usually
translates the Heb. 'abad, which elsewhere means to "perform the
services of a slave". It is found at Ex 3.12 (not an insignificant
passage!), where it is usually translated "worship"; see also Ex 4.23
and 12 more times throughout Moses' argument with Pharaoh; it is an
act prohibited toward other gods, 20.5, 23.4, but only the Lord alone,
23.25; Esdr. 1.1,4 and 110 times altogether not counting the nouns
"latreia" (12 times) and "latreutos" (15 times). Hatch & Redpath (see
the very bottom of the list) give one other notable occurrence besides
the Exodus passages-- Psalm 21(22).31-- but I have not been able to
find this, either in the text or in the critica of Rahlfs; but it
would be significant since its parallels are all proskunew etc. I
think we are probably safe in assuming that the technical, patristic
usage, which is maintained even in Modern Greek, is based on the LXX
usage, where it refers to acts of worship per se (which may involve,
among other things, proskyneseis), which may not be accorded to other
gods. However, proskyneseis are by no means limited to acts of
worship; as I said the other day, they're just one way human beings
express humility before another.

So it seems to me, in light of the fact that the word "proskunew"
refers to a very specific bodily posture, as I discussed the other day
(BTW, I've now collected four pictures of these postures from old
sources; again, if you want them, just email me)-- and in light of the
fact that the word translates a hebrew word that also envisions the
same posture, and not much else-- and in light of the fact that there
is another word, even a technical term, that means "worship"--
oughtn't we translate proskunew simply as "bow down" or, even better,
"prostrate (oneself) before" and not as "worship" at all? Especially
since proskyneseis are made to all sorts of people without any
implication of worshipping them at all, and may be made in a context
of worship, but by no means necessarily.

Hebrews 1.6 is saying, "Let all the angels prostrate themselves before
him." I leave it to you theologians to draw out the implications of that.

Glory to Jesus Christ.

John Burnett, MA (OT)

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