We are not supposed to translate “proskyneó” in different ways depending on the person it’s related to
The English word “worship” is translated from the Greek word proskyneó (Strong’s 4352). Even if “worship” is the most common translation, it can also hold the meaning of bowing down for someone in order to express profound reverence, and/or perhaps to make supplication before a person with power and authority (like an ancient King) or to make a plea. In the New Testament we can see that this word is used for God, Jesus (who is God) and false gods.
It would be dishonest to translate the word with “worship” whenever it’s about God (the Father), and “to bow down to”, whenever it’s about the son.That would just be evidence of that the translater has made up his mind in advance to manipulate the text to get the desired result. There is no grammatical rule that says that we should translate the word in such a way, so this means that there must be another reason for doing so (namely to prevent the text from saying that Jesus is God and worthy to be worshiped as God).
KJV translates the word to: worship (60 times).
NASB translates the word to: worship (32), worshiped (17), worshipers (1), worshiping (1), worships (1), bow down (1), bow down before (1), bowed down (1), bowed down before (2), bowing before (1), bowing down (1), prostrated himself before (1)
”Proskyneó” is used 55 times in the Jehova’s witnesses English Bible (The New World Translation), but despite that fact that the word is used in reference to Jesus in over 25% of the times, this word is never translated to “worship” in any of those cases! However, if the word is used in relation to the devil, demons and false gods the word is translated to “worship” (apart from being used for Jehova). This is not sound hermeneutics, but clearly an attempt to avoid the undesired result of seeing Jesus being worshiped.
“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve”
When the devil suggested that Jesus should worship him, Jesus replied that “thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve”. This certainly doesn’t sound like Jesus gives room for the possibility to worship also other beings. It rather sounds as though he is saying that God is the only one we should worship because we are to be his servants alone. Satan didn’t respond back to Jesus: “Ok, you say you shall worship the Lord, and that’s fine, but how about worshiping also me? What’s wrong with worshiping (proskyneó) a bunch of different people or beings?“. Jesus already took care of that thought when he explained that it’s the LORD we should worship and serve him only.
Matt. 4:9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and WORSHIP me.10
Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
When Jesus says “It is written”, he is referring to the below commandment from God during the time of Moses, where worshiping is in reference to God.
Deut. 6:13 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;15 (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
In the old testament naturally “worshiping” is used loads of times in relation to God (from Hebrew), with repeated warnings to the Israelites to not worship other gods. “Worshiping” and “serving” are often used together, and whether used together or separately they are strongly connected to GOD.
Ex. 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
Deut. 30:17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
Daniel 3:14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?—Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
We are supposed to worship HIM that made the heaven and earth, and sea. Who is that? God (Yahweh) is naturally said to have done all that (and no one was with him) and Jesus as well. The only way to make sense of this is to accept the clear Biblical teaching that Jesus is God.
Rev. 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and WORSHIP HIM THAT MADE HEAVEN, AND EARTH, and the sea, and the fountains of waters
Hebr. 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
Col. 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created BY HIM, and for him:17 And he is BEFORE ALL THINGS, and by him all things consist.18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell
Anti-Trinitarian might suggest that Jesus wouldn’t be worshiping a God if he is God himself, but this means they have not understood the classical trinity. Jesus was also man like us, and as man he communicated with his Father (part of the same trinity) through prayers and worship. Do read my article about Jesus free will subordination to his Father when he (Jesus) became man.
John. 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee BEFORE the world was.— 24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me BEFORE the foundation of the world.
To worship other human beings – or other beings/things – is to break the first commandment
Acts 7:43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
Rev. 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
Rev. 16:2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
Rev. 19: 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image.
Bible verses where we can see Jesus being worshiped
Jesus had all chances in the world to correct at least one of the multiple people who worshiped him in the NT (taking glory away from God?), but he never once stopped anyone from doing so. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to teach confused Bible readers that they are wrong for believing Jesus is God even though his own Father calls him God in Hebr. 1:8? He could easily have said to someone: “Hey, worship GOD instead of me. It’s better that you focus on the Creator when it comes to worshiping, or else people might start believing that I’m God too and just as powerful”. Maybe we can so often read about Jesus being God and being worshiped, precisely because he is God and part of the trinity? If we consider the fact that Jesus was a man who taught us that we should worship and serve God alone, he lets himself be worshiped an awful lot! Just read the verses further down below. Was Jesus a blasphemer and a liar when he spoke to the devil in the desert, or is Jesus in fact GOD? I believe the latter.
The wise men worshiped Jesus, which was a smart thing to do because this child was to be called “Mighty God” among other glorious names. A little child would not be able to realize that someone is bowing down to show him honor, but if he is a deity, it would make sense to worship him regardless of his age.
Matt. 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. —7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.—.11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
Isa. 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The MIGHTY GOD, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isa. 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Immanuel = God with us)
Other verses in the Bible that shows Jesus being worshiped:
Matt. 9:18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.
Matt. 14:33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Matt. 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Matt. 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Mark 5:6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not
Matt. 8:2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Matt. 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
Matt. 20:20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
Luke 24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Hebr. 1:6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Rev. 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.—13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Rev. 15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
Other verses where the same Greek word is translated with “worship”
The Samarian woman and Jesus are discussing the proper place to worship, so apparently proskyneó is normally viewed as “worshiping God” rather than just bowing down to honor someone. Jesus mentions that the Samarians are worshiping what they don’t know – which would be an odd thing to say if the Samarians normally bowed down and honored people they don’t know. It is possible, however, for heathens to worship a Creator that they really don’t know. Jesus also emphasizes the importance of worshiping (the Father) in spirit and in truth, which would also be an unusual thing to say if proskyneó concerns bowing down and honor mere mortal men.
John 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
Surely the goal with feasts isn’t to bow down to people and honor them?
Acts 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship ( + Acts 24:11)
John 12:20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
Rev. 11:1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
1 Cor. 14:24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
Hebr. 11: 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
Matt. 18:25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. (A parable where the King is a picture of God the Father).
Rev. 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Rev. 7: 9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,—14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.—17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The reason given for worshiping him on the throne is due to him being the Creator of all things. We have already established that Jesus (as well as his Father) fits this description. Who is further living for ever and ever? Jesus is said to live for ever and ever. Compare:
Hebr. 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
Rev. 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: —12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.—17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Rev. 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM HE he, ye shall die in your sins.25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
The apostle Peter and the Angel who spoke with John, refused to be worshiped
If someone would fall down before our feet and and start worshiping us, the normal thing to do would be to ask the person to please rise up immediately – unless we’re God…That’s exactly what the apostle Peter and the Angel in Revelations did. As a reason Peter said “stand up, I myself also am a man”, and the Angel said “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant,—WORSHIP GOD”. So it’s not enough to be a disciple of Jesus, an apostle, a righteous servant or a prophet, because it would be wrong to be “worshiped” anyway. We should worship GOD, says the Angel Gabriel.
Acts 10:25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.26 But Peter took him up, saying, STAND UP; I MYSELF ALSO AM A MAN.
Rev. 22:8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: WORSHIP GOD.
Rev. 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See THOU DO IT NOT: I AM THY FELLOWSERVANT, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
If it’s not a big deal to be “worshiped” (someone bowing down to them to give honor), Jesus, Peter and the Angel Gabriel were not aware of it.
Hebr. 1:6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Also the Watchtower (the JW:s newspaper) acknowledged in a very early newspaper number that Jesus was being worshiped, even if they incorrectly suggested he is only one God among many.
”The fact that our Lord received worship is claimed by some to be an evidence that while on earth he was God the Father disguised in a body of flesh and not really a man. Was he really worshiped, or is the translation faulty? Yes we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. While he was not the God, Jehovah, he was a God. The word ‘God’ signifies a ‘mighty one,’ and our Lord was indeed a mighty one. So it is stated in the first two verses of the gospel of John. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of his having been the only begotten of the Father. . .” (The Watchtower, July 15, 1898, p. 216.)
The below verse (1 Chron. 29:20) is sometimes used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to minimize the importance of Jesus being worshiped throughout the New Testament, despite that he informed the devil that we should worship GOD and serve him only.
1 Chron 29:20 And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the Lord your God. And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king.21 And they sacrificed sacrifices unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings unto the Lord, on the morrow after that day, even a thousand bullocks, a thousand rams, and a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel:22 And did eat and drink before the Lord on that day with great gladness. And they made Solomon the son of David king the second time, and anointed him unto the Lord to be the chief governor, and Zadok to be priest.
Obviously King David was of the opinion that it would be wrong to break the first commandment by placing other human beings on par with God – much less himself. However, nothing is wrong with a congregation that worships the LORD (not David), and that also takes the chance to show appreciation and honor also king David. The case could be that it’s about divine worship of the Lord and civil homage for the King. There was no rule that they had to separate their actions by first allotting some time to worship God, and then in union cease worshiping God and proceed to the next step on their agenda – which would be honoring their king. It’s possible to do both at the same time.