PROSKYNEO-Always "Worship"?

At Matthew 2:11 the American Standard Version reads:

"And they[the 'magi']came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother: and they fell down and worshipped[Gk: PROSKYNEO]him;..."

In a footnote they add:

"łThe Greek word denotes an act of reverence whether paid to a creature(see ch. 4:19, 18, 26), or to the Creator(see ch. 4:10)."

Also at this place Weymouth's translation reads: "..they prostrated themselves and did Him homage...".

Again, in a footnote, we can read: "[vv]8, 11. Do him homage] Or perhaps 'worship' See John ix. 38.n."

An accusation of the New World Translation usually reads:

"Matthew 2:11: "Bowed down and worshipped him" changed to "did obeisance to it". The JWs evade recognizing Jesus as worthy of worship as a divine being by altering the form of honor that he receives from men and angels. The Greek word proskuneo literally means "worship." The use of "obeisance" is a NWT adaptation. (Same revision found in Matt. 8:2; 9:18, 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17; *Mark 5:6(see remark * below); 15:19; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6.)"

Rendering PROSKYNEO as "obeisance" can hardly be termed a "NWT adaptation!

Vines Expository Dictionary says under this word:

"1.PROSKUNEO...,to make obeisance, do reverence to(from pros, towards, and kuneo, to kiss)is the most frequent word rendered to worship."

A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, by G.Abbott-Smith, 3rd edition, p.386 says:

"[pros-kuneo],..(< kuneo,to kiss), make obeisance, do reverance to, worship.

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, by William F.Arndt and F.Wilbur Gingrich, 1957, says on pages 723,724, under proskuneo:

"...used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before a person, and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc, .....(fall down) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully.(see here Reinecker's Linguistic Key, p.2, where the above is quoted at Matthew 2:2)

"1 to human beings who, however, are to be recognised by this act as belonging to a supernatural realm...

"2 to God...a)of the God worshipped by monotheists...

"5)to Jesus, who is revered and worshipped as Messianic King and Divine Helper: Mt.2:2, 8, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; J 9:38.....-The risen Lord is esp.the object of worship: Mt.28:9,17; Lk 24:52..."

Lastly, The New Thayers Greek-Lexicon of the New Testament, Joseph Henry Thayer, p.548:

"[proskuneo] fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence....hence in the N.T. by kneeling or prostration to do homage(to one)or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication...".

*Regarding Mark 5:6 where in the KJV we read "But when he[the demon-possessed man]saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him." Ralph Earle in his Word Meanings In The New Testament writes: "Worshipped It is true that proskyneo...means "to make obeisance, do reverence to, worship. The pertinent question remains: Would the demon-possessed man be worshipping Jesus, even though he called Him "Son of the Most High God"(NASB, NIV, RSV)? Probably "fell on his knees in front of him"(NIV) is a safer translation."-p.37, Hendrickson Publishers, 4th printing, June 2000.

We see here that _context_ can determine what kind of PROSKYNEO it is that is being rendered.

So "to do obeisance" is an acceptable rendition for PROSKYNEO. There is nothing in the word itself, when used in respect to Jesus, that it meant the worship of that one as God Almighty.

So that, while the New International Version says at Matthew 2:11:

"[the Magi] bowed down and worshipped him[the babe Jesus],"

the Revised English Bible (1990)reads here:

"they bowed low in homage to him."

Did the Magi do PROSKYNEO to the babe Jesus as to one born a King or as God Almighty? Surely it was the former. The word at Matthew 2:11 has the same sense of "worship" or "obeisance" that the Canaanites received from Abraham(Gen 23:7, 12.LXX),or that Esau received from his brother Jacob(Gen.33:3, 6, 7.LXX) and toward Daniel from King Nebuchadnezzar(Daniel 2:46,LXX). When we "bow down to," or do "worship"(PROSKYNEO) towards one that is not Jehovah God then that "worship" is different from that which we give to Him. But in the Bible the same word is used whether such "worship" is that directed toward God, or men, or angels(creatures).

The New World Translation is no more inconsistent in it's treatment of this word than the Revised English Bible.

Whilst the REV has "bowed down"[PROSKYNEO] at Matthew 2:11 in respect of the Magi towards Jesus, it renders PROSKYNEO at John 4:23,24 as "worship" when Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that :

"God is spirit,and those who worship[PROSKYNEO] him must worship[PROSKYNEO] in spirit and truth."

At Revelation 3:9 Jesus says, according to the King James Version:

"Behold, I will make them of the synogogue of Satan....behold, I will make them to come down and worship[PROSKYNEO] before thy feet."

Did Jesus mean to contradict himself here when earlier he had said that only God should be worshipped? (Matthew 4:10.) Of course not. It is simply that PROSKYNEO can be, as has already been shown, to have the sense of "bowing down" as to a superior or the giving of honour, respect. Hence, most modern Bible versions i.e. NIV, TEV, REB do not so render PROSKYNEO here, Rev.3:9, as "worship".

Therefore, at this point, we should be able to see that it would _not_ be inconsistent to render PROSKYNEO at times as "to do obeisance," or at times "worship".

The English word "worship" to a reader or the Bible _might_ lead them to think that that in itself is 'proof' that Jesus is God for only God should be "worshipped". They might consider when coming across "worship" toward Jesus(in any translation that does so)as "adoration paid to God."-The New Universal Dictionary. That is the first definition given. But not the only one. This same dictionary also defines the English word "worship" as "the quality of being worthy; honour, respect, reverence...submissive respect." Hence, even though a translator would choose to always translate PROSKYNEO as "worship" this would be no proof that Jesus is God and hence, consequently, the converse would also be true: That to render PROSKYNEO as "obeisance" when given to Jesus would not be "remov[ing] every reference to Jesus' being worshiped." What this means is that we must not read too much into translations that choose to translate PROSKYNEO as "worship" in reference to Jesus as if that then shows that Jesus, the Son, must be God. The Greek word itself does not show this. Hence, the translator's theology has a rightful role to play in the choice of the English rendering of PROSKYNEO.

Some would object to the New World Translation's position here because they believe that Jesus is God. But it has first to be accepted that the word PROSKYNEO can be rendered the way the NWT, and indeed others, have so done. And that it is wholly incorrect to call it a "NWT adaptation" or an "inconsistency"! But the question remains:

Why has the NWT rendered it as "obeisance" when it is used in reference to Jesus?

It would be best here to let The Watchtower magazine of November 15th, 1970 answer. It says, partly:

" While some translators use the word "worship" in the majority of cases where proskyneo describes persons' actions toward Jesus, the evidence does not warrant one's reading too much into this rendering. Rather, the circumstances that evoked the obeisance correspond very closely with those producing obeisance to the earlier prophets and kings. (Compare Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 20:20 with 1 Samuel 25:23, 24; 2 Samuel 14:4-7; 1 Kings 1:16; 2 Kings 4:36, 37.)

"The very expressions of those involved often reveal that, while they clearly recognized Jesus as God's representative, they rendered obeisance to him, not as to God or a deity, but as "God's Son," the foretold "Son of man," the Messiah with divine authority.- Matt. 14:32, 33; 28:5-10, 16-18; Luke 24:50-52; John 9:35, 38. While earlier prophets and also angels had accepted obeisance, Peter stopped Cornelius from rendering such to him. And the angel (or angels) of John's vision twice stopped John from doing so, referring to himself as a "fellow slave"and concluding with the exhortation to "worship God."-Acts 10:25, 26; Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9.

"Evidently Christ's coming had brought in new relationships affecting standards of conduct toward others of God's servants. He taught his disciples that "one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers . . . your Leader is one, the Christ." (Matt. 23:8-12) For it was in him that the prophetic figures and types found their fulfillment, even as the angel told John that "the bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires prophesying." (Rev. 19:10) Jesus was David's Lord, the greater than Solomon, the prophet greater than Moses. (Luke 20:41-43; Matt. 12:42; Acts 3:19-24) The obeisance rendered those men prefigured that due Christ. Peter therefore rightly refused to let Cornelius make too much of him. So, too, John, by virtue of having been declared righteous or justified by God as an anointed Christian, called to be a heavenly son of God and a member of his Son's kingdom, was in a different relationship to the angel(s) of the revelation than were the Israelites to whom angels earlier appeared. As the apostle Paul had written: "Do you not know that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:3) The angel(s) evidently recognized this change of relationship when rejecting John's obeisance. On the other hand, Christ Jesus has been exalted by his Father to a position second only to God, so that "in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."- Phil. 2:9-11; compare Daniel 7:13, 14, 27."

One Catholic critic has recently stated:

"The point is that legitimate bibles use the word[proskyneo]consistently, and let the reader interpret its meaning - which can mean either our traditional use of the word today - being ‘adoration’ or simply just ‘obeisance’.  My point is that the NWT should not impose its theology by dicing up ‘proskuneo’ between obeisance and worship - one to apply to Jesus and other creatures and the other to God.  Translate the Greek word consistently, and then try and explain passages that appear to go against your interpretation.  The Watchtower does the exact opposite.  It imposes its theology on ‘proskuneo’ to take the ‘difficulty’ out of the interpretation.  To me, that is an abomination"

He said this after quoting the Jerusalem Bible in passages in Matthew where proskyneo is used toward Jesus. But if this gentleman had checked this up with another Catholic translation the New American Bible of 1986 he might have been more restrained in his comments toward the WTB&TS and the New World Translation. In actual fact the New American Bible is not as consistent as he probably would like. Though the NAB does translate proskyneo as "homage" at Matthew 2:2,8,11; 8:2; 9:18: 14:33; 15:25; 18:26; 20:20; 28:9 it does not do so at Matthew 28:17. Would this critic call the NAB here at this place "an abomination" because of failing to be "consistent" with the other places it translates the word as "homage"? The Revised English Bible has done exactly the same. Another Bible translation that was also not "consistent" at Matthew 28:17 because it rendered proskyneo differently than the other places cited above? See also Barclay's translation. But going back to the New American Translation. If one looks up in how it has translated proskneo at Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38 we can see that it does not measure up to this critic level of consistency for in those places in Mark and Luke it is rendered as "prostrated" and "homage" respectively yet in John 9:38 as "worship." So when the critic says "The point is that legitimate bibles use the word[proskyneo]consistently, and let the reader interpret its meaning" has he not charged the Catholic New American Bible as one that is not "legitimate"? Does he feel that same way toward the New American Bible as he does toward the New World Translation : "To me, that is an abomination." Yet the New American Bible has the nihil obstat and imprimatuer of the Catholic Church. Has he not called an "abomination" that which has the witness of his own Catholic Church that it is a faithful translation of the Holy Word?

Of course, neither the New World Translation or any other Bible translation including the New American Bible "dices" up "'proskuneo’ between "obeisance" and "worship." Any glance at a good Greek lexicon as can be seen above will make that charge a lie.(See also Hebrews 1:6)