Question #38: Why does your Bible render the word ‘proskuneo’ as ‘obeisance’ in regards to Jesus (eg. Matthew 2:8,11), but as ‘worship’ in regards to Jehovah and even Satan (eg. Matthew 4:9-10)?
Obeisance and worship are pretty much interchangeable terms, but can have slightly different connotations depending on the context.
According to the NAS lexicon the Greek word proskuneo literally means “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence among the Orientals, especially the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence. In the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank, to the Jewish high priests, to God to Christ, to heavenly beings, to demons.”
So, in the case of the magi who came from Persia following the moving “star,” did those astrologers imagine that Jesus was God or even a god? Is that why they bowed down before the infant? No. The account says they inquired of Herod, saying: “Where is the one born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when we were in the East, and we have come to do obeisance to him.”
Perhaps as a result of their familiarity with the writings of Daniel, since he was a prominent ruler in Persia a few centuries before, the astrologers apparently recognized that the Jews were in expectation of the coming of a great king. Unlike the deluded trinitarians, those Persian stargazers did not believe the new born Jesus was God. They rightly recognized him as one destined to become the king of the Jews. For that reason they bowed to the infant, as they would to any other ruler or royal offspring.
And, of course, the Jews who bowed before Jesus were not imagining he was God either. They bowed before him because they wished to acknowledge that Jesus was sent by God, that he was the promised Messiah.
However, it is worth noting that at some point in the future God will require everyone, angels included, to worship the Son. That will be when Christ returns as the King, not just of the Jews, but of the world. Paul explained: “But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: ‘And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”’
Or, if you prefer the King James, Hebrews 1:6 states: “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
Obeisance, worship, whatever, the point is, God commands all creation to worship the Son, not because the Son is God, but because it pleases the Father to bestow such honor upon the Son. Furthermore, the command to worship the Son is not given until God brings his Firstborn into the world again; meaning, the Second Coming.
Jehovah, on the other hand has always received worship, even as Jesus told the Devil in response to Satan’s temptation to worship him; Jesus saying: “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” No reasonable person would suppose that Jesus was referring to himself as the one “alone” to whom his own sacred service belonged.