Worship or obeisance?

//Worship or obeisance?

(Question #18) In the NWT, every time the Greek word “proskuneo” is used in reference to God, it is translated as “worship” (Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4, Jn 4:20, etc.). Every time “proskuneo” is used in reference to Jesus, it is translated as “obeisance” (Mt 14:33, 28:9, 28:17, Lk 24:52, Heb 1:6, etc.), even though it is the same word in the Greek (see Gr-Engl Interlinear). Especially compare the Greek word “prosekunhsan” used with reference to God in Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, and 19:4 and used with reference to Christ in Mt 14:33, 28:9, and 28:17. What is the reason for this inconsistency? If the NWT was consistent in translating “proskuneo” as “worship”, how would the verses above referring to Christ read?


The Greek word proskyneo may be used in connection with bowing before God or it may also be used to describe the act of bowing in submission to a person in authority, such as a king. Jesus used the word at Matthew 18:26 in an illustration involving a slave bowing before a human king. Obviously in that story Jesus did not intend to say the slave was doing an act of worship.

Jesus himself is said to have fallen upon his face prostrating himself before God in the Garden of Gethsemane moments before his arrest.

In the case of those who did obeisance to Christ they were not supposing that Jesus was God, as many misguided Trinitarians imply. Take for example Matthew 14:33 (cited in the question). That was the occasion when Jesus walked upon the storm-tossed sea, which states: “After they got up into the boat, the windstorm abated. Then those in the boat did obeisance to him, saying: ‘You really are God’s Son.”’

Had the disciples imagined that Jesus was actually Jehovah God they would have said so. But they didn’t. They expressed their conviction that Jesus was God’s Son.

Another “proof text” offered is Hebrews 1:5-6, which states: “For example, to which one of the angels did God ever say: ‘You are my son; today I have become your father’? And again: ‘I will become his father, and he will become my son”? But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: ‘And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”’

The passage in Hebrews is a different setting entirely.  God declared Jesus to be his Son on the day he was baptized and anointed with holy spirit to be the Messiah. However, Paul was contrasting the glory and authority Jesus will have upon his return, or as Paul worded it: “When he (God) again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth.”

So, when Christ sits upon his throne God will require all to submit to him, including the angels. However, it is important to note that God commands his angels to worship his Son at a point in the future. Obviously the angels have always worshipped Jehovah. But when Jesus becomes King then the angels will be required to bow before him as Jehovah’s most-honored Son.

While Jehovah’s Witnesses are presently laboring under the delusion that Jehovah has already brought his Firstborn into the world again, that is not the case. The coming of the Son of man will be a new development in the relationship of God’s people toward him. Then Jesus will receive worship, but not because he is God, but because God commands it. That is why in Revelation the vision depicts the Lamb in the midst of the throne around which the 24 elders do obeisance. 

2017-03-18T08:32:05+00:00 December 11th, 2014|Answers|23 Comments
  • Merton

    1 Chronicles 29. The entire nation of Israel bowed low and WORSHIPPED Jehovah and King David.

    King David sat down on Jehovah’s throne. And Israel ‘proskyneo’ worshipped both Jehovah and King David. King Solomon also sat down on the throne of Jehovah. According to the trinitarian interpretation, Israel must have been sinning when they proskyneo worshipped both Jehovah and King David. Now Jesus sits on Jehovah’s throne. So there’s nothing wrong with proskyneo worshipping Jesus BUT WORSHIPPING HIM DOES NOT MAKE HIM GOD.

    If we are consistent and translate ‘proskyneo’ as worship throughout the bible (shachah is the corresponding hebrew word), then Lot sinned when he ‘worshipped’ the two angels, Abraham ‘worshipped’ the Hittites, Jacob ‘worshipped’ Esau, Joseph’s brothers ‘worshipped’ him, David ‘worshipped’ the temple. So many more examples but this should be enough to make the point.

    Proskyneo does not even mean ‘worship’. Worship is just an english word, and there is no direct corresponding word in greek. Proskyneo means ‘bow low/down’ before a higher authority. The word was used by the ancient greeks to refer to ‘worship’ of any higher authority.

    • clayton smith

      I believe your comparing apples and oranges with a old testament reference , which was written in hebrew and a new testament word from the new testament word proskyneo which was written in greek. I think if you stuck with the original language of each text you would have a clearer understanding of bowing down before a king or paying homage shâchâh and proskyneo in the greek which is used numerous times to worship God. Only God will except that kind of worship and will share it with no one. there are seven words for worship in the hebrew language and to understand why the writer of 1 chronicles used shachah is imperative for understanding the verse.

      • Volcanic

        that’s interesting, Clayton, explain more! 🙂
        Oh & welcome btw

  • cat3rn .

    Two questions. Why did the watchtower change the word from worship to obeisance in 1954 and then and only then tell its members that such worship was idolatrous? Why, when the Greek word proskuneo is used when applied to God, men, angels and satan means worship and when it is applied ONLY to Jesus the watchtower changes it to obeisance? If you are going to translate the bible to make it match your religion then you need to translate it exactly the same way each time and not make assumptions when it allows for a different interpretation so that it matches your doctrine. Of course, if you did do that then it wouldn’t match your doctrine and your false religion would fall apart. Every single theologian and translator except for those associated with the WT do not agree with the NWT translation in any way shape or form. These are rhetorical questions because I know you are going to give some other so-called proof backing up your claim that it was translated correctly. Yet your proof does not hold water and is easily disproven.

    • ewatchman

      Most theologians are totally clueless. There’s no debate about it. There is, however, an important point that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not yet appreciate, namely, although Jesus was not worshipped when he was on earth, he will be worshipped when he returns as the King of God’s Kingdom, as Paul said in Hebrews – when God sends his Firstborn into the world again all of God’s angels will be under command to worship him. (Hebrews 1:5) That is because Christ will be on the throne of God then. Here is a video on the topic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHaxiUTP4b0

      • William Roney

        So all of those educated scholars basically went to school for nothing, that is what you are saying? There is obviously a debate about it because none of the Hebrew and or Greek scholars agree with how the NWT was translated. Besides you never answered my questions. Please do so so that I am clear about why these were done.

        • Beverly kenyon

          Well, William Roney, they obviously did go to school for nothing and should ask for their money back as they were mugged off! Brother King did answer your question and provided a good scripture along with a link to back it up. Also feel free to use other Bible translations to compare the scripture and meditate on Brother King’s answer to you…what more do you want…blood..or maybe a fanciful debate so you you can indulge your intellect. For some people, even if Jesus himself was stood in front of them performing the most amazing miracles before their very eyes just like he did 2 thousand years ago as we read about in the Gospels it would never be enough to believe or be satisfied with a common sense scripturally based answer!

          • cat3rn .

            Well Beverly as sad as it is that you would like to believe that they went to school for nothing simply because they do not believe the way you do is no excuse for their training or your lack thereof. Four men who originally translated your NWT did not even graduate high school and the 5th only attended 2 semesters of collage and then dropped out. When two of them were ordered to show up in court it was proven that they did not even know how to read Greek or Hebrew at all. You surprise me by calling a link proof. That is simply some man talking about his “feelings” and also says he has no notes and is not talking off of a teleprompter. Where are his degrees, his education, his professional background or am I just supposed to believe some guy off the street? Rhetorical question. So again I ask, Where is your proof?

            Mr King, please read the whole chapter and not pull just one verse out at a time. Read the first 4 esp v3 and then read v8 in fact read the whole chapter.

            v3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

            He (Jesus) is sitting there now where brother King said then meaning in the future.

            v8 But about the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

            Here in this verse God tells Jesus He is God.

            Here again are the questions that now both of you are failing to answer. This has nothing to do with my intellect but if you say that I have a desire to be like Thomas who had to put his fingers into Christ’s wounds, then be my guest. I would like some literal proof not simply someones speculation or common sense non-scripturally based answer.

            Question #1 Why did the watchtower change the word from worship to obeisance in 1954 and then and only then tell its members that such worship was idolatrous? where is the answer to that question?

            Question #2 Why, when the Greek word proskuneo is used when applied to God, men, angels and satan means worship and when it is applied ONLY to Jesus the watchtower changes it to obeisance?

            There was no answer to either of these questions.

            • Beverly kenyon

              Are you going under two user names? Oh, never mind! I think there’s sadder things in life than my opinions on educated scholars…and good for them working hard at being educated but I’ll reason on what the Bible truthfully says. Are you talking about that court case in Scotland when it came out about the ones who translated the NWT not being very learned in Greek or Hebrew and one of them said he could speak the language but that turned out to be untrue…I vaguely remember something concerning that embarrassing episode! There’s many translations out there, take your pick but believe whichever you choose there’s someone out there that will criticise it. And no a link is not proof to your question. The link and scripture as well as the reasoning was provided for you to reason and ponder on and then come to your own conclusion…you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink! Personally, I thought Brother King’s article and his answer to you was explained brilliantly…I don’t know what there is not to understand irrelevant of what Bible you’re using…it still makes sense if you use your discernment but then again you might have a problem with that seeing as how you’re impressed with letters after someone’s name. And you know what cat3rn if you’re so unimpressed at the lack of letters after Brother King’s name well don’t him any questions then, go ask those fabulously educated scholarly ones! And Btw, I don’t see anyone comparing you to Thomas who doubted…but if the cap fits as they say.

            • cat3rn .

              I signed in on one and then closed the link and when it opened again another browser and the label just appeared. Sorry for the confusion I hope I have cleared that up for you. Your opinions on very highly educated persons who have studied translation for a great number of years hardly compares to someone who never even graduated high school. As far as the court cases are concerned, the fact that they are documented in 3 different countries actual court systems is not enough proof for you that the original transcriptions of your NWT were very poorly written? If you believe that Mr King explained them brilliantly then you must be a Rhode scholar yourself because as I see it neither of the questions as to WHY the watchtower made those changes were answered. You obviously are not impressed with someones education and so maybe you should read the old Greek and Hebrew texts and translate them for yourself seeing as how you think someone who is untrained as those who wrote the NWT can do it perfectly. By the way, did you even consider the flip side of the coin that with my question comes an additional statement that BEFORE 1954 that the JW’s and the Watchtower Organization themselves fully authorized the worship of Jesus. I am simply asking WHY they changed.

              You cannot even see that you compared Thomas to myself when you stated “For some people, even if Jesus himself was stood in front of them….” Man are you blind or what? Sorry for that I should not be condemning of someone who cannot even understand what their own words state. Done with Beverly on to My King for the answers. Do not expect any replies as it is of no use bickering with you to attempt to get an answer.

            • Beverly kenyon

              Actually considering they didn’t graduate high school those men did quite a good job of the NWT bible…eight million plus people think so! I still believe Brother King gave a good explanation to your question so I’m now a Rhode scholar. And when I said, even if Jesus himself stood in front of them…I did not have in mind Thomas. I was making the point that you’ve already made up your mind based on the NWT translation and nothing anyone said would make you budge…but that’s up to you. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day looked down on him and his diciples as unlettered men…common amhaarets. I’m done with cat3rn and I’m going to shake the virtual dust off my virtual feet. Phew! I don’t want any replies thanks. You got your answer in the beginning but it didn’t tickle your ears!

            • Southern ShaSha

              You sir, are a serious problem and your puffed up arrogance is unbelievable. Who are you to step on the “stage” and dismiss anyone on this site!! You are like that bad kid in a class room, wasting the precious time that others would prefer actually learning something. You may find it may benefit you and your gigantic ego to move on yourself, you may find some “poor soul” impressed by your grandiose intellect. No humility, no audience here.

            • Southern ShaSha

              If I may add cat3rn, we all have many questions, we all form our various opinions, we then take the iniative to search the scriptures in hope of better understanding. But try to shy away at putting others down in an attempt to elevate our own stature. There is much benefit in following to the best of our ability the examples JESUS set in not arguing, not stepping ahead of others but to use reasoning and understanding! Showing love and humility towards all creates a better environment for others to open their ears to what we may have to offer. Above all the knowledge we may gain through our studies, love first and foremost to our God and creator, 2nd of importance is to love and show respect to our neighbor, brothers and all others. Knowledge is a must but……….if we lack love it’s all for not!

            • Beverly kenyon

              Wow, Southern ShaSha, you’ll make Cocheta’s day as she thought you had exited! So happy that’s not the case as you would’ve been really missed!

            • Joseph Stephan

              The old double user name game! I was thinking that also, hahaha hahaha

            • Beverly kenyon

              Yeah, that old nugget..the double user, if that’s the case! Lol.

            • Joseph Stephan

              Well at least they can have a conversation with themselves if nothing else!??

            • Beverly kenyon

              Crying laughing at that Joseph….so funny!

            • Beverly kenyon

              One good thing Joseph, that article was a really interesting article written by Brother King! And I liked that guy, Merton’s comment on the subject…wonder where he’s got to as I’ve read some of his older comments and they’re really good!

            • Arvid Fløysand

              hehe…i wonder,what would be the outcome of that conversation?would they agree ore would it end up in a terrible fist- fight hehehe

        • ewatchman

          I am not going to argue about words. I did concede, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are only half right in saying that Jesus should not be worshipped. That much is true. Bowing before one was not necessary an act of worship – but a sign of submission. But as I pointed out, when Jesus returns that is a whole other deal. That is when Jesus will receive worship.

          • cat3rn .

            Ok, so no arguing but can you answer the questions? I would really like to know why they did these things.

    • Phyllis Boyd

      Best Answer: Strong’s G4352 – proskyneō
      1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence

      2) among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence

      3) 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

      a) used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank

      1) to the Jewish high priests
      2) to God
      3) to Christ
      4) to heavenly beings
      5) to demons

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