4352 PROSKUNEO (59): kuneo = to kiss + pros = toward; literally, to blow a kiss. Hence, to show a literal, physical gesture of acquaintance, friendship, or affection. Proskuneo is usually translated "worship," which means much more than a physical gesture.
During much of the Twentieth Century, bowing the upper part of one's body or tipping one's hat was such a physical gesture. A similar gesture is the Arabic "salaam" in which one bends forward (bows) while touching his fingers to his breast (heart), then to his forehead (mind) and then towards a person, to show submission of heart and mind to him.
Proskuneo may also involve holding a person's feet (Mt.28.9), or kneeling (Mk.15.19). But note that whether a physical act is included or not, proskuneo includes mentally "showing submission," usually to God. Many passages do not reveal whether physical action was involved, but the context reveals an attitude of submission.
The usage of proskuneo in God's FCM (NT) primarily describes the attitude of a person as he approaches a superior being, with emphasis on mentally or verbally showing submission. Proskuneo expresses one's confidence in and dependence on God when approaching him in prayer. An urgent plea might be accompanied by kneeling, tears or prostration. But any physical act accompanying proskuneo is secondary.
For example, in Act.10.25, "...Cornelius met him (Peter), and fell down at his feet, and proskuneo[ed] him." Cornelius' physical action evidenced a mental showing of submission to Peter instead of to God. Peter recognized this, and for that reason lifted him up, and in verse 26 said, "Stand up; I myself also am a human."
Similarly in Rev.19.10 and 22.8-9 John fell at the feet of God's messenger (angel), who told him, "...do it not. I am your fellow-slave and of your brothers having the testimony of Jesus; show submission to God..."
All of God's messengers (angels) show submission to him (Heb.1.6) as do the twenty-four older ones of Rev.4.10. Every human also has the privilege of showing submission to God if he so chooses. The adversary (devil) told Jesus he would give him all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and show submission to him. Jesus answered him with two principles of truth in Mt.4.10 and Lk.4.8: "You are to show submission (proskuneo) to your Master, God, and to him only will you 'offer [godly] service' (3000 latreuo)." Neither the Adversary nor his evil spirits (demons) show submission to God. They know their ultimate destiny (Mt.8.29 and 25.41).
Some folks think that "worship" is doing good things for God, such as helping others. But proskuneo never includes these concepts. Other Greek words represent such activities in the FCM.
In John 4.23-24 Jesus revealed the nature of showing submission: "But an hour is coming and now is, when those who show true submission will show submission to the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is also seeking such ones who are showing submission to him. God [is] spirit, and those who are showing submission must show submission in spirit and [in] truth." Note that one MUST (dei, "it is necessary") show submission with one's spirit; that is, with personal dedication to God and in continuous submission to God. And this submission MUST be according to truth of God's Message.
Proskuneo occurs nine times in Jn.4.20-24 during Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well. Substitute "show submission" for "worship" in each place for deeper insight into the meaning of proskuneo.
Proskuneo bears a relationship to the word which describes the most important decision a human makes during his lifetime, to repent; that is, "change himself" (3340 metanoeo) from serving his own desires to yielding to God's desires for his life.
"Worship" is a religious word, having meanings that are broad in scope. It's English usages and meanings differ from that of proskuneo. For example, worship can mean honor or respect given to a human, or a human title such as "worshipful master." Proskuneo is always a PERSONAL attitude of submission to God, not a corporate activity.
Proskuneo is the most used Greek word of several words that are inaccurately translated "worship" in the FCM. Other words sometimes translated "worship" are 3000 latreuo, "offer [godly] service;" and 4576 sebomai, "show devotion" (to God). These three Greek words cannot be synonymous. See their word-studies for further information.
"Worship" is a religious word which is broad in scope. It's English usages and meanings differ from that of proskuneo. For example, worship can mean honor or respect given to a human, including a human title such as "worshipful master." And, Proskuneo is a PERSONAL attitude of submission to God, not a corporate activity.
Proskuneo is the most used Greek word of several words that are poorly translated "worship" in the FCM. Other words sometimes translated "worship" are 3000 latreuo, "offer [godly] service;" and 4576 sebomai, "show devotion" (to God). These three Greek words cannot all mean "worship," nor can they be synonymous. See their word-studies for further information.
In God's AM (OT) the Hebrew word "shachah," sometimes includes a physical act in connection with showing submission to God, as in Job.1.20 and Ps.95.6; or wrongfully, to an idol in Dan.3.5,10,15.
It is necessary to mention that older translations such as the KJV, ASV and RSV translate proskuneo as "worship" each time it occurs in the FCM. The ASV includes this footnote at Mt.2.2 concerning proskuneo: "The Greek word denotes an act of reverence whether paid to a creature (see ch.4.9; 18.26), or to the Creator."
But recent versions such as the NASB, NIV, J.B.Phillips and CEV changed the previous translation of proskuneo from "worship" to "bow down" or "kneel" in these eight passages: Mt.8.2, 9.18, 15.25, 18.26, 20.20, Mk.5.6, 15.19 and Rev.3.9. These changes seem to be based on a preconceived idea of "worship," rather than a "showing of submission."
In several passages one may question whether the proskuneo of a person is to God, or is insincere or false. For instance:
4353 PROSKUNETES (1): one who shows submission towards God. Comp. "show submission" (4352 proskuneo).
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