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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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the act of rendering divine honours; or of addressing God or any other being as supposing it to be God. ( See WORSHIP. ) The word is compounded of ad, "to," and os, "mouth;" and literally signifies to apply the hand to the mouth; manum ad os admovere, "to kiss the hand;" this being in eastern countries one of the great marks of respect and submission. To this mode of idolatrous worship Job refers, Job 31:26-27 . See also 1 Kings 19:18 .

The Jewish manner of adoration was by prostration, bowing, and kneeling. The Christians adopted the Grecian, rather than the Roman, method, and always adored uncovered. The ordinary posture of the ancient Christians was kneeling; but on Sundays, standing.

ADORATION is also used for certain extraordinary acts of civil honour, which resemble those paid to the Deity, yet are given to men.

We read of adorations paid to kings, princes, emperors, popes, bishops, abbots, &c., by kneeling, falling prostrate, kissing the feet, hands, garments, &c.

The Persian manner of adoration, introduced by Cyrus, was by bending the knee, and falling on the face at the prince's feet, striking the earth with the forehead, and kissing the ground. This was an indispensable condition on the part of foreign ministers and ambassadors, as well as the king's own vassals, of being admitted to audience, and of obtaining any favour. This token of reverence was ordered to be paid to their favourites as well as to themselves, as we learn from the history of Haman and Mordecai, in the book of Esther; and even to their statues and images; for Philostratus informs us that, in the time of Apollonius, a golden statue of the king was exposed to all who entered Babylon, and none but those who adored it were admitted within the gates. The ceremony, which the Greeks called προσκυνειν , Conon refused to perform to Artaxerxes, and Callisthenes to Alexander the Great, as reputing it impious and unlawful.

The adoration performed to the Roman and Grecian emperors consisted in bowing or kneeling at the prince's feet, laying hold of his purple robe, and then bringing the hand to the lips. Some attribute the origin of this practice to Constantius. They were only persons of rank or dignity that were entitled to the honour. Bare kneeling before the emperor to deliver a petition, was also called adoration.

It is particularly said of Dioclesian, that he had gems fastened to his shoes, that divine honours might be more willingly paid him, by kissing his feet. And this mode of adoration was continued till the last age of the Greek monarchy. When any one pays his respects to the king of Achen in Sumatra, he first takes off his shoes and stockings, and leaves them at the door.

The practice of adoration may be said to be still subsisting in England, in the custom of kissing the king's or queen's hand.

Adoration is also used in the court of Rome, in the ceremony of kissing the pope's feet. It is not certain at what period this practice was introduced into the church: but it was probably borrowed from the Byzantine court, and accompanied the temporal power. Dr. Maclaine, in the chronological table which he has subjoined to his translation of Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, places its introduction in the eighth century, immediately after the grant of Pepin and Charlemagne. Baronius traces it to a much higher antiquity, and pretends that examples of this homage to the vicars of Christ occur so early as the year 204. These prelates finding a vehement disposition in the people to fall down before them, and kiss their feet, procured crucifixes to be fastened on their slippers; by which stratagem, the adoration intended for the pope's person is supposed to be transferred to Christ. Divers acts of this adoration we find offered even by princes to the pope; and Gregory XIII, claims this act of homage as a duty.

Adoration properly is paid only to the pope when placed on the altar, in which posture the cardinals, conclavists, alone are admitted to kiss his feet. The people are afterward admitted to do the like at St. Peter's church; the ceremony is described at large by Guicciardin.

Adoration is more particularly used for kissing one's hand in presence of another as a token of reverence. The Jews adored by kissing their hands, and bowing down their heads; whence in their language kissing is properly used for adoration. This illustrates a passage in Psalm it, "Kiss the Son lest he be angry;"—that is, pay him homage and worship. It was the practice among the Greek Christians to worship with the head uncovered, 1 Corinthians xi; but in the east the ancient custom of worshipping with the head covered was retained.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Adoration'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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