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Greek Thoughts


PROSKUNEO* - Part 3 - εχηγεομαι (Strong's #1834)
To worship, to bow down, to show reverence and submission

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Please note that all Biblical quotes are from the Literal Translation.

This week's study is a continuation of our study of προσκυνὲω (Strong's #4352), the Greek word most often used for the English translation "worship."

Προσκυνὲω is compounded from the preposition πρὸς (Strong's #4314) meaning "to" or "towards" and κυνὲω meaning "to kiss." Κυνὲω itself is derived from the Greek word κὺων (Strong's #2965), which means, "dog." It evolved from its original meaning to represent first the kiss of "a dog licking a hand," and then simply, "to kiss."

The basic meaning of προσκυνὲω is "to bow down to the ground before someone and kiss his feet, the hem of his garment, or the ground in front of him." While the physical part of the act of worship can be readily seen from this description, the word's meaning is actually much deeper. In both the Old and New Testaments, the meaning of προσκυνὲω conveys the concept of reverent submission that encompasses both an outward physical posture and an internal attitude of the heart.

Last week, we studied some of the uses of προσκυνὲω found in the Septuagint – the Greek Old Testament. It is used there, approximately seventy-five percent of the time, to express the concept of worship, whether of the God of Israel or of pagan gods. Its most notable use is found in Exodus 12:27, where it is used to express the response of the Hebrew people to the commands of God, given through Moses, regarding Passover. The verse reads, "and when the people bowed they worshipped." (LXX translation) The use of προσκυνὲω in this verse gives understanding that the Hebrew people responded with both submission and reverence to the Lord's commands.

This is important to understand— that the Old Testament establishes the concept of worship, expressed through the physical act of bowing to the ground, as encompassing not only an attitude of reverence and submission which is expressed physically, but that is also expressed spiritually, from the heart; because this same comprehensive meaning is carried over into the New Testament.

In the New Testament, the verb προσκυνὲω is found mostly in Matthew, John, and the Book of Revelation. There are also five uses of this word in Mark and Luke. Today, our study focuses on several examples of worship as expressed toward the Lord in His ministry. All are found in the Gospel of Matthew.

In Matthew 2:1-2, it is recorded that Magi came from the East to Jerusalem and said, "Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and came to worship Him." The term "worship" is again used in Matthew 2:11: "And having come into the house, the Magi found the child with Mary His mother, and having fallen down they worshiped Him." Although this text does not indicate whether the Magi fall down voluntarily or involuntarily, in response to the presence of the Lord; it does tell us, through the use of προσκυνὲω, that they express their reverence and submission to the One who is born King of the Jews. This sets the tone for the use of "worship" in the rest of the New Testament.

Matthew, chapter 8:1-2, tells of a leper who came to Jesus and was worshiping Him, saying, "If You should will, You are able to cleanse me." Προσκυνὲω is in the imperfect tense showing that the leper started and kept on worshiping the Lord, expressing his reverence and submission by declaring that if the Lord should will (subjunctive mood), the Lord is able to cleanse him. From the use of προσκυνὲω here, his submission to the will of the Lord is understood as being expressed physically in his posture and from his heart (as indicated by the words of his mouth).

Matthew 14:22-33 records an incident between Jesus and His disciples. He commands them to enter into a boat and to cross the Sea of Galilee, while He dismisses the crowds. Later, as the disciples toil in the midst of the storm-tossed sea, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. Once He is in the boat, the wind ceases. Verse 33 gives their response to this event, "and the ones in the ship worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly You are the Son of God!'" Because of the use of προσκυνὲω, we understand that their worship involves a heart response in reverence to the Lord from out of their awareness of His Deity.

The understanding we have gained, from both the Old and New Testament usage of this word, is that true worship is deeper than simple participation in a worship service or other such human expression. Worship actually involves a response of reverence, shown through both a physical act and/or a heart confession of submission to the Lord and His greatness.

Next week, we will study the premier teaching on "worship" as taught by the Lord to the woman of Samaria which is recorded in the fourth chapter of John's gospel.

*PROSKUNEO is the English font spelling of the Greek word προσκυνὲω.

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Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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Meet the Author
Bill Klein has been a pastor, counselor, and educator for the past 41 years. He has had extensive training and education in biblical languages, and has authored a Biblical Greek course.
He is currently serving as Professor of Biblical Greek at Master's Graduate School of Divinity, and president of BTE Ministries - The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America, a non-profit organization located in California that provides Bible study tapes and Greek study materials through their website
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