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Greek Thoughts


PROSKUNEO* - Part 4 - 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 we continue our study of προσκυνὲω (Strong's #4352), which is translated "worship." Προσκυνὲω is a compound word meaning "to kiss toward" and represents a form of worship that shows reverence and submission to someone or something by bowing to the ground and kissing his feet, the hem of his clothing, or the ground.

We have established, from the Old and New Testaments, that the meaning of προσκυνὲω conveys the concept of reverent submission encompassing both an outward physical posture and an internal attitude of the heart.

Last week, we studied some of the uses of προσκυνὲω from the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 2:11, in reference to the Magi, Scripture says: "And having come into the house, the Magi found the child with Mary His mother, and having fallen down they worshiped Him." Through the use of προσκυνὲω, we see the expression of their reverence and submission to the One who is born King of the Jews. In Matthew 8:1-2, a leper comes to Jesus and is worshiping Him, saying, "If You should will, You are able to cleanse me." Again, the use of προσκυνὲω shows his submission to the will of the Lord and gives understanding that his worship is expressed both physically, in his posture, and from his heart, as indicated by the words of his mouth.

The understanding we have gained, from both the Old and New Testament usage of this word, is that worship actually involves a response of reverence, shown through a physical act which is coupled with a heart confession of submission to the Lord and His greatness.

This week we are studying προσκυνὲω as the word Jesus uses, in John 4:21-24, to establish a whole new perspective of worship. In this chapter, Jesus comes into Sychar, a city of Samaria. Jacob's well is located there, and Jesus, being tired from his journey, sits upon the well to rest. A Samaritan woman comes to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. She is surprised because Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus says to her, "If you had known the gift of God, and who is the One saying to you, 'Give Me to drink,' you yourself would have asked Him, and He would have given to you living water." (John 4:10) She asks Him where the living water is. Jesus responds by telling her that everyone drinking of the water from Jacob's well will thirst again. He also tells her that everyone drinking of the water He gives will never again thirst, that His water will "become a fountain of water springing up into eternal life." (John 4:14) The Samaritan woman finally asks for this living water. Jesus then tells her to get her husband and come back. She answers that she has no husband. Jesus responds by saying that she has spoken truly, because she has had five husbands, and the man she is presently living with is not her husband. At this point, the woman changes the subject and says that she perceives Him to be a prophet; she then presents the religious issue of their day (a dividing point between the Samaritans and the Jews) — worship. She says, "Our fathers worshipped (προσκυνὲω) in this mountain; and you yourselves say that in Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary to worship (προσκυνὲω)." (John 4:20) The Lord then takes the opportunity to minister the what, where, and how of worship.

John 4:21-24

John 4:21-24 is divided into two sections, each beginning with the phrase, "an hour is coming." In the first section, verses 21,22, Jesus deals with the where and what of worship. In the second section, verses 23-24, Jesus deals with the how of worship.

Verses 21-22: The Where and What of Worship

Jesus says to her, "Woman, believe me, that an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship (προσκυνὲω) the Father.

In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Samaritans were prohibited from helping with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, so they built a temple on Mount Gerizim. They worshipped there, while the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. Both groups believed that their temple was the only official site of true worship. But in this meeting with the Samaritan woman, Jesus proclaims that "an hour is coming" when the physical location for worship will no longer be a factor. During this exchange, Jesus changes the geography of worship forever — the where of worship is not a physical location. After the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the Early Church took this same message to the Jewish leaders.

We see this at the end of Stephen's message to the Jewish council. He says, "But the Most High does not dwell in handmade temples, according as the prophet says: 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is a footstool of My feet. What house will you build for Me?' says the Lord, 'Or what is the place of My rest? Did not My hand make all these things?' (Acts 7:48-50). The message of the Early Church is that God does not dwell in a physical building made by human hands, but dwells in the hearts of His people.

You yourselves are worshiping (προσκυνὲω) what you do not know; we ourselves are worshiping (προσκυνὲω) what we have known; because the salvation is from out of the Jews.

At this point, Jesus addresses the what of worship. He emphatically proclaims that the Samaritans are worshiping, but haven't known what they are worshiping; and that the Jews have known what they worship, because "the" salvation is from out of the Jews. It is very important to note that the definite article "the" used here with "salvation" is denoting the particular salvation that both Jews and Samaritans are expecting. Jesus says what He does, because the Jews have a more complete understanding of salvation and of the coming Messiah than the Samaritans did; since the Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch (the first five books of Moses) and rejected the prophets and psalms. We see from this that it is possible to worship God in form only, without worshipping in substance—from the heart, in the truth of God.

Verses 23-24: The How of Worship

But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship (προσκυνὲω) the Father in spirit and truth; for indeed the Father is seeking such ones worshiping (προσκυνὲω) Him.

At this point, Jesus repeats the phrase "an hour is coming," but adds the phrase "and now is." With this added phrase, He establishes that, from the time of this declaration forward, all worship is to be done in a prescribed way. He uses two phrases to establish the how of worship.

The first phrase, "True worshiper," is found in verse 23. The word "true" is the adjective ἀληθινὸς (Strong's #228), which means "true" or "genuine." The word translated "worshiper" is the noun form προσκυνητὴς (Strong's #4353) from the verb form προσκυνὲω and is found only here in the New Testament. Here Jesus is establishing that there are genuine worshipers and those who are not genuine. He then defines a "genuine worshiper" as one who is worshiping the Father "in spirit and truth."

In the literal translation of "in spirit and truth" there is one preposition with two nouns. The preposition ἐν (Strong's #1722) denotes the location of worship—the sphere or realm in which genuine worship takes place. The two nouns that are the objects of the preposition indicate two aspects of worship, "spirit," and "truth." Jesus establishes that true or genuine worship takes place in the spirit realm and in the realm of the truth. Jesus then gives the reason: "the Father is seeking such ones worshiping Him." The Father is actively seeking a certain kind of person, one who is worshiping Him in the realm of spirit and truth.

God is Spirit; and it is necessary that the ones worshiping Him should worship προσκυνὲωF1 in spirit and truth"

In the second phrase, "…and it is necessary that the ones worshiping Him should worship in spirit and truth," Jesus states that it is a "necessity" for those who worship Him to do so "in spirit and truth." The reason stated by Jesus is that God is Spirit. Notice that the literal translation is "Spirit" not "a Spirit." By expressing that "God is Spirit," Jesus emphasizes the character or nature of God. God is Spirit, not flesh; therefore it is necessary for the ones who are worshiping Him to worship in the spirit realm and according to truth.

From the Old Testament, we learn that worship was expressed by bowing to the ground to signify reverence and submission. From our study of the Gospel of Matthew, we also see this same physical posture carried over into the New Testament. However, when Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman, He changed the perspective of worship forever. At a specific point in time, revealed in John 4:23-24, Jesus establishes that true worship does not take place in a physical, geographical location, but takes place in the spirit realm, in the heart (or spirit) of the believer. The reason for this is that God is Spirit, not flesh. God dwells in the hearts of His people, not in buildings.

When we connect the meaning of the word worship (προσκυνὲω) with the teachings of Jesus that we studied in this chapter, we gain an understanding of the true concept of worship. Genuine worship is the expression of reverence and submission to the Spirit of God and His truth. Even though most Christians identify worship with singing, the Scriptures clearly establish that the true meaning of worship embodies the reverent submission of our hearts to the Spirit of God and His truth. This same principle is also found the Old Testament: "To listen (obey) is better than sacrifice, and to be attentive than the fat of rams." (I Samuel 15:22). Later in this series, we will see that prayer and singing are done in vain if a person's heart is not right with the Spirit of God and His truth.

Next week we will study how Satan tempts people to worship him as we study from the Temptation of the Lord, in Matthew 4:1-11.

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

Technical notes

F1: the infinitive of purpose, προσκυνεῖν, "to worship" is translated by νὰ͂προσκυνῶσι, "that they should worship."

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Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
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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