Was Jesus “Worshiped” in the Gospels?

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

Was Jesus “Worshiped” in the Gospels?

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“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[1]

Christian apologists claim that their gospels say that Jesus was “worshiped” and evidently accepted this “worship” from his disciples. They point to verses like Matthew 28:17 and the “I am” statements in the gospel of John as “proof” that Jesus was “God” and was actually “worshiped” by his followers. While it can be reasonably argued that the gospel of John presents a higher Christology than the Synoptic gospels, wherein Jesus is made to be a “divine” being of some sort, it is much more difficult to prove that he was “equal” to the Father.[2] However, that is the subject of a separate article. In this article, we will analyze some verses in the Synoptic gospels where Jesus was allegedly “worshiped” by his followers, or so the Christians have claimed.

List of Verses Where Jesus is “Worshiped”

            Here is a list of verses in the Synoptic gospels in which Jesus is said to be “worshiped”, at least according to many English translations:

  1. Matthew 2:2 – “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
  2. Matthew 2:8 – “And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
  3. Matthew 2:11 – “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
  4. Matthew 8:2 – “And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’”
  5. Matthew 9:18 – “While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’”
  6. Matthew 14:33 – “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
  7. Matthew 20:20 – “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.”
  8. Matthew 28:9 – “And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.’”
  9. Matthew 28:17 – “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.”
  10. Mark 5:6 – “And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.”
  11. Luke 24:52 – “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy…”

While this list seems to show an impressive amount of evidence that Jesus was “worshiped”, it is actually misleading. Note that most of the verses are found in the Gospel of Matthew, but more importantly, despite all of these verses using the same Greek word, προσκυνέω (proskyneō), we can also note that these verses are translated differently. Some say “worship” while others say things like “knelt”, “fell down”, etc. Also, as we will see later if the word really means “worship” only, then Christians will get into some serious theological trouble, as it would mean that humans can rightly be “worshiped” as well. Before we get into that, let us conduct a quick linguistic analysis of the word προσκυνέω.

Analysis of προσκυνέω

            According to the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, προσκυνέω means:

“(1) from a basic sense bow down to kiss someone’s feet, garment hem, or the ground in front of him; (2) in the NT of worship or veneration of a divine or supposedly divine object, expressed concretely with falling face down in front of someone worship, venerate, do obeisance to; (a) toward God (MT 4.10); (b) toward Jesus (MT 2.2); (c) toward the devil and demons (MT 4.9; RV 9.20); (d) toward idols (AC 7.43); (e) toward human beings as given or claiming to have divine power or authority (RV 3.9; 13.4b)”.[3]

In addition, the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts states:

“The verb proskyneō is found in sixty-five places, a dynamic equivalent for [Hebrew] shāāh…It means ‘worship’ throughout, in various contexts.”[4]

So, it appears that the word simply means to “bow down” or to “worship”. However, notice that the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament states that this “worship” or “veneration” could also be directed “toward human beings”, and it gives the examples of Revelation 3:9 and 13:4. This is where Christians get into some serious trouble. While Revelation 13:4 is not problematic as it refers to the false worship of the “dragon” and “beast” in the end times, Revelation 3:9 is very problematic and exposes the inconsistencies of the Christians.

Are Humans “Worshiped” Too?

            Ironically, the same ESV Bible that translates προσκυνέω as “worship” in places like Matthew 28:17 (where Jesus is the object), mysteriously changes the translation for Revelation 3:9. Here is the verse as rendered by the ESV:

“Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down [προσκυνήσουσιν; proskynēsousin] before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.”

Well, isn’t that strange? Somehow, the meaning has changed to “bow down” instead of simply “worship”. Note that in the verse, Jesus was speaking to the church in Philadelphia (verse 7). The faithful members of the church were assured that the false “Jews” (the “Synagogue of Satan”) that were troubling them will soon be made to “bow down” to them. The translation is different in the ESV despite the fact that the same Greek word is used as in Matthew 28:17, which supposedly means “worship”! So, perhaps the translation actually should read as the following:

“Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and [worship] before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.”

The commentary in the ESV Bible also does not offer much explanation. In fact, it muddies the water even more. The commentary on verse 9 states:

“Members of the synagogue of Satan (cf. 2:9) say that they are Jews but instead are serving God’s enemy as they persecute Christians. Christ will compel these persecutors to bow down at the feet of his followers and acknowledge that he has loved them, just as Isaiah foresaw Gentiles bowing before Israelites (Isa. 45:14; 49:23).”[5]

So, without any explanation, the commentary just moves on. However, notice that it cites Isaiah 45:14. This is where it gets muddy. According to the verse, the Gentiles will be defeated and:

“…they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.”

Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated as “bow down” is none other than shāāh. Recall that the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words stated that the Greek proskyneō is the “dynamic equivalent for” the Hebrew word shāāh and that proskyneō means “worship”! So, should not Isaiah 45:14 actually be rendered as:

“…they shall come over in chains and [worship] you.”

What is also strange is that other Bible translations essentially admit that the Greek word should be translated as “worship” in Revelation 3:9, but they also do not provide any justification for suddenly changing the meaning to “bow down”. For example, the NET translation, a popular English translation, contains the following footnote for Revelation 3:9:

“The verb here is προσκυνήσουσιν (proskunēsousin), normally used to refer to worship.”[6]

Clearly, for theological reasons, the translators did not want to translate the word as “worship”. But this would then demonstrate their inconsistency. Why translate it as “worship” for Jesus but “bow down” for other people, other than to satisfy their theological bias?

What is going on here? Does proskyneō really just mean “worship”, or is there enough ambiguity in the word to avoid that meaning in some cases? Based on such flimsy and potentially troubling evidence, why would Christians risk falling into false “worship” and potentially endangering their afterlife?

Could it be that there is no evidence that Jesus was worshiped? We have already seen that proskyneō can have multiple meanings. To reiterate, the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament states that the “basic sense” of the word is to “bow down” to someone. So, there should be no reason to assume that it meant “worship” when Jesus was the object and “bow down” when other humans are the object. Humans could bow down to other humans and not be “worshiping” them.

This can be seen in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanakh. In 1 Samuel 24:8:

“…David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage [to Saul].”

What Greek word was used in the Septuagint? It was none other than προσκυνέω (proskyneō).[7]

An even more clear example can be found in 1 Chronicles 29:20, where the Israelites perform the act of “proskyneō” to both God and to King David! The verse states:

“And all the assembly blessed the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and paid homage [προσεκύνησαν] to the Lord and to the king.”[8]

So, were the Israelites “worshiping” both God and David? Most likely, the Christians will emphatically say “no”. Therefore, for Christians to appeal to ambiguous verses like Matthew 28:17 to justify their atrocious “worship” of Jesus, “a man attested to you by God…” as even Acts 2:22 admits, is rather foolish.

Why Didn’t the Disciples “σέβω” Jesus?

            It seems clear that προσκυνέω has multiple possible meanings and is too ambiguous to “prove” that Jesus was “worshiped”. If it would have been possible, I would have humbly suggested to the writers of the Synoptic gospels to use a Greek word with more certainty, that is if they actually wanted to show that Jesus was “worshiped”. While I am not a scholar of the Greek language, based on the research I have done it seems to me that there was a perfectly good Greek word to use to prove beyond any doubt that Jesus was “worshiped”. This is the Greek word σέβω (sebō).[9] According to the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, σέβω means:

“…always of the worship of a deity worship, venerate, adore (MK 7.7); as a religious technical term applied to Gentiles who accepted Judaism’s belief in one God and attended the synagogue but did not become Jewish proselytes by undergoing male circumcision; σεβόμενοι τὸν θεόν God-fearers, worshipers of God (AC 17.17)”.[10]

The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words adds that:

“sebomai is a verb found in ten places meaning ‘to worship.’ It also has the adjectival sense of ‘devout.’”[11]

Thus, unlike προσκυνέω, σέβω only has one possible meaning: worship of a deity. In fact, the absence of this word from Revelation 3:9 and the Septuagint translations of Isaiah 45:14 and 1 Chronicles 29:20 saves the Christians from certain trouble. If σέβω  had been used in these verses, it would have served as undeniable evidence of the Bible promoting the worship of human beings. Christians can breathe a sigh of relief!

In any case, would it not have made more sense for the gospel writers to use this word instead of προσκυνέω if they wanted to indicate that Jesus was worshiped like a deity? The answer seems obvious.

Conclusion

            We have seen that the linguistic evidence from the Synoptic gospels does not provide absolute certainty that Jesus (peace be upon him) was “worshiped” by his followers and accepted such “worship”. There is too much ambiguity. Furthermore, there was another Greek word that the gospel writers could have used to erase any possible ambiguity. As it stands, the Biblical evidence for the atrocious act of “Jesus worship” that Christians promote is weak and flimsy at best. Christians should ask themselves why they are risking falling into idolatry based on such weak evidence.

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] John 17:3 (ESV). Unless otherwise stated, all verses from the Bible are from the ESV.

[2] In fact, in John 17:3, he clearly states that his God is the only “true God”.

[3] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Vol. 4 (electronic edition) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000).

[4] Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts, ed. Stephen D. Renn (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005), p. 1067.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible, electronic edition (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2468.

[6] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=revelation+3%3A9&version=NET#fen-NET-30741e

[7] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lxx/1sa/24/8/t_conc_260008

[8] Incidentally, in the Hebrew, the word shāāh is used.

[9] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4576/esv/mgnt/0-1/

[10] Friberg, Friberg, and Miller, op. cit., 347.

[11] Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, op. cit., p. 1067.

29 thoughts on “Was Jesus “Worshiped” in the Gospels?

  1. Always used 1 Chronicles 29:20 as an argument, none has been able to give an answer yet…

    Their “connecting the dots” theology over a central creedal matter shows the incompetency of their not so holy spirit, and above all none of the dots even connects in the first place…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carl

    Ijaz Ahmed said something about another Greek word, λατρεύω (latreúo) in one of his streams. That one is reserved to the God alone.
    Great article though. This is why the famous Ahmed Deedat said one of those legendary quotes in a few debates, and no Christian can find the Greek verse, let alone the Aramaic original: “[N]ot a single unequivocal statement…”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yeah irrespective of the usage it always boils down to context as προσκυνέω demonstrates in the LXX….context, meaning and grammar goes hand in hand in the bible, if we ever use the same preposterous reasoning they use for προσκυνέω we can easily prove that the OT views angels and judges as other gods alongside Yahweh as they’re called elohim…well at the end of the day it demonstrates what a mess Christianity is…and how stupid their apologists are…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Vaqas Rehman

      Who knows, maybe they’ll say those judges and angels were Jesus(a.s) all along! Like how some do with the angel of the LORD and melchizedek. I once saw a Christian claim that all three of men/angels who appeared to Abraham(a.s) were actually Jesus(a.s)! All three!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Was Jesus “Worshiped” in the Gospels? – Whatsoever Things Are True

  5. So someone made a response and I skimmed, it basically boils down to “uhhh different tenses different meanings”, I don’t need to elaborate much on how wrong it is nor is that ever used as an argument by Trinitarian grammarians coz that makes no sense, as any verb the meaning of the *action* stays the same its only the tense that change, the *spectrum* of the meaning depends on the *context* e.g God worship vs human worship

    Going by his low IQ argument, if tenses are such a big deal then why ignore 1 Chronicles 29:20 where the same tense is used for God and David

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Vaqas Rehman

        Every time I’ve seen someone challenge them on this it basically boils down to them first saying it as a dichotomy with their relationship to God i.e “Your relationship with God is only that of master and slave! To us God is our father and we his children!”

        When it is pointed out that various hoy people and prophets are identified with the servant/slaver moniker, including their man-god, it shifts to “no no no no, what we mean is you are slaves to a FALSE god! Being a slave to the true God is fine.”

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Vaqas Rehman

        @QB

        Gotta love how as per usual Christian apologetics against Islam the guy throws in the recycled old arguments irrelevant to the issue at hand.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. stewjo004

        Yeah, I skimmed to retard’s article as well. While you all bully beatdown him that way I’m going to fine some more stuff to have fun with. Thinking of him thinking his “Bibull” is the Torah and the Gospel.

        PS
        The “Abdul” thing is so corny and doesn’t even make sense.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. stewjo004

    For more hilarious moments he appears…to…be…in love with Jesus:

    https://whatsoeverthingsaretrue.org/2019/02/23/fear-no-evil/

    https://whatsoeverthingsaretrue.org/2019/02/23/getting-lost-in-him/

    They remind me of this episode of South Park:

    PS

    According to his Christian logic, he is now also God according to his love letter:

    “…I’m so in love with you and I’m so glad You’ll be mine forever. I’m going to hold on to you tightly for the rest of my life. So tight that nothing could possibly get between us. So tight that we’re one…”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. stewjo004

    Alright ya’ll I’ve got this party started and started busting shots at the man worshippers’s articles (and go figure the comments are under moderation review)

    My current comments on 3 articles:

    “Howdy. While I will allow my fellow author whose article you pinged respond to this article, I am here just to address your claim that “the Bible” a Frankenstein collaboration of various anonymously written texts and folklore is the “Torah or Gospel”, revelations sent down by God to Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both). Here is my article addressing the texts you quote and next time I recommend you don’t just randomly copy and paste what you hear without checking the sources next time:”

    “What does the way Muslims organize their text have to do with the preservation of its content especially when said order was dictated by Muhammad (ﷺ) himself? 🤔🤔🤔”

    “@WTAT
    Well, let’s start with the ibn Abbas quote as this is the easiest to refute and a basic way to test your character. This text is a “pseudograph” (I’ll assume you know what this is already considering that’s pretty much what the vast majority of the Bible is) From the translator’s introduction of this text (emphasis mine):

    “There is NO DOUBT that this commentary is NOT the work of Ibn ‘Abbas. The chain of transmitters of this commentary goes back to Muhammad Ibn Marwan> al-Kalbi> Abu Salih which is described by Hadith experts as the chain of lies (silsilat al-kadhib), for this line of transmission is utterly dubious and unreliable. One does not even need to use the criteria for reliable transmission applied by Hadith experts to decide this commentary’s WRONG attribution to Ibn ‘Abbas. It is easy to detect obvious anomalies in the text of Tanwir al-Miqbas which leave one with no doubt that whoever wrote it lived MANY CENTURIES AFTER Ibn ‘Abbas. One finds it, for instance, references to Hasan al-Basri, al-Suddi and even the grammarian Yahya Ibn Ziyad alFarra’ (d. 207/822). In a few places, after giving different meanings of the same verse, the author(s) or
    compiler(s) proceed(s) to say: “… and this is the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas” or: “Ibn ‘Abbas says…”, forgetting that the entire commentary is supposed to be an accurate transmission of what is narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas….” (pg 3 of the pdf)

    Now I’m sure your poor sourcing is embarrassing especially after making such bold confident statements in your article such as “It’s so easy to get these abdools busted just by reading their own sources.” So now the question remains will you update your article to and remove this poor research or stick to it and spread more lies because you don’t want to look as incompetent as this mistake makes you seem? Who knows, that’s half the fun to watch and see. (Don’t worry we’re just getting started)”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Vaqas Rehman

      @stewjo004

      That fact that most of their claims on/against Islam are based on misquotations, mistranslations, unauthentic sources, and/or no actual proof shows to me at least that the seal on their hearts has been made manifest. Although tbf when your arguing against the truth what can you expect?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. stewjo004

        @ Vaqas

        Yeah the majority of them are just plain bad researchers not even worth discussing the other half is like that passive-aggressive dude who pretended to be Shaad just makes assumptions and states them as fact. Very tiresome over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Vaqas Rehman

        @stewjo004

        On a related note, a Christian is currently spam arguing in a twitter thread I was tagged in. Aside from usual script of “hadith came 200 years later so they can’t be used as evidence!” he’s actually saying there is no evidence from the 7th century that the prophet Muhammad(s.a.w) preached a religion different from Christianity or Judaism. Basically his claim is that none of the specific details of the faith are mentioned in the 7th century so all the said details are back projected unto an existing movement that wasn’t a new faith to begin with. I’m curious, are there any non Muslim accounts at that time meet his lofty standards and prove him wrong?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. mr.heathcliff

        “he’s actually saying there is no evidence from the 7th century that the prophet Muhammad(s.a.w) preached a religion different from Christianity or Judaism”

        so where is the evidence that the prophet was preaching two contradictory beliefs back in 7th century?

        Like

      4. mr.heathcliff

        “n the 7th century so all the said details are back projected unto an existing movement that wasn’t a new faith to begin with.”

        juan cole said :

        What strikes me is that minor variants are to be expected but that in all these Twitter photos of clearly early Islamic inscriptions there are no surprises. No unknown Qur’an verses, no mention of any contemporary prophet but Muhammad……

        question :

        in light of this fact, how does his theory make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

      5. stewjo004

        @Vaqas

        To begin the Quran itself is a 7-century document soooooo there’s that. Furthermore because all kuffar are retarded and cared more about them getting their @$$e$ kicked, they were jacking up information about our beliefs left, right and center like thinking the Prophet (ﷺ) was still alive leading armies. However, piecing together some things:

        1. Muslims have a new place of worship (Monk John Moschus;pg 63):

        “the godless Saracens entered the holy city of Christ our Lord, Jerusalem, with the permission of God and in punishment for our negligence, which is considerable, and immediately proceeded in haste to the place which is called the Capitol. They took with them men, some by force, others
        by their own will, in order to clean that place and to build that cursed thing, intended for their prayer and which they call a mosque ( midzgitha).

        2. Muslims “utter blasphemies against Christ” (Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem; 73)

        “…Moreover, they are raised up more and more against us and increase their blasphemy of Christ and the church, and utter wicked blasphemies against God. These God-fighters boast of prevailing over all, assiduously and unrestrainably imitating their leader, who is the devil, and
        emulating his vanity because of which he has been expelled from heaven and been assigned to the gloomy shades. Yet these vile ones would not have accomplished this nor seized such a degree of power as to do and utter lawlessly all these things, unless we had first insulted the gift [of baptism] and first defiled the purification…”

        3. Muslims deny Jesus is God or begotten by Him ( Anastasiu’s of Sinai who I dub “the Original Ken Temple”, pg 94, Isaac of Rakoti, Patriarch of Alexandria pg 168)

        “Before any discussion we must first anathematise all the false notions which our adversaries might entertain about us. Thus when we wish to debate with the Arabs, we first anathematise whoever says two gods, or whoever says that God has carnally begotten a son, or whoever worships as god any created thing at all, in heaven or on earth”

        “….When they (the Severans) hear of “nature,” they think of shameful and unbecoming things, the sexual organs of the bodies of men and women. Because of that they avoid this word as if they were pupils of the Saracens. For when the latter hear of the birth of God and of His genesis, they at once blaspheme, imagining marriage, fertilisation and carnal union.”

        “He ordered the breaking of all the crosses which were in the land of Egypt, even the crosses of gold and silver. So the Christians of the country of Egypt became troubled. Then he wrote a number of notices and placed them on the doors of the churches in Mi~r and the Delta, saying in them: “Muhammad is the great messenger ( al-rasiil al-kabfr) who is God’s, and Jesus too is the messenger of God. God does not beget and is not begotten.”

        I’m sure with some more research you can find more. But here’s “Seeing Islam as Others saw it” a compilation of all references to Islam of it’s I think first 200 years from Roman, Jewish, Persian and Chinese sources (personally I find it interesting to see the conquests from the bad guys perspective).

        Click to access r-hoyland-seeing_islam_as_other_saw_it.pdf

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Response to a Christian Apologist: Was Jesus “Worshiped” in the Gospels? – The Quran and Bible Blog

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