بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
Response to a Christian Apologist: Was Jesus “Worshiped” in the Gospels?
A Christian blogger has written a terrible rebuttal to my article “Was Jesus ‘Worshiped’ in the Gospels”. The present article is a brief response to that train-wreck.
On the Title “Abdul”
Before we get into the main topic, it is quite comical that this obvious fan of “Christian Prince” refers to Muslims as “Abduls”, as if it is an insult. Though it is not my actual name, I am proud to call myself Abdullah, the slave/servant of Allah. The irony is that Jesus is also the “slave/servant of Allah”, as stated in Acts 3:13:
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.”
So, as Muslims, we are proud to be called “Abdullah” as we are indeed the servants of Allah, as were all the prophets, including Jesus (peace be upon him).
But what shall we call our Christian critic? I think an appropriate title would be Abdul Ba’al. The reason is that I assume this Christian believes that the “one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13 is actually Jesus, and he worships and “serves” this person. However, as I noted in my article on the book of Daniel, the entire vision in Daniel 7 appears to be a rip-off of the Ba’al myth discovered in ancient Ugarit. Ba’al was the storm god, riding on the clouds, just like the “son of man” in Daniel 7:13. Therefore, the Christian has unknowingly become the servant of the false, pagan god Ba’al. Hence, his name should be Abdul Ba’al. I will call him “AB” for short for the rest of the article.
AB began his rant in typical, Christian apologetic fashion: he tried to protect his Bible by attempting to use the Quran and Sunnah as a shield (i.e., by claiming that both “confirm” that the Bible is true scripture). Instead of wasting time with this pathetic distraction, let it suffice that this issue has already dealt with in a separate article (see endnote #4).
What does προσκυνέω (proskyneō) Mean?
Perhaps in a vain attempt to show off his knowledge of Greek, AB spent most of his…ahem…“rebuttal” ranting about “tenses” and “moods”, all the while, completely ignoring the scholarly lexicographic sources I had cited in my original article pertaining to the actual definition of the word προσκυνέω. To repeat what was already said, the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (ANLEX) states that the word προσκυνέω means to “bow down” in its “basic sense” and could be used for both God and humans. This definition was completely and conveniently ignored by AB. But let’s add an additional source to the mix, shall we?
In his book Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament, Professor Jason D. BeDuhn states that in the historical context of the time:
“[s]ocial convention dictated gestures of deference and respect from inferior to superior…In the presence of someone of high rank, low bows or prostrations were expected. The Greek verb that expresses making such a prostration was proskyneō.”
BeDuhn also explains that the English word “worship” has a different and limited meaning in modern English as compared to older English (in translations like the King James Version), where it could be used “as a form of address to people of high status”.
So, the fact of the matter is that proskyneō is not limited to simply religious “worship” given to a deity, but rather “bowing down” to a superior being, even if it was another human being. One could compare it to the angels being commanded to bow down to Adam (peace be upon him), as mentioned in the Quran:
“And ˹remember˺ when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam,”1 so they all did—but not Iblîs, who refused and acted arrogantly, becoming unfaithful.”
Contrary to the ignorant claims of AB, this verse does NOT state that the command was to “worship” Adam, but rather to simply prostrate to Adam as a sign of his superiority (see the commentary by Ibn Kathir in endnote #8). If AB knew even a little bit of the Arabic language, he would know that the word for “worship” is عبادة (e.g., see Surah al-Imran 3:51), whereas سُجود means “prostration”. It seems AB’s confusion between “worship” and “prostration” extends into Arabic as well and not just Greek! While prostration can be an act of worship depending on the context and intention of the person, it is not necessarily the same thing as “worship”.
This rebuttal can be finished here but let us discuss some examples of our Christian critic shooting himself in the foot, just for additional entertainment.
Was David “Worshiped” Like God?
Despite his long rant, our Christian critic AB neglected to discuss 1 Chronicles 29:20, not even in passing, and actually ended up digging himself into a bigger hole. Recall that in the original article, the Septuagint rendition of 1 Chronicles 29:20 was cited as an example of the use of proskyneō as being for both God and King David, thus showing that it is not limited to “worship” of a deity and could be used for homage paid to humans. Here are the English and Greek texts side by side (with the Greek word in bold):
“And all the assembly blessed the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and paid homage to the Lord and to the king.”
“καὶ εἶπεν Δαυεὶδ πάσῃ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Εὐλογήσατε κύριον τὸν θεὸν ἡμῶν· καὶ εὐλόγησεν πᾶσα ἡ ἐκκλησία κύριον τὸν θεὸν τῶν πατέρων αὐτῶν, καὶ κάμψαντες τὰ γόνατα προσεκύνησαν Κυρίῳ καὶ τῷ βασιλεῖ.”
Notice that the ESV translation indicates that “homage” was paid to both “the Lord” and “to the king”. Even Christian commentaries admit this. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers states:
“As God’s earthly representative, David receives the same tokens of reverence and homage.”
The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament concurs:
“At the conclusion of the prayer, David calls upon the whole assembly to praise God; which they do, bowing before God and the king, and worshipping.”
So, were God and David both “worshiped” or was it merely an act of bowing down to both as a sign of respect that is due to each but not necessarily “worshiping” both the same way? We have to assume that AB would suggest the latter. Indeed, it can be reasonably stated that the “homage” to God was in the manner due to Him alone, and the “homage” to David was in the manner due to him as a mere human being (i.e., not on the same level as for God).
Worst of all, the same form of proskyneō that is used in the Septuagint for 1 Chronicles 29:20 is also used in this verse in Revelation 5:13, a verse which AB cited in his rant (including an analysis of it grammatical form) to try to prove that Jesus received “worship” that is due to God alone (emphasis ours):
“Jesus Christ who is the Lamb receives universal worship from all of creation. Notice this worship which all of creation is taking part is directed to “him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Revelation 5:13. Here the word used is προσεκύνησαν (prosekýnisan) Aorist Active Indicative, only God alone deserves this kind of worship and Christ is receiving this worship.”
Hmm…so προσεκύνησαν (prosekýnisan), the “Aorist Active Indicative” form, is the “kind of worship” that only God “deserves”, and since Christ is the object of this “worship” in Revelation 5:13, then it means that Christ is God! Or so AB would have us believe. But if we follow this logic, it would mean that King David also was “receiving this worship”, since 1 Chronicles 29:20 uses the same “Aorist Active Indicative” form (see Figure 1)!
Of course, this would only be a problem if we were as silly as AB and assume that proskyneō only means “worship” in the way that only God “deserves”.
The Church of Philadelphia and “Hypothetical” Worship
In his rant about Revelation 3:9, AB offered a rather strange interpretation about the “worship” given to the church of Philadelphia:
“…Jesus is not making those persecutors worship the Christians, but that those persecutors would acknowledge God seeing that the followers of Christ were right in their worship of Jesus.”
Once again, AB seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that proskyneō doesn’t have to mean “worship” in the sense of religious “worship” given to God alone! It is a much broader word. As stated in my original article, the word is ambiguous enough as to avoid assuming that it only means religious “worship”. Rather, its basic meaning is to “bow down” to a superior. In that case, no matter what the “mood” in the Greek text is, the meaning is simply that the “synagogue of Satan” would be made to “bow down” to the Christians in the future, as a sign of the latter’s superiority to the former.
Speaking of the “mood”, AB stated that the Greek form of proskyneō in Revelation 3:9 is προσκυνήσωσιν, which uses the “subjunctive” mood. The problem with this claim is that AB is appealing to the so-called “Textus Receptus”. In contrast, the so-called “Morphological Greek New Testament” (MGNT) uses a different form of proskyneō, namely the “future active indicative” form (see Figure 2).
Incidentally, this is the same form used in the Greek Septuagint rendition of Isaiah 45:14, which I previously cited in the original article, in which it is prophesied that the enemies of the Israelites will “bow down” to them in the future:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.’’”
οὕτως λέγει κύριος σαβαωθ ἐκοπίασεν Αἴγυπτος καὶ ἐμπορία Αἰθιόπων καὶ οἱ Σεβωιν ἄνδρες ὑψηλοὶ ἐπὶ σὲ διαβήσονται καὶ σοὶ ἔσονται δοῦλοι καὶ ὀπίσω σου ἀκολουθήσουσιν δεδεμένοι χειροπέδαις καὶ προσκυνήσουσίν σοι καὶ ἐν σοὶ προσεύξονται ὅτι ἐν σοὶ ὁ θεός ἐστιν καὶ ἐροῦσιν οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς πλὴν σοῦ
So, it is not at all clear what “mood” was used in the original text of Revelation 3:9. However, if AB and other Christians can try to remember that proskyneō does not always mean religious “worship”, then it is irrelevant for our purposes. The original conclusion still stands: there is no clear statement that Jesus was “worshiped” like God. Rather, there are numerous statements about other people (and angels) “bowing” to him as a sign of his superiority, and not necessarily due to his alleged “divinity”.
Recall also that there was a Greek word that was used exclusively for “the worship of a deity”: σέβω. It is used sparingly in the Greek New Testament, appearing only twice (Mark 7:7 and Matthew 15:9), both of which quote the Septuagint rendition of Isaiah 29:13. So, the question is why was this perfectly clear and unambiguous word never used for Jesus? AB failed miserably to answer this question.
Christians are trapped in a false religion that teaches them to worship a human being as “God”. Despite writing a long article, AB failed to disprove my initial claims, choosing instead to rant about Greek grammar and “moods”, all the while completely ignoring the amgiguity behind the word proskyneō. He just assumed the word only means “worship”, but then tried to deny that meaning in Revelation 3:9 (for obvious reasons). This further exposes the inconsistency of Christians that I mentioned in the original article. Despite all the effort, insults, and arrogance, AB ultimately could not prove that Jesus truly was “worshiped” as “God” or that he accepted such “worship”.
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!
The Christian response can be found here: https://whatsoeverthingsaretrue.org/2022/02/28/was-jesus-worshiped-in-the-gospels/
 All Bible translations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
 Jason David BeDuhn, Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003), pp. 41–42.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Surah al-Baqara, 2:34 (Mustafa Khattab translation).
 Ibn Kathir’s commentary explains that the act of prostration was not to worship Adam but to honor him, similar to Joseph’s dream of his family prostrating to him (http://m.qtafsir.com/Surah-Al-Baqara/The-Prostration-was-before-Ada—).
 “Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him ˹alone˺. This is the Straight Path.”
Here, the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) says that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is the only One worthy of “worship” (ibada).
 Of course, with the coming of Islam, prostrating to a human being is no longer allowed.
 As a side note, the silly Christian AB appealed to the myth of the “Magi” visiting the infant Jesus since it also used the “Aorist Active Indicative” form of proskyneō to describe how the pagan astrologers “worshiped” Jesus. I have written about this silly myth elsewhere and demonstrated how absurd the story is: https://quranandbibleblog.com/2020/03/29/ken-temple-and-good-science-debunking-another-christian-lie.
For our purposes here, it should suffice that the story was probably based on a historical meeting between the emperor Nero and the Armenian king Tiridates, as the late scholar Geza Vermes observed:
“[i]t is conceivable that another relatively recent event influenced Matthew and prompted him to introduce the Magi into his narrative. This was the visit to Rome in the late 50s or early 60s AD of the Armenian king Tiridates and his courtiers, whom Pliny the Elder designates as Magi (Natural History 30:6, 16-17). This Tiridates is said to have come to Rome to worship the emperor-god Nero in the same way as Matthew’s Magi came to worship the newborn Messiah of the Jews. A further curious coincidence which may have caught Matthew’s attention is a detail noted by the Roman chronicler Cassius Dio. After Tiridates had been confirmed by Nero as king, this group of ‘Magi,’ like the ‘wise men’ of the New Testament, did not return by the same route as the one they followed coming to Rome (Roman History 63:1-7)” (Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend [London: Penguin Books, 2006], p. 112.).
So, not only does this myth not serve as undeniable proof that Jesus was “worshiped” as “God” (if he was, why did his mother and the rest of his family consider him to be “crazy” as stated in Mark 3:21?), it is a most likely a myth anyway. Even in this myth, Jesus was not necessarily “worshiped” but rather paid “homage” by the Magi (i.e., by being bowed to).