Worship of Yeshua


How important is worship of Yeshua, witnessed in the Scriptures, to regarding Yeshua as being genuinely God?

The First Commandment explicitly prohibits the worship of any other deity than the LORD God of Israel (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 5:6-9), meaning that some significant questions are posed from the Apostolic Scriptures, when it is clear that Yeshua of Nazareth was venerated by people and various supernatural entities. How are examiners and readers to view such veneration of Yeshua? Is this to just be some kind of intensified honor, as could be demonstrated by the ancients toward various human kings, political leaders, and figures of importance? Or, is the veneration that Yeshua of Nazareth received, to be indeed regarded as worship?

There are linguistic factors which play into evaluating the veneration demonstrated toward Yeshua of Nazareth. There is some disagreement about what the specific Hebrew verb translated “worship” in the First Commandment, among other key places, actually is, among lexicons, with TWOT favoring the verb chavah,[1] but it more often favored to be the verb shachah.[2] Lexically speaking, whether it is chavah or shachah, the underlying Hebrew can be translated as either “worship” or “bow down,” depending on whether or not the God of Israel or some pagan deity is being venerated, or if just honor is being expressed toward another human being. The Greek equivalent via the Septuagint, which is also employed in the Apostolic Scriptures, is proskuneō, which in relative totality can mean “worship; fall down and worship, kneel, bow low, fall at another’s feet” (CGEDNT).[3] The verb proskuneō can lexically be translated as either “worship” or “bow down,” certainly asking some important questions concerning how it is employed when veneration or honor is expressed toward Yeshua of Nazareth (i.e., Matthew 2:2, 11; 14:33; 28:9).

Those who hold to a high Christology would, for sure, view the majority of uses of proskuneō in regard to veneration or honor of Yeshua of Nazareth being regarded as “worship,” and not just some sort of “bowing down.”[4] This especially concerns Tanach intertextuality, where worship of YHWH is ascribed to Yeshua (Hebrews 1:6 and Psalm 97:7). If Yeshua is not genuinely God, then to worship Yeshua is to violate the First Commandment and commit blatant idolatry. Those who hold to a low Christology of Yeshua of Nazareth being some important human lord or master, and perhaps even a supernatural agent but ultimately a created being, would not often consider “worship” to be ascribed to Yeshua. Where the verb proskuneō appears in the Apostolic Scriptures in association with honor of Yeshua, it is widely concluded to only involve people “bowing down” to the Messiah.

NOTES

[1] Edwin Yamauchi, “chavah,” in TWOT, 1:267-269.

[2] Merrill F. Unger and William White, Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), pp 295-296.

[3] Barclay M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies/Deutche Bibelgesellschaft, 1971), 154.

[4] H. Greeven, “proskynéō,” in TDNT, 949.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

Confronting Yeshua’s Divinity and Messiahship

Salvation on the Line, Volume I: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity—Gospels and Acts

Salvation on the Line, Volume II: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity–General Epistles, Pauline Epistles, & Later New Testament