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Matthew 14:32-33 reads:

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I have recently been told that there is an issue with the word that is translated "worshiped." The person claims that it should be translate as "greeting" or that the people on the ship "greeted him" or like paying homage to an honored person.

Is "worship" an appropriate translation for this word? Is greeting a possible translation? Is this particular word ever translated as greeting?

It would be great if the answer looked at Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, because there is debate on what Matthew was originally written in.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Both the Greek verb προσκυνέω and its Hebrew equivalent השתחוה literally mean "pay homage," "make obeisance." It is an act of reverence given to one's superior. Contrary to popular belief, it is not solely used in reference to God. For example, see Exo. 18:7:

And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. (KJV)

וַיֵּצֵא מֹשֶׁה לִקְרַאת חֹתְנֹו וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ וַיִּשַּׁק־לֹו וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ אִישׁ־לְרֵעֵהוּ לְשָׁלֹום וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֹהֱלָה

ἐξῆλθεν δὲ Μωυσῆς εἰς συνάντησιν τῷ γαμβρῷ αὐτοῦ καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐφίλησεν αὐτόν καὶ ἠσπάσαντο ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰσήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν σκηνήν

Those responsible for the KJV translated it as "worship" in Matt. 14:33 according to their own...well...bias.

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1  
Is any word "solely used in reference to God"? –  Jack Douglas Sep 26 '13 at 9:18
    
I would say that λατρεύω is predominately if not always used in reference to divine worship. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Sep 27 '13 at 6:33
    
@JackDouglas thats interesting, en.wiktionary.org/wiki/… means slave, or submitting to God alone , can the answerer update the answer with this and instances where it was used to worship God –  Ali Sep 27 '13 at 9:32
    
Do you see it that way in Acts 7:42? –  Jack Douglas Sep 27 '13 at 12:09
1  
@Jack Douglas, yes, it still means divine worship in Acts 7:42. I think we both agree that an idolater believes he is worshipping the true god, or gods (if he believes that there is more than one god). Of course, we know that he is mistaken. Nevertheless, the point is that he believes he is worshipping the true god, and thus his actions reflect divine worship (λατρεύω). It's like, what Muslims do to Allah is indeed λατρεύω, yet I would consider Muslims to be idolaters. What the ancients Greeks did to Zeus was λατρεύω, yet again, we know that they were idolaters. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Sep 27 '13 at 19:38

Because OP specifically asked also for Aramaic, I'd like to add some info from Aramaic perspective. In Aramaic the word in use is ܣܓ݂ܶܕ݂ܘ which roughly means

[they] worshipped / adored / paid homage to [someone]

This is according to Aramaic/Syriac dictionaries. There is no "greeting" there.

Is "worship" an appropriate translation for this word? Is greeting a possible translation? Is this particular word ever translated as greeting?

Worship seems to be quite appropriate and sufficent, but I would allow other interpretations too. Especially that the other meaning of ܣܓ݂ܶܕ݂ܘ is "paid homage" and in some languages and cultures "to greet someone" has very similar meaning to "to pay homage". Even more - sometimes greeting is actually like paying homage. In my native language (Polish) word cześć is translated as casual English hi but actually it literally means be honored. And oddawać cześć is translated as "worship" while it can also mean "pay homage"! There is some connection between these meanings. For me, it is very clear that ܣܓ݂ܶܕ݂ܘ and its inflections can also have meaning of greetings and salutations apart from its main meaning of worship and paying homage.

Some example verses from KJV (in which I mark in bold appropriate word from Peshitta) illustrating that sometimes worship could be changed to greetings:

Mark 15:19 And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

For me this is about Roman Soldiers saluting Jesus as Jewish king (just like they would salute Casear), not worshipping him like a God.

Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 8:2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Matthew 9:18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

Matthew 18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Mark 5:6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

Acts 10:25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.

And there are some more verses, but I don't see a need to list everything.

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According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the root of the 3rd person plural verb προσεκυνησαν; i.e., προσκυνέω, (pros-koo-neh'-oh) means "to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)". Moulton (Analytical Lexicon) explained that, according to the context, προσκυνέω can mean:

in the N.T. to do reverence or homage by prostration,... to pay divine homage, worship, adore,... to bow one's self in adoration".

Mounce (Expository Dictionary) simply echoes both Moulton and Strong.

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