ὁ δὲ ἔφη· πιστεύω, κύριε· καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ.(John 9:38, NA27)

He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:38, ESV).

The apostle Peter in Acts (10:26-27), similar incident with Paul (14:11-15), told people to get up and not worship them because they were mortal men when people tried to worship them, but Jesus did not do this when people worshiped him. Jesus quoted the first of the Ten Commandments when tempted by Satan.

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω, ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι. 10 τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὕπαγε, σατανᾶ· γέγραπται γάρ·

κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις

καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις. (Matt. 4:9–10, NA27)

And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God

and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Matt. 4:9–10, ESV).

Does Jesus allowing people to worship him indicate that he acknowledged the fact that he is God?

  • Paul says that 'God was manifest in flesh', I Timothy 3:16, and it is quite proper that those who witnessed him so manifested should fall down and worship him, without rebuke. – Nigel J Oct 11 at 0:43
  • Satan means enemy. Whose enemy ? God's enemy. So prostrating (proskynesis) before Satan is inherently incompatible with serving God (latria). But prostrating oneself before a man or angel of God is not, since the two are obviously not at odds with one another (Genesis 19:1; Numbers 22:31; Judges 13:20; 2 Kings 2:15; 1 Chronicles 21:16; Acts 10:25; Revelation 22:8). – Lucian Oct 11 at 21:36
  • "All the apostles in Acts including Paul told people to get up and not worship them..." I am aware of only the incident between Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:25) - where are the others? – Possibility Oct 13 at 5:41
  • @Possibility Note edit. – Perry Webb Oct 13 at 22:46
  • Thanks @PerryWebb - the people were naming them after their Greek gods, so of course Paul would put a stop to it. But this is not the same as proskuneo - rather, it is serving OTHER gods (eidolatria). – Possibility Oct 14 at 1:31

Worship as in serve, bow down or adore

In the New Testament there are two different Greek verbs translated as 'worship', as well as a third term 'eidolatria' (εἰδωλολατρεία, Strong's 1495), translated as 'worship of idols' or 'idolatry'. This term is derived from the words for 'idol' (εἴδωλον, Strong's 1497) and 'to serve' (λατρεία, Strong's 2999).

The verb 'sebetai' (from σέβομαι, Strong's 4576) translates as 'to revere, adore'. It was used in reference to the Ephesians' worship of Artemis (Acts 19:27), and was often applied to Christians as an adjective, translated as 'devout' or 'worshipping'. Jesus also uses this verb in quoting Isaiah: "in vain do they worship (σέβονταί) me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men' (Matthew 15:9).

The verb 'proskuneo' (προσκυνέω, Strong's 4352) translates as 'to bow down or prostrate oneself'. It describes an observed action only, and appears to make no assumption as to the emotion or internal thought processes of the person performing the action. The act itself could demonstrate respect, reverence, fear or obeisance towards someone or something, including kings and other demonstrations of power.

The verb σέβομαι alludes to a particular emotion or relationship, but προσκυνέω merely describes a particular action.

When Jesus quotes from scripture to Satan, he says "you shall worship (προσκυνήσεις) the Lord your God, and him alone shall you serve (λατρεύσεις)" (Matthew 4:10). This does not expressly forbid the act proskuneo being applied to another, but it does forbid serving anyone else, which is consistent with the term eidolatria as serving idols.

Does Jesus allowing people to worship him indicate that he acknowledged the fact that he is God?

The answer to this is yes and no. This act of worship in John is in direct response to Jesus pointing out that the man has both seen and heard from the 'son of man':

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. (John 9: 36-38)

Bowing before the son of man is not exactly the same as bowing before God. We can adore (sebetai) Him and serve (latai) Him without meeting God face to face, but in order to worship (proskuneo) God, we must see Him physically before us.

So it stands to reason that the man saw what he believed to be God physically before him - or at least as close as one can possibly get to such an experience.

Perceiving is more than seeing

The conversation between Jesus and the man who was cured of blindness appears to make reference to something that is neither Jesus himself nor physically visible.

When the man asks Jesus who is this 'son of man', Jesus' answer does not specifically identify himself, but only what the man has subjectively perceived and heard: "You have seen (ἑώρακας) him, and it is he who speaks to you". The verb translated here as 'to see' is not the same verb used three times in verse 39:

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39)

That verb is 'blepo' (βλέπω, Strong's 991), which is a physical seeing or observing. When Jesus says that the blind man has 'seen' the son of man, however, he refers to 'horao' (ὁράω, Strong's 3708), which is a spiritual seeing or perceiving.

Had he said "I am the son of man", the man's response (proskuneo) could have easily been understood as worship of Jesus himself. But he never does this, because this is not what he means - Jesus does not equate himself with the son of man, let alone with God.

Is this 'son of man' God?

The 'son of man' (in Hebrew 'ben-adam') comes from the Old Testament and refers to the title by which God addresses Ezekiel, a prophet who relayed messages, both physically and verbally, from God to the people of Israel. By using this particular title, Ezekiel attempts to distinguish his own identity, as 'Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi', from his spiritual role as 'son of man' - not simply a messenger for God.

the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chalde′ans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there. (Ezekiel 1:3)

"I send you to them; and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there has been a prophet among them. And you, son of man (ben-adam), be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit upon scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 2: 4-7)

The distinction suggests that his actions and words as recorded were not generated by his identity as Ezekiel, but by this new relationship with God as 'ben-adam'. In referencing this title, Jesus suggests a similar relationship between the flesh and blood he recognises as himself and the 'logos' of God that he communicates both physically and verbally.

'Son of man', as distinct from 'man', describes something born of humanity that is not the same as the parent. It suggests something different, new. As an identity, described by Ezekiel and demonstrated by Jesus, 'ben-adam' represents a new, more direct relationship between God and humanity: one that allows God to 'manifest in the flesh' without interference from the human fears, drives or desires of the flesh.

Paul refers to this relationship as living 'according to the spirit':

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5) For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)

So understanding the difference between God and the 'son of man' as God manifest in the life of Jesus is not a matter of his flesh, but of the spiritual relationship that enables God to be perceived in his words and actions.

Conclusion

Jesus cures a man of blindness and then tells him that he has seen and heard the son of man. He responds by saying "Lord, I believe" and then worships 'him'. Many would observe that the man worshipped 'him' the physical man Jesus, leading them to assume that Jesus must be God. But a deeper exploration of the text suggests that the man worshipped 'him' the 'son of man': his spiritual perception of God through the words and actions observed in Jesus.

That Jesus understood this difference is demonstrated by his reference to the 'son of man' in the third person, reflecting the distinction between his own mortal identity and this spiritual identity in relationship with God. There is reason, therefore, to suggest that Jesus, in allowing it, recognised this act of worship was not for himself, but for God, perceived (by one who believes) through the words and actions of 'ben-adam'.

  • 1
    Good information, but I'm not sure you answered OP's question. Still, I'll upvote you. Don – rhetorician Oct 11 at 8:24
  • Jesus' designation of himself as the son of man (using the third person) is accepted by nearly all modern biblical scholars. To suggest otherwise is to do gymnastics with the plain meaning of this text. There is simply no contextual justification to suggest that Jesus is deflecting the credit for this miracle to anyone other than Himself. – kmote Oct 17 at 3:29
  • There is clearly no 'plain meaning' of this text - hence the debate. Any appearance of consensus among biblical scholars dismisses Jesus' use of third person as irrelevant. He does it EVERY time he speaks about the son of man, but they continue to read "I am the son of man" where it was clearly NOT written or spoken as such. Scholarship addressing the third person suggest it was a careful (fearful) way of avoiding a claim that may hasten his death - yet he continues to use it in this way even as his death is imminent. Just because it's easier to read it that way, doesn't make it true. – Possibility 2 days ago

Definitely, it implies a worship of divine status of Jesus, and moreover, the immediate context of the passage excludes any other interpretation, to the effect that since Jesus does not reprimand the man proskynes-ing to Him, by this He asserts His divinity, in difference from Peter, who forbade Cornelius proskynes-ing him, with the words that he (Peter) is also just a man (Acts 10:25-27).

The immediate context of the chapter 9 shows that Jesus demonstratively heals the man blind from his birth – a miracle that nobody has ever done before him – not through prayer to the Father, but authoritatively, as a holder of sovereign Power; moreover, He intimates that He is the Creator of Adam by putting wet clay on the blind man’s eyes, for Adam was created out of clay. The miracle is not only that He gave vision to man’s eyes but that the man started to see things clearly immediately, because any person blind from birth and starting to see through surgery, will not immediately recognize the viewed things and identify them with the things perceived by touch; rather, they will touch an object, see it, but will not connect the touching with the seeing, thinking that these are different things. Long and painful process of education and training is necessary for a man to see normally, which this blind man does here immediately.

Thus, Jesus in this chapter does deeds of the Sender, the Father at will, by His own authority without prayer, and moreover calls Himself not someone enlightened but the very Principle of enlightenment, the very Light (John 9:5), through whom all can see and without whom nobody can see, that is to say, see and understand that He has the same authority as God, working miracles without asking, without prayers.

The blind man knows that and he describes in detail to the Pharisees how he was healed. Furthermore, just immediately before man falls before Him, Jesus says to him that He is the “Son of Man”, which comes from Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:13-14) and implies a Being, not identified with God the Father, but who receives divine attributes and divine sovereign authority from God and through those attributes, this sovereign power and authority is worshipable by all nations with no blame or error of idolatry or blasphemy, alongside with the God the Father. Now, in Daniel the Son of Man is said to be worshiped in the strong sense as befits exclusively to Divinity only, expressed by the word λατρεύω, and since Jesus’ identification of Himself with the Son of the Man is regarded as credible by the formerly blind man, so his προσκυνέσις also can only bear this strong and exclusive meaning, for he just acted as those “all nations” of the earth who worshiped the Son of the Man and so the formerly blind man in chapter 9 also worshiped Jesus, identified now by him with the same Son of the Man.

No, not at all. In the culture of that time it was not unusual for a subject to fall onto their face in obeisance.

Jesus was the son of David, the messianic king and as such was rightly "worshiped" in the same sense.

  • But did you answer the OP's question? I think not. Don – rhetorician Oct 11 at 8:25

The earlier answer by @Possibility is technically correct so I will not repeat the excellent material in Possibility's answer. Allow me add some extra data.

With the exception of Matt 18:26 (in a parable to person representing God),and Rev 3:9 (which is not clear) there is not another instance of the 58 other occurrences of the verb "proskuneo" (= prostrated homage, see BDAG, etc) where a person does such "worship" before something or someone they did not believe was a god or the God; or in the three cases where the person was not a god (Acts 10:25, Rev 19:10, 22:8) the worshipper is immediately stopped and corrected.

Thus, we have homage to idols (eg, Acts 7:43); worship of the devil and demonic beings (eg, Matt 4:9, Luke 4:7, Rev 9:20); worship of God (eg, 1 Cor 14:25, Acts 8:27); Jesus (eg, Matt 2:2, 8, 11, 8:2, 9:18, 28:9, 17, Heb 1:6); worship of the beast and its image (eg, Rev 13:4, 8, 12, 14:9, 11, which practice is condemned); worship of idols (eg, Acts 7:43).

Thus, while such bowing homage to non-gods can be found in the OT, it is absent (under this verb) in the NT. Therefore, I suggest that John 9:38, as it stands in view of the rest of the NT evidence, suggests that Jesus accepted worship of Himself as a divine being.

  • Herod and the wise men (Matt 2) refer to bending their knee to a king/ruler, not to God. – Possibility Oct 13 at 13:11
  • Revelation 3:9 also refers to people 'bowing down at the feet' of the church at Philadelphia - not before God. There is enough evidence here to refute any suggestion that proskuneo was only acceptable before God, or that Jesus saw himself as a divine being to be worshipped because he allowed someone to bow before him. – Possibility Oct 13 at 14:23
  • The verb "proskuneo" occurs in the story of the magi in Matt 2:2, 8, 11 and all refer to paying homage to the baby Jesus. The instance in Rev 3:9 is more problematic and one that I had missed (I will update my answer to reflect this so thanks). It is not completely clear who homage is paid to and when. Some commentaries suggest that this is homage to God after the second advent but this is far from clear. – Dr Peter McGowan Oct 13 at 20:51
  • The magi paid homage to a child prophesied to become the ruler of Israel. Neither the magi nor Herod made any connection between this child and God. Their proskuneo is not an acknowledgement of divinity. The letter in Revelations is also clearly addressed to the church - it's only problematic if you consider proskuneo to include acknowledgement of divinity, but its usage (including outside of the bible) suggests only respect and obeisance in a general sense. Still, I can see how my own answer is also unsatisfactory in addressing the question. I think this requires more from both of us... – Possibility Oct 14 at 2:10

In a word, no. The following explains.

WORSHIP, THE MEANING OF THE HEBREW, GREEK AND ENGLISH TERMS.

In certain instances the word "worship" does not always mean worship in the sense that would first comes to mind which is that of a God etc. in the following Bible verse the word "worship" is applied to a man in one of Jesus' parables, Luke 14:10 "But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship (Gk. glory) in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee." (K.J.V.) In the time that the K.J.V. of the Bible was produced, 1611, the word "worship" had several meaning in the then what we call today "Old English", as the following definition and the forgoing scripture shows.

"worship —n. 1 a homage or service to a deity. b acts, rites, or ceremonies of this. 2 adoration, devotion^. 3 (Worship) (prec. by His, Her, Your) forms of description or address for a mayor, certain magistrates, etc. —v. (-pp-; US -p-) 1 adore as divine; honor with religious rites. 2 idolize or regard with adoration. 3 attend public worship. 4 be full of adoration. worshipper n. [Old English: related to *worth, *-ship]."-'Oxford Dictionary' ^This form of “worship” can be done towards Humans & Christ but it differs from No. 1.

"Worship (arch.) good name, credit, dignity, importance, respect shown OE.; veneration of a power held divine XIII. OE. weor pscipe, wurp-, wyrp, f. weorp WORTH +-scipe -SHIP. Hence vb. XII. ME worpshipie."-The Oxford Dictionary of English Etmology

The same applies to the Greek word "proskuneo" translated "worship," "bow down" etc. The following we will read various comments by Biblical scholars on the meaning and usage of the Greek idiomatic word "Proskyneo".

"WORSHIP. Our English word means "worthship." denoting worthiness of an individual to receive special honor in accordance with that worth. The principal biblical terms, the Hebrew saha and the Greek proskyneo, emphasize the act of prostration, the doing of obeisance. This may be done out of regard for the dignity of personality and influence somewhat by custom (Gen. 18:2), or may be based on family relationship (Gen 49:8) or on station in life (1 Kings 1:31). On a higher plane the same terms are used of divine honors to a deity, whether to the gods of the nations (e.g. Ex. 20:5) or to the one true and living God who reveals himself in the Scriptures and in his Son (ex. 24:1).""- Baker's Dictionary of Theology Published by Baker Book House p.560

"The Gk. words thus rendered are: proskuneo, properly to "kiss the hand to (toward) one," in token of reverence; also by kneeling or prostration to do homage-the word most frequently used in the NT."-'The New Ungers Bible Dictionary' p.1371

Strong's Greek Lexicon "No. 4352 proskuneo {pros-koo-neh'-o} from 4314 and a probable derivative of 2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand); Also see T.D.N.T. - 6:758,948; v, In the A.V. - worship 60; 60 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence 2) among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence 3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication 3a) used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank 3a1) to the Jewish high priests 3a2) to God 3a3) to Christ 3a4) to heavenly beings 3a5) to demons."

"WORSHIP 1. proskuneo (4352), "to make obeisance, do reverence to" (from pros, "towards, and kuneo, "to kiss", is the most frequent word rendered "to worship." It is used of an act of homage or reverence (a) to God . . . (b) to Christ . . . (c) to a man . . . (d) to the Dragon, by men . . . (e) to the Beast, his human instrument ... (f) the image of the Beast, . . . (g) to demons . . . (h) to idols . . ."-Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (O.T. & N.T.) p.686

"Mark 5:6 Worshipped It is true that proskyneo (from kyneo, "kiss") means "to make obeisance, do reverence to, worship" ([G.] A[bbott]-S[mith], p.386). Arndt and Gingrich note that the verb was "used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before a person or kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc.; the Persian did this in the presence of their defied king, and the Greeks before a divinity or something holy" (p.716) But it was also used for a slave prostrating himself before his master (Matt 18:26*). The pertinent question remains: would the demon-possessed man be worshiping Jesus, even though he called Him "Son of the Most High God" (NASB, NIV, RSV)? Probably "Fell on his knees in front of him" (NIV) is a safer translation."-Word Meanings in the New Testament by Ralph Earle p.37

*N.K.J.V. "fell down before him", K.J.V. "worshiped him"; why change?

"... to prostrate oneself before in token of respect, to do obeisance, salute. 2. of the gods, to worship: to deprecate, disarm by worship." -A Lexicon Abridged from Gk.-Eng. Lexicon by H.G. Liddell, M.A., & R. Scott, M.A. p.635

"17.21 ... (an idiom, literally 'to incline the face to the ground'): to prostrate oneself before someone as an act of reverence, fear, or supplication - 'to prostrate oneself before'.' ... and they will prostrate themselves before your feet' Rev 3,9; 'kneeling down, they prostrate themselves before him' Mk 15.19. is semantically very complex in that it indicates not only body position but also an attitude and activity of reverence of honor. In many contexts it is not necessary to specify both semantic elements, but one or the other may be selected depending upon what seems to be the focus of attention. For example, in Mk 15.19 one may either translate 'they knelt before him and worshiped him in a mocking way' or 'they knelt before him and prostrate themselves before him.' 'they were fearful and prostrated themselves on the ground' or '. . . bowed down to the ground' Lk 24.5."-Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T. based on Semantic Domains Vol. 1 by the United Bible Societies p.216

Also see 'Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament' page 889

According to the above definitions and explanation of the use of the Greek idiom "proskyneo" it may be translated as "worship" when it is used in matters relating to sacred things and to Almighty God, a lesser, and or false god, gods or as "obeisance" when used man to man, man to Christ, (can be secular) or lesser divine being to another divine being but as "worship" in matter of other creatures toward the Almighty God etc.. These deferring uses of "proskyneo" will always be governed by the scriptural context wherein it is used, which in turn will be affected by the translators own theological doctrines.

Another interesting comment from ‘Truth In Translation’ Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament by Jason David DeDuhn p.48

“In our exploration of the Greek word proskuneo in the New Testament, therefore, the NAB and NW* receive the highest marks for accuracy, while the others* show a tendency to lapse into interpretive judgments guided by their theological biases.” *NWT **KJV, NASB, NRSV, NIV, AB, TEV, LB.

  • Please use the "edit" button and the formatting tools that appear to put the quoted material in a highlighted box and provide a link to the source. Also please note that you can't just drop a quote, you have to provide a summary of what the material says and for why you agree with the material quoted. Thanks. – Ruminator 2 days ago

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