Tuesday, May 05, 2009

How Roman Dogma Affects a Defense of the Deity of Christ

One major thrust of any biblical defense of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is to point out the places in the New Testament in which He explicitly receives worship.
I found 4 passages in which such worship directed to Jesus appears in the NT and discovered that the English word "worship" each time expresses one Greek word - προσκυνέω, proskyneō aka proskuneo.

John 9:35 - Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?"
37Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you."
38And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped (proskuneo) Him.

Revelation 5:11 - I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
12saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
14And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen " And the elders fell down and worshiped (proskuneo).

Revelation 19:10 - Then I fell at his feet to worship (proskuneo) him. But he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship (proskuneo) God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Revelation 22:8 - I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship (proskuneo) at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
9But he said to me, "Do not do that I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship (proskuneo) God."

How does this relate to Rome? Roman dogma specifically endorses and approves the bowing down in a religious context to non-deity entities such as the Blessed Virgin, saints, and angels. Roman apologists contend that the Bible contains examples of people bowing down to other people, and it seems to be perfectly OK. Tim Staples has said:
Is kissing or kneeling down before a statue the same as worshiping it? Not necessarily. Both Peter in Acts 10 and the angel in Revelation 19 rebuked Cornelius and John, respectively, specifically for worshiping them. The problem was not with the bowing; it was with the worshiping. Bowing does not necessarily entail worship. For example, Jacob bowed to the ground on his knees seven times to his elder brother Esau (Gen. 33:3), Bathsheba bowed to her husband David (1 Kgs. 1:16), and Solomon bowed to his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs. 2:19).
Another prooftext Roman apologists use is 1 Chronicles 29:20 -
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the LORD and to the king.
For the record, all of those OT verses mentioned save 1 Kings 2:19 use a form of proskuneo in the LXX.
Protestants respond in numerous ways, one of which is to remind the Romanist that these occurrences are not in a religious context. To greet someone or to show honor to the king is clearly not worship. I've pointed this out myself at length. Romanists respond that this distinction is not as hard and fast as we make it sound.
"See?" they say, "It's permissible to proskuneo non-divine entities."

Now, it occurred to me the other day that The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the Jehovah's Witnesses, often experience the same allergy to throwing proskuneo around that we as Protestants do. But of course, it's a bit of a different animal for them, since JW dogma is henotheistic in nature. But if Jesus Christ were to receive worship as divine, then would that not weigh in favor of our contention that Christ is Himself Jehovah?
Consider James White's debate with on-again, off-again, now in good standing, now in poor standing JW apologist Greg Stafford. White mentioned the passages I printed above from Revelation 4 and 5, where the Lamb and the One seated on the throne are recipients of proskuneo from the beings surrounding the throne.
Dr. White plays a clip from his debate with Stafford starting at minute 23:15 of this video. You can hear Stafford insist that the proskuneo of the aforementioned passage does not apply necessarily to the Lamb, that is, Christ, in this scenario. Perhaps it is only the One seated on the throne, the Father (or Jehovah on Stafford's view), Who is receiving the proskuneo of the creatures and elders, etc, in this scene. Obviously, if Christ were to be on the receiving end of a proskuneo act and accept it as proper, the JW view would be seriously damaged, as such worshipful actions are due and properly rendered to Jehovah alone.
Read the passage through from Revelation 4 to the end of 5 and it becomes clear that there is no disjunction between the worship given to the Father and that given to the Lamb - Christ. Thus - zing! - the worship Christ receives is identical to that which the Father (Jehovah Himself on the JW view) receives. And the Father never objects, never corrects those who are worshiping, and neither does Christ. Thus John 5:22-23 is pictured as fully realised in the heavenly scene:

22"For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Thus, a useful weapon in the Christian's arsenal of arguments against Watchtower dogma is hamstrung on Roman Catholicism, as RC apologists try to justify their actions towards statues of dead people and angels by attempting to show that it's OK to proskuneo non-divine entities.
Catholic Answers seems not to see this:
The 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions of the NWT said that Jesus was to be worshipped (Heb. 1:6), but the WTS changed the NWT so that later editions would support its doctrines. The translators now decided to render the Greek word for "worship" (proskuneo) as "do obeisance" every time it is applied to Jesus, but as "worship" when modifying Jehovah. If the translators were consistent, then Jesus would be given the worship due to God in Matthew. 14:33, 28:9, 28:17, Luke 24:52, John 9:38, and Hebrews 1:6.

This is not to say that the RC has no useful or valid arguments against the Watchtower. I'm just pointing out that RC dogma and apologetic practice prevents them from using this argument.


Paul Hoffer said...

Rhology: I saw this on another blog: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=5152623#post5152623 .

I can not not improve on this argument made by Gottle of Geer:

"All adoration is worship - all worship is not adoration.

... [Deleted portion having to do with a definition of "cultus" in the context of honoring saints]

"Since it is obviously idolatry to put God & His Saints on a par, the Church, in honouring both, distinguishes the honour due to each. This is a perfectly reasonable, even self-evident, distinction: every Fundamentalist who distinguishes the USA from God makes it; if no such distinction had any basis in reality, the Fundamentalist would be adoring the USA every time he sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee". Only in the heat of controversy is it overlooked. Since the Church of God does not adore any but God, & cannot, & must not, the love which is not adoration is distinguished from adoration by having a different name: love of country is patriotism, love of the Saints is douleia, & so on.

"All honour, love, veneration,worship is God's: the honour paid to His creatures, is paid them within the scope or environment of the boundless devotion of which God Alone is - can be - worthy. "Honour your father and you mother", "love your neighbour as yourself", "love your enemies", are distinct commands from "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy might" - but though in words they seem to contradict it, they do not: they can't, if all are God-given. So they can only be fruits & signs & evidences of it. Love of God is not a steam-roller, that flattens & destroys all lesser loves - it is the source & principle which alone can create, enliven, purify, direct, & order them; they are nothing, if it is lacking."

The problem is not with proskuneo, the problem is that the word worship has more than one meaning, a fact recognized by Protestants in some folks own religious ceremonials:

"With this ring I thee wed: with my body I thee worship: and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

The point is that your argument is still valid in the context of JW's because they fail to provide a rational basis for concluding that Christ was merely a creature, particularly in light of passages like 1 Cor. 10:14-22.

Your argument against JW's is not hamstrung at all by the defense that Catholics make in honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary and its saints because there is no question that Mary and saints are merely creatures. The burden is on JW's to prove that Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, was merely a creature. And we see texts like Phil. 2:5-11, where St. Paul's words sing with joy: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, OF THOSE IN HEAVEN and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that, Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," I do not see how anyone could objectively argue otherwise.

God bless!

Rhology said...


I agree that many other avenues of argument remain available for an RC against a JW. RCC is wrong, but JW is REALLY REALLY wrong.

But the argument I put fwd here relates specifically to proskuneo in a religious context. Something about Internet RCs is allergic to that phrase.

bkaycee said...

Strange practices appear when the 2cnd commandment gets thrown under the bus.

David Waltz said...

Hello Rhology,

This issue was discussed at ARTICULI FIDEI back in November, 2008. Not much ‘new’ in your post Rhology—as such, the argument is not as solid as you believe that it is. Yes, Jesus sits on God’s throne, and receives proskuneō; but, the redeemed saints will also sit on God’s throne, and they too will receive proskuneō—no amount of sophistry will change these Biblical facts.

As for this: “…since JW dogma is henotheistic in nature”; JW’s are NOT henotheistic! (Unless, of course, you are willing to apply the use of the term to the theology of the Bible.)

Grace and peace,


David Waltz said...

A quick note on the John 9:35-38 passage invoked by Rhology: Jesus receives proskuneō from those who come to believe that he is the “son of man”.

Note the following Biblical references:

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Psalm 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Psalm 80:17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

Psalm 144:3 LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

Isaiah 51:12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;

Isaiah 56:2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

Ezekiel 2:1 And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. (Also Ezekiel 2:3. 6, 8; 3:1, 3, 4 10, 17, 25; 4:1, 16; etc,)

Grace and peace,


Rhology said...

That makes 2 Romanists who have reacted fairly strongly, when this was hardly a critique of RC dogma, really. It's just interesting, is all.

Biblical factsJust out of curiosity, where is that explicitly stated in the Bible, since you say it's a Biblical fact?

JWs are henotheistic! One god - Jehovah - and then other lesser deities such as Jesus Christ.

And I'm not too sure what to make of your "son of man" psgs, so I'd like to ask you to elucidate what you mean.

Rhology said...

I'll add that David's comments here have served to bolster the thrust of my argument in the post - this argument in the hands of an RC leaves the JW position untouched.
I am saying (in this post) no more and no less.

Lvka said...

The problem lies with the Bible itself, in which we do find people bowing down to other things and/or beings in an accepted manner. [The same goes for the way the words God, or Lord, or 'son of God' are used. And so on]. The word for prostration (proskynesis) is being used to decribe both realities (denying this would only lead us to absurdities). I personally do not defend myself with lies and half-truths because Truth need not be defended by falsehood. The problem with Christ (and the Angel of the Lord) is not that people prostrate to Him, but that He does not reprove them (like the other Angels and Apostles do). Rather, He accepts their prostration, and this is a mystery, because it does not befit Him, since He Himself said about Himself: "Behold, for I am meek and lowly at heart", then He advised His disciples not to rule over their brethren the way the Nations do; and, on top of all that, He even washed the feet of His Apostles. It was also against the habbit of Angels and Apostles to receive prostrations, even from people who had no idolatrous intentions whatsoever: when the Prophets of the OT bow down to Michael and Gabriel; or when Saint John the Apostle does the same in Revelation. Or when the "God-fearing" Cornelius [or "righteous among Nations": someone who does believe in the One God, but does not become a proselyte, to fulfill the whole burden of the Law, which the Jews thought was given to them alone as a chosen people, and not to all Peoples] bows down to Peter the Apostle. The situations I've just described are not the same as that in which pagan priests tried to worship Paul and his companion as a pair of pagan Gods [I don't remember right now which pair exactly it was: Mercury & Zeus?]. There are so many things I'ld like to add here about the Angel of the Lord, who sometimes not only accepts, but actually causes prostration (Daniel 10: 8-9, 11, 15, 16-17), reminding us of Exodus 33:20. -- but I think this is enough.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Rhology,

You responded to my comments with:

>>That makes 2 Romanists who have reacted fairly strongly, when this was hardly a critique of RC dogma, really. It's just interesting, is all.>>

Me: Quite honestly, I am at a bit of a loss as to way you believe my response was “fairly strong”; IMHO, my comments were “fairly” reserved, and objective.

>>Biblical factsJust out of curiosity, where is that explicitly stated in the Bible, since you say it's a Biblical fact?>>

Me: That the saints will sit on God’s throne as did/has Jesus—Rev. 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
; that the saints will receive “worship”—Rev. 3:9, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”

>>JWs are henotheistic! One god - Jehovah - and then other lesser deities such as Jesus Christ.>>

Me: You are ignoring the context behind the origination of the term by Max Müller in 1860. Müller used the term to describe “a primitive form of faith” which was distinct from monotheism and monolatry. It was used more specifically to describe “one particular god” as the “tribal god”, which the given tribe(s) alone acknowledged and worshipped, without denying the existence of other tribal gods. If you think the above is descriptive of Arianism, there is little more to say…

>>And I'm not too sure what to make of your "son of man" psgs, so I'd like to ask you to elucidate what you mean.>>

Me: Merely that the passage to quoted suggests that proskuneō performed in the John passage you cited had nothing to do with any perceived divinity of our Lord by those who did so.

Grace and peace,


EBW said...

Those who have a defect in Faith always draw power from the truth. The inferior from the superior. Protst and JW both hold due to RC teaching on worship. One denies the deity of the Lord, while the other denies the deification of the Church.
Simple argument:
It is an act of worship to obey the commands of God.
God commands us to honor Him and our Parents.
Honoring God and our parents is an act of worship.

Honor is measured by the creator/creature distinction. Why does adoration (worship) differ here from honor ?

Rhology said...

Anyone interested can also see the burgeoning discussion at David Waltz's place. I still can't tell if anyone has understood the point of my post.

Acolyte4236 said...

I’d suggest looking at proskenau in a lexicon, which lists one of its usages as obeisance. So if Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans are hamstrung, then so are Protestants since the Bible permits honoring of various figures through physical acts and uses this term to denote such acts. Take a look at 1 Chronicles 29:20 where the same term is employed for obeisance and worship in one usage. The Hebrew here was translated into proskenau in the LXX. Some instances of it relative to Christ probably only mean obeisance as well.

Anyone experienced with arguing with JW apologists like Hal Flemings or Greg Stafford would know that they are quick to point out its wider semanti range. So I'd suggest you check a lexicon before making some arguments.

So this is just a bad argument.

Rhology said...


Context, my good sir, context.
Please bring your comment to the specific for the 4 psgs I cited at the top of this post.

Further, I note that your comment also bolsters my argument.

BillZuck said...


Lets look at the context of your quotes in the Book of Revelation. In Rev. 3:9 Jesus Himself says: "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie- indeed I will make them come and worship [proskunesosin] before your feet, and to know that I have loved you."NKJV.

Jesus himself is going to force the false Jews to give proper worship to the saints of Philadelphia.

Again, Jesus Himself said to Satan in Matt.4:10- "For it is written, 'You shall worship [proskuneseis] the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve [latreuseis]." NKJV.

Notice that Jesus did not say that only God is to be worshiped rather that only God is to be served, given latria. We serve God with one manner of service, latria, and another manner of service to others who are bearers of His authority in Church, State, and family. We are to give honor to all to whom honor is due for the Lord's sake. We are commanded to genuflect to both God and Men who bear their authority from God. Fear God, honor the King. This is our religious duty.

In the Book of Revelation proskunesis is offered both to Christ and to His members on whom the name of Jesus is written.

Bill Zuck

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rhology, as I said earlier, the problem lies in how you define worship. The Catholic system emphasizes the differences between the honor given a creature and the honor we are to show Our God. If the honor we show the Blessed Virgin Mary or a saint is great, the honor we show Our God is far, far greater. Your system minimizes those differences and seems to hold that the honor we show a creature is sufficient enough to honor Our God. It is not. For example, we do not say Mass to a saint or the Virgin Mother of God.

God bless!

EBW said...

The point of your post doesn't escape the RC. Your biblical examples of proskuneo can be taken in two senses. Latria
and/or dulia. Yes! JW are justified in seeing a "dulia" in these, especially Rev.4&5. All this talk about hamstrung dogma only serves to show Prtst. impotence when arguing w/JW.
Honor is applied to GOD and man, so what causes you to distinguish between the honor due to GOD and honor due to man? B/c in ESSENCE
you agree w/ the RC distinction, but turn around and deny the RC usage.
The Creator/creature distintion is latria/dulia and best known by the Incarnation. Latria to the divine-dulia to the glorified and excellent human.
Rev 4&5
The Lamb merits worthiness by:
lion of Judah-Root of David
resurrection-ascension-right hand
Slain in blood
passion of the cross
power,wealth, etc.
v.13 displays the co-equal of
divine nature..praise..honor..for
ever and ever (4:10,11) NIV

Keep defending the Godhead of Christ,but give JW credit where it is due.

David Waltz said...

I have a somewhat 'silly' question...the link to my blog was there two days ago, but is now not present...given the fact that I a a cyber-dummie: do links vanish with time, or does/do the blog moderator(s) have the ability to delete?

James Swan said...


Nothing was deleted from my end.

Rhology said...

That IS weird; I've never seen that happen. And I don't have any control over that either.
I do know that Blogger's reliability as far as that goes has been shoddy - sometimes stuff disappears, sometimes zillions of irrelevant and spamful links are there.

Here is the companion article on David's blog.

Reginald de Piperno said...

David/James/Rhology/et. al. -

I have seen backlinks appear and disappear and appear and disappear - not just here, but elsewhere, too. I suspect a Blogger bug.


Paul Ackermann said...

This is an argument out of pragmatism. It is saying that if we allow the bowing before a saint as something that can be done to a non-deity being, then we cannot argue to JWs that that when they bowed to Jesus that this means that Jesus is deity.

But even without the Catholic practice, Protestant themselves bow before non-deity beings. In England, where most people are Protestant (Anglican), they bow before their Queen. Does that mean that they believe that the Queen is deity?

As the article says, the Catholic has other ammo in his arsenal,. So it does not need to appeal to this argument. When a Protestant, I once had a JW come to to my door. We talked for two hours. For every verse I threw at him, he was able to twist it toward his belief. But just before he left, I gave him an argument that took the smile right off his face:

"Do you really think that your small group 2,000 years later got it right, and that for 2,000 years all Christians we wrong?"

When I argued based on Tradition, he had no rebuttal to this.

I realized later that this also was an argument against my Protestant beliefs. How is it possible that Martin Luther got it right and all of Christianity for the first 1500 years got it wrong?

PeaceByJesus said...

The answer to this last question which i just came across (searching on proskuneo dulia), is that Luther did not get it all right, nor was Rome all wrong. Nor was it necessary that the church being completely righto be the OTC, but as long as it hold enough to core truths that souls can be saved then it still can be part of the church.

Even the church of the Laodiceans was addressed as a church, and souls were saved thru history as some are now within Rome even at the time of the Reformation. But when men presume too much, such as the Jews did - and Rome increasingly did and would, esp that of assured infallibility, then God can raise up those from outside their office to reprove them, and diminish their house and office.

The real issue is that it is the gospel of grace and its most essential truths that is the most basic criteria for being a true church, as by the preaching of this gospel the church has its members.

And as God can raise up from stones children unto Abraham,(Mt. 3:9) God is still building His church using stones who profess that Jesus is Lord and believe on Him as Savior, as did Peter.

In contrast is the argument from Tradition, that looks to formal decent as criteria for authenticity that is faulty.

While God uses ordination, that does not assure perpetual authenticity. Thus the church itself began in dissent from those who basically presumed authenticity based on formal decent and that their teaching required the same submission as that of Scripture, and who therefore challenged the authority of the Lord and apostles. (Mk. 11:28-33)

However, the authenticity of Christ and the apostles was established upon conformity with Scripture and the attestive means it shows being given in establishing truth and authority. For Scripture abundantly evidences it was the supreme standard for obedience and testing truth claims, which additional writings conformed to and complimented in completing the scriptures.

And by which the born gain church of the living God continues to evidence it is such, esp by the gospel of grace which effects manifest regeneration in those who come to God as damned and destitute sinners, and thus trust the Lord Jesus to save them (not their merits or church) by His blood. To the glory God who wrought it.