Thursday, April 16, 2015

Veneration vs. Worship

In modern English, “worship” (like prayer) has mainly taken on the meaning of an act (invocation, prostration) offered exclusively to God. However, the original and official semantic range of this word used to be much wider, as was the case of the Greek word proskunh/w (proskuneo) which is normatively applied to God but also to human beings (Genesis 27:29; 1 Kings 1:16; Revelation 3:9).  The idea conveyed by proskuneo is that of “offering obeisance,” “making a physical demonstration of veneration and respect” or “prostrating oneself.” With this in mind, the New American Bible sometimes translates proskuneo as “to do homage,” including when applied to Jesus.  In contemporary Eastern Orthodox terminology, the equivalent of proskuneo is often “venerate.”    The Marriam-Webster dictionary offers the following definition for ‘worship:’
1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion... synonym see REVERE
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As a result, some scholars have decided to translate proskuneo consistently as “worship,” but many others do not use “worship” in contexts where proskuneo is properly offered to a creature.  Indeed, there are instances when proskuneo is reserved for Go (Exodus 20:5 LXX, Acts 10:25, Rev. 22:9) and others when proskuneo can be properly offered to creatures as derivative icons of God (1 Chronicles 29:20 LXX, 1 Kings 2:13 LXX, Rev. 3:9). Hence, although ‘all honor, glory and worship are due to God,’ relative honor, glory and worship are due to parents, rulers, bishops, angels, saints, etc. 

In the development of the Eastern Orthodox dogmatic framework and at the time of the iconoclastic controversy, St. John of Damascus and the Seventh Ecumenical Council clarified the definition of proskuneo as “derivative or relative worship” or “veneration,” while acknowledging the fact that proskuneo can also mean “worship” in the highest sense. On this basis, the Council declared such acts of reverence to be proper if the intention is to ultimately honor the ‘the true God and Father’ by honoring his icons, primarily the Son who is the perfect icon, “True God of True God” and who shares the uncreated nature of the Father, but also created icons, such as rulers and saints. For clarity’s sake, the Council also declared that the highest form of worship would be associated with the unambiguous word latruo/latreia, a semantic clarification and adjustment comparable with the one that took place with the words episkopos and ousia/hypostasis.  Indeed, latreia is never used in the Scriptures in reference to anyone but God. 

The EOB Bible pg. 24-25

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