June 29, 2024

The Type of Worship Given to Jesus

Three Greek Words for “Worship”

The Greek word latreia (λατρεία) as a noun and latreuō (λατρεύω) as a verb are both related to the concept of service or worship. They most often refer to the act of serving or worshiping in a religious context.

In the New Testament,  latreia and latreuō  usually reserved for the divine worship of God alone, are not used in reference to Jesus Christ. Instead, the term proskynesis (προσκύνησις)  is employed to denote worshipful reverence towards Jesus Christ.

Proskynesis is a term that refers to the act of bowing down or prostrating  oneself as a gesture of deep respect, worship, or submission. It comes from the Greek verb proskyneō (προσκυνέω). Proskynesis is not limited to religious worship. In ancient Greek and Persian cultures, it was also a form of homage or deep respect shown to kings and other high-ranking individuals. In religious contexts, particularly in ancient Greek and later in Christian literature, proskynesis signifies the act of worship offered to gods, rulers, or revered figures as an expression of their divinity, authority, or superiority.

In the Theodotion version of Daniel 7:14, the term douleuō (δουλεύω) is used to describe the service rendered to the Son of Man. The Greek verb douleuō (δουλεύω)  and its future tense form douleusousin (δουλεύσουσιν) primarily mean “to serve” or “to be a slave.” While these terms can be used in religious contexts to describe serving a deity, they do not directly translate to “worship” in the sense of religious adoration or reverence. 

Daniel 7:14 (Theodotion)

“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve (δουλεύσουσιν, douleusousin) him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

In this context, douleusousin is used to describe the universal service or allegiance given to the Son of Man, indicating a form of submission and loyalty. Given the context of Daniel 7:14, the term douleusousin carries a strong implication of royal service and submission to the authority of the Son of Man. This service includes elements of worship, given the exalted status of the Son of Man in this prophetic vision.

Use of Proskynesis in Luke -Acts + Paul

 Luke is the more primitive gospel narrative (see https://lukanpriority.com/), which only contains the word proskynesis applied to Jesus once in Luke 24:52. However, this is a textual variant that is not observed in some of the earliest manuscripts, including Codex Baeze, the earliest Old Latin Manuscripts, and the early Sinaitic Syriac manuscript. Thus, it can be argued that in the earliest version of Luke, there are no occurrences of proskynesis in reference to Jesus. Interestingly, Acts 10:25 includes a reference to Peter receiving proskynesis.

Moreover, there are no references in Paul's letters) in which proskynesis is used with explicit reference to Jesus. For Paul, God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name above every name, that every knee will bend, and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:8-9). But this is after him being exalted due to his obedience. For those who hold Luke-Acts + Paul as being the core foundational authorities of Apostolic Christianity, it is clear that it was not common practice in the most primitive form of Christianity to refer to Jesus as an object of worship during his life and ministry. Now that Jesus has been made Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) and has been exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33), Jesus has fully merited honor and servitude as one we should prostrate ourselves to. 

Use of Proskynesis elsewhere in the New Testament

The tendency to use the word proskynesis in reference to Jesus during his ministry is expanded in later Gospel traditions. Mark and Matthew, later revisions to the primitive narrative, have two occurrences and eleven, respectively, of proskynesis applied to Jesus, with the English translation being “worshiped,” “knelt” or “falling on his knees” in the ESV. Hebrews and Revelation, which both point to the fulfillment of God's plan, also include occurrences of proskynesis to Jesus. 

Unitarians understand proskynesis worship that is applied to Jesus in a manner that acknowledges him as God's chosen agent, but not as an object of divine worship in the same sense as God. Jesus is regarded as having been given authority and power by God as an exalted figure above creation. Jesus, being the Messiah (Christ), who fulfills prophecies of a future leader and king in Jewish tradition, is the one chosen by God to rule over and judge the world. 

Is Latreia worship ever applied to Jesus in the Bible?

Nowhere in the New Testament is the term latreia (usually denoting divine worship typically only given to God) used in reference to Christ.

Some trinitarian apologists like to point out that in the Septuagint (LXX) version of Daniel 7:14, latreia is used in reference to the Son of Man. However, they fail to disclose that there are multiple Greek versions of Daniel that predate the first century, and that the version which scholars hold as more accurate does not exhibit the word latreia in Dan 7:14.

In the Theodotion version of Daniel 7:14, the Greek word used is douleusousin (δουλεύσουσιν), which means “they will serve” or “they will worship in a servile manner,” indicating a form of homage or service rendered to the Son of Man. The explicit use of (λατρεία), which specifically denotes worship in a religious or divine sense, is not present in the superior Theodotion version of Daniel. Instead, the emphasis is on the submission and service of all peoples, nations, and languages to the Son of Man's authority and kingdom.

Which Greek word is more appropriate, lateria or douleusousin?

The word being translated from Aramic to greek is  “פלח” (pleach). This word does not necessarily entail religious worship. The term “פלח” (pleach) generally means “to serve” or “to work,” and its context determines whether it refers to religious service or secular labor.

In religious contexts, “pleach” can indeed refer to acts of worship or service to a deity. However, in other contexts, it might simply denote serving or working for someone in a non-religious capacity. Thus, the specific meaning of “pleach” depends on its usage within the broader text or discourse. Therefore, while peach can signify religious worship in certain contexts, it does not inherently or exclusively entail religious worship. Its precise meaning must be interpreted based on the surrounding text and usage. 

When translating a word with a broad range of meanings, it is generally advisable to use a translation that retains the broad range of meanings. This ensures that the translated word can encompass the various contexts in which the original word is used.

In the case of the Aramaic word “pelach” (פלח), which broadly means “to serve” or “to work,” a translation that retains this broad range of meaning would be ideal. In this case, douleusousin (δουλεύσουσιν) is more appropriate because this term is broader and can refer to any form of service, whether secular or religious. It captures the general sense of “serving” without limiting it to worship or religious service.

Yet latreuō is sometimes used loosely in the LXX and elsewhere

There are instances in the Septuagint (LXX) and other early Jewish and Christian texts where latreuō (λατρεύω) is used as a verb in contexts that extend beyond strictly religious worship to include servitude or service to human authorities or entities.

  1. Deuteronomy 28:48 (LXX): You will serve (λατρεύσεις, latreuseis) your enemies whom the Lord will send against you...” This passage indeed uses latreuō to describe serving enemies, implying subjugation or forced service rather than worship in a religious sense.

  2. Judith 3:8 (LXX): “and the nations worshiped (ἐλάτρευσαν, elatreusan) Nebuchadnezzar...”Here, latreuō is used to describe the nations serving or being subjugated to Nebuchadnezzar, again extending the term's use beyond divine worship.

  3. Sibylline Oracles 8.442-445: This passage describes angels “worshiping” the first Adam, which is an unusual context and demonstrates the flexibility of latreuō in certain texts to denote profound respect or honor, though not necessarily in a strictly religious sense.

These examples show that latreuō can indeed be used more broadly to include servitude or honor beyond strictly religious worship. Therefore, latreuō does have a range of meaning that can include both religious and non-religious contexts, although its primary connotation is often religious service. This broader usage can sometimes justify translating pelach as latreuō, especially when the context involves subjugation, honor, or service that could be seen as analogous to worship.

The Theodotion version is superior

This Theodotion version of Daniel (Th-Dan, which reads douleusousin rather than lateria, generally follows the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) more closely compared to the Septuagint (LXX) version (OG-Dan). Th-DAN is a more accurate and faithful rendering of the Hebrew/Aramaic text into Greek, addressing perceived shortcomings or discrepancies found in earlier Greek translations.

The Theodition version has been associated with the historical Theodotion, who lived in the early second century CE and was previously thought to have reworked much of the Greek OT. Dan. It is now certain that Th-Dan is not the work of Theodotion, but pertains to an earlier Greek manuscript tradition of the Old Testament that precedes the 1st century CE. 

A date later than the composition of the New Testament texts cannot account for how the NT cites many phrases from Th-Dan. Because of the correspondence between Th-Dan and the New Testament, scholars have concluded that Th-Dan must antedate it. 

The New Testament cites readings that come from OG-Dan as well as Th-Dan. Again, the evidence seems to indicate that the NT writers and the early Christian community employed at least two different Greek forms of Daniel. 

J. Gwynn has argued in “Theodotion,” Dictionary of Christian Biography ((1887) 4.970-79) for a probable theory that in addition to OG-Dan the Jews of pre-Christian times had another Greek form of Daniel. This form was known to the translator of the deuterocanonical Book of Baruch into Greek at around 70 CE, in addition to the NT writers and the earliest Church Fathers such as Clement and Hermas. Gwyunn concludes that this other Pre-Christian Greek form of Daniel became the foundation of the work of the historical Theodotion.

Ziegler (Daniel, 28-29 n. 1.)  had the view that Th-Dan has nothing at all to do with Theodotion but was only superficially reworked by him.

The Theodotion version of the Book of Daniel is often regarded as superior or more reliable compared to the Septuagint (LXX /OG-DAN) version for several reasons:

  1. Faithfulness to Hebrew Text: Theodotion's translation of Daniel is known for its closer adherence to the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT), which is considered the authoritative Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Theodotion's rendering is seen as more accurate in reflecting the wording and structure of the original Hebrew/Aramaic text of Daniel.

  2. Clarity and Completeness: Theodotion's translation is often clearer and more complete than the LXX version of Daniel. It includes additional material and provides a more coherent narrative flow that aligns closely with the MT, making it easier for scholars and readers to study and understand.

  3. Textual Criticism: In the field of textual criticism, which involves comparing and evaluating different manuscript traditions, Theodotion's version of Daniel provides important insights into the textual history of the Old Testament. It helps scholars reconstruct the original Hebrew/Aramaic text and understand the transmission and interpretation of the biblical text in ancient times.

  4. Wider Acceptance: Early Christian communities and later scholars generally favored Theodotion's version of Daniel due to its perceived fidelity to the original Hebrew and its comprehensive nature. Theodotion's translation became widely accepted and used in the Christian tradition, influencing later biblical manuscripts and translations.

By the 2nd Century, Th-Dan was the principal version of Daniel used by Christian communities.

Justin Martyr (c. 100–165)

Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist and philosopher, frequently cited and used Theodotion's version of Daniel in his writings. In Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 80, Justin Martyr discusses Daniel 7:13-14, where he quotes a passage that aligns with Theodotion's wording rather than the Septuagint (LXX). This supports the claim that Justin Martyr considered Theodotion's translation to be more accurate and reliable for his theological arguments concerning Christ and prophecy.

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130–202)

Irenaeus, an early Church Father and bishop of Lyons, quotes extensively from Theodotion's Daniel in his works, such as “Against Heresies.” This indicates that he appreciated Theodotion's translation for its clarity and fidelity to the Hebrew text. 

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215):
Clement, a Christian theologian and philosopher in Alexandria, also used Theodotion's Daniel in his biblical exegesis and theological writings. In his work “Stromata” (Stromateis), Book 1, Chapter 23, Section 155, Clement of Alexandria cites a passage from Daniel that aligns with Theodotion's version rather than the Septuagint (LXX). He discusses the prophecy of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9, which is a key passage used in theological and exegetical discussions. Clement's citation reflects his preference for Theodotion's translation for its clarity and theological significance.

Tertullian (c. 155–240):

Tertullian, an early Christian theologian and apologist, referenced Theodotion's version of Daniel in his treatises and polemical works. In his work “Against Marcion,” Book 3, Chapter 13, Tertullian discusses Daniel 7:13-14, where he quotes a passage that aligns with Theodotion's wording rather than the Septuagint (LXX). This supports the claim that Tertullian regarded Theodotion's translation as authoritative and relied on it for doctrinal arguments concerning Christ and prophecy.

Origen (c. 184–253):
Origen, a prominent Christian scholar and theologian in Alexandria, used Theodotion's Daniel in his biblical commentaries and textual studies. In his commentary on the book of Daniel, Origen frequently refers to Theodotion's version and compares it with the Septuagint (LXX) and other Greek translations. Oigen's discussions of Daniel often include comparisons between different textual traditions, highlighting his engagement with Theodotion's translation as an authority.

Jerome (c. 347–420):
Jerome, known for his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate), also favored Theodotion's version of Daniel. Jerome regarded Theodotion's translation as more faithful to the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) and superior to the older Greek versions, including the Septuagint (LXX), for its accuracy and completeness.

In Jerome's preface to Daniel in his Latin Vulgate translation, he explicitly discusses the differences between the Greek versions of Daniel and his rationale for preferring Theodotion's version over the Septuagint (LXX):

“Daniel the prophet, whom the Jews named Chaldean, who also among the Greeks has the name Δανιήλ, interpreting Ezekiel, whom they call Ιεζεκιήλ, has been translated into Latin anew, word for word, not according to the Seventy translators, who in this case also have a version not only differing from the original but even differing from the other interpreters... Therefore, as we have said, following the Seventy translators, I have restored their text in such a way that I have given it preference wherever they seem to say something better, to understand more clearly, or to make sense in a more complete manner.” (Jerome, Preface to Daniel in the Vulgate)

In this preface, Jerome discusses his method of translation and explicitly states his preference for Theodotion's version of Daniel over the Septuagint. He criticizes the Septuagint for its departures from the original Hebrew and other Greek translations, indicating that he found Theodotion's translation to be more faithful to the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) and superior in terms of accuracy and completeness. 

Jerome's endorsement of Theodotion's Daniel was influential in the Western Church and contributed to the acceptance of Theodotion's translation alongside his own Latin Vulgate translation, which became the standard Bible of the Western Christian Church for many centuries. His scholarly work on biblical texts, including Daniel, emphasized the importance of accurate translation and textual fidelity in biblical studies. 

Again, scholars generally consider the Theodotion version of the Book of Daniel to be more accurate and reliable compared to the Septuagint (LXX) version in this particular book. Theodotion's translation of Daniel is more detailed and closer to the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT), which is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The LXX version of Daniel, on the other hand, is known to be less consistent and faithful to the original Hebrew, especially in its translations of proper names and theological nuances. 

The more accurate Theodition version of Daniel indicates that the term latreia in the LXX version (OG-DAN) is a mistranslation and that douleusousin is a more appropriate rendering in Greek. 

In conclusion, there is no place in the Bible where latreia is clearly applied to Jesus. Those who appeal to the LXX version of Daniel 7:14 appeal to a contested translation, which scholars and early Christian writers considered an inferior Greek translation of Daniel. 

For more on the contrast between OG-DAN and Th-DAN see https://www.basedtheology.com/2023/06/two-greek-versions-of-daniel-predating.html

Revelation 4 and 5 show the distinction between the worship given to God and that given to Jesus

Revelation 4 and 5, which describes the throne room in heaven, is a perfect reference for distinguishing the workshop given exclusively to God and the type of worship that also applies to the Lamb of God (Jesus).

Revelation 4 describes the worship of God who is sitting on the throne, in verse 8:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8 ESV)
In verse 10 God is referred to “him who lives forever and ever.” and is further worshiped in verse 11 as being described as the one who created all things:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev 4:11 ESV)

Jesus (the Lamb) is not identified in the scene until chapter 5 and is described in Rev 5:6 as standing between the throne and the four living creatures and the elders. This distinguishes him from being God as he is not sitting on the throne but rather in the midst of the throne between God and others. When the Lamb takes the scroll from God who is sitting on the throne, the Lamb is worshiped with the following attribution:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9-10 ESV)
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12 ESV)


The Lamb is not being given the attribution of being God who created all things as God is in Chapter 4. Rather, the Lamb is given the attribution that is appropriate to Jesus, as the one who was slain and, in doing so, ransomed people for God, and made them a kingdom. Only God in chapter 4 is given the attribution only appropriate to God as being the creator, the source, and the origin of all things according to his will.

Later, in verse 13 of chapter 5, when “him who sits on the throne” and “the Lamb” are being worshiped together, a blessing is declared for both:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 

In Summary

  1. Only God who sits on the throne is given the attribution that is appropriate to God alone (the one who created all things and by his will they existed and were created)
  2. Jesus, the Lamb who stands in the midst of the throne (between God and others) is given the attribution that is appropriate to him. Not the attribution of being the creator that only applies to God. 
  3. Both God who sits on the Throne and the Lamb can be worshiped together as deserving of blessing and honor, and glory.   
Thus, we worship God alone as the only True God, and Jesus being distinguished from God, is worshiped not as God, but as the Lamb who ransomed us and made us a kingdom, priests to our God. Here we see the appropriate distinction of how God is worshiped as compared to how Jesus should be worshiped. 


Carlos Xavier said...

PS The Aramaic PELACH is translated by Aquila's LXX as LATREUO. And some translations of Daniel 7:27 have “obey them” instead of “obey him” (RSV, NEB, GNB, Jewish Publication Society Translation).
Also, Israel is commanded to latreuo their enemies in Deu 28:38LXX and the nations latreuo Nebuchadnezzar in Judith 3.8LXX.
There is also a well-known 1st century Christian document known as the Sibylline Oracle (8.442-445) where LATREUO is used for the “worship” of the first Adam by angels, no less!


Theophilus Josiah said...

The article has been updated and expanded. I incorporated some info from Carlos's comment.