1. “Worship” directed towards Jesus.

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

There are several such verses where Jesus receives worship. These verses are used to support the claim that Jesus was actually God, because after all, only God can be worshiped. But what if the word “worship” means something other than the kind of worship we associate with the kind directed towards God?

Its important to know how the Greek word used for “worship” in the NT, proskuneo is defined.

Thayers definition :
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
4. Used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank
– to the Jewish high priests
– to God
– to Christ
– to heavenly beings
– to demons

Strongs definition:
[meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand; to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): – worship.

We clearly see that the word for “worship” can also mean showing honor, homage and respectbetween humans. Its usage in the NT, does not always mean the same as worship that is directed towards God.

2. “Worship” directed towards others in the Bible.
There are examples of “worship”, directed at other people.

Example 1:
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.
-Revelations 3:9

Since the same word prosekuneo appears in verses that used to prove Jesus received Godly worship, does it mean these people are being made objects of Godly worship. Obviously not. Note that the word “worship” is not used in many later translations.

Example 2:
Even in the Old Testament we see an example of an act that was mistakenly translated as “worship”….
Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
-Daniel 2:46

Obviously, the act of falling on the face and paying honor has been mistranslated as “worship”. Daniel understood that the king was not worshiping him the way God is to worshiped. Again the word “worship” is not used in later translations. The word in Hebrew is “segid” and like its Greek equivalent can also mean an act of homage directed to humans.

3. One word, two meanings.
While the word can be used to mean homage and honor, as in between humans… it can also be used to mean “worship” in the highest sense… as in the kind which is to be directed towards God. So when one word can be interpreted in two different ways, it is important to be able to tell instances of Godly worship from an act of homage. We can consider these instances of the use of the word worship(proskune0).

Example 1: When Jesus said only God must be worshiped (proskuneo) in reply to Satan when he asked to be worshiped. (Matthew 4:9-10). Jesus could not have received Godly worship from anybody, if he said only God is to be worshiped. Also, if Jesus was God, then the very idea that Satan would ask worship from his maker is preposterous.

Example 2 : When the angel tells John that he should worship (proskuneo) only God when John fell down to worship the angel.(Revelations 22:9)

Note that both the angel and Jesus have made it clear that only God is to be worshiped… that too in response to words/acts which involved worship being directed towards someone other than God. In Jesus’ case it was Satan asking for worship… and in the angels case, a human was about to worship him. Both Jesus and the angel responded by saying only God is to be worshiped.

The angel and Jesus meant “worship” in the highest sense, not just an act of homage that can also be directed towards a man of a higher rank / status, as is the case with Jesus in verses where he is “worshiped”.

Jesus could not have said only God is to be “worshiped” (proskuneo) AND at the same time, accepted Godly worship from his fellow men. So verses where Jesus received “worship” simply refers to an act of homage or honor, as the word “proskuneo” can be defined…. similar to what Daniel received from Nebuchadnezzar.

“Worship” in its truest, highest sense is reserved only for God.