Questions From Readers
● In the January 1 issue of The Watchtower the question from Ethiopia, “Should we worship Jesus?” is answered. In paragraph five Hebrews 1:6 is quoted with regard to the angels of God worshiping Jesus, but in the final paragraph it says: “The answer to the above question must be that no distinct worship is to be rendered to Jesus Christ now glorified in heaven. Our worship is to go to Jehovah.” Does this not contradict the statement of Hebrews 1:6?—T. P., United States.
In reply to the several questions on this point in a few letters received, we ask: Are you an angel of God in heaven? If you are, then Hebrews 1:6 applies to you. If you are not one of God’s angels in heaven, then Hebrews 1:6 is not directed to you, for at Hebrews 1:6 and its two preceding verses the writer says concerning the gloried Jesus: “So he has become better than the angels to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs. For example, to which one of the angels did he ever say: ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? And again: ‘I shall be a Father to him, and he will be a Son to me’?  But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: ‘And let all God’s angels worship him.’” (Heb. 1:4-6, NW) Here the apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 97:7, which, in the words of An American Translation, reads: “All who serve wrought images are put to shame, they who prided themselves on their nonentities. Worship him, all you gods!” In the Greek Septuagint Version (LXX) these italicized words read: “Worship [pros·ky·neʹo] him, all ye his angels.” (Bagster’s edition; also Thomson) The apostle may also have been quoting from the Septuagint Version of Deuteronomy 32:43, the opening part of which reads: “Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; . . .” (Bagster; similarly Thomson) By examining the context of both Psalm 97:7 and Deuteronomy 32:43 we note that the reference is to Jehovah God as the one to be worshiped. Does this mean that Jesus is the same as Jehovah because of how the writer of Hebrews 1:6 applies the quotation?
In translating Hebrews 1:6 An American Translation does not follow its rendering of Psalm 97:7 and use “worship” but says: “And let all God’s angels bow before him.” The New World Translation says: “And let all God’s angels worship him.” Is the New World Translation inferior here, or has it violated its general rule of endeavoring as far as possible to render each Greek word of the Christian Greek Scriptures by one English equivalent? The answer to these questions is No! What, then, is the reason for its saying “worship” instead of “bow down” or “do obeisance”?
As already stated in the above-mentioned Watchtower article the Greek word here rendered “worship” is the word pros·ky·neʹo. Strange as it may seem, this word is drawn from the Greek word for “dog,” kýōn, and hence means, properly, “to crouch, crawl, fawn,” as a dog would at his master’s feet. Practically applied, therefore, the word basically means “to prostrate oneself, to bow down, to do obeisance.” And in the lands of the Bible this was the proper attitude both of civil veneration and homage and also of religious worship. This appears from the Bible, both in the Hebrew original text and in the Greek.
In the King James or Authorized Version of the Bible pros·ky·neʹo is, without exception, in its 60 occurences, rendered “worship.” However, in the New World Translation pros·ky·neʹo is rendered “do obeisance” and “worship.” For example, the magi from the east and King Herod said they wanted to “do obeisance to” (pros·ky·neʹo) the babe that had been born king of the Jews. “Do obeisance” is preferable here because neither the magi nor King Herod meant to worship the babe as God. (Matt. 2:2, 8, 11) Pros·ky·neʹo is properly rendered “do obeisance” at times, because often in the Greek Septuagint Version of the Bible the action of this verb is directed to men; for example, where the patriarch Abraham bowed down (pros·ky·neʹo) to the pagan natives of Canaanland, the Hittites, the sons of Heth. (Gen. 23:7, 12, LXX) Or, as when the patriarch Jacob and his wives and his children all bowed down repeatedly (pros·ky·neʹo) to his twin-brother Esau, whom Jehovah God said He hated. (Gen. 33:3, 6, 7, LXX) Or, as when Emperor Nebuchadnezzar bowed down (pros·ky·neʹo) to the prophet Daniel. (Dan. 2:46, LXX) Other examples, such as Revelation 3:9, could be given where pros·ky·neʹo is not properly rendered “worship” but should be rendered “bow down” or “do obeisance.”
In the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures when this word pros·ky·neʹo is directed toward God, then it is properly rendered “worship,” as when Jesus answered the Tempter and said: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship [pros·ky·neʹo], and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matt. 4:10, NW) To the Samaritan woman Jesus said: “The genuine worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for such kind to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship [pros·ky·neʹo] with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24, NW) In each of these cases pros·ky·neʹo might have been rendered “bow down” or “do obeisance,” but certainly when we bow down or do obeisance to Jehovah God we do not do it in the same sense as when Abraham, Jacob and others bowed down or did obeisance to men. At John 4:23, 24, above, even Dr. Young’s literal translation of the Bible changes from “bow down” to “worship.” So the New World Translation is no more inconsistent than Dr. Young’s literal Bible translation. Bowing to men does not necessarily mean worship.
In the New World Translation we note that when this Greek verb pros·ky·neʹo is applied to Jesus as a man on earth or materializing as a man after his resurrection, it is translated “do obeisance.” However, when referring to the glorified Jesus in the invisible heavens in the presence of the holy angels, the New World Translation makes a change and renders pros·ky·neʹo as applied to him by the English word “worship.” (Heb. 1:6) This is properly and consistently done. This Greek verb occurs only twice in the book of Hebrews, here at Hebrews 1:6 and at Hebrews 11:21 where Jacob is described as worshiping Jehovah God: “By faith Jacob, when about to die, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshiped [pros·ky·neʹo] leaning upon the top of his staff.” (NW; referring to Genesis 47:31, where the LXX also uses pros·ky·neʹo) So in the book of Hebrews pros·ky·neʹo is both times rendered “worship” and the angels of God are instructed to “worship” the glorified Jesus. Why is this? Because Jesus has been made so much higher than the angels, even higher than he was before he became a man on earth. (Phil. 2:5-11) It is the command of Jehovah God that they do this toward his Son. What does this mean? This, that even the angels are to render their worship of Jehovah God through Jesus Christ, whom Jehovah God has made the Head of his universal organization. That is why it is stated on page 85 of the book “Make Sure of All Things”, column 1: “Christ to Be Worshiped as a Glorious Spirit, Victorious over Death on the Torture Stake,” with three scriptures accompanying to prove that he is now a glorified spirit, and now no more flesh.
It is because the glorified Jesus Christ acts as the appointed representative of Jehovah God that worship must go to God through him, even on the part of the angels. This explains why Psalm 97:7 and Deuteronomy 32:43, which, according to their context, evidently refer to Jehovah God, are applied by the writer of Hebrews to Jehovah’s Son Jesus Christ. The Son of God is Jehovah’s High Priest, hence subordinate to Jehovah God; but as High Priest according to the likeness of Melchizedek the glorified Jesus Christ leads all creation in the worship of Jehovah God. Hence worship of all creation must go to the one living and true God Jehovah through him. In the present-time fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 97:7, the High Priest Jesus Christ acts as the direct representative for his Father Jehovah and, therefore, Hebrews 1:6 properly involves Jesus Christ glorified in the application of these scriptures. Well, then, since the angels are commanded to worship the glorified Jesus at his second coming, should not we, who, as humans, are so much less than angels, likewise worship him? In answer we say, We must render to him what God’s Word says we must.
At Revelation 19:10 and Re 22:9 the angel whom the glorified Jesus sent to the apostle John said to John: “Worship [pros·ky·neʹo] God,” meaning Jehovah God. Jesus’ angel (Rev. 1:1, 2; 22:16) told John, a man on earth, to worship, not Jesus, but God, Jehovah God the Father of Jesus. That is the One whom Jehovah’s witnesses worship. But we remember that such worship has to be rendered to Jehovah God through his High Priest Jesus Christ. For this reason it is that Jehovah’s witnesses follow the instruction of Philippians 2:10, 11: “So that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven [angels] and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [not the Almighty God, but Lord] to the glory of God the Father.” (NW) Jehovah’s witnesses “honor the Son just as they honor the Father,” for, “he that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23, NW) Jehovah’s witnesses give to Jesus all the honor, respect, consideration, obedience, imitation, love and loyalty that Jehovah God calls upon them to render to his Son Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name they render their prayers and worship to Jehovah God. And the angels of heaven obey the command of God and “worship” his Son only as their worship of the Son is related to the worship of his Father Jehovah God. But, keeping things in their relative positions, angels and Jehovah’s witnesses worship Jehovah God as the one Almighty God, uncreated, unbegotten, “from everlasting to everlasting.”—Ps. 90:2.
In the light of the foregoing it will be profitable to reread the article in the above-mentioned Watchtower, pages 30, 31, in answer to the question “Should we worship Jesus?”