Questions From Readers
● In the King James Version of the Bible, Matthew 28:9 tells of the women that met Jesus after his resurrection. It says: “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” Is this not a clear contradiction of the teaching of Jehovah’s witnesses that Jesus is not to be worshiped?
Trinitarians who believe that Jesus is God, or at least the second person of the triune God, do not like to have Jehovah’s witnesses say that it is unscriptural for worshipers of the living and true God to render worship to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. To the trinitarians that means denying worship to Jehovah God. However, we know that when Jesus was in the wilderness and tempted by the Devil and invited to perform an act of worship to the Devil in order to gain all the kingdoms of this world at the Devil’s hands, Jesus referred to the book of Deuteronomy and said, according to the King James Version: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt. 4:10) By those words Jesus debarred his followers from worshiping him.
The King James reading of Matthew 28:9 appears on the face of it to look like a flat contradiction of what Jehovah’s witnesses teach, but, of course, the King James Bible translators would naturally want to support their trinitarian view by rendering the Greek word here into English as “worshipped.” However, it is interesting to note how The Complete Bible, An American Translation by Smith and Goodspeed renders Matthew 28:9. It reads: “And Jesus himself met them, and said, ‘Good morning!’ And they went up to him and clasped his feet, and bowed to the ground before him.” The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures says: “They approached and caught him by his feet and did obeisance to him.” This bowing to the ground or doing obeisance to the resurrected Jesus does not mean worshiping him. If it did, then men of God in ancient times could be found guilty of worshiping human creatures, because they bowed before them; whereas the angel that was used to transmit the Revelation to the apostle John stopped him when he wanted to worship the angel, and told him to worship only God.—Rev. 19:10; 22:8.
The Greek verb in Matthew 28:9 that the King James Version renders as “worshipped” is proskynéo. This Greek verb occurs in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Scriptures. It occurs in the Greek Septuagint in its rendering of Genesis 23:7, where the King James Version reads: “And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.” The book published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., of London, England, and entitled “The Septuagint Version, the Old Testament With an English Translation,” shows this Greek verb proskynéo in the Greek text of the Septuagint, and instead of saying that Abraham worshiped the people of the land, even the sons of Heth, this English translation of the Greek Septuagint says in Genesis 23:7: “And Abram rose up and did obeisance to the people of the land, to the sons of Chet.”
Consequently, for trinitarians to argue that the rendering of Matthew 28:9 by the King James Version, or some other trinitarian version, proves that we must worship Jesus as a member of the trinity, means that these trinitarians base their argument on a very weak foundation. All the way through the King James Version the Greek verb proskynéo is rendered as “worship,” even in Revelation 3:9, where Jesus says to his followers: “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.” Here the King James Version shows the weakness of its translation, since not even trinitarians claim that others will worship Jesus’ followers.
While the King James Version renders proskynéo as “worship” throughout, other modern translations do not uniformly do so. This variation agrees with the Hebrew text, for in Hebrew the verb shahháh is the one that is translated in the Greek Septuagint by the verb proskynéo and it is the Hebrew verb that occurs in Genesis 23:7. In the King James Version this Hebrew word shahháh is translated in various places as “to bow down, to make to stoop, to humbly beseech, to crouch, to fall down, to fall flat, to do obeisance, to make obeisance, to do reverence and to worship.” Since the Greek verb proskynéo is the equivalent of the Hebrew word shahháh, the same thing should be done with regard to rendering proskynéo into English so as to indicate that it does not always mean worship such as is to be rendered to the Most High God Jehovah himself, alone.
Other translations, such as An American Translation, recognize the need to do this. Weymouth’s The New Testament in Modern Speech renders Matthew 28:9 this way: “And then suddenly they saw Jesus coming to meet them. ‘Peace be to you,’ He said. And they came and clasped His feet, bowing to the ground before Him.” The New English Bible, published in 1961, renders it in this manner: “Suddenly Jesus was there in their path. He gave them his greeting, and they came up and clasped his feet, falling prostrate before him.” So these, as well as other translations, show that because the King James Version renders proskynéo as “worshipped,” this does not make it right. Hence, Matthew 28:9, in its correct rendering, by no means contradicts the teaching of Jehovah’s witnesses that Jesus is not to be worshiped, as we worship only Jehovah God.