I have friends and acquaintances who sometimes don’t get me. Even though they generally appreciate me as an OK guy, they may wonder, Why does he spend time on that?
This blog has in the last few days looked intently into words relating to worship and service. Maybe we understand 146% better than we did last week. So what? What was that all about? What do all the meanings mean?
Why on earth would I bother quoting and trying to provide some commentary on portions of Karen Jobes’s article on the semantic domain for worship (and service) words? Even if someone were to read every word thoroughly and come out understanding the whole ball of wax in the same way I do, what difference could it all possibly make?
Today’s post, which helps me to hone in purposefully, is especially for anyone who has had, or might have, any of those questions.
Please look carefully at the image to the left. This visual can make things clearer. (Click on it to get a larger version, if need be.)
One take-away here is that the words in each set of overlapping circles are closely related to one another. A verse, then, that uses leitourgeō and one that uses latreuō (from the top circles) are likely referring to fairly similar things. On the contrary, a verse that uses proskuneō (middle circles) and one that uses sebomai (bottom) are likely referring to different things.
Zooming in and looking more intently at the image now, even without a linguist’s knowledge of “improper synonymy” or “hyponymy,” we can see that the inner relationships are different. The words in the center circles share relationship, as do the words in the bottom circles, but the nature of each relationship is different.
The import of this is that a biblical writer might well use sebomai, for instance, as a synonym for eusebeō (both in the lower group), but eusebeō, in turn, would not likely be used as a synonym for latreuō (top group).
Now, for some biblical instances. . . .
Consider this stark text, part of the “temptation” scene:
. . . “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” (Matt 4:9-10)
Matthew has Satan using proskuneō, and Jesus’ response uses both proskuneō and latreuō. It’s easy to see two different referents here, although I would hasten to point out that interpretation is never quite this easy. Whatever Jesus meant by following proskuneō with latreuō, it probably either redoubled the emphasis somehow or added to it. The two are not synonyms, so I favor the second, contrastive option.
Next, a response of the disciples:
And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt 4:33)
Matthew uses proskuneō, and it would have been surprising, in this instance, to find latreuō or leitourgeō. In other words, it’s difficult to imagine the disciples’ response in this situation being one of priestly duty, or carrying out rituals associated with religion.
The next post, which continues this line, leads with a slightly different use of proskuneō, proceeds to some other biblical instances, and then finalizes the word-oriented portion of this investigation.