Jehovah`s Witness/Hebrews 1:6

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Question
I was reading an answer by Derrick Holland where he said that  at Hebrews 1:6  your Bible once said that  angels were to worship Jesus?  Is that true?   Surely that shows that Jesus is someone special if not God if he is to be worshiped.  If your Bible did say that angels were to worship Jesus and now it does not.  Isnt that being dishonest and teaching a lie?

Thank you

Answer
Hello Ivan

Thank you for that question.


Yes it is true that the early editions (from 1950) of the New World Translation  (NWT) did say that angels were to worship Jesus at Hebrews 1:6 .   I can understand why the change of wording may seem dishonest  to some and even contradictory.  It is because of changes in texts such as that, that some scholars have charged the NWT with being theologically biased, that is that it made changes to to the word of God to suit our theology.

I can not answer for the original translators of the NWT as to why they used worship at Hebrews 1:6.  The assumption I have come to is that they did so because of the  tradition English use of the word.  

When the KJV was written in England, the word worship had a much broader meaning that what most western societies use to day.  It was not limited to a religious event.  


In England it was “used in addressing or referring to an important or high-ranking person , especially a magistrate or mayor. “  https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=worship+meaning


Would the translators of the KJV have viewed Jesus as an important or high-ranking person?  Yes because they believed in the trinity.  Does the Greek word used in this verse warrant such a rendering into English?

The original of the word worship is “Old English weorthscipe 'worthiness, acknowledgement of worth' “  http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/worship

So I am  assuming that the translators of the NWT prior to 1981 followed that tradition of acknowledging that Jesus was “of worth” being of a higher rank than the angels.


The NWT was revised in 1960, 1970, 1981,  1984, and 2013.

In 1981 the wording of Hebrews 1:6 was revised to to : “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

The wording “do obeisance” is a more correct rendering of the Greek word that is  used here.  This word  is a form of verb  “proskuneo”.     The meaning of this Greek verb is derived from the idea of meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand.  The actual word used is “proskynēsatōsan”.  This verb is in the active voice third person plural.   

One of my Electronic Biblical Greek dictionaries complied by Larry Pierce says of the  base verb “proskuneo” (Bold mine)

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
3a) used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank
3a1) to the Jewish high priests
3a2) to God
3a3) to Christ
3a4) to heavenly beings
3a5) to demons


So when the angels are said to “worship” (do obeisance) to Jesus at Hebrews 1:6 they are not doing an act of religious worship, but showing him honour as the Son of God a person of higher rank than they were.  This is supported by the context as well as the fact that the Paul had a choice of other words that he could have used if he wanted to tell us that Jesus was to revive “religious worship” that belongs only to God.

First what does the context tell us?  Using the KJV lets read from verse 2. Please note the words in bold.

“2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
4  Being made so much better than the angels , as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they .”

appointed heir ”  An heir is not on the same level as the one appointing the person as an heir.  As an heir Jesus gets an inheritance.  What is that inheritance? “by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they .”

express image  An image is not the real thing.  Jesus reflected the qualities of his father was not equal to his father.

sat down on the right hand ” He was granted that privilege to sit at Gods right hand because of his death “ when he had by himself purged our sins ,”

Just for comparison, here is Hebrews 1:2-6 in a modern English  from the 2013 NWT

“2 Now at the end of these days he has spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power. And after he had made a purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 So he has become better than the angels to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.
5 For example, to which one of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; today I have become your father”? And again: “I will become his father, and he will become my son”? 6 But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

So the context tells us that Jesus is not equal to God, therefore the more correct rendering of the Greek word  “proskuneo”  to do obeisance is fitting.

If Paul wanted to show us that Jesus was to receive “religious worship” at Hebrews 1:6 he no doubt would have used one of the following.  These are from Strongs Biblical Greek dictionary.  The numbers in bold are the reference numbers.  

3000 . λατρεύω latreuo lat-ryoo’-o; from λατρις latris (a hired menial); to minister (to God), i.e. render, religious homage: —  serve, do the service, worship(-per).

4576 . σέβομαι sebomai seb’-om-ahee; middle voice of an apparently primary verb; to revere, i.e. adore: —  devout, religious, worship.
So again Paul used a word that does not mean religious worship that belongs only to God.  The correct English rendering of “proskuneo”  is to use words such as do obeisance, or bow down before.
At some point in time it was decided that the older, broader English meaning of worship may cause confusion as to what Paul was actually saying so in the 19981 NWT the wording was changed.

I hope that has answered your question.

Please feel free to ask any follow ups.

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