Christians today accept that Jesus is God and worship him as part of the Trinity. But what did the New Testament writers say about worshipping Jesus? Did they portray him as God, someone whom we should worship? Or did they see him as a great prophet like Moses or Elijah?
Here, James Dunn introduces readers to the New Testament passages key to this important topic. He argues that we find a clear sense that Jesus enables worship and that Jesus is also, in a profound way, the place and means of worship. For the first Christians, Jesus was not only the one by whom believers come to God, but also the one by whom God comes to believers.
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“What I hope will become apparent is that the first Christians did not see worship of Jesus as an alternative to worship of God. Rather, it was a way of worshipping God. That is to say, worship of Jesus is only possible or acceptable within what is now understood to be a Trinitarian framework. Worship of Jesus that is not worship of God through Jesus, or, more completely, worship of God through Jesus and in the Spirit, is not Christian worship.” (Page 6)
“In all these cases proskynein clearly implies the appropriate mode for making a petition to one of high authority who could exercise power to benefit the petitioner.” (Page 10)
“More typically in the New Testament, proskynein is used of the worship (prostration) due to God, and to God alone.” (Page 10)
“Larry Hurtado (Edinburgh) has provided a series of studies developing the central claim that cultic devotion to Jesus was practised within a few years of Christianity’s beginnings (that is not as a late development in early Christianity), and within an exclusivist commitment to the one God of the Bible.3 During the same period Richard Bauckham (formerly of St Andrews) has been developing an impressive argument that Jesus was worshipped more or less from the beginning of Palestinian Jewish Christianity as one who shared or was included in the unique identity of the one God of Israel (‘christological monotheism’).” (Pages 3–4)
“There are a few other occasions in the New Testament where proskynein is used with Jesus as the object. Curiously, though, these seem to move well beyond the sense of someone acknowledging the authority of someone of higher status. Very striking is the way Hebrews takes Moses’ summons, ‘Let all God’s angels worship (proskynēsatōsan) him’ (Deut. 32:43), and refers it to Christ (Heb. 1:6). Otherwise all the New Testament references to worshipping (proskynein) Jesus appear in the Gospels, principally Matthew, though only at Jesus’ birth and after Jesus’ resurrection.” (Page 11)