It is Necessary to Worship: προσκυνεῖν δεῖ

When I study a Bible passage, after I’ve gone through and marked up the English Bible translation, I translate the text from the Greek into English.  This usually produces a lot of fascinating information that one can’t glean from the English text alone.  There is a couple of good examples in my current passage (John 4.1-26).

For instance, here is John 4.20 in the Greek text: “οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ προσεκύνησαν· καὶ ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐστὶν ὁ τόπος ὅπου προσκυνεῖν δεῖ.” (John 4:20, NA27).

Now the ESV translation with the same words highlighted: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”” (John 4:20, ESV)

Jesus responds to her comment and it is fascinating:  “πνεῦμα ὁ θεός, καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτὸν ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν.” (John 4:24, NA27)

Now the ESV translation:  “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:24, ESV)

What the ESV does not bring out in its translation is the play on words that Jesus makes.  Notice the little phrase προσκυνεῖν δεῖ.  It is in both the woman’s question and in Jesus answer, the exact same words [Jesus reverses them but that is not what is important here, Greek word order is flexible].  The phrase προσκυνεῖν δεῖ means “it is necessary to worship” or “ought to worship” [ESV].

So if I may roughly paraphrase the woman’s question, she says to Jesus: “Hey, our guys say that we ought to worship God on this mountain, and your guys say that we ought to worship God in JerusalemWho is correct?” [She wants to talk about anything but her 5 and a half husbands].

Jesus answer:  “Neither side is correct.  Both sides ought to worship God in spirit and in truth.”  In other words, the place is not important, what is important is the manner of worship in spirit and in truth!  Jesus completely upends her notion of worship.  It’s not about the place, it’s about the person and the manner in which we worship that is important.

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