One of the most common objections to the deity of Jesus Christ made by unitarians (esp. Muslims & JWs[1])– aside from their false claim that Jesus never claimed to be God/Yahweh- is their claim that Jesus was never worshiped nor did He ever demand to be.

Both the OT and NT teach clearly that worship is to God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5)—with which most unitarians agree. Thus, if it were found in Scripture that the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, was actually worshiped in a religious context and He accepted it, it would be devastating for those who deny that Jesus as the Son is God, such as also Oneness Pentecostals who deny the eternality and deity of the person of the Son.[2] This would demonstrate beyond that the person of the Son; Christ Jesus was indeed God incarnate.

Aside from the fact that Scripture (esp. in John’s literature) presents clearly that Christ is fully God (viz. God-man) and the Creator of all things, we find that Christ was worshiped as God in several passages. Scripture presents the Son as receiving the same kind of religious “worship” as that of God the Father. This is particularly clear in the following examples in John’s literature and other portions of Scripture (both in OT and NT):

Daniel 7:9-14— The “Son of Man” was worshiped by “all the peoples, nations and men of every language.”

  • Matthew 14:33—Jesus was worshiped by the men in the boat.
  • John 9:35-38—Jesus was worshiped by the blind man.
  • Hebrews 1:6—“All the angels” worshiped the Son.
  • Revelation 5:13-14—The Lamb was worshiped in the same sense as that of God the Father.

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[3] on several occasions. Although the above examples do not include every place where Jesus was worshiped, they give us clear and explicit examples of the Son receiving religious worship by both men and angels.

DANIEL 7:14

And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve [Aram., pelach, LXX., latreuō/douleuō] Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.

1. In Daniel 7:9-14, we read of two distinct persons who are the object of divine worship, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. In verse 14, the Son of Man was “given dominion, glory and a kingdom,” by God the Father in which “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve/worship Him. . . .”

2. The term “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach (Heb. palach). When this term appears in the OT where God is the object, it carries the idea of religious worship, services, or rituals performed in honor to the true God. Note, the term pelach, which is applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27 as well: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.”

3. The LXX[4] translates pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; cf. also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14 et al). Although in some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), in a religious context (which verses 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).

4. To avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true divine worship, some have argued that the title “Son of Man” refers exclusively to humanity collectively (e.g., referring to Israel). However, contextually this cannot be true. As indicated previously, the Son of Man here receives “dominion, glory and a kingdom,” and “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve/worship Him.”

This description cannot be said of men collectively. Moreover, while modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Further, as noted, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7 with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

MATTHEW 14:33

And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][5] Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Matthew 14:22-34 is a narrative of the Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water. This event is also recorded in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:16-21. What is notable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His “I am” claim and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000.

Immediately, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, Matthew records that Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away” (v. 22). Jesus went to pray on the mountain. By evening, the boat was a long way off (about 3 or 4 miles, cf. John 6:19).

Then we read in verse 26 that after the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus “walking on the water,” they were terrified for they thought they saw a phantasma (“ghost/ apparition,” cf. Mark 6:49). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egw eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.) “Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (Matt. 14:26). As with the several “I am” claims of Christ in the Gospel of John, Jesus declares His deity in contrast to their fear. Jesus is the One who created all things, the eternal God, who controls the winds and the sea (cf. Matt. 8:27)—why be afraid?

In verses 28-32, Matthew provides additional information. We read that Peter attempted to walk on the water to meet Christ, but sank due to his weak faith. When Jesus helped him get back into the boat, verse 33 indicates, “Those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Note that act of worshiping is connected with the affirmation of Jesus being “God’s Son.” As observed, the unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming to be God the Son—, which was clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-62; John 5:17-18; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:3-4); the author of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 1:1-3); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3-7); God the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12); and OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al).

JOHN 9:35-38

Jesus heard that they [the Jews] had put him [blind man that Jesus healed] out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped [proskuneō] Him.

In John 9:1, we read of a man blind from birth. However, Jesus healing of the blind man caused much controversy among the Jews (cf. vv. 13-34). The act of worship was first in response to Jesus’ revealing that He was the Son of Man. As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus, the Son of Man, was Lord—thus, a religious context.

HEBREWS 1:6

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,

“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

The prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between all things created (viz., angels, the heavens, and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) who is presented as the unchangeable Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10-13). Since the setting is in the heavens, the context is clearly religious in nature. In verses 1-3 the Son has already been exegetically presented as God, “through whom also He made the world” (v. 2). In verses 8-13, the Father addresses the eternal Son as both ho theos (“the God”) whose throne is forever (v. 8) and the Lord (Yahweh) of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator (vv. 10-12). That “all the angels” (v. 6) worship the person of the Son is perfectly consistent with the entire prologue of Hebrews as well as rest of Scripture.

In verse 6, God the Father commands pantes aggeloi theou (“all the angels of God”) to worship [proskuneō] the Son. Note, the commandment is given to “all the angels”—thus, the Son is excluded from being an angel (as seen below in Rev. 5:13). The theological implications of the Son receiving religious worship would absolutely mean that the Son is truly God. Also in Hebrews 1:10-12, God directly addresses the Son as the “Lord” (Yahweh) of Psalm 10:25-27, which refers to Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator of all things: “You, Lord [kurie[6]], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .”

Interestingly, the JWs’ NWT[7], contained “worship” at Hebrews 1:6 in the 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions; however, “worship” to the Son was quite problematic and confusing to many JWs (esp. in light of Exod. 20:5), so in the 1971 edition, the NWT changed the term “worship” to “obeisance” (meaning respect or honor).[8]

REVELATION 5:13-14

“And every created thing . . . I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].”

Here the Father and the Lamb received the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and thus, the same kind of worship, from “every created thing.” Hence, the Lamb (Jesus) is excluded from the category of a “created thing.” Rather, as in Hebrews 1:16 et al, the Son was worshiped in a religious context. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1b; Heb. 1:3).

CONCLUSION

In the OT (cf. Dan. 7:14) and throughout the NT, Jesus was rightfully worshiped as God—the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12). Our faith as Christians demand we embrace the Triune God and Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification. Let us join all the angels and worship the Son.

[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[2] Oneness advocates see Jesus as a unipersonal (i.e., as one person) deity assuming three modes (not persons). Hence, only in the “Father” mode is Jesus God, not in the “Son” mode, which they argue was created in Bethlehem.

[3] A religious context is any such context where spirituality or holiness exists.

[4] The LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (Latin, “seventy”). The LXX was the Greek translation of the OT, which was the primary source of OT quotations by the NT authors (esp. Hebrews).

[5] The Greek word proskuneō means divine worship in a religious context (as in Matt 4:10 and John 4:24) or it can also mean to fall prostrate in front of another in honor and respect, thus, “obeisance.” Only the context determines the meaning. In Hebrews 1:6, the setting is in the heavens—hence, it is religious worship to the Son that the Father commands of “all the angels.”

[6] Kurie is the “vocative” (direct address) case of kurios (“Lord”).

[7] New World Translation (NWT) is the Bible translation of the JWs.

[8] The NWT only removes “worship” at the places where worship was in reference to Jesus (e.g., Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6 etc.).