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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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KNEELING.—A comparison of the passages that refer to bodily posture seems to prove that kneeling is nowhere intended unless the word ‘knee’ (γόνυ) forms part of the expression. The word προσκυνέω, usually translation ‘worship,’ always denotes prostration, not kneeling. Kneeling is referred to as—(a) A posture of homage. In this sense it was rendered to Christ in awe of His person (Mark 10:17, Luke 5:8), and in mockery of His claims (Matthew 27:29). There is no instance of Christ Himself paying this homage to any man. (b) The posture of a suppliant (Matthew 17:14, Mark 1:40). In classical literature the suppliant kneels and touches the knees, or beard, of the person applied to. (c) A posture of prayer. Luke 22:41 is the only instance of this in the Gospels. Among the Jews the usual custom (and in the Temple and synagogues at ordinary times the invariable custom) was to stand at prayer (Matthew 6:5, Mark 11:25, Luke 9:28-32; Luke 18:11 ff; Luke 22:46 etc.). The prayers of Solomon (1 Kings 8:54 = 2 Chronicles 6:13) and Ezra (Ezra 9:5), both offered kneeling in the Temple, are altogether exceptional. Beyond general (and ambiguous) expressions, e.g. Psalms 95:6, Isaiah 45:23, any references to particular cases of kneeling are very rare in the OT (cf. Daniel 6:10). In the Jewish Church, Solomon’s prayer is the only instance prior to the Captivity. In the Christian Church, instances multiply after Pentecost (Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5). This may have been due in some measure to Hellenistic and Gentile influences. In 1 Chronicles 29:20 LXX Septuagint there is an alteration of ‘heads’ to ‘knees’ bowed. The description given in Luke 22:41 (not supported by ||) occurs in a Gospel of Gentile authorship; and Gentile connexions are found in all except one (Acts 9:40) of the NT passages already quoted. If this supposition is correct, the spread of kneeling as a posture of prayer has an interesting association with the change from a national to a universal religion.

F. S. Ranken.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Kneeling'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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