Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb προσκυνεω (proskuneo) means to meet, greet, get to know and ultimately fully merge with. It's used 60 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and the context must show which level of intimacy or familiarity our verb expresses.
It must be emphasized that our verb does not refer to anything specifically religious or even spiritual. Instead it describes the entire spectrum of actions between initially noticing an interesting person in a far foggy distance, and ultimately becoming one with that person. In translations of the New Testament our verb is often translated with "to worship" but even in the New Testament this verb doesn't mean anything religious. It simply expresses the action of advancing toward someone, without specifying at which level of intimacy the process is halted or for what reason it's halted. There's no real English synonym for this awesome Greek verb, but a remnant of the idea exists perhaps in the idiomatic phrasal verb "to make advances."
The mathematical sub-discipline called Chaos Theory studies complex dynamical systems, and these complex dynamical systems tend to evolve toward a condition of maximum entropy (called an attractor). That sounds very complicated but it's basically why your steamy cup of coffee cools off to room temperature, while your room temperature increases slightly because of your cup of coffee. Both room and coffee will exchange energy and ultimately settle in a shared temperature. If the dynamic between two people who notice each other across a crowded room and then start to move toward each other is considered a closed dynamic system, then our verb προσκυνεω (proskuneo) describes the process of them advancing upon one another. Their final union is the process' attractor, and even if the attractor is never actually reached, it's what drives the entire process from the first wink.
"It started with a kiss"
Whatever modern people imagine their verb "to worship" might mean (because that's never properly explained), our verb προσκυνεω (proskuneo) consists of (1) the preposition προς (pros), which describes a motion toward, and (2) the otherwise unused verb κυνεω (kuneo), meaning to kiss. In poetic texts this latter verb is also spelled as κυσσω (kusso), and that one obviously evolved into our familiar English verb to kiss (in Dutch: kussen; in German: küssen).
It's not immediately clear where our verb κυσσω (kusso) comes from or what it essentially conveys. The definitions of sexual propriety in the ancient world differed strongly from ours, and acts that we today recognize as typical signs of affection may not actually have originated as such. The raised open hand with which we moderns say hello once demonstrated that an approaching stranger wasn't clutching a bludgeon. The modern military salute appears to stem from familiar knights lifting their visors for a chat. And the common handshake may actually have evolved from a more serious bout of arm-wrestling that two meeting males engaged in, as a social courtesy on the median between complete trust and automatically trying to bash in the brain of any encountered stranger. Particularly when there's no common language, grabbing the other guy's arm and reading his response — from the tension in his muscles to the look in his eyes, his smells and the sounds he utters — all of that informs a careful observer precisely about the visitor's demeanor and intentions.
The kiss appears to stem from a similar exchange, albeit an exchange between familiar equals. The idea might be a touch revolting to us delicate moderns, but there's an awful lot one can tell from smelling and licking a person. Especially back in the day when complex language didn't yet exist, humans could probably use their sense of smell and taste the way a modern blind person reads Braille. The whole of a person's physical and mental state is expressed in his or her sweat; their level of anxiety and excitation, their sexual readiness, their state of nutrition, resilience and overall health. Particularly an exchange of saliva may inform both parties about the other's most intimate condition, which is of course very helpful for mates who are heavily vested in each other's health and well-being, and aim to care for the other the best they can. And as Betty Everett once observed: "If you wanna know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss." Or in the words of the perennial Hot Chocolate: "It started with a kiss; never thought it would come to this."
The bottom line is that people who kiss mouth-to-mouth are equals in the hormonal and excretory sense. They share a common economy like two cities that have engaged in a free trade agreement. A kiss is a demonstration of lateral traffic. The clearly reminiscent verb κυεω (kueo) and its alternate form κυεσσα (kuessa) mean to bear in the womb, and derives from the verb κυω (kuo), meaning to conceive. This suggests that the kiss was not so much recognized as a show of affection but rather of reception. It didn't show equality but rather an entire surrender and full exposure of all most private and reproductive parts, both physically and mentally.
"You don't remember me, do you?"
In the Bible the relationship between mankind and the creative divinity is very often depicted as a marriage. Mankind is depicted as God's wife, and the Holy Spirit is poured into mankind the very same way in which a man ejects his seed into his woman (for more on this, read our provocative article on the penis of God).
The whole idea behind the kiss between God and mankind is that of mutual submission, merger and subsequent procreation. This was of course a highly unusual idea in the old world, in which gods and humans were irreconcilably different. But the Hebrews didn't acknowledge a conventional god but insisted that the one and only real God is expressed in the Word of God, or Logos, which in turn sums up all the rules upon which the universe runs (including all data stored in atomic nuclei, all DNA and all human mental constitutions combined; see Colossians 2:3 and Romans 1:20). Jesus embodies that Word (John 1:14), which means that Jesus embodies mankind's knowledge of the way the universe works (compare Matthew 2:2 with Psalm 2:12 or read our article on Mary).
Modern rulers have tried very hard to make Jesus again into one of the old gods: some superman who exists in another realm somewhere, and who has appointed kings and popes and the likes as his replacement on earth. Folks with any sense know that this is utter nonsense because why would the knowledge of the working of the universe (a) exist anywhere else than within humanity on earth (Luke 17:21), and (b) need representation or even replacement (Matthew 24:24-27), by (c) any human individual who couldn't represent a single common vitamin, let alone the whole entirety of existence. Or in the words of the ever urgent Darlene Alderson: "Get woke, already!"
Our verb προσκυνεω (proskuneo) literally means to toward-kiss or up-kiss. It means "to familiarize" or "to get to know" with the understanding that in Hebrew the verb to know — namely ידע (yada') — was also used to explain how Eve ended up pregnant with Cain: because Adam knew his wife (Genesis 4:1).
Our verb expresses a progression up the intimacy ladder, which starts with acknowledging that the other guy exists, then follows with a rudiment greeting, then moves up to primary physical contact such as the precursor of our modern handshake, then allows the licking of, say, the other's hands or feet, then the face and ultimately the mouth. And the further up the spectrum of kissing, the more one the kissers become. It's known from ancient records that in cultures such as that of Persia folks of equal social rank would kiss each other on the lips. Less equal folks would kiss each other's cheeks. Less equals would perhaps allow a touch and when the difference was significant, the lower would bow down for the greater. Folks who desired to climb up the social ladder would probably try to kiss their way up, but the Hebrews always maintained that a human should never kiss up any other ladder than the one that leads to the Creative Lord (Matthew 4:10).
Applied to the relationship between the Creative Lord and humanity, our verb προσκυνεω (proskuneo) covers the process that starts with realizing that, hey, the universe doesn't run by itself and is neither ran by bands of warring deities, but by a single and unified set of rules that together provoke the existence of a living and conscious being (precisely how DNA works; DNA relates to an organism the way the Logos relates to the universe plus all life plus all consciousness). The Bible places that primary realization very early in mankind's intellectual journey, namely in the generation of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam (Genesis 4:26).
The actual formal manifestation of the Word begins in Abraham, when the Word first interacted with mankind and used human language (Genesis 15:1). And what is the Logos' first formal message? "Do not fear, Abram, because I am your shield." The command to "fear not" has since been the most repeated command in the Bible, and the knowledge of the Word has remained mankind's shield until today (Ephesians 6:16, 1 Peter 1:5, but also see Ephesians 3:19).
The only derivation of our verb is the noun προσκυνητης (proskunetes), meaning up-kisser, or someone who's making an effort to get to know the other, with the ultimate objective of full merger. This word is used only in John 4:23, where it describes people who earnestly and in a controlled and unbiased fashion examine the world in order to learn and unite with the Word of God, that is the singular set of instructions upon which the universe works (similar to what DNA is to an organism).
Theology and the Theory of Everything
It needs to be noted that natural forms of data-retention increase in complexity over time. The information stored in spoken (and written) human language, upon which modern humanity is based, is much more complex than DNA, which contains the instructions upon which the biosphere works, which is much more complex than the information stored in the nuclei of the 100 or so natural elements. This suggests that while the Logos has the potentiality to bring about our entire bustling universe and all its life and all its society and culture (John 21:25), it can essentially exist in a much simpler form, even so simple that it boils down to one simple instruction: "Treat others like you want to be treated" (Matthew 7:12), "for this is the Law and the Prophets" (or Logos, in one word).
This command is more than a bumper sticker and might actually explain why there is creation. If this rule indeed exists prior to creation within the private nature of the Creator (John 1:1), it cannot be fulfilled when there is no "other" to apply it to. The whole of creation might have come to pass in response to this rule (John 1:3), and all of creation's consequent working might be derived from this one rule (Colossians 1:16-17). How that would translate to a Unified Theory Of Everything expressed in modern mathematics and terms of particles and forces is not too clear at the present time, but it seems inevitable that mankind will figure it out and come to terms with it in the very near future.
What is already clear, however, is that our rule to "treat others like you want to be treated" demonstrates a fundamental symmetry. This curious tendency of nature to be symmetric has been noticed by scientists since Newton, and sits at the core of the laws of preservation of energy, baryon number, momentum and so on. It governs matter-antimatter polarization, DNA replication and even guided the formation of the celebrated Standard Model of Elementary Particles. What modern science has not yet come to grips with is that the symmetry that pervades creation should be expected to extend from creation into one utterly fundamental symmetry that also encompasses the Creator.
Logic (rather than religion) dictates that any creator must exist apart from his creation, and can therefore not be approached or even known by anything that exists by merit of the laws of created reality. Since life exists because of natural law, one cannot see the Creator and be alive simultaneously (Exodus 33:20). But since every creation must always be a representation of the nature and character of its creator, so can the Creator of the universe be known from the study of the universe. Or in the words of David: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1), or as Paul puts it: "Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made" (Romans 1:20).
Theology, therefore, is the Study of Everything.
Far from having anything to do with any religion, theology is the study of all things (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 2:10). Theology is the meta-study of all other scientific disciplines and investigates primarily the single underlying super-system of the whole of nature in which the Creator is precisely represented — compare Hebrews 1:2-3 with Exodus 24:11, Job 19:26, Isaiah 1:18, Matthew 5:8, John 1:18 and 14:6.