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ADORATION, from the Lat. adoratio, expresses that internal religious response which externalizes itself in those actions denoted by adorare: “to pray,” “entreat,” “worship,” “pay homage to.”

The term does not ordinarily appear in Eng. tr. of the Bible, and is more used in Roman Catholic than in Protestant religious expression. Roman Catholics render homage (which excludes adoration) to the saints, their relics and images, and render adoration to such things as have close reference to the divine and, accordingly, regard the cross as a proper object of adoration. In the strict sense, however, Roman Catholics, as do Protestants, regard adoration as exclusively reserved for God.

In its widest sense, adoration is simply the appreciative wonderment of the perfections and excellencies of the Creator as reflected in created realities, and the term is commonly used to express the awe which such reflections of the divine glory elicit in the human spirit. A man may adore a woman, a woman a man, and both the wonders of created realities. In this wide coverage, adoration does not ordinarily issue in prayer or worship; when it does, man’s natural sense of awe and adoration becomes idolatrous.

In its narrower religious sense adoration may be rendered to God only, for He alone is the proper object of homage, prayer, and worship. Although adoration is a Lat. and neither a Gr. nor Heb. Biblical word, its religious use is legitimate, for it expresses what the Bible means by worship, prayer, prostration, and the lifting up of hands to God. Both Roman Catholics and Protestants regard adoration as an equivalent of the NT Gr. proskynesis (prostration).

Adoration in this distinctively religious sense is the human response to God’s disclosure of Himself in Jesus Christ as the God who, by His free act of grace, is in all His majestic love and power the God who is for mankind. This human response is a total response of the whole man without remainder. In adoration the intellect perceives and registers the love and grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ for sinful man. The will ratifies what the intellect perceives, thus commending it and declaring its Amen, that is, that it would have God be what He is in Jesus Christ. The affections of man are stirred to the limits of their intensity and respond with an unearthly delight, an unspeakable joy, and a peace that surpasses both man’s understanding and his powers to articulate. Adoration is the effort of the total man to give total expression to his joyful comprehension and approbation of his vision of God in Jesus Christ. Since his response to this vision never adequately expresses that peace and joy which passes his understanding, he reaches for the liturgical aids of song, music, and symbol.

If adoration is that total response of man to God in which man acknowledges that power and glory, love and grace truly and infinitely belong to God only, and that God alone is worthy of all adoration and worship, may such adoration be rendered to Christ who is as truly human as He is divine?

The NT Church, according to the NT, rendered to Christ after His Ascension the same adoration that it rendered to God. This is clear from the history of the primitive church recorded in the Acts. Revelation ascribes both to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing and honor, glory and dominion, for ever and ever (see Rev 5:13).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ad-o-ra’-shun: Though this word never occurs in English Versions, it represents aspects of worship which are very prominent in the Bible.

I. Etymology. The word is derived from Latin adorare =

(1) "to speak to,"

(2) "to beseech," "entreat,"

(3) "to do homage," "to worship"; from the Latin, os (oris), mouth.

Some have supposed that the root os points to the Roman practice of applying the hand to the mouth, i.e. kissing the hand to (a person or thing), as a token of homage.

II. Meaning. Adoration is intense admiration culminating in reverence and worship, together with the outward acts and attitudes which accompany such reverence. It thus includes both the subjective sentiments, or feelings of the soul, in the presence of some superior object or person, and the appropriate physical expressions of such sentiments in outward acts of homage or of worship. In its widest sense it includes reverence to beings other than God, especially to monarchs, who in oriental countries were regarded with feelings of awe. But it finds its highest expression in religion. Adoration is perhaps the highest type of worship, involving the reverent and rapt contemplation of the Divine perfections and prerogatives, the acknowledgment of them in words of praise, together with the visible symbols and postures that express the adoring attitude of the creature in the presence of his Creator. It is the expression of the soul’s mystical realization of God’s presence in His transcendent greatness, holiness and lovingkindness. As a form of prayer, adoration is to be distinguished from other forms, such as petition, thanksgiving, confession and intercession.

III. Outward Postures. In the Old Testament and New Testament, these are similar to those which prevailed in all oriental countries, as amply illustrated by the monuments of Egypt and Assyria, and by the customs still in use among the nations of the East. The chief attitudes referred to in the Bible are the following:

1. Prostration:

2. Kneeling:

3. Standing:

This was the most usual posture in prayer, like that of modern Jews in public worship. Abraham "stood before Yahweh (Yahweh)" when he interceded for Sodom (Ge 18:22). Compare 1Sa 1:26. The Pharisee in the parable "stood and prayed" (Lu 18:11), and the hypocrites are said to "pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets" (Mt 6:5 the King James Version).

4. The Hands:

The above postures were accompanied by various attitudes of the hands, which were either lifted up toward heaven (Ps 63:4; 1Ti 2:8), or outspread (Ex 9:29; Ezr 9:5; Isa 1:15), or both (1Ki 8:54).

5. Kiss of Adoration:

The heathen practice of kissing hands to the heavenly bodies as a sign of adoration is referred to in Job 31:27, and of kissing the idol in 1Ki 19:18; Ho 13:2. The kiss of homage is mentioned in Ps 2:12, if the text there be correct. Kissing hands to the object of adoration was customary among the Romans (Pliny xxviii.5). The New Testament word for "worship" (proskuneo) literally means to kiss (the hand) to (one).


IV. Objects of Adoration. The only adequate object of adoration is the Supreme Being. He only who is the sum of all perfections can fully satisfy man’s instincts of reverence, and elicit the complete homage of his soul.

1. Fellow-Creatures:

Yet, as already suggested, the crude beginnings of religious adoration are to be found in the respect paid to created beings regarded as possessing superior claims and powers, especially to kings and rulers. As instances we may mention the woman of Tekoa falling on her face to do obeisance to king David (2Sa 14:4), and the king’s servants bowing down to do reverence to Haman (Es 3:2). Compare Ru 2:10; 1Sa 20:41; 2Sa 1:2; 14:22.

2. Material Objects:

3. Angels:

On a still higher plane is the adoration practiced in the presence of supernatural agents of the Divine will. When an angel of God appeared, men fell instinctively before him in reverence and awe (eg. Ge 18:2; 19:1; Nu 22:31; Jud 13:20; Lu 24:4,5). This was not to worship the creature instead of the Creator, for the angel was regarded, not as a distract individual having an existence and character of his own, but as a theophany, a self-manifestation of God.

4. The Deity:

The highest form of adoration is that which is directed immediately to God Himself, His kingly attributes and spiritual excellencies being so apprehended by the soul that it is filled with rapture and praise, and is moved to do Him reverence. A classical instance is the vision that initiated Isaiah into the prophetic office, when he was so possessed with the sovereignty and sublimity of God that he was filled with wonder and self-abasement (Isa 6:1-5). In the Old Testament, the literature of adoration reaches its high-water mark in the Psalms (compare especially the group Psalms 95-100), where the ineffable majesty, power and holiness of God are set forth in lofty strains. In the New Testament, adoration of the Deity finds its most rapturous expression in Rev, where the vision of God calls forth a chorus of praise addressed to the thrice-holy God (4:8-11; 7:11,12), with whom is associated the Redeemer-Lamb.

5. Jesus Christ:

Yet Jesus never repudiated such tokens of respect. But whatever about the "days of His flesh," there is no doubt that after the ascension Christ became to the church the object of adoration as Divine, and the homage paid to Him was indistinguishable in character from that paid to God. This is proved not only by isolated passages, but still more by the whole tone of the Ac and epistles in relation to Him. This adoration reaches its highest expression in Re 5:9-14, where the Redeemer-Lamb who shares the throne of God is the subject of an outburst of adoring praise on the part of the angelic hosts. In Re 4:8-11 the hymn of adoration is addressed to the Lord God Almighty, the Creator; here it is addressed to the Lamb on the ground of His redeeming work. In Re the adoration of Him "who sitteth on the throne" and that of "the Lamb" flow together into one stream of ecstatic praise (compare Re 7:9-11).

D. Miall Edwards

See also

  • Worship