ADORATION, FORMS OF:(Redirected from GENUFLEXION.)
The various gestures and postures expressive of homage. In religious adorations these gestures and postures were originally innate and natural expressions of religious feeling, but in the course of religious development they became merely external, without conscious regard to what they were supposed to express. From the time that man conceived his god in accordance with the analogies of the physical world around him (see Anthropomorphism), the relationship of man to God expressed itself also in accordance with the characteristics of the two factors—man and God. Thus, with the ancient Hebrews, kissing and stroking the idol was one of the oldest characteristics of worship; so, too, their kinsmen, the Arabs, manifested reverence toward their stone images mainly by these two methods of caress (Wellhausen, "Reste d. Arabischen Heidenthums," p. 109). The Jews, in prophetic times, practised the kissing of Baal (I Kings, xix. 18) and also of the golden calves (Hosea, xiii. 2). Where the idol was inaccessible, it was considered sufficient to throw a kiss with the hand—a form of adoration widely prevalent among the Greeks and Romans of antiquity (see Job, xxxi. 27). The Latin adoratio and the Greek προσκνυεῖν, which are the terms generally used for adoration, signified, originally, this kiss from the hand. The significance of stroking the idol inancient Israel is shown by the expression
With the spiritual development of Jewish worship—in other words, with the triumph of the prophetic idea—the ancient Forms of Adoration could not remain unchanged, and were therefore, like so many other ancient customs, adapted to the newer religious views. Thus, the various gestures and positions of the body at prayer—especially in the preexilic period—betray quite distinctly their origin in the old places of worship. The spreading of the hands at prayer, frequently mentioned in the older portions of Scripture (Isa. i. 15, Ex. ix. 29), is, as the Assyrian bas-relief of Jews before Sennacherib indicates, the gesture of one standing before a superior and spreading his hands in petition toward him (Babelon, "Manual of Oriental Antiquities," p. 103, plate 1). Representing, as this Assyrian picture does, actually the attitude of entreaty toward a human king, there is no doubt that the religious mode of this same gesture was originally identical with it; hence the representations by Stade, Nowack, Benzinger, and most moderns, which depict it as similar to that of the Egyptian priests, with hands extended toward an altar, must be rejected. The adoration proper of the Bible, namely, lying prone with the face touching the ground, is a survival from the older sanctuaries. The Hebrew word for this gesture is
It is difficult to interpret the posture described in I Kings, xviii. 42, where Elijah at prayer is represented as having "cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees" (compare Ta'an. iii. 8). This probably refers to the custom prevailing among the Arabs of sitting solemnly, during a portion of the prayer, in an attitude in which the head can easily touch the ground. That this was no unusual posture at prayer may be seen from the fact that it was practised among the Jews about the year 60 of the common era (Ber. 34b). Probably the passage, II Sam. vii. 18—where it is stated that King David went into the house of the Lord and sat there—is to be similarly explained as referring to a peculiar and solemn mode of sitting.Exilian and Postexilian Times.
Influenced by the Assyrians, among whom the act of kneeling in token of submission was quite general—as shown in the Assyrian delineations of the kneeling envoys from tributary nations—the Jews adopted this form of religious adoration(I Kings, viii. 54; Ezra, ix. 6, and other passages). But the passage in I Kings. xix. 18, referring to kneeling down before Baal, must be understood as applying to prostrate adoration, which was preceded, as already stated, by a bending of the knee. About this time, too, the practise of spreading the hands wide at prayer was modified in consideration of the conception of the heavenly God, toward whom the hands were to be raised in the direction of heaven whither the seat of God had been transferred (I Kings, viii. 22, 54; Lam. iii. 41). A practise originating in the period of exile was that of turning the face during prayer toward the Holy Land, as the place favored by God (I Kings, viii. 48; Dan. vi. 11 [A. V. 10]).
The scanty literary remains of the last three pre-Christian centuries contain so little concerning the Forms of Adoration that it is probable no essential modifications were made in them. The old hishtaḥawayah Form of Adoration was the favorite one in the Second Temple, and in accordance with the pharisaic love of minutiæ the number of bows in the Temple was exactly fixed. Every visitor to the sanctuary had thirteen
It is highly probable, in view of the great importance attached by the Pharisees to prayers, and of their love for rule and regulation, that those Forms of Adoration described in the oldest portions of the Mishnah date from the pre-Christian time. About the time of Jesus there was a dispute between the Hillelites and the Shammaites concerning the proper attitude in which to recite the Shema'. The latter, in opposition to the former, who were indifferent as to posture, insisted that this prayer must be said standing in the morning; but that, in the evening, the aforementioned posture of solemn inclination was the appropriate one. This dispute lasted until nearly the end of the first Christian century (Mishnah Ber. i. 3). The chief prayer, the Eighteen Benedictions, was, however, always said standing (Mishnah Ber. v. 1; Gem. 30a). Hence the name "'Amidah" (Standing) for the Eighteen Benedictions. Thus, in the New Testament it is said, "The Pharisee stood and prayed" (Luke, xviii. 11); and "they love to pray standing" (Matt. vi. 5). Prostration also occurred in the daily prayers, but not on festival days (B. M. 59b, where it is mentioned with reference to Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, a younger contemporary of the apostles).
As a result of the adoption by the Christian Church of most of the Jewish Forms of Adoration, it came about that in Palestine, where the opposition between Synagogue and Church grew constantly stronger and more hostile, the old Forms of Adoration came to be looked upon with disfavor. Toward the end of the second century, the Palestinian teachers, relying on Lev. xxvi. 1, took
Relative to other forms of gesture at prayer, the following may be mentioned: the bowing or bending of the upper part of the body at the beginning and the end of the Eighteen Benedictions—a relic of the old
The Talmud regulated religious ceremonies to such minute details that not much remained for later times to do in this particular; hence we find that the medieval Forms of Adoration are identical with those of the Talmud. In post-Talmudic times, the full prostration (proskynesis) took place only on the Day of Atonement, and then four times, and on New-year's Day once; while the
In their endeavors to purify Judaism from all rabbinical statutes, the Karaites rejected all rabbinical Forms of Adoration, and returned to the ancient Biblical usages. According to the Karaites, the indispensable Forms of Adoration at prayer are the following eight: (a)
The three principal postures of the body at prayer prevalent among Jews in the time of Jesus—standing, kneeling, and prostration—were adopted by the Christians, at times to the minutest details. Among the early Christians the most customary of all the Forms of Adoration was standing, adopted from the Jewish attitude during the "Eighteen Benedictions"—the prayer of prayers. This may be seen from the numerous illustrations of that time in Aringhi's "Roma Subterranea," Rome, 1651-59. Their outspread hands and their faces turned eastward correspond exactly with the Jewish customs already mentioned, namely, with the ancient practise of turning toward Palestine, which for Jews in Europe is eastward, and with the practise prevalent in all synagogues, of placing the ark in the eastern wall. The custom of kneeling, especially in private prayer, was likewise adopted by the earliest Christians (Luke, xxii. 41; Acts, vii. 60; ix. 40; xxi. 5; Eph. iii. 14, etc.) and became general (see "Hermæ Pastor," i. 1; Clemens Romanus, i. 48; Tertullian, "Ad Scapulam," iv.; Origen, "De Oratione," xxxi.). Less prevalent in the early days of Christianity was the prostration to the ground, employed only on special occasions (Socrates, "Historia Ecclesiastica," iii. 13, 17). How completely the Church ritual of early times was dominated by the Synagogue is shown by the usage prevalent in the Christian Church, and mentioned by Tertullian ("De Corona Militis," iii.), that on Sunday, and during the whole week of Pentecost, prayer was not to be said kneeling. The synagogal custom (minhag), as old as the first Christian century, omits the prostration on all festivals and semi-festivals (B. M. 59b).Mohammedan Forms.
But Islam, even more than Christianity, was influenced by the Jewish Forms of Adoration. At first Mohammed commanded that the faces of the faithful should, during prayer, be turned toward Jerusalem; and he only recalled this ordinance when he found that Jews were not to be captured by any such device. The very complicated postures adopted by Moslems at prayer (see Lane's pictures in "Modern Egyptians," i. 75) are probably borrowed from the Jews of Arabia, who, being far removed from Jewish lore, have preserved many archaic customs. These illustrations show all the Forms of Adoration above described as being existent among Jews, and especially that unusual form of sitting solemnly with the head upon the knees.
- Wellhausen, Reste des Arabischen Heidenthums, pp. 105 et seq.;
- Stade, Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, i. 488, 489;
- Nowack, Lehrbuch d. Hebräischen Archaeologie, ii. 259-261;
- Benzinger, Arch. pp. 463, 464;
- Riehm, Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Alterthums, i. 484 et seq.;
- Augusti, Handb. d. Christlichen Archaeologie, ii. 149 et seq.