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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The tendency to Individual detail, which gives so much vividness to Semitic narrative, accounts for some of the references to the feet (πόδες) in apostolic writings, as, for example, the reference in St. Peter’s judgment on Sapphira: ‘the feet of those who buried thy husband are at the door’ (Acts 5:9; cf. Acts 7:5, Hebrews 12:13, Revelation 1:15; Revelation 2:18; Revelation 10:1). The sinner’s feet axe ‘swift to shed blood’ (Romans 3:15), but the Christian’s are to be ‘sandalled’ with readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and are made beautiful by that mission (Romans 10:15). Behind such allusions, however, there is something more than the love of graphic detail. The whole body enters much more into biblical ideas of personality than the modern reader usually recognizes (see articles Ear, Head). In St. Paul’s analogy between the human body and the Church, the head needs the service of the feet, and the foot must not refuse its ministry because its service is humbler than that of the hand (1 Corinthians 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:21; 1 Corinthians cf.1 Clem. xxxvii. 5). In the mystical body of the Odes of Solomon (xlii. 18) the feet represent the saints.

Other references to the feet are derived from Oriental customs. The sandals are removed in holy places (Acts 7:33), as before entering the mosque of to-day. The removal of the master’s sandals is a slave’s work (Acts 13:25). To wash the dusty feet of guests is a rite of hospitality (cf. Luke 7:44, John 13:4 f.) and the habit of rendering such service to the ‘saints’ is mentioned amongst the qualifications of ‘widows’ (1 Timothy 5:10; see article Widow). Since the Jewish teacher taught whilst sitting, with his scholars at a lower level around him, St. Paul can say literally that he was ‘brought up at the feet of Gamaliel’ (Acts 22:3). Contributions to the common fund are laid at the feet of the apostles, who are thus represented sitting as teachers (Acts 4:35; see Holtzmann, ad loc). The clothes of the ‘witnesses’ who stoned Stephen were laid at the feet of Saul, already prominent against the new sect (Acts 7:58). The Oriental habit of prostration before the feet of a superior, in fear or reverence, is illustrated by Sapphira (Acts 5:10), Cornelius (Acts 10:25), John (Revelation 1:17; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8; cf. Revelation 3:9; Hermas, Vis. III. ii 3). The ancient custom according to which the victor literally trampled the conquered under his feet (Joshua 10:24 and the monuments), to register and confirm the conquest, accounts for the frequent phrase ‘under the feet,’ to denote subjugation (1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Corinthians 15:27, Ephesians 1:22, Hebrews 2:8, Romans 16:20; cf. Revelation 10:2; Revelation 12:1). In the spirit of dramatic symbolism, Agabus (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ) bound his hands and feet with St. Paul’s girdle, to prophesy the Apostle’s coming bondage (Acts 21:11). St. Paul and Barnabas shook off the dust of their feet against Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:51; cf. Matthew 10:14) in token of complete separation from its doom.

H. Wheeler Robinson.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Feet'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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