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Footwashing article


									                FOOT-WASHING                                             5.0      Foot-washing In The New Testament

        In A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE                                      5.1      Foot-washing In The Gospel Of Luke And The Pastoral Letters

                                                                         5.2      Foot-washing Sacrament In The Book Of John
1.0     Foot-washing In The Ancient Near East
                                                                         6.0      Foot-washing And Ancient Christian Concepts
2.0     Foot-washing In Ancient Greece
                                                                         6.1      Foot-washing Sacrament And Its’ Ceremonial Practice
2.1     Foot-washing And Bathing.
                                                                         6.2      Foot-washing Sacrament And Support Of Its’ Ceremonial Practice
2.2     Foot-washing As A Form Of Hospitality.
                                                                         6.3      Foot-washing Sacrament And Opposition To Its Ceremonial
2.3     Foot-washing As A Form Of Religious Ritual                                Practice

2.4     Foot-washing In A Sociological Context                           6.4      The Disappearance Of Ceremonial Foot-washing Sacrament In
                                                                                  Church History
3.0     Foot-washing In The Ancient Roman Empire
                                                                         7.0      Conclusion
3.1     Foot-washing And Daily Hygiene

3.2     Foot-washing And Banquets                                        Foot-washing in a Historical Perspective

3.3     Foot-washing And Its Religious Aspects                                Due to the climate in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, it was
                                                                         common for people to wear sandals or go bare-foot while doing their daily
3.4     Foot-washing And Slaves                                          activities. Hence, the feet were constantly exposed and got dirty easily. Foot-
                                                                         washing, like eating and sleeping, became an essential daily activity that one could
4.0     Foot-washing In The Jewish Custom                                not do without. The purpose of this article is to discuss the origin of the
                                                                         sacrament of foot-washing, from the historical practice of foot-washing to its
4.1     Foot-washing And Body Hygiene                                    present significance in Christianity. The following is the historical background to
                                                                         the custom of foot-washing, and how it evolved from a social activity to a religious
4.2     Foot-washing As A Form of Hospitality                            sacrament.

4.3     Foot-washing And Its Religious Aspects                           1.     Foot-washing in the Ancient Near East

4.4     Foot-washing As A Form Of Servitude                                   According to the documents, pictures and texts of the Ancient Near East,
                                                                         foot-washing was one of the daily activities within the cultural milieu of
4.4.1   Foot-washing Conducted On Masters By Slaves                      Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The people used water to wash the feet of
                                                                         visitors as a form of greeting and as an expression of hospitality. In the Old
4.4.2   Foot-washing Conducted On Husbands By Wives                      Testament, it was customary to was one’s feet to purify oneself prior to
                                                                         performing religious sacrifices. However, this foot-washing was different from that
4.4.3   Foot-washing As A Portrayal Of Piety Towards The Father By His   established by the Lord.
4.4.4   Foot-washing Conducted On The Rabbi By His Pupils                2.     Foot-washing in Ancient Greece
     From the literary texts and historical records of ancient Greece, it is clear that       In general, Romans adopted Greek culture and their form of foot-washing
foot-washing was a part of their daily, social and religious way of life.                 was similar to that of the Greeks.

2.1    Foot-washing and bathing.                                                          3.1    Foot-washing and Daily Hygiene

     In a poem written by Homer, after a battle between Diomedes and Odysseus,                 For the Romans, foot-washing was an important part of their daily activities.
Odysseus had to wash in the ocean to remove the perspiration from his neck and            If a person did not wash his feet for a day, he would be considered uncivilized and
thighs. Following a bath and foot-washing, his feet were anointed with oil.               would be harshly criticized. At dusk, after everyone washed their feet, then they
                                                                                          would splash the water on the street. As recorded in Juvenal 3, 268/77, anyone
     In the Grecian Baths, there were basins for foot-washing as well as regular          unfortunate enough to be walking along the Roman street at night would often be
bath tubs. The last stage of bathing was foot-washing. In the days before bathing         drenched by this dirty water.
was customary, people used a basin of water to wash their feet. When they were
finished, they would splash the remaining water onto the street.                          3.2    Foot-washing and Banquets

2.2     Foot-washing as a form of hospitality.                                                 The Romans were greatly influenced by Greek civilization. Preparing water to
                                                                                          wash the feet of guests was one of their customs. During a banquet, a basin of
    The work of Homer, Od 19, 343/507, showed that foot-washing was a                     cold water would be placed in front of the guests to increase their appetite and to
customary form of greeting honourable guests. It was only when Eurykleia                  help refresh them.
washed the scarred feet of Odysseus that he was able to recognize him.
                                                                                          3.3    Foot-washing and Its Religious Ritual
2.3    Foot-washing as a Form of Religious Ritual
                                                                                               The Romans believed that man could only approach the gods if they were
     As recorded in Homer Od.22,478/82, after Odysseus killed someone, he                 fully cleansed (Cic. leg. 2, 24). The ritual of foot-washing before sacrificial
would wash not only his own hands and feet, but also those of his men. For the            offerings was a significant act of religious cleansing.
Greeks at that time, it was considered a form of blasphemy towards the gods if
one were to enter the temple without washing one’s feet. Water basins were                3.4    Foot-washing and Slaves
provided in front of temples for people to wash their feet, as at the temple of
Aphaia in Aegina. In Pollux 1, 25, the term "               ,         (cleanliness)            Foot-washing was among the lowliest types of work performed by slaves
and other terms relating to cleanliness were used in conjunction with foot-washing        (often by females). In order to exert his authority, the tyrant Caligula forced the
as a special form of religious ritual to be performed before entering the temple.         elders of the Senate to wash his feet (Suet. Calig. 26,2).

2.4    Foot-washing in A Sociological Context                                             4.     Foot-washing of the Jews

     Foot-washing was often the chore of female slaves, and was considered lowly               The significance of foot-washing in the lives of the Israelites was based on the
work. However, if a free person washed the feet of others willingly, it was a great       teachings of the Old Testament.
expression of friendship. At home, washing the feet of elderly family members was
considered a form of respect. Aristophanes, in Wespen 605/11, mentioned the               4.1    Foot-washing and Body Hygiene
pride felt by a rich man when his daughter washed and anointed his feet upon his
return from a day of hard work. Schol. Aristoph. vesp. 606 mentioned that since                The Israelites did not have the privilege of bathing everyday, since water was
ancient times, the role of foot-washing and anointment was considered a woman's           scarce. Because of the mild Mediterranean climate, the people did not require daily
task, and was held as a precious virtue.                                                  baths. However, daily foot-washing was a necessary form of hygiene. It was a
                                                                                          luxury to return home and wash one’s feet at the end of the day (in 2 Samuel 11:8-
3.     Foot-washing of the Ancient Roman Empire                                           13, David wanted Uriah to return home from the war to wash his feet). It was also
                                                                                          the last cleansing act before retiring to bed. After the feet were washed, the doors
were closed, the working garments were removed and one went to sleep. After                 The type of relationship between two people may be revealed by the act of
having washed their feet, people were reluctant to open their door to visitors (c.f.   foot-washing.
Luke 11:5-13, the story of the visitor who came at midnight to borrow some
loaves of bread).                                                                      4.4.1 Foot-washing Conducted On Masters By Slaves

    Since foot-washing was a daily cleansing ritual, every family owned storage             The washing of the master's feet by the slaves was considered as the lowliest
tanks of water for this purpose. Most families used wooden or clay water tanks,        form of servitude, performed only by slaves in bondage. In Psalm 60:8, "Moab is
but wealthier families owned gold or silver vessels (Job 25,26).                       my washbasin" denotes the lowly act of foot-washing. Hence, under the moral law
                                                                                       of the Israelites, Jews who were slaves did not have to wash the feet of their
     However, for those who were experiencing great tribulations or deep sorrow        masters; however, they could wash the feet of the master's sons and their students.
in their lives, garments were not changed nor did they bathe. The crippled             "And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself
Mephibosheth did not care for his feet from the day David departed from the city,      to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave" (Lev 25:39).
until the day he returned safely (2 Samuel 19:24).
                                                                                       4.4.2 Foot-washing conducted on Husbands by Wives
4.2    Foot-washing as a Form of Hospitality
                                                                                            The washing of the feet of husbands by wives was not considered a lowly task
    When guests paid a visit, it was customary to wash their feet as an expression     of servitude, but rather was esteemed as a honourable expression of love. The
of hospitality and welcome. When the faithful old servant went to take a wife for      daily household tasks to be performed by wives included: the grinding the flour,
his master’s son, he and his men were invited to have their feet washed upon           baking bread, laundry, cooking, weaving, nursing the young and to spread bed
reaching the house of Laban (Gen 24:32) Although the old servant insisted upon         covers for the husband. If the wives had maids, then the daily chores of the wives
speaking about his master’s commands before eating, he had to first have his feet      were performed by them. However matters such as serving tea, spreading bed
washed).                                                                               sheets and washing the hands and feet of the husband were tasks too personal for
                                                                                       any maid to perform, even if there were hundreds or thousands of maids. Even
     Abraham's hospitality towards the three strangers was a moving story, for he      today, orthodox Jewish women still abide by these rules. Abigail, a beautiful and
stated "please let a little water be brought and wash your feet" (Gen 18:4). Even      virtuous woman, when accepting David's proposal of marriage stated, "Here is
Lot who had gone astray in Sodom did not forget that foot-washing was an               your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord" (2 Sam
expression of hospitality (Gen 19:1-2). The Israelite custom of foot-washing as an     25:41). This quotation has two meanings: on one hand it expressed her willingness
extension of hospitality was preserved right to Jesus’ time (Luke 7:44). The           to serve, and secondly, her humility was evident by her immediate response when
anointment of feet with fragrant oil after foot-washing was not a common act but       she "rose in haste ... and became the wife of David."
one that expressed the highest form of respect and honour (Luke 7:38,46; John
12:3).                                                                                      In the event of a funeral within the family, the wife was not permitted to wash
                                                                                       the feet of her husband. The custom at that time was that husbands and wives
4.3    Foot-washing as A Religious Ritual                                              were not permitted to lie together during the period of mourning.

     Cleansing was the primary ritual conducted before taking part in religious             During the “period of impurity” of the wives, they could not wash the feet of
sacraments (ref. Leviticus). The hands and feet were the parts of the body most        their husbands.
easily soiled. Washing the hands and feet was not only a daily ritual, but later
became accepted as a religious activity (Matt 15:20). In the Old Testament, the        4.4.3 Foot-washing As A Portrayal Of Piety Towards The Father By The
function of the bronze laver in front of the tabernacle was for the cleansing of the         Children
hands and feet of the priests before they made burnt offerings (Exo. 30:17-21).
                                                                                            In order to show love and piety towards their father, it was the children’s duty
4.4    Foot-washing as a Form of Servitude                                             to wash his face, hands and feet. This act of foot-washing was not conducted out
                                                                                       of servitude, but out of love for their parent.

4.4.4 Foot-washing Conducted on the Rabbi By Their Pupils
                                                                                          John Chapter 13 (verses 4-12) records the washing of the disciple’s feet by
    The relationship of students to a Jewish rabbi was similar to that of a slave    Jesus the night before he was crucified. Jesus did not give any explanation for this
and his master. Hence whatever the slaves would do for their master, the pupils      foot-washing; it was an expression of His love. He rose from the table, laid aside
would have to the same for their teachers; foot-washing was one of these tasks.      his garments, girded himself with a towel and washed the feet of his disciples.
However, the washing of the rabbi’s feet by the pupils was different from that       When it was Peter's turn, he refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. According to
performed by slaves. The pupils washed the feet of the rabbi out of complete         Jewish customs, Jesus' should not be washing his disciples' feet.
respect and honour. However, those pupils who came from foreign lands did not
have to perform foot-washing, lest they be mistaken as slaves. They had to wear a         The washing of the disciple’s feet by Jesus was a significant act, since never
"Tephillim" to prove they were students of the rabbi and not slaves.                 before had a master washed the feet of his servants. The event occurred after the
                                                                                     meal was served, therefore it was not an act to welcome the guests. Jesus was not
     In j Pea 1,1, 15 c 58, the following case was recorded: rabbi Jischmael (135    the slave of His disciples, nor were his disciples His masters. Furthermore, this
B.C.) returned home one day and wanted to wash his feet. His mother insisted         foot-washing was not like an expression of a wife’s love to her husband.
that she wash his feet, in order to express her respect towards her son. Jischmael
refused, since he was afraid that he would break the fourth commandment (the sin          Peter strongly objected to Jesus washing his feet, since he was a strict follower
of not honouring one's parents) if he permitted his mother to wash his feet.         of Jewish customs. When Jesus replied, "If I do not wash you, you have no part
However, his mother then went to another rabbi to report the disrespect shown        with Me", Peter instantly understood the significance of this event. Peter quickly
towards her by her son. In the end, her wish was granted, and she was allowed to     replied, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" At this moment,
wash her son’s feet.                                                                 Peter may have regarded Jesus’ foot-washing as a religious rite (priests had to wash
                                                                                     their hands and feet before performing sacraments); he therefore asked Jesus for a
     According to the rules of Jewish society, one should wash the feet of those     complete cleansing of his entire body. However, Jesus did not grant Peter's request.
individuals who were highly respected, even if they were not “officially” a rabbi.   He did not wash Peter's hands and head; this differentiated the washing of his
Simon the Pharisee referred to Jesus as "rabbi", but did not wash his feet; he was   disciples' feet by the Lord Jesus' from the cleansing rites of priests in the Old
later reprimanded by Jesus for this action (Luke 7:36-50).                           Testament.

5.    Foot-washing in the New Testament                                                   Just as Jesus set an example for us by being baptized by John the Baptist, the
                                                                                     disciples had to receive foot-washing from Him in order to “have a part in Him”.
   The significance, mystery and symbolism of foot-washing as recorded in the        Furthermore, those who had their feet washed by Jesus were required to wash the
New Testament (John Ch. 13) is presented in the following sections.                  feet of others. The foot-washing by Jesus was conducted in the form of a
                                                                                     sacrament which the people at that time could not understand. Even Peter, who
5.1   Foot-washing in the Gospel of Luke and The Pastoral Letters                    had followed Jesus for years, failed to understand the significance of this event.

     In Luke 7:44, Lord Jesus praised the woman who washed His feet, but also              Each individual disciple had their feet washed by Jesus; therefore the
rebuked the rudeness of Simon for not providing water for foot-washing. Jesus        relationship between each individual disciple and Jesus was strengthened (disciple-
accepted the foot-washing of this woman, a sinner; this symbolized the salvation     Jesus; Jesus-disciple). After this, the disciples were sent out to preach to others and
that He was extending to all mankind (a Jewish man would normally accept foot-       follow the examples set by Jesus. In order to “have a part with Him”, they were
washing only from his own slave, or from his wife, children or students). The sins   instructed to wash the feet of other disciples who had already been baptized in
of this woman were forgiven by this humble gesture.                                  Jesus’ name. This was a once-in-a-lifetime sacrament performed by the masters on
                                                                                     the new disciples. However, the spiritual message of foot-washing should be
    In 1 Timothy 5:10, one of the duties of widows in the church was foot-           continually preached.
washing. This included the washing of the feet of saints who came from afar, and
was an expression of love and servitude towards others.                                   Despite the fact that Jesus bade His disciples to practice the sacrament of
                                                                                     foot-washing after baptism, there is no record of His disciples performing this
5.2   "Foot-washing Sacrament" in the Book of John                                   sacrament in the New Testament; neither is there any mention of the disciples
washing one another's feet. The following questions have often been raised: Did
the Lord's disciples perform the sacrament of foot-washing after baptisms? If so,         Ambrosius wrote articles defending the ceremonial nature of the sacrament of
why is it not recorded in the bible? These questions will be discussed in part II.   foot-washing. He stated that only through divine revelation of the Spirit of God
                                                                                     could one understand the "ceremonial nature" of the sacrament of foot-washing.
6.    Foot-washing And Ancient Christianity                                          Even Peter, who had followed Jesus for many years, could not understand the
                                                                                     significance of this sacrament (non Advertit mysterium et ideo ministerium
6.1   Foot-washing Sacrament And Its Ceremonial Practice                             recusavit: myst.6, [CSEL 73, 1023]). Later, Peter emphasized the importance of
                                                                                     foot washing, and regarded it as an essential part of water baptism. He repeatedly
    Historical records describe the sacrament of foot-washing until the 11th or      told the believers that the foot-washing practiced in the Milan area was correct,
12th century. After this, the sacrament was abolished by the churches of Ireland.    whereas the abolishment of foot-washing in Rome was the result of deviation
                                                                                     from the truth (Sacr. 3,5 [CSEL 73,40]).
    According to the research of E. Peterson (Fruehkirche, Judentum und Gnosis,           He also strongly rejected those who did not actually practice foot-washing,
1959, s 224-234), the disciples understood the relationship between the sacraments   but interpreted it as a symbolic gesture of the Lord's teachings to love one another,
of foot-washing and water baptism after the disciples received the Holy Spirit on    to serve, and be humble (sunt tamen, qui dicant..., quia hoc non in mysterio
the day of Pentecost. The disciples then performed the sacrament of foot-washing     faciendum est,... sed quasi hospiti pedes lavandi sint. Sed aliud est humilitatis, aliud
in Antiochia. The sacrament of foot-washing was later spread to Milan, until the     sanctificationis: sacr. 3,1,5 [CSEL 73,40]).
time of Ambrosius, the Bishop of Milan (333-397). However, due to the rising
doubts about the nature of the sacrament of foot-washing within the churches,             Other than the districts of Milan, literary records reveal that areas of Gallien,
there was growing opposition to its practice. However, Ambrosius defended the        Ireland and North Africa also practiced foot-washing.
importance of the sacrament of foot-washing against this strong opposition.
                                                                                     6.3    Foot-washing Sacrament and Opposition of its Ceremonial Practice
6.2   Foot-washing Sacrament and the Support of its Ceremonial Practice
                                                                                          After the age of the apostles, the importance of the sacrament of foot-
     Some priests believed that foot-washing had the effect of removing minor        washing was in doubt. The greatest opposition came from Origenes, a teacher
sins committed after water baptism (e.g Basil. hom. temp. fam 4 [pg 31, 313B]).      from the Academy of Alexander, who declared foot-washing as merely "Symbolic".
                                                                                     He believed that the importance of foot-washing came not from the literal practice
     Theodor V. Mopsvestia from the Academy of Antiochia believed that the sins      of foot-washing as conducted by Jesus, but through the spiritual significance of the
of the apostles (committed after receiving water baptism from John the Baptist)      act itself. Our sins were completely cleansed during baptism; it was not through
were washed away by Jesus when He washed their feet (Joh;CSCO                        foot-washing that sins were cleansed. If our sins were to be cleansed through
116=Scr.Syr.63,182/4).                                                               foot-washing, then the importance of baptism would be minimized. Christians
                                                                                     should often practice the spiritual teachings in “washing one another’s feet", in
     Gregor Von Nyssa (334-394) interpreted the verse in the Song of Solomon         accordance to the Lord's command.
(5:3) "washed my feet" as the last cleansing act of the bride; this prefigured the
Lord washing the feet of His disciples before His departure (Cant 115,5,3 [6, 330f        In the commentary of the Gospel of John, Origenes explained the mystery of
Jager]).                                                                             foot-washing as follows: "disciples should have a complete part in Jesus, since the
                                                                                     Holy Spirit would dwell in them after foot-washing. Through foot-washing, they
    Clemens von Alexander, Hieronymus and Kyrillonas believed that the               were prepared for the spreading of the Gospel, because of the promise within the
apostles were able to succeed in spreading the Gospel because Jesus prepared         Bible: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good
them for their mission by washing their feet [Paed. 2, 63,2 (GCS 12,195)].           news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims
                                                                                     salvation" (Rom. 10:15, Isa. 52:7), (Joh 32,4. 7/9 [GCS 10, 431f, 436/8, 4417]).
     In the "Baptism Regulations of Milan", the sacrament of foot-washing was
highly regarded, since it was a part of the baptism sacrament. Bishops conducted         The skepticism of Origenes is shared by modern theologians. The focus on
the baptisms, while other divine workers washed the feet of the newly baptized       both "symbol" and "mystery", and the argument of the "wisdom of God" versus
(Ambr Sacr 3,4 [CSEL73,39]).
the "wisdom of man" confused both Origenes and modern theologians. The
sacrament of foot-washing was therefore not understood correctly.

6.4    The Disappearance of The Sacrament of Foot-Washing in the
       History of the Churches.
     Augustinus also did not believe that foot-washing should be regarded as a
sacrament. His reasons for opposing foot-washing were similar to those of
Origenes (cf Ps. 92, 3 [CCL 39, 1293]" non ad sacramentum tamquam
mundationis pertineliat...). While he was in Milan, he became familiar with the
practice of foot-washing. He reported that some people refused to receive foot-
washing on the same day as baptism, because they feared that the effectiveness of
the baptism would be reduced. There were even some who abolished foot-
washing from the list of church sacraments; however, there were still people who
continued to practice foot-washing. (ep. 55,30 [CSEL 34,2,207f]).

     Due to a predominance of "educated and wise people" in the churches, the
sacrament of foot-washing came under question and was eventually abolished.
The wave of opposition against foot-washing grew. This matter was not only
analyzed and questioned by theologians, it was also discussed among the highest
levels in the churches. In the year 306 A.D, a major church conference was held
in Spain "Das Konzil von Iberis" (Cn. 48 [2,8 Bruns]). One of the topics discussed
was the sacrament of foot-washing. In the end, the resolution “Kanon Act 48”
prohibited bishops and priests to perform foot-washing for the newly-baptized.
Therefore, the newly-baptized did not need to have their feet washed by the
bishops or divine workers. This prohibition had a great effect on the practice of
foot-washing, since from that time onwards, no trace of this sacrament could be
found in any of records of the Spanish churches.

      Until the Carolingian Period (Karolingische Periode 768-814), the church
regulations issued by Rome were enforced everywhere. Foot-washing, which was
still performed in France, diminished in practice. In the 11th and 12th centuries,
the sacrament of foot-washing was abolished in the Irish churches. Since that time,
the True Jesus Church is the only Christian church which practices the sacrament
of foot-washing. However, foot-washing is conducted with humility and servitude
in Abbey churches and by some pious Christian groups.

7.    Conclusion


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