Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The Work of Servants

In the Gospels, it is assumed to be the work of servants or inferiors to untie shoes, wash feet, and anoint with ointment.

Luke 3.16 (untie shoes, cf. Matt. 3.11, Mark 1.7, John 1.27, Acts 13.25):
John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.
John 13.5-9 (wash feet, cf. Luke 7.38):
After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
John 12.3 (anoint with ointment, cf. Luke 7.38):
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
All three of these actions also appear in a passage from Plutarch's Life of Pompey 73.6-7 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
Wherefore, without waiting for argument or entreaty, he took Pompey on board, and also all whom Pompey wished to have with him (these were the two Lentuli and Favonius), and set sail; and shortly after, seeing Deiotarus the king hurrying out from shore, they took him on board also. Now, when it was time for supper and the master of the ship had made such provision for them as he could, Favonius, seeing that Pompey, for lack of servants, was beginning to take off his own shoes, ran to him and took off his shoes for him, and helped him to anoint himself. And from that time on he continued to give Pompey such ministry and service as slaves give their masters, even down to the washing of his feet and the preparation of his meals.

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