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The Hidden Meaning of Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet

08 May
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Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

The Gospel of John tells a story not found in the other gospels which describes Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples. He strips off his clothing and puts on a servants towel, he washes the disciples feet despite Peter’s objection and then has them wash each other’s feet (13:3-14). At first glance, the meaning of the story seems pretty clear. Jesus is taking the humble role of a servant and treating the young men to a relaxing foot bath and massage with some kind of vague allusion to servant leadership, right? That is certainly one way of reading it but it doesn’t explain Peter’s reluctance or his later suggestion of washing his whole body rather than just the feet. There is something else going on here which I intend to reveal.

ImageFirstly there is the implication of the use of the word “feet”. While the text of the gospel is in Greek, it is written for an audience familiar with the Hebrew scriptures. So to understand how a first century Christian would understand the text, we need to first step out of the biases we’ve inherited from generations of ascetic and puritanical interpretations and look to the Old Testament to see how the story would have been viewed by its first readers. We must examine the feet of the forefathers.

Deuteronomy 28:57 describes childbirth as a young one coming from between a woman’s feet. 2 Kings 4:27 uses feet to describe a scene of a woman grabbing a man of God by the testicles (a direct violation of the commands in Deuteronomy 25:11); the man of God’s mercy protecting her from the usual consequences of the action. Proverbs describes a wicked man talking with his feet (6:13) and a harlot whose “feet” don’t live in her house is the description given to a woman having sex with men other than the husband whose house she lives in (7:11). Isaiah portrays the six winged seraphim as covering their feet for the sake of modesty. One can possibly conclude that a winged being probably doesn’t have particularly dust covered shoes so the angel’s modesty could reasonably be considered to be covering some other appendage below the waist. In the following chapter he describes men having the hair shaved from their head, beards and feet as a mark of shame to make them look like young boys (7:20), a kind of shaming similar to what was done to David’s servants in 1 Chronicles 19:4 and 2 Samuel 10:4 though both of those texts use more explicit language than Isaiah, the similarities of the descriptions are clear. Samuel also refers to “feet” to describe was Saul was doing in the cave when he unwittingly put himself at David’s mercy (24:3). Just in case the case isn’t crystal clear, Ruth 3:4 describes uncovering a man’s “feet” while being “on the floor” as a method of seduction after which he will have to marry her.

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“slept with”

After studying these texts, it is clear that writers in the early Judaeo/Christian tradition frequently use a reference to “feet” when describing both male and female sexual organs. It isn’t as clear as being literal and specific. You can talk about feet and actually mean the things you walk on, and there are plenty of examples in the Bible where the writers do just that. Much as modern euphemisms like “sleep with” require context. To sleep with the light on has a vastly different cultural connotation than to sleep with young boys, though a literal interpretation would have the phrase hold the same essential meaning. There is an implied second meaning for “sleep” in modern English, just as there would be an implied second meaning for Jesus to “wash” his disciples’ “feet”.

This reading certainly doesn’t pretend to be evidence of Jesus being a paedophile. The disciples would have been at least 16 years old by this stage of the story in any case, and the holy hand job is implied but not implicit. John’s gospel is full of this sort of thing and certainly doesn’t skimp on the homoerotic imagery.

ImageAnybody seeking to use this verse as evidence to support a theory of Jesus being homosexual is going to be sadly disappointed. One chapter earlier in John’s gospel there is another foot washing scene (adapted from Luke 7:36-39) which describes Mary giving Jesus a foot massage with expensive and fragrant oils and rubbing it in with her hair. Luke’s version of the story involving a sinful woman in the house of a Pharisee specifies that it was the hair of the woman’s head. John’s adaption of the story, as well as adding the provocative Mary who sits at Jesus feet (another euphemism that can be checked in Ruth 3 for contextual meaning) and relocating the scene to the house of Lazarus, also removes the specification that it is the hair of her head which she rubs against Jesus “feet”. To any Jewish male over the age of thirty, John’s implications in this verse would have been clear. Song of Solomon (5:5) describes in a style rivalled in modern times only by Mills and Boon, the physical act of love “I rose up to open to my beloved and my hands dropped with myrrh, my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock”. When John has Mary massaging her expensive oils into Jesus’ feet and rubbing his feet with her hair, the literal meaning is clear and the context gives little doubt that he is describing the kind of oil that could be sold to buy food for the poor and not the kind that drips from a woman’s “fingers” while the key is going in and out of the lock. Not explicitly anyway. The subtext however would have been just as obvious to his readers though as the implications of “washing” the disciples “feet”.

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One with God

So if the messianic mutual masturbation story isn’t suggesting that Jesus was into the group thing and initiating an orgy on the night of the last supper for the sake of one final bang before getting penetrated by some large nails onto a hard length of wood, what is the intended meaning? I suspect that verse three holds a clue. Just before Jesus gets naked in front of his disciples, the gospel states that he “went to God”.

Genesis 16:4 says that Abraham “went to Hagar and she conceived”. The word we translate as “went to” is used throughout the Old Testament as a euphemism for sex. Again, this isn’t suggesting that Jesus was engaging in a physical act of intercourse with God in that moment. That would have been quite an accomplishment without leaving the dinner table. Throughout the Bible, the act of sex is referred to as becoming one flesh. A spiritual interpretation of this sexually charged language could therefore show that this verse is describing the true relationship between Jesus and God becoming one being while still being to separate entities. Jesus’ “went to God” then means that he became One with the God and that what he did next was acting as Jesus the Son of God rather than Jesus the Son of Man.

ImageSo it was in fact God who was giving a handjob to the disciples. But when Jesus becomes God, do the disciples remain the disciples? That seems highly unlikely. The disciples, whose number was twelve even though thirteen are named in the gospels, are commonly considered to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The disparity of the mysterious thirteenth disciple even matches with the disputed thirteenth tribe of Israel, though that may be taking the parallel further than the original author intended. Now our dinner guests have transformed their spiritual roles from human individuals to God and the tribes of Israel. So why is God jerking off the nation of Israel?

Isaiah 54:5 provides us with some clarification: “For your maker is your husband; Jehovah is his name. Your redeemer and holy one, He will be called the God of the whole Earth”

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I find that the concept of trinity makes a lot more sense when I realise that the Bible gives an example of how two can become one flesh. God is like a threesome with Father and Son double teaming Holy Spirit between them. Each is still uniquely individual but interconnected to form a single body.

By having Jesus wash the feet of the disciples in the person of God, John is describing an act of sexual intimacy between God and his people as between a husband and a wife. The act of becoming as one flesh where it is no longer clear where God ends and his people begin. It is a promise that God will come and dwell in his people, penetrating them spiritually and ejaculating the seed of divine grace into every open womb of consciousness.

Further more, as Jesus then instructed his disciples to do for each other as he had done for them, the followers of Christ, now impregnated with God’s Holy Spirit and instructed to be as one flesh, connected to each other even closer than siblings, so that the world will see that ours is the true God of the world. This message is reiterated later in John’s gospel with Jesus explicitly stating “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (Jn 17:21 NLT)

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32 Comments

Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Religious, sexuality

 

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32 responses to “The Hidden Meaning of Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet

  1. Anonymous

    May 8, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    That seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation to me. I can accept that.

     
  2. Bob

    May 8, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    Thank you, this is a really good post, and most of it is new to me I love the sexual comparision it resonates with authenticty I love how the late great Scott Peck in his book “The Road Less travelled” says that “God is on the take his business is that of seduction”

     
  3. bruised reed

    September 9, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    Wow! I’m flabbergasted! I find it hard to believe that you would be trolling people on your own blog, but just as hard to accept that you really believe this – is it an experiment in provocation? If this is meant to be taken as a serious intellectual proposition perhaps you can share some authoritative sources that support your preposterous claims.

     
    • jaminism

      October 1, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      That is a good point. There are some academic scholarly sources which support this position (at least on the interpretation of feet and the general sexuality of the gospel of John), and if I were writing an academic paper, I would certainly have sourced them. I have, however, quoted numerous Bible verses which make a very clear case instead. Are you suggesting that academic sources would be more authoritative than the Bible in this context?

       
      • bruised reed

        November 27, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        “That is a good point”…”Are you suggesting that academic sources would be more authoritative than the Bible in this context?” – Let me make my point more clearly: Your interpretations of 2 Kings 4:27 and Ruth 3:4 in particular are not supported by any translation or commentary I have access to; Your extension of the use of euphemisms in 1 Chronicles 19:4 and 2 Samuel 10:4 to transfer to other contexts and the transferability of euphemisms in one language (Hebrew) to another (Greek) without specific support can not be justified by any principle of hermeneutics I’m aware of – are you just doing this because you think its an ‘interesting’ way to present the text, or do you have any authorative sources(i.e. not just any academic, but widely regarded experts of ancient Hebrew and Greek translation) to justify your highly unorthodox interpretation of the meaning of these scriptures?

        “I have, however, quoted numerous Bible verses which make a very clear case instead” – no, the only way you are able to co-opt scripture to provide even a limited credence to your claims is through using mistranslations (or at best, highly unorthodox hermeneutics) and making wild leaps of association – this is a long, long way from “a very clear case”. For you to pretend otherwise is pure charlatanism.

         
      • jaminism

        November 30, 2013 at 10:29 PM

        I’m away from my home computer right now so it would be difficult to locate sources which explain why Hebrew language euphemisms can be applied to Greek language used within a Hebrew cultural context. If you are genuinely interested I’d be happy to did through some of my old research notes for the sources which originally convinced me that this was an acceptable practice. I’d really rather not go to the effort if you’re really only arguing my methods because you don’t like the conclusion.

         
      • Bobob

        December 1, 2013 at 8:36 AM

        I think your point is very good many of us are more concerned with conclusions than the process of how we arrive at them. If my experience is any thing to go by its not always easy seeking to engage with conservative Christians its easy for any of us (conservatives, progressives and liberals alike) to use well selected scriptures that appear to be “right’ (because they support our conclusions) but in the process we do it with wrong motives “wrong motives with right scriptures” is the essence of the pharisaic spirit..

         
      • bruised reed

        December 4, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        “If you are genuinely interested I’d be happy to did through some of my old research notes for the sources which originally convinced me that this was an acceptable practice. I’d really rather not go to the effort if you’re really only arguing my methods because you don’t like the conclusion.” As I said before, I’m flabbergasted by this post – I can say in all honesty that I absolutely don’t like the conclusion! However, I am interested in your methodology as I don’t see how your conclusion can be reached by a reasonable person. My impression from knowing you previously is that you are quite reasonable even though you may have a quite different perspective from me – I’m genuinely interested in what you’ve seen or read that would lead you to believe that you’ve arrived at a legitimate destination here.

         
  4. Anonymous

    October 1, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    This is the most disgusting interpretation of scripture I have every read. You have some very serious issues with perversion!

     
    • jaminism

      October 1, 2013 at 7:40 PM

      It is a good thing that I am saved by grace rather than relying on quality theology for my salvation then isn’t it? I wonder, do you think you would pass the test if the measure you use to judge me was used to judge your own interpretation of scripture.

       
      • Bob

        October 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        Hi,

        How are you? its a long time since we spoke I like the way you think the manner and depth of articulation these are rare gifts within Christendom. Its not that easy to go against the flow to be a non- tow-er of the party line. Thank God for conservative theology where would we be without it. There comes a time however, what Rohr calls ‘second half of life’ or McLaren describes as ‘adult spirituality’ where we simply must progress where we simply must become progressive and you are such a person. All to often we carry biases that transcend our ability to see the Biblical text in context. Our views (both liberal and conservative) all to often are an extension of ego defences that we are often oblivious to, in this context people react rather than respond. The, ego, when in full flight disguises itself within this agenda “wrong motives seeking right scriptures” in my 40 plus years in and around the faith not only have I been guilty (how else could I identify this) of this but I continue to see that this is the basis for so much disagreement. To come to the text with open mind and open heart is the only right and necessary premise for authentic engagement with the text. This is still a wonderful rule for reading all sacred text “context, context and context” .Keep up the good work by the way your views are sustained by at least six well known scholars and theologians

         
      • bruised reed

        December 4, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        “It is a good thing that I am saved by grace rather than relying on quality theology for my salvation then isn’t it? I wonder, do you think you would pass the test if the measure you use to judge me was used to judge your own interpretation of scripture.”
        – A very gracious response! There is a still much value in pursuing quality theology though…

         
  5. Bob

    December 1, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    I think your point is a very good one, many of us are more concerned with conclusions than the process of how we arrive at them. If my experience is any thing to go by its not always easy seeking to engage with conservative Christians, having said that, its easy for any of us (conservatives, progressives and liberals alike) to use well selected scriptures that appear to be “right’ (because they support our conclusions) but in the process we do it with wrong motives “wrong motives with right scriptures” is the essence of the pharisaic spirit..

     
  6. Anonymous

    September 13, 2014 at 3:07 AM

    We must not forget that for the first Christians, the power of the Holy Ghost is Sacred Sex. Through the power sex the Holy Spirit created everything in nature. And we as humans must be born a
    new by the same transmutation of the waters of life in perfect matrimony.

     
  7. anonymous

    January 25, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    so, somehow we take different passages from different books of the Bible, written by different authors, at different times, in different languages and, somehow, that provides a logical contextual basis for proving that what is meant by the washing of feet was sexual rather than the more straightforward meaning usually ascribed to it? Occam’s Razor would say the latter is the more reasonable approach.

     
    • jaminism

      January 26, 2015 at 7:55 PM

      The traditional understanding of “feet” as a euphemism for the genitals is already well documented in academic Hebrew language traditions. My article is intended to make the connection using a sola-scriptura approach to what language experts already know. As such I have deliberately excluded extrabiblical academic sources from the article. If you are interested in viewing the Bible from a historical language position then there are a few scholarly articles I would recommend. The following would be a good place to start.

      http://jot.sagepub.com/content/28/3/279.short
      http://jbl.metapress.com/content/9t7372428755qv23/

       
      • Anonymous

        July 2, 2015 at 5:23 AM

        The use of “feet” was at times a euphemism in Hebrew, but the Gospels were originally written in Greek, NOT Hebrew.
        Furthermore, think about it for a second. In the time of Jesus, there were no cars, only animals. And what do they leave behind? You guessed it! Poop! All over the roads! And guess what? People only wore sandals on their feet. So their feet were disgusting! Thus it makes sense that to wash the feet of those below you, let alone those equal to you, was seen as humiliating. But Jesus showed his love, that he would touch the filth that was their feet, and cleanse their feet with his own hands.
        And as for Mary Magdalene, read the passage carefully. She was standing behind Jesus when she annointed his feet with perfume. I dont suppose you want to claim that Jesus had a penis on his back? And again, Greek, not Hebrew.
        Lastly, let us go back to the Old Testament. While some references to feet are possibly or even likely euphemisms, others are clearly not. Two examples:
        – Leviticus 8:23
        – 2 Samuel 4:4
        But this is beside the point. Because the point is, what you are teaching on here is blatant heresy.

         
      • jaminism

        July 11, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        Regarding the Greek/Hebrew issue. It isn’t the word for “feet” which holds the double meaning but rather than cultural connotation held by the Hebrew people. Hebrew people speaking any language could still use the local word for feet as a euphemism for sexual organs and be understood by people of the same cultural background.

        There is no indication in the text that the woman washing Jesus’ feet is Mary Magdalene.

        Upright chairs as we have them today were not common in Jesus time (despite what Mel Gibson may have you believe). Typically people in the situation described would be laying on a lounge close to the ground with their head toward the centre and their feet far from the food. This would make for easy access for somebody coming from behind Jesus to have access to his feet by both definitions. Though I do think the author is not suggesting that there was a woman of ill repute giving Jesus a blow job in a literal sense there is something clearly erotic about the verse.

         
    • jaminism

      July 11, 2015 at 10:42 AM

      As well as, not necessarily rather than.

       
      • Bob

        July 11, 2015 at 2:09 PM

        Wow!! is this conversation still going?

         
      • jaminism

        July 12, 2015 at 8:33 AM

        This is something I love about the internet. Somebody I’ve never met can make a comment on something I said three years ago and I can review my original statement to test their new criticism against my old ideas and assess if my views have changed since then or if they need to. Interestingly, it is the most controversial topics that provide the greatest longevity.

         
  8. Anonymous

    April 7, 2015 at 2:03 AM

    disgraceful,Jesus is love,not disgusting thank God that is nothing LIKE man we would be in a heep of hurt and wrong doings if HE was!!!

     
    • jaminism

      July 11, 2015 at 10:42 AM

      Who are you to call unclean what God has called clean?

       
  9. Repent

    April 28, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    The title of this post belies its conclusion. The revelation of Christ is just that; nothing is hidden. None of the curch Fathers holds this position nor does any denomination. Neither would any of the apostle’s teachings allow this interpretation (Romans 1 immediately comes to mind). The author’s conclusion is rank heresy and is blatently demonic. The author mocks God, whether he knows it or not.

     
  10. Bob

    July 12, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    I have to say, coming from someone who has studied theology for almost 10 years, you have great insights into this any many other complex matters and you have all the makings of a very fine theologian (I mean this in an academic sense). Keep up the lovely work I’m so glad you have outgrown those earlier more ridged, tedious stages where Christianity mostly seems to exist. Where the Bible seems to be used as a weapon not a text for further open dialogue. One of the more damming things to come about in the last 100 years was the Bible concordance it encourages constant never ending “proof-texting” where people know where the verse is found but no nothing about its context. As a great theologian once said when it come to reading the Bible three things matter “context, context and context”. Thank you for your posts

     
  11. Bob

    July 12, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Ps: My last post was directed to jaminism no one else.

     
  12. one who loves the LORD JESUS

    July 29, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    When sharing and interpreting scripture we must always seek GOD and HIS wisdom to spread HIS truth. When we don’t we mislead people & they believe things that are not true of our great & almighty LORD & SAVIOUR. Although I very strongly disagree with this article& it’s writer I will not bash this belief or interpretation in any way I will instead encourage anyone who wants to know anything about GOD to seek HIM& ask HIM HIS truth HE withholds no good thing from those who diligently seek HIM. GOD speaks to us all in a way that we know is HIM when HE does. GOD is way better at explaining HIS truth to us than anybody else can. HE gives us saving grace as a means of correcting our mistakes & having a chance at walking in HIS righteousness. There is no grace for those who intentionally spread falsehoods & mislead the flock of the GREAT SHEPHERD. May GOD’s mercy wisdom love& grace be with all of us in the precious name of JESUS.

     
  13. Sam

    April 15, 2016 at 7:03 AM

    Wow! Nice to see how Fundamentalist Christainity is still so fiercely closed- minded and retard-strong. What are they so very afraid of I wonder? Is enlightenment really that bad? Do you not understand that the Bibical Canon is not literally authored by God but rather by many human authors over substantial generations and translated over and over again into a mind boggling amount of languages. It’s the telephone game of theology. And as the original author of this article stated, this wasn’t modern day so do try to put yourself in a contextually historical set of sandals here and calm down. This isn’t a who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s going to hell sort of battle…..Its just an intellectual article. If you don’t like the flavor, move on. Don’t complain or tell others to change their choices because you say so…. It’s freewill baby. Nobody cares if you like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla or rocky road ice cream…. So who cares if someone is conservative or liberal with their interpretations of the holy bible? Who cares if someone is Fundamentalist, Orthodox, Gnostic or Buddist for that matter. Life is what you make it and what shows more love and peace to those around you; arguing or accepting that people will have their own unique opinions? And thank God for that because life would be super boring if we were all choice free opinion free robots just following our protocols without a soul…. That would be hell.
    But that’s just my humble two cents. Do whatever makes you happy. Just don’t be that annoying friend who spouts off the evils of gluten or eating meat or not recycling….. We all have a friend like that… That person needs a stress reducing “foot wash” like 10 years ago. Don’t be that person.
    Be chill.

     
  14. Jeremiah

    May 9, 2016 at 5:30 PM

    This makes complete sense. It even makes sense why it was rude to sit down to eat without washing your ‘feet.’ No one wants someone with a stinky crotch sitting with them as they eat or walking willy nilly around their house. This speaks to the soul of things.

     
  15. Albuquerque

    July 15, 2016 at 2:17 PM

    You are not so wrong about this question, the thing is that the word Feet and Genitalia is te same in Hebrew, for this reason the Seraphim cover his feet just becouse his feet could couse abomination having the same name as genitalia. When Jesus was talking to the disciples, He wasn’t talking in Hebrew but in Aramaic wich has nothing to do with Hebrew, so, feet in this particular case has nothing to do with genitalia. Feet in Aramaic is feet, genitalia is something else. The other cases follow the same rule. Thank You! Be Blessed!

     
    • jaminism

      May 3, 2017 at 12:10 PM

      In the Greek dialect used in first century Jerusalem by Hebrews, all of the cultural innuendo would have survived, meaning the Hebrews could appear to be speaking about one thing while meaning another even while speaking in Greek.

       

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