The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace 1

Today is Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.

On this day about 1980 years ago, Jesus and his disciples were as far away from the temple in Jerusalem as it was possible to be while still remaining in Israel. They were at the entrance of another temple entirely—a pagan one.

While back in Jerusalem the high priest was entering the Holy of Holies, Jesus was in front of the ‘Gates of Hell’ at the temple of Pan, asking his disciples who they thought he was. Simon finally comes out with: ‘You are the Messiah.’

Whereupon Jesus gave him a new name: Cephas or Peter.

Peter from the Greek petros means ‘rock’. Cephas is Hebrew for a very specialised type of rock: the cornerstone on which a threshold sacrifice was offered.

Cephas is related to kippur, the name of the day. It is also related to Caiaphas, the name of the high priest who was then presiding on the Day of Atonement. (Telling us what Caiaphas was born for: it was his calling in life to announce the coming of the Messiah and identify him to the public. He conspicuously failed to come into the destiny God had prepared for him.)

On Yom Kippur, sandals were banned. They still are today for orthodox Jews. It’s fine to wear slippers or socks but not sandals.

This leads us to look more closely at the ‘shoes of the gospel of peace’ mentioned by Paul as part of the Armour of God. The word Paul uses for shoes is a very strange one. What would a Roman soldier be going into battle in his socks or slippers for?

Paul’s word is not caligulae for the normal brass boots which protected the shins and feet of the trooper. Perhaps this is not too strange given the persecutions of the Emperor nicknamed Caligula (‘little boots’). And perhaps it’s not too strange that he didn’t use sandalion, either. After all, as a native of Tarsus, he would have known that sandals came from the name of a god who happened to be worshipped in his home town. Still there were other words he could have used.

Instead he goes for a word that means ‘underbindings’—flimsy stuff that’s not much better than slippers or sockettes. It’s impossible to go into ordinary battle with these.

But, given all the other threshold references in this passage about the Armour of God, it’s obvious it’s not an ordinary battle. It’s a battle to cross a threshold, to pass over the cornerstone and come into covenant relationship. These are ‘shoes’ suitable to wear to solemnise atonement—at–one–ment—to make peace and be reconciled with God.

The armour of God is, as we’ve seen in the past, less about warfare than about lifting our faces for the kiss of God. The ‘shoes’ of Yom Kippur emphasise that yet again.


  1. So, when Jesus said, “…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” He wasn’t referring to the Catholic church as some (a lot) of preachers are keen to say.

    When Matthew was writing his gospel, why didn’t he mention the temple of Pan instead of just Caesarea Philippi? I realise that most people back then would probably have known this, but we don’t. I guess it’s a bit like Paul and his hidden messages, or Jesus’ references to Himself as “the bread of life,” etc. It was a smack in the face to the Roman and Greek gods.

    • Hi Lyn

      Actually, Jesus did refer to the temple of Pan by mentioning the ‘Gates of Hell’ which were part of the temple precincts. He was certainly smacking the ‘first’ (in terms of chronology) of the Greek gods in this instance. But He was just warming up. Six days later, He really let fly.

Leave a Reply

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.