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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Shoe Sandal

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With one exception the references to shces or sandals are all found in the Book of Acts. Two of these are quotations, one from Exodus 3:5 (Acts 7:33), and the other from the Gospels, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, and John 1:27 (Acts 13:25). The latter gives scope for comparison, and raises a certain problem, which is discussed in Encyclopaedia Biblica , s.v. ‘Shces.’ Verbal differences are not sufficient to throw any light upon the kind of foot-covering worn. The two words found, ὑποδήματα and σανδάλια, do not appear to be distinctive, the one of ‘shces’ and the other of ‘sandals.’ The former is found in all the passages cited above, while the latter appears only in Acts 12:8, conjoined with the verb from which ὑποδήματα is derived.

Although linguistic aids fail us, we may safely infer that both sandals and shces were in common use during apostolic times. For the most part they were made by craftsmen, working with leather chiefly, although wood, cork, etc., were also employed. Simple and ornate forms were forthcoming. Sandals of the plain kind were mere coverings for the soles of the feet to save them from injury, especially during a journey. They were attached by thongs arranged in a variety of ways. In the more ornate forms sandals had an attachment at the tces, at the heels, and along the sides, not necessarily all found together. So long as the tces were in any measure visible the foot-covering might he said to be a pair of sandals. When the various attachments to the sole were closed in above, the transition to shces was complete. The thong or latchet would appear to have been as necessary to shces as to sandals. An exception to this would be the ‘slipper,’ best suited for indoor wear, being easy to put on and off. Another distinctive feature of shces, as opposed to slippers, was the heel-covering. Boots in various forms were also known, but the descriptions are not very definite.

On the ground of Ephesians 6:15 we are perhaps justified in referring to the Roman caliga, the foot-equipment of the common soldier at this time. It is usually taken to be a sandal of the strong order, with nails to prevent slipping, but, according to another view, it was really a shce fitting closely to the foot above. Such foot-gear is supposed to be referred to in Josephus, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) VI. i. 8, in which instance the nails failed in their purpose.

The practice of walking barefoot seems to have been restricted to slaves and the poorer classes; with others it was the custom only on certain occasions (e.g. mourning). Indoors it was usual to lay aside the shces or sandals that had been worn abroad, and to go barefoot, and so when reclining at meats (cf. John 13:4-5). In the Temple ceremonial also shces were discarded. As appears from Acts 12:8, sandals were laid aside during sleep.

From Acts 13:51 we may infer that St. Paul and Barnabas had foot-wear of some sort, the symbolical action pointing to the dust which had collected underfoot. By detachment of the shces this could be shaken out, and, assuming that the action is to be literally taken, it accords with the wearing of shces rather than of sandals.

W. Cruickshank.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Shoe Sandal'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/s/shoe-sandal.html. 1906-1918.

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