In the Message, some of the verses that normally describe foot washing are described as a foot massage (emphasis added):

"Asher, best blessed of the sons! May he be the favorite of his brothers, his feet massaged in oil." Deuteronomy 33:24

This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. John 11:2

Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. John 12:3

Is this an accurate paraphrase of what foot washing entails? Could it be described as a massage?

  • Yes, it was a usual custom: when St Peter and his wife would return home from gym, Perer’s mother-in-law would usually foot-massage them, for she was a professional massager working in a famous Galilean Spa-Wellness Center “Apollo” :) Sorry for my frivolous joke, but what a joke translation of εκμάσσω which is “wipe off” or “dry off”. Jan 23, 2023 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


In all three of the OP's quoted verses, the words for "foot/feet, and oil are present. However, the verb is as the following:

  • Deut 33:24 - טָבַל (tabal) = to dip or plunge into a liquid, eg, Gen 37:21, Ex 12:22, Lev 4:6, 16, etc.
  • John 11:2 and 12:3 - ἀλείφω (aleipho) = to anoint, festivally, in homage, medicinally, or in anointing the dead, eg, Matt 6:17, Mark 6:13, 16:1, James 5:14, etc.
  • Also in John 11:2 and 12:3 is the verb ἐκμάσσω (ekmasso) = I wipe, wipe (off) thoroughly: only in Luke 7:38, 44, John 11:2, 12:3, 13:5.

Thus, the verb "massage" is completely absent and thus, must be understood as an interpretive rendering of the Message version. This is not to suggest that massaging was absent, but is not inherent in the text nor in the meaning of any of the words.

Anointing involved pouring oil over something. It was washing that involved an act similar to rubbing (or massaging). However, anointing and washing were entirely different rituals used under very different circumstances and should never be confused.


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