Old Testament Custom of Espousal

In the Old Testament, there was a lengthy, legal espousal period for a Jewish couple before they were married. This betrothal was much more binding than the western concept of engagement. If it was discovered that there had been fornication, the espousal could be legally broken with a writ of divorcement. Betrothal was, in Jewish law, as valid as a marriage.

The espoused couple, although they did not live together and the marriage was not yet consummated, was referred to as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ as illustrated by Joseph and Mary in Matthew 1:18-19.


As Filthy Rags

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. —Isaiah 64:6

God saw the Israelites as unclean and defiled in spite of their prayers, sacrifices, alms and praises. He detested their acts of worship because they were mingled with corruption.

Their righteousnesses were as filthy rags. The outwardly pious deeds were classified as highly unclean. The term “filthy rags” in the Hebrew means literally, a “menstruous rag.”


They Had Sung an Hymn

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Mark 14:26

The Jews observed the Passover by singing or chanting the Hallel or Hallelujah. It consists of a recitation from Psalms 113-118 which is used for praise and thanksgiving. Psalms 113-114 were usually sung before the meal and Psalms 115-118 were sung at the close.

There is little doubt but that this is what Jesus and the disciples sang before departing to the mount of Olives.


Feet Washing Through History

Evidence suggests there have been Christians who practiced the ordinance of feet washing throughout history. Augustine (A.D. 400) endorsed the literal ritual. The custom gained popularity in southern Europe  between the fourth and seventh centuries. The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century were committed to this doctrine.

Feet washing was even practiced among many Baptist churches in the United States up to the close of the nineteenth century. As a boy, Abraham Lincoln prepared the water and basins for this ordinance in a Baptist church in southern Indiana.

[Brown, Charles E. (1947). The Apostolic Church.]


Water Baptism

The practice of water baptism was not foreign to the Jews when John the Baptist began to preach the baptism of repentance. In the Old Testament period of time, baptism was a ritual of conversion to Judaism. Pagans would become proselytes though the ceremonial practice of baptism in order to become part of and to be identified with the Jewish people.