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Armor of God and the Sandals: Roman Caligae of Peace, Ephesians 6:15 by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Raging Cultural Wars Then and Now

In the last three blogs on the armor of God, we learned that Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians while awaiting trial on house arrest in Rome. Ephesus was in an uproar, and a riot broke out during Paul’s visit to Ephesus because he challenged the pagan culture and silversmiths who supplied statues (images) of Artemis, the mother goddess of fertility, worshipped for over 1,000 years. (1) Ephesus was not alone.

Cultural wars are raging in our country. What was once thought right, we are now told, is wrong, and what was once wrong now is hailed as right. We presented the idea that these cultural battles are tearing our country apart and further polarizing those who once had thoughtful discussions about our differences. The days of “agreeing to disagree” and maintaining civility are in the rear-view mirror of our journey.

The believer has always been part of a counter-cultural movement while at the same time keeping in mind one of the two greatest commandments: “Love our neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:17-18; Matthew 19:19; Mark 12:31). We must not kick each other to the curb in the heat of our passionate debates even if we believe “the other side is trying to shove their belief system down our throats.”

Truth be known, too many have entered the ring of mudslinging and demonization without a thought the “other” person is also created in “the image of God.” This does not mean we give up the battle and accept anything and everything popular culture has to offer. We must keep in mind, not what culture we represent, but WHO we represent.

Made in the Image of God

This morning a friend of mine from New Braunfels, Texas called me. One of the issues we talked about was the “identity crisis” many young adults are experiencing. There are many contributing factors generating this identity crisis. The culmination of our conversation led us to a discussion of the image of God.

The variety of identity crises manifesting in our culture is due to the lack of knowledge that we are created in the image of God. Therefore, we not only don’t know who we are representative of, we do not know who we are. When we do not know who we are, we go searching for the meaning and purpose of our lives. These are spiritual questions that are best answered by spiritual pursuits.

To further clarify this position let us spend a little time on the meaning of being “created in the image of God.” The scriptures teach we are made in the image (צלם - tselem) of God (Genesis 1:26-27). I gest, but does this mean the Lord has a big refrigerator in heaven’s kitchen, and every morning when he passes by, he sees the pictures of his children he created? Certainly not. I found an interesting explanation on the website of the Ancient Hebrew Research Center:

When we read "And God created man in his own image" our minds form a mental picture of what we look like and then attribute this picture to God himself. In the Hebrew's mind it is not the appearance of something that they concentrate on but its function. This passage is not implying a picture of man or God but their function. Through the Hebrew words of this text, we see that God had placed within man a shadow or representation of his own function - goal, purpose, thought, etc. It is our responsibility to live our lives as representatives of God, acting in the same manner as he would. (2)

I assume the authors of the AHRC are Christians, so I thought I’d check out a Jewish Orthodox explanation of the image of God. Rabbi Menachem Posner, in his article, “What is the Divine Image in Man,” offers the following insights.

The statement that we are created in the image of G‑d means that we were formed as a reflection of our Creator’s attributes and characteristics. This cannot be taken to mean that we literally look, feel or think like G‑d does, because He has no form and is not limited in any way. Rather, we are like a one-dimensional reflection of a real object. From the reflection we can have an inkling of the original, but the reflection is literally nothing in comparison to the original. (3)

We function as representatives of God not by isolating ourselves in a vacuum but as an offering (“living sacrifices” Romans 12:1-2) or light (Matthew 5:14-16) to the dark corners of this world. As soldiers in the army of the Lord, we are equipped for battle. We have the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. In this blog, we will explore Paul’s analogy of the Roman soldier’s hobnailed sandals in Ephesians 6:15.

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

Military Significance of the Roman Caligae

Paul is alluding to the Roman soldier's caligae sandals which were a crucial component of the Roman military uniform, serving both practical and symbolic purposes. Caligae were sandals made of leather that were fastened to the feet with leather straps. The sole was typically made of multiple layers of leather and was thick and sturdy, protecting the feet. The upper part of the sandal was usually made of one piece of leather that was folded over the foot and fastened with straps.

Pair of Roman Military Caligae, photo by T. Harman, 2001

One of the most distinctive features of caligae was the hobnailed sole. The hobnails were small, pointed metal spikes that were attached to the bottom of the sole. These hobnails acted like our modern-day cleats provided traction on slippery surfaces and allowed the soldier to maintain footing on difficult terrain.

The hobnails were also used to make loud noises while marching on the stone Roman roads that crisscrossed the country. The cadence of the marching soldiers combined with the distinctive noise of the metal on the stone, served to intimidate the enemy and to help the soldiers keep time while marching in formation.

Roman Military Caligae with Hobnails, photo T. Harman, 2001

The sandals were designed to be lightweight, and comfortable, and protected the feet from injuries due to sharp rocks and other road hazards. These features allowed soldiers to move quickly and effectively while maintaining their footing on slippery and uneven surfaces.

Spiritual Significance of the Roman Caligae

In spiritual battles we are able to remain grounded (feet shod with sandals) and “at ease” with a “shalom or peace that passes all understanding” in the midst of the raging battle because our surefootedness is reinforced with the integrity of our heart (breastplate of righteousness - dikaiosune), (4) because our integrity or righteousness is held firmly in place because it is firmly secured by the “reality” of the truth (belt of truth - aletheia), (5) which is based upon the principles of the scriptures and not an “illusion.”

We can stand firm because we are on solid ground. We do not slip and fall with every encounter within cultural wars, passing fads of popular culture, or unscriptural doctrines that creep their way through our houses of worship.

The good news is we are able to prepare ourselves for spiritual battles. Even if we are diagnosed with cancer, or we lose our job, get divorced or all hell breaks out in the world, we are more than conquerors.


(2) "The Image of God." Ancient Hebrew Research Center (AHRC), Accessed 31,

August 2023.

(3) "What Is the 'Divine Image' in Man?" Accessed 1, September 2023.

(4) Harman, Dr. Terry. "The Raging Culture Wars and the Battle for Truth: What Is Truth? (Ephesians

(5) Harman, Dr. Terry. "The Raging Cultural Wars and the Breastplate of Righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)."

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Sep 27, 2023
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The description given by the Ancient Hebrew Research Center and Chabad both describes Yeshua/ Jesus beautifully.

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