How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?

These famous words from Romans 10:15 bring to a close a series of rhetorical questions that Paul uses in his discussion about missionary endeavour. But what is meant by the “beautiful” feet that Paul speaks of here? Nearly every translation uses the word “beautiful” but does the usage here convey the meaning of lovely or pleasant, as the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament suggests? Or alternatively, perhaps it carries a sense of wonderful welcome as the HCSB puts it: “How welcome are the feet of those who announce the Gospel.” Both of these are possible but there is a third option that relatively few translations use (a rare exception being the New English translation, NET).

The word horaioi in ancient Greek generally means “timely” as when someone or something arrives at an opportune time. It does also carry the meaning “beautiful” of course and that’s clearly the meaning in Matthew 23:27 and Acts 3:10 but I suggest that “timely” would be a better fit here both lexically and also contextually. I encourage you to read the passage again and think about this for I would certainly welcome any comments from students.

(Incidentally, the fact that it’s quoted from Isaiah 52:7 doesn’t help us very much because the Hebrew term is na’vu which can also mean either beautiful or timely.)

Andy Cheung is a PhD student researching Bible Translation and a tutor in New Testament at the Midlands Bible College and Divinity School, England, UK

  1. Either way, I do not think it affects Paul’s argument. He is speaking about the means of saving faith, which is the heart of his treatise from Romans 1: 16 – 17. Here he says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. Paul then goes on to show that some kind of proclamation is necessary and proclamation must be conducted by those sent to proclaim. Some might argue that one must have a special calling to verbally share the Gospel with someone, others would say that the whole church was given that commission through the apostles in Mt 28. The manner of proclamation may be a debate and the issue of timing might be thrown up by this different rendering but I cannot see that it could be stretched as far as saying that timing may refer to epochs in Church History and thus proclamation or authoritative, verbal communication of the Gospel message belongs to the time of the apostles and we have moved past an age of preaching. I cannot agree with preaching being an outdated mode of sharing the Gospel because Paul’s argument is advocating the necessity of the verbal proclamation of the Gospel message and if he relegated this truth to a single time in history then verse 18 would not have made sense which was written by King David. The fact that it is talking about the preaching of nature need not challenge the argument of verbal communication because Psalm 19 essentially links the testimony of nature to the Law of God and thus Israel had the ability to decipher the testimony of nature. Thus there was an authoritative communication with words and nature testified to that. But how else would the issue of ‘being timely’ fit in with the passage apart from the fact that it was at that time that God brought about the revelation of the Gospel?

  2. I think that term may have been used intentionally by the Holy Spirit to have dual meaning. I think it means both. Think about the Hebrew word ruach which means both wind and spirit and depending on the context is translated either wind or spirit. Thank you for sharing that Andy.

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