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18. Of the Testimony in Mark. What is Meant by the Saviour’s Shoes and by Untying His Shoe-Latchets.
Now let us consider what is stated by Mark. Mark’s account of John’s preaching agrees with the other. The words are, “There cometh after me He that is mightier than I,” which amounts to the same thing as “He that cometh after me is mightier than I.” There is a difference, however, in what follows, “The latchets of His shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” For it is one thing to bear a person’s shoes,—they must, it is evident, have been untied already from the feet of the wearer,—and it is another thing to stoop down and untie the latchet of his shoes. And it follows, since believers cannot think that either of the Evangelists made any mistake or misrepresentation, that the Baptist must have made these two utterances at different times and have meant them to express different things. It is not the case, as some suppose. that the reports refer to the same incident and turned out differently because of a looseness of memory as to some of the facts or words. Now it is a great thing to bear the shoes of Jesus, a great thing to stoop down to the bodily features of His mission, to that which took place in some lower region, so as to contemplate His image in the lower sphere, and to untie each difficulty connected with the mystery of His incarnation, such being as it were His shoe-latchets. For the fetter of obscurity is one as the key of knowledge also is one; not even He who is greatest among those born of women is sufficient of Himself to loose such things or to open them, for He who tied and locked at first, He also grants to whom He will to loose His shoe-latchet and to unlock what He has shut. If the passage about the shoes has a mystic meaning we ought not to scorn to consider it. Now I consider that the inhumanisation when the Son of God assumes flesh and bones is one of His shoes, and that the other is the descent to Hades, whatever that Hades be, and the journey with the Spirit to the prison. As to the descent into Hades, we read in the sixteenth Psalm, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades,” and as for the journey in prison with the Spirit we read in Peter in his Catholic Epistle,4911