Gentile Dogs

Syrian and Phoenician dogs
in the gospels
.Was Christ sent to the Jews only?
Contradictory doctrine in
the gospels of
Mark and Matthew

      The Matthew gospel is not an internally consistent piece of work as an analysis of its position on Torah reform indicates (being both for and against reform of the Torah) and as its position on Gentiles and Jews also demonstrates ('to the Jews only' and 'against the Jews'). We are told that Christ was sent to the Jews only, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and not the Gentile dogs, the Canaanite (or Syro-Phoenician) women. Yet at the same time we find the opposite position, a pro Gentile position, in both Mark and Matthew's gospel. The best explanation for these inconsistencies is that the original Jewish community that produced the gospel of Matthew were for Torah reform and did not produce the 'to the Jews only' passages in the gospel, but that the reactionary defence of the 'inerrancy' of the Torah and the doctrine that Gentiles were dogs were added later by a reactionary segment of the community, into whose hands the gospel was eventually passed. The church fathers then edited the gospel of Mark, to draw attention away from the conflicts between Mark's Gentile mission and these anti-Gentile and pro Jewish statements found inserted into Matthew's gospel. It is more than likely the case that this segment of the Jewish congregation were also responsible for the Gentile dog parable found in Matthew's gospel, and thus being against Torah reform and for the infallible inerrancy of scripture and against Gentiles, they could also not have been responsible for the genealogy which opens the book. This genealogy is falsified, and makes favorable mention of Gentile women, in contradiction to the dog like portrayal of Gentile women later in the gospel, so both bigotry against Gentiles and a doctrine of the inerrant scripture in the Bible were out of question for whoever it was who was the author of this geneology. The bigotry of the reactionary and conservative segment of that Jewish church that did edit the gospel of Matthew, can be traced back to their reactionary defense of the perfection of the Torah in that it was held to be inerrant. Examples abound of racism and bigotry which represent one school of Jewish tradition (and only one school) and is characteristic of both the Holy War ideology of the Torah and the Holy War school of the prophets. For an interesting example of this sort of thing you can consult my commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah included with my discussion on dating the Torah composition.

      As one good example of the fact that one cannot have their cake, and eat it, too, you can consider the conflicts in the Bible between the radical stream of Jewish prophecy, encapsulated in the book of Ruth, and the Torah regulations banning Moabites forever. Ruth was David's grandmother, and she was a Moabite. She is presented as the most righteous of women. David was ‘a half breed' of the type condemned in both the Torah regulations banning mixed marriages, and in the political polemics found in Ezra-Nehemiah which refer constantly to these laws banning contact with the Gentiles. So you can't have the prophets and the Torah at the same time, but nevertheless certain reactionary elements in the early Jewish church were going to put on face of doing just that.

      Now King David was ‘a half breed Moabite.' One example of these racist, anti-Gentile laws (Gentiles were ‘unclean dogs') is found in considering the following law from the Torah.

"No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of YAHWEH; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of YAHWEH for ever ... You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days for ever." (Deuteronomy Chapter 23 verse 3)

      One must wonder what Boaz, David's Jewish grandfather was doing showing constant concern for the welfare and prosperity of Ruth, the Moabite, given this regulation. One must wonder just what a Moabite ‘half breed' was doing sitting on the throne of Judah, and establishing a dynasty in Judah. These racist laws are addressed, and rejected by the radical book of Ruth. Obviously certain reactionaries choose these racist regulations and rejected the radical stream of prophecy and the book of Ruth. Their view of ‘Gentile dogs' was also shaped by such regulations in the Torah as the following.

"You must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons." (Deuteronomy Chapter 7 verse 2)

      It is this ideological outlook that informs the gospel of Matthew's anti-Gentile polemics, including the ‘Gentile dog' parable. Nevertheless they appear to have absorbed something of the radical tradition, encapsulated in Ruth, in that they keep the attitude that Gentiles are dogs, but if they acknowledge their dog-like state, and lower themselves into the dust, then perhaps they can be thrown some scraps from the table. This strange ‘harmonization' constitutes keeping both the Torah and the prophets, at least in the gospel of Matthew.

"And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." But he (Christ) did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."" (Matthew Chapter 15 verse 22)

      It was quite clear then that the Jewish people were the masters of the house, and Canaanites, not to mention Ammonites and Moabites and so on, were the household dogs. In contradiction to Mark's account, this reactionary element found in Matthew will insist that Joshua was ‘sent only to the Jews' which is a reflection of their own ideological outlook, and not a rendition of historical fact.

     The insertion of the 'gentile dog' parable into Mark's gospel (Mark Chapter 7 verse 25) is one of the most obvious examples of scribal harmonization of the gospel parables. In Mark's gospel this parable becomes the story of Joshua calling a ‘Syro-Phoenician' Gentile woman ‘a dog' who he could not bother to help. (Joshua was sent only to Jews, not to the dog Gentiles.) This is a version of parable that appears in the gospel of Matthew, with the difference that in Matthew's version the woman who Joshua calls a dog is a ‘Canaanite'. The theme of Joshua preaching in Judea, and only to Jews in any case, even when he toured the northern Gentile territories, is a feature of Matthew's gospel, not Mark's. Joshua does not even go near Judea in Mark's gospel until the very end of his life. Furthermore, in Mark's gospel Joshua preaches to entire cities in Gentile territory, and thus it seems strangely out of place for Mark to suddenly sound like Matthew and start calling Gentiles ‘dogs'. Whenever such inconsistencies are found in Biblical manuscripts it is an indication that inconsistent passages have been introduced into a manuscript by scribes.

      In Mark's gospel, Joshua is portrayed as preaching to cities of people in Syria and in Phoenicia. Thus in the ‘dog' parable in Mark's gospel the ‘Canaanite' dog of Matthew's gospel becomes a ‘Syro- Phoenician' dog (and this is no coincidence. This is a rather transparent attempt to nullify Mark's earlier presentation by suggesting that while Joshua preached in these Gentile lands, violating the dogma and contradicting the presentation of the mission in Matthew's gospel, he really thought that Syrians and Phoenicians were dogs, and no doubt was spending all his time 'preaching to the Jews of those towns only'. This ‘harmonization' fails to adequately ‘harmonize' Mark's Gentile mission with Matthew's ‘only Jews' version of events, but such harmonizations in the Bible seldom achieve their ends, and only introduce (so called) enigmatic passages which ‘puzzle' later readers.)

      In addition Joshua heals in Gentile territory twice in the sequence surrounding this dog parable (and the interpolation of the ‘dog' parable, wherein Joshua refuses to heal Gentiles seems even more incongruous when considered in this light.) For example we are told that Joshua landed on Gentile territory and they ‘scoured the countryside, bringing him everyone who was sick.' It is rather unlikely that only Jews got sick in those days in the Decapolis or Gennesarat or Phoenicia. In Matthew's gospel, Joshua refuses to even preach to Gentiles, but in Mark's gospel when Joshua entered a Gentile town ‘the whole town was there, and he healed them.' Mark Chapter 1 verse 33 That Capernaum, for example, was a Gentile town, and not a town full of Jewish people, is something even the Jewish community that produced the Matthew gospel had to recognize. The Matthew gospel then damns those same Gentile towns to hell (demonstrating that they read Mark's gospel, remembered the names of those Gentile towns, and didn't like it), and all this is not ‘harmonized' with the contradictions in Mark's gospel by the ridiculous interpolation of Matthew's dog parable in Mark's gospel. The division is too deep between these two gospels to be so simply fixed by such a clumsy attempt at ‘harmonization' by later scribes in the church.

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