Words are Important

I have no doubt you have written a text and the auto-correct changed a word. The unfortunate part is that you sent the text before realizing the error. It may have resulted in a hurried correction before your friend thought you had lost your mind.

Have you wondered if some writers of the Bible chose the wrong words? Some verses just don’t make sense. Or the verse may challenge our moral values. But this is the Bible! Isn’t every word supposed to be divinely inspired?

Yes… but…

In the Western world, we read a translation of the Bible in our native language. For English readers, there are numerous translations, each with a particular twist. These slight differences can be helpful in our understanding of the Bible text.

The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. These three languages have been studied at length by scholars. I am NOT one of these scholars! But fortunately, we have easy access to their studies.

In the next few posts, I will help you learn to use free online (and play store apps) that will help you access this knowledge. I will show you in a couple examples why looking up the words in their original language is important.


If you are brand new to reading the Bible, no worries. Here is a quick way to find your way through the hundreds of pages.

First, the Bible is divided into two main sections commonly referred to as the Old and New Testaments. For the word Testament, think testimony, a written record. The Old Testament is the collection of writings used today by Jews and the New Testament is the collection of writings used by Christians. Having said that, most Christians accept the Old Testament as essential to our understanding of God. And, many Jews by ancestry believe in Jesus as Messiah.

Every Bible has a Table of Contents. Use this page at the front of the Bible to find the page number where a book begins. Within each book, you will find Chapter and Verse numbers. These were added to the text in the 1500s to assist readers in searching for specific passages.

The common way to reference a specific Book, Chapter, and Verse is this way: Mark 4:7 refers to the book of Mark, chapter 4 and verse 7. As seen below, a passage may be shown as Mark 7:1-13.

Book names are often abbreviated. For example, you may see Matthew abbreviated Matt or even Mt. Your Bible may show a list of abbreviations in the Table of Contents. An easy-to-read list of abbreviations can be found here.

Of the many English translations available, I choose to use the English Standard Version (ESV) because I find it to be quite readable and it is a recent translation. If you are looking for a first-time Bible, may I suggest the New Living Translation? It is very readable and conveys the meaning of the original text.

The primary tradeoff in translating into English is readability versus word-for-word translation accuracy. In my opinion, most English translations are acceptable to read and provide a good understanding. I will provide more details about the differences in a future post.

The Controversy

Let’s start with a passage that by today’s standards can be seen as very demeaning. This passage is found in Matthew (Matt) chapter 15 verses 21-28 and in Mark 7:1-13.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out 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 right 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.”

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Mat 15:21-28)

I expect the controversial statement jumped out at you. Jesus referred to the woman as a dog. If you know first-century Jewish history, you know that the Jews referred to non-Jews in a derogatory manner just as the Romans referred to the Jews in a similar way. Jews were dogs to the Romans and non-Jews (gentiles) were dogs to the Jews.

But there are dogs, and there are dogs. When I moved to South Carolina in 2010, there was a major problem with stray dogs in my area. (Fear not, dogs weren’t roaming the streets of major cities. I moved into a very rural area.) These dogs survived by finding scraps and killing small animals. Therefore, you didn’t want your Teacup Poodle sitting outside unprotected.

The same was true when Jesus spoke to the Canaanite woman. He and his disciples had traveled northwest from their homes on the Sea of Galilee to a region of gentile people closer to the Mediterranean Sea. The woman is clearly referred to as a gentile in both Matthew and Mark.

I give this woman a lot of credit. Though she was gentile, she knew Jewish history. She called Jesus the Son of David. She believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, the one who would save the world. Undoubtedly, she had heard the stories of the miraculous healings Jesus had performed. Yes, even before modern communication, word got around.

And, she was persistent! She stayed engaged despite the efforts of the disciples to send her away. There is so much wonderful truth we can get from this short passage, but in this post, I want to focus on the word dog.


Just as we may refer to a wild dog as a mongrel or feral and our Fluffy as a pet, the Jews and the Greeks had two words for dogs. The first is the word, kuon. This refers to any and all dogs. In Matt 7:6, Jesus uses this Greek word when he said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” during the Sermon on the Mount. In Thayer’s Greek Definitions, a second definition is added, “metaphorically a man of impure mind, an impudent man”. This word was used in a derogatory manner.

But Jesus doesn’t use this word with the woman. He uses the word kunarion. This is defined as “a little dog”, or “a puppy”. It was commonly used to refer to the family pet, AKA Fluffy. So, Jesus has actually used a term of endearment, at least sort of, maybe. But he didn’t call her a mongrel.

This is why words are important. In my next post, I will show you how to find this information in a simple Bible app that is available online or as a download.

As I provide these posts, I hope you will help me out and give me some feedback. What helped you, and what else would help? If you have trouble finding the Comment box, keep scrolling down. Click the Like button and SHARE! Let others know I’m here.

Thanks a lot!

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