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by Al Maxey

Issue #776 ------- June 20, 2019
The behavior of men to the lower
animals, and their behavior to each
other, bear a constant relationship.

Herbert Spencer [1820-1903]

Hog and Dog Theology
Reflective Study of Matthew 7:6

Any devoted student of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures can easily affirm the truth of the observation that these sacred writings are filled with countless poetic and proverbial pearls of wisdom designed to help guide the people of God in their journey through life. Both OT and NT writers made frequent use of these brief and easily remembered maxims. So also did Jesus during His earthly ministry. One of the more familiar is found in that body of teaching known to us as the "Sermon on the Mount." Only Matthew records this statement made by Jesus. It is nowhere else found in the Bible. It reads as follows: "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces" (Matthew 7:6, NASB). Jesus is seeking to convey something that is spiritually significant, and He does so by cautioning His hearers not to "pitch pearls to pigs" or "hand holy things to hounds." He then declares the inevitable consequences of ignoring this advice: that which is given will be trampled underfoot and the giver will be torn to pieces.

Before we get too deeply into the meaning and application of this proverbial statement, we should make a few observations about the poetic form employed by Jesus. Dr. John Gill (1697-1771), who was a renowned English pastor, scholar and theologian, correctly stated that what Jesus uttered that day was "a common maxim with the Jews" [Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-Sword]. It is an example of what is known as "transposition" in Hebrew poetry, "where of the two things proposed, the latter is first treated of" [John Wesley, Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. More specifically, "the four lines of verse 6 are an ABBA chiasmus" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 185]. In other words, the form Jesus used is: Dog - Pig - Pig - Dog. Pigs trample the gift; dogs tear apart the giver. Some, failing to understand this form of Hebrew poetic expression, have mistakenly assumed it is the swine that both trample the gift and then attack the giver. That is not the case, however. "The pigs trample the pearls under foot (perhaps out of animal disappointment that they are not morsels of food), and the dogs are so disgusted with 'what is sacred' that they turn on the giver" [ibid]. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) concurs, although he assigns a different descriptive to the statement: "This verse furnishes a beautiful instance of what has been called 'introverted parallelism' ... where the first and fourth lines would correspond, and the second and third - the dogs would tear, not the swine; the swine would trample, not the dogs" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. "Note the figure of speech used by the Lord: the second verb referring to the first subject, and the first verb to the second subject" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: the NT, vol. 1, p. 37]. "The propriety of this transposition is self-evident. There are many such transpositions as these, both in sacred and profane writers" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 95].

Understanding the poetic form, however, is only part of the challenge faced by the reader and/or hearer of this statement by Jesus. Far more critical to a correct interpretation is an understanding of the terms He employed. What are the "holy things" and the "pearls"? Who are the "dogs" and the "swine"? And what is the message Jesus wants us to grasp from these figures? It is here that one finds quite a diversity of opinion, for "the word-pictures in verse 6 are not easy to interpret" [Dr. Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator's Commentary: Matthew, p. 97]. "Because the saying seems to make such little sense in its Matthean context, interpretations of 7:6 abound" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 242]. Some scholars have even suggested that this proverbial statement by Jesus is so worded that it can have a wide range of application based on the circumstances of those who hear it. "In a moral aphorism special indications are not to be expected, and we are left to our own conjectures," thus these terms "must define themselves for each individual in his own experience" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 129]. Such a view, however, can be potentially harmful, for "we are all tempted to abuse it in order to excuse our narrowness and selfishness," for "at first blush this reads more like a motto of the scribes than a proverb from the large-hearted Christ" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 294]. Surely our Lord was not suggesting we view others through the same judgmental, rigidly sectarian, legalistic lenses worn by the scribes and Pharisees, whereby they regarded many as "hogs and dogs" undeserving of anything spiritually precious. After all, Jesus is recorded as having just taught: "Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:1-2).

Nevertheless, the disciples of Christ are not to be ignorant and gullible when it comes to those who would disguise themselves as loyal servants of Christ, for there are indeed wolves among the sheep; false teachers and brethren among the children of God; tares among the wheat. Yes, we must avoid being harsh judgmentalists, yet we must also be spiritually discerning. The former is a trait of sectarianism; the latter is often acquired through life experiences. The sad reality of life is that not all people are truly interested in the gifts of God's grace, and even more sadly this too often is equally true of those who profess to be Christians. To cast precious pearls before pigs, and to hurl holy things to hounds, "means to expose the gospel and its precious truths to the vicious and vile treatment of such men. Dogs and swine are those who, after the gospel has been duly preached to them, retain their vicious, filthy nature" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 291]. Frankly, there is very little, if anything, in the Good News "that suits swinish taste" [ibid, p. 292]. John Wesley wrote, "Give not - that is: talk not - of the deep things of God to those whom you know to be wallowing in sin; neither declare the great things God hath done for your soul to the profane, furious, persecuting wretches" [Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. "We must not go about to give instructions, counsels, and rebukes, much less comforts, to hardened scorners, to whom it will certainly do no good, but who will be exasperated and enraged at us. Throw a pearl to a swine, and he will resent it" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Jesus "withdrew alike His doctrine and Himself where the field of operation was manifestly unhopeful, and manifestly obstinately set against impression" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 300].

It is painful, and truly heart-breaking, to have to admit that some people are so steeped in their rigid religiosity and their prideful partisanship that they will invariably trample underfoot any teaching that differs from their own, and who will additionally attack without mercy all who dare to differ with them. Such people our Lord has urged us on several occasions to avoid. They have made their choice. Leave them be! Albert Barnes (1798-1870) refers to them as "growling and quarrelsome curs ... those who would not know the value of the gospel, and who would tread it down as swine would pearls" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Peter talks of such people in his second epistle, and provides a couple of proverbs to illustrate his words of caution: "A dog returns to its own vomit" and "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:22). What should be our attitude toward those who refuse to receive God's Truth? What is our obligation to those who trample it underfoot and who snarl and snap at those who offer it? How often should we continue to hand over what is holy and precious to hogs and dogs? Jesus is telling us, I firmly believe, that there is a limit. At some point it becomes painfully obvious that we are getting nowhere with such people, and are instead merely aggravating them. Jesus is telling us that we have done what we could; it is now time to walk away!

The Didache, also known as "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," which many scholars date toward the end of the first century, states: "Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized into the name of the Lord, for, as regards this, the Lord has said, 'Give not that which is holy unto dogs'." Early on in the history of Christendom, various groups would make use of this proverbial statement by Christ to justify their actions against those who held to religious views and practices differing from their own. It became a "proof-text" for hatred and harsh treatment. Samaritans were "dogs," papists were "swine," and on and on. Yes, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of using such passages and proverbs to justify one's own harsh judgmentalism. Yet, on the other hand, we are indeed instructed to be judicious and discerning when sharing the priceless truths of our gracious, merciful Father. "In the ordering of Christian conduct there is hardly a more complex and difficult subject than the restraints in which piety should be held by prudence" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 317]. This is clearly an area in which we should pray frequently and fervently for wisdom and guidance from the Spirit of God, for in this passage "our Lord emphasizes the necessity of tact in religious work" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 1, p. 64]. Godly discernment is not always as easily acquired or applied as we might think. We truly need the "wisdom from above," for too often we tolerate those who have no love for the Lord or His Word or His people, while too often tearing into those who are genuine disciples (but who may not share all of our personal or party preferences, perceptions and practices). "Religion is brought into contempt, and its professors insulted, when it is forced upon those who cannot value it and will not have it. But, let us be on our guard against too readily setting our neighbors down as dogs and swine, and then excusing ourselves from endeavoring to do them good on this poor plea" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 910].


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Hello Al. I would like to order two signed copies of your book "Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice." Please mail one to me and the other to my friend in Michigan. Check and addresses are enclosed. We plan to read/study this together. Blessings!

From a Reader in Manitoba, Canada:

I'm the Executive Pastor of a church here in Manitoba, Canada, and I am interested in buying your book "From Ruin To Resurrection." Can I please e-transfer or PayPal you the cost of the book and shipping? Thank you.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I just sent you money through PayPal as I wish to order your audio CD containing your classes on the topic: "Law To Liberty: Reflecting on our Journey away from Legalism and into Freedom in Christ." I'm also really enjoying reading all of the back issues of your Reflections in your Reflections Archives. Blessings to you and your family!

From a Well-Known Leader/Author:

Al, thank you for the great work you are doing to challenge, inform, and encourage us to open our minds to other possible facts, truths, and possibilities we may have been missing. With reference to your article "The Sin of Sectarian Salesmanship: Preaching the Church or Promoting a Sect?" (Reflections #773), it reminded me of what King James did to corrupt the translation of "ekklesia" in order to promote his agenda to be head of his church, and which has made a major contribution to promoting "churchianity" instead of the Gospel of Christ which produces followers of the King of kings and Lord of lords. William Barclay may have hit the nail on the head when he said some preachers think they are the fourth member of the Godhead. It is TRUTH that frees us, and that TRUTH is Jesus Christ (John 8:32, 36; thus Proverbs 23:23). Your brother because of HIS blood.

From Dr. Wayne Newland in Maine:

Greetings, Al. Wayne from Maine here. It's been a while, good brother, but your writings continue to be a source of stimulation and a resource for study. I am remembering gratefully your public recommendation of my book titled "Book, Chapter, and Paragraph - Restoring Context" which you gave at the end of the Readers' Comments in Reflections #440. Thank you for that! Dr. Thomas H. Olbricht (Chair of Religion Emeritus, Pepperdine University) also wrote an endorsement. I have now entered my ninth decade, yet still have a few more things to say in my waning years to our great, but sometimes misguided, brotherhood. I am mailing you via priority mail three booklets I have written that you and your readers may find useful for personal growth (and perhaps also for group study). When you read them you will see some occasional thoughts that were helped along by you, Edward Fudge, Dr. Leroy Garrett, and others. These booklets were truly a labor of love! By the way, I hear where you are now a septuagenarian, and that you are slowing down a bit. But, please keep on keeping on!! Your mental and theological acuity are intact, and we need you for quite a while yet!! Blessings, brother!

From a Minister in Medellin, Colombia:

Hi Al. Sorry to bother you! I have translated your five TULIP studies into Spanish, but now I need them again in English and can't remember where to find them online. Please tell me where to look them up. Thanks!

From an Elder in Oklahoma:

Al, our preacher introduced us to The Bible Project, which has a lot of very informative videos online. Some that I found most interesting are in their "Spiritual Beings" series. Especially enlightening were "Elohim" and "Divine Council." Are you familiar with this online ministry and these short videos? Most of them are only 5-6 minutes long. What do you think of them? The ones that I have watched don't seem to have an "agenda." While some certainly present ideas that are new to me, they appear to be true to the teachings of the Bible. They also have a video covering each book of the Bible. Grace and peace, brother. May God bless you in all you do, especially for Him.

From a Reader on the Isle of Barbados:

Brother Al, it is amazing how some are so seemingly able to read things into biblical texts with such imperial authority! Many, many thanks for your latest study: "Tale of the Tumbling Teen: Examining the Eutychus Narrative" (Reflections #775). I especially liked the poem at the end of your article. Eutychus's miracle is reminiscent of the restoring of sight to the blind man by Jesus (John 9). I make reference to the judgmental question: "Who did sin?" (vs. 2). Like you, I pray that we do not so much "yearn to legislate," but that we, as one body of born again believers, would "learn to love." Thanks again, Al, and God bless.

From a Minister in California:

Al, only you could write voluminous words about sleeping in church (LOL). I always felt it was a sign of trust when my elders slept during my homilies!!

From a Minister in North Carolina:

Every one of us has probably committed the "grievous sin" of Eutychus by nodding off during a church service. We just happened to not be sitting in a 3rd floor window when we did it. I did, though, get my earlobe pinched and received a sharp elbow on my shoulder by my mother when I dozed off once during church. Great lesson, brother, in your "Tale of the Tumbling Teen." I say that if someone finds a moment of sweet rest during one of my sermons, then please let them sleep in peace. They probably need the rest more than they need my sermon!

On another topic: I am sure that you well remember my previous contentions with the dishonest editors of "Contending for the Faith" magazine. Now they are turning on and devouring each other in their disgusting public forum of abusing their fellow disciples. The April and May issues have been devoted to denigrating their own previous co-editor: Dub McClish. He is condemned for the "damnable sin of continuing to eat meals with 'apostate' family members." Indeed, photos of Dub, his wife, and his son Andy, were on the back page of every CFTF issue ... that is until the April issue. In the May issue he has become the primary object of the same scorn and ridicule and abuse that he, David P. Brown, and those of like mind, heaped on so many others over the years. Paul wrote, "If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Galatians 5:15). It was always a matter of when this would happen, not if. We all knew they would eventually turn on each other. When one walks the razor's edge of legalism, absent any true understanding of our Savior's heart and intent, it is only a matter of time before the "disfellowshippings" begin. Even though I heartily disagree with Dub McClish's decades of attacks on fellow Christians, my heart actually breaks for him, and I admire his integrity for standing up to CFTF and not changing his deeply held conviction, even though this threatens to destroy his financial support. My prayer for him is that through this situation he may find mercy, grace, and the complete freedom from legalism that God wants for him. I love you, Al, and I really appreciate your ministry of leading others to this mercy, grace and freedom in Christ. May God bless you, your family, and your ministry.

From a Reader in Alabama:

I thank God for the iPhone my wife owns. If any preacher preached for longer than my attention span could stand, I would not fall asleep. Rather, I would tune him out and, with her help, look up something more interesting on the Internet. Even more so if he started one of his sermons with, "I went to Walmart, looked around, and realized I was the only one there going to Heaven!" Today, I believe that is what so many of these preachers are doing. That surely doesn't fit you, Al. Keep your head up, brother, for you are so very appreciated and needed. I think of you when I think back on my old Marine Corps training: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way; I'm coming through!!" Enjoy your week!

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, regarding the observation of your Canadian brother about your recent "hint" of retiring (in the comments section of your last issue of Reflections), and your response to him, let me share my experience with you. When I was reaching a point in my USAF career where retirement was becoming a serious option, I asked a couple of men whom I respected this question: "How do you know when it's time to retire?" Expecting some sage advice, I was a bit surprised when their response was, "You will know." Looking for something a little more concrete, I again asked, "How will I know?" Again, I was told, "You will know." So, we left it at that. When I decided to step away from the USAF, I knew it was time. Circumstance and opportunity made the decision, and its timing, very obvious, and I made the decision to retire. I've never regretted the decision, or when it was made, because it was time, and somehow I knew it. I share this with you to say, "You will know when it is time to retire or to shift gears." In the meantime, don't be afraid to make adjustments as you deem necessary. However, just know that I really look forward to your Reflections writings! God bless you and your family, Al.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Al, I have personally enjoyed all your Reflections articles on baptism. They have helped me to change my position from the traditional view of baptism held by most Church of Christ churches. A close friend of mine in the church introduced me to your articles, and I will forever be grateful for his influence on me in studying this important issue of baptism.

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