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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

Was Jesus’ illustration about “little dogs” meant to be insulting?

A child with a puppy, Greek or Roman statuette (first century B.C.E. to the second century C.E.)

On one occasion, when Jesus was outside Israel’s borders in the Roman province of Syria, a Greek woman approached to ask for help. Jesus’ response included an illustration that suggested a comparison between non-Jews and “little dogs.” Under the Mosaic Law, dogs were deemed to be unclean animals. (Leviticus 11:27) But did Jesus mean to insult this Greek woman and other non-Jews?

Not at all. Jesus’ point, as he explained to his disciples, was that his priority at that time was to help the Jews. So he illustrated the point, saying to the Greek woman: “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15:21-26; Mark 7:26) Among the Greeks and Romans, the dog was often a beloved pet that lived in its owner’s house and played with the children. So the expression “little dogs” might have called to mind a warm, endearing picture. The Greek woman picked up on Jesus’ words and replied: “Yes, Lord, but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters.” Jesus commended her faith and healed the woman’s daughter.​—Matthew 15:27, 28.

Did the apostle Paul give sound advice when he recommended delaying a sea voyage?

A relief carving of a large cargo ship (first century C.E.)

The ship that was carrying Paul to Italy was struggling against contrary winds. During a stopover, the apostle advised that the remainder of the voyage be postponed. (Acts 27:9-12) Was there a basis for such counsel?

Sailors in antiquity well knew that navigation on the Mediterranean was hazardous during the winter months. Between mid-November and mid-March, the sea was considered closed to shipping. But the voyage Paul spoke about was to take place in September or October. In his Epitome of Military Science, the Roman writer Vegetius (fourth century C.E.) explained about navigation on that sea: “Some months are very suitable, some are doubtful, and the rest are impossible.” Vegetius said that sailing was safe from May 27 to September 14 but that the two doubtful, or dangerous, periods ran from September 15 to November 11 and from March 11 to May 26. Paul, a seasoned traveler, was no doubt well aware of such facts. The pilot and the shipowner likely knew such things too, but they ignored Paul’s counsel. The voyage ended in shipwreck.​—Acts 27:13-44.