Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun κυων (kuon) means dog and stems from an ancient Proto-Indo-European root "kwon-", meaning dog (hence too our word "canine"). Before the dog became the spectrum of loving and generous creatures we know today, it was the creature with which mankind began to build our modern world.
It's commonly stated that the dog was the first domesticated animal, but that paints a distorted picture. Both humans and dogs were failures and outcasts from their parent communities: humans were flunked out great apes, and dogs were flunked out grey wolves. Both were despised and rejected, both creatures of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Fortunately for both, the flunkies' great strength was their diminished sense of xenophobia. The Naked Apes and the Wimpy Wolves began to find each other, and to cooperate with each other and began to form a kind of Flunky Town where both flunkies could exist in relative safety. This is significant because this primitive Flunky Town relates to the New Jerusalem the way the tabernacle relates to the Temple of YHWH.
What's often overlooked is that it is the union of Naked Ape and Wimpy Wolf that allowed further domestication of bovines, sheep and pigs, and that all these animals together made and still form modern humanity. Just like a car is more than its steering wheel, so modern humanity is more than its humans. Just like every eukaryotic cell consists of a nucleus and many more essential organelles, so humanity consists of humans and many more essential beings. Said differently: if humanity is New York State, then the humans are New York City and the other domesticated animals are Albany, Yonkers, Utica, and so on.
The world of the wild animal — θηριον (therion), beast or non-human animal — has no formal law and the wilderness is a place of lawlessness in which natural anarchy guarantees the survival of the fittest. A perfectly civilized (i.e. consisting of cities) human society, on the other hand, is one governed by formal law, and the city is a place of lawfulness in which synthetic governance guarantees the survival of the weakest. The principle of survival of the fittest guarantees wholesale submission, bondage and slavery (even of the top dog, since his position is constantly challenged). The principle of survival of the weakest guarantees wholesale liberation.
In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes that the very purpose of the gospel is this latter kind of freedom — ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law — which is only achievable in a city, and without which a city cannot exist. The city is a place of light; the wilderness is the outer darkness. This is why the New Jerusalem is a city and not a beach resort.
Bondage is death (Hebrews 2:15), which comes from sin (Romans 6:23), which is imperfection (since freedom is perfection). The purpose of the law is to identify sin (Romans 7:7), which means that in a perfect society the law is unemployed (not abolished, or ineffective; just without application). This is why Christ fulfills the Law (Matthew 5:17), and the purpose of the gospel is to liberate (Luke 4:18).
A perfect society is one that is governed by an institution in which law meets population (a king or senate), and which operates in synchronicity with the same Law of God that governs the biosphere and the rest of the universe (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). A perfect society like that is populated by people who love God and thus the king and obey (i.e. exist in synch with) the Law to their own great benefit and freedom.
An imperfect society, on the other hand, is one that is:
- either a people without a sovereign native government, who:
- either exist in a state of beastly anarchy, like animals, on the principle of survival of the fittest. The Bible calls this kind of society herds of swine (Matthew 7:6, Mark 5:11, 2 Peter 2:22).
- or switch allegiances to whichever foreign government offers the best trade deals and military support. The Bible calls this kind of society a harlot or prostitute (Genesis 38:15, Hosea 1:2, Revelation 17:1).
- or a people whose native government does its best but has no comprehension of what government actually is, what human society actually is, and why human society should be governed in the first place. The Bible calls this kind of government a government by dogs, and the people sheep without a ποιμην (poimen), shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
Since in the Bible the harlot is occasionally juxtaposed with the dog (Deuteronomy 23:18, Revelation 22:15), translators have enthusiastically embraced the idea that both describe forms of prostitution, female and male. This has caused the word κυων (kuon), dog, to be interpreted as "male prostitute", but that is utter nonsense. The word dog is equally often juxtaposed with swine, and nobody assumes that a dog is a kind of pig. And in the classics, our word is often used figuratively, often to describe human guards, lower ranking governors, or any kind of obedient or following thing (most notably, Helen of Troy frequently called herself a "bitch", rather obviously because she had followed Paris; see our article on Hellas for a lengthy look at this).
If our noun κυων (kuon) does not literally describe a furry family friend, it describes a governor who has learned a few tricks from his owner, but has no further idea why he's doing what he's doing. Beside presidents and governors, societal phenomena like fashion, manners, religious rituals and such are all of a canine nature: they govern the herd like sheepdogs, but have no intrinsic understanding of the herd or the ultimate reason why they are herding it. Ultimately, dogs are in it for the approval of their master and their own subsequent reward, which explains much of the core concerns of many religions.
The prime directive of dogs is to serve their master, which explains why there are so many different religions and denominations. Jesus is the proverbial Good Shepherd, but what very few dogs realize is that Jesus was the proverbial first-born because there would be many more. While the world was steeped in lawless darkness, Jesus was a one-man Flunky Town (Isaiah 9:2), the first living stone of the great temple of living stones that will ultimately be the city of God (1 Peter 2:5, Revelation 21:22).
As we discuss in greater length in our article on Stephen, Jesus was the societal equivalent of an ovum, and after the outpour of the Holy Spirit, a zygote, which is really a single-cellular human. A zygote very quickly becomes an embryo and then a fetus, which is in effect a huge colony of widely diversified cell-types, all based on the same genetic code. That genetic code is of course the Word of God, which in turn is not a particular teaching or some religious manifesto but rather the DNA of the whole of created reality (Colossians 1:16-17, 2:3). Today, Jesus is incarnate in his people, which is a huge tribe of anointed — the verb χριω (chrio) means to anoint, hence the noun χριστος (christos), an anointed, which described any sovereign — who together govern the earth. This tribe, a.k.a. the Body of Christ, consists of only sovereigns (or ελευθεροι, eleutheroi, freemen-by-law) and is obviously not the same thing as the Body of Christianity, since Christianity is a religion and thus canine.
Also note that when Paul wrote, "beware of the dogs" (Philippians 3:2) and John the Revelator grouped dogs with the liars and the corrupt outside the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:15), dogs were not yet the trusted pets they are today. That suggests that the dogs mentioned in these contexts are solely the unwitted sheepdogs, the canines who learned to do some tricks and who drive herds for their own benefit but not because they understand what they are doing. That in turn suggests that the New Jerusalem, like any modern human city, will indeed have populations of well-behaved poodles and golden retrievers living with human families.
Despite the perhaps confusing name, the Body of Christ has nothing to do with any religion but rather describes the entire economy of shepherds: those people who direct the dogs, who shear the sheep, who sell the wool, who buy the feed, who gather in large buildings to meet with other shepherds, to swap notes and do deals, to laugh, to tell stories, to discuss the quality of the pastures, to deal with predators and to plan the future — dogs and other domesticated animals don't go to those meetings, and if they do, they have no idea what goes on there. The Body of Christ is what actually governs the world, and what ultimately inspires and directs all religions in the world, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
And in case you wonder whether you are a shepherd or a dog: if you strongly identify with a particular teacher or teaching or religion of religious figure, you are probably a dog. If you are able to recognize the greater economy of wisdom within which all religions, arts and sciences function, you are probably a shepherd. Look around you and review our modern world with all its intricacies, systems of traffic, institutions, technologies and regulations (with water coming from faucets, power from sockets, airplanes flying overhead). These things are not natural but were put there by people, and without those people you'd be living on a savannah. If you know how our world works — the whole of it; the entire unified economy — and are part of its creation and maintenance, you are probably a shepherd. If you rarely consider the entirety of our synthetic human world, and have very little idea how it all came to be, and you never really considered that water comes out of the faucet and electricity out of the socket, because someone else on the other end is putting it in there, you are probably a dog. If the shepherd-people would suddenly leave, and the dog-people would stay, the modern world would very quickly collapse and revert to a natural state in which all remaining people become great apes again.
When dogs and humans domesticated each other, they quickly became each other's best friends. Humans fed, sheltered and protected dogs, and dogs proved willing to learn to do things they themselves didn't understand the purpose of. Humans taught dogs to tame herds, which allowed humans to invent weaving, which allowed artistic expression, which allowed societal stratification. Dogs had no idea about all of that, yet their prowess, agility and loyal compliance was the key to our modern world with all its technological and scientific wonders, its healthcare, its arts and its many shades of freedom. To acknowledge that fact, most civilized societies celebrate an annual Dog Day, sport elaborate dog parks in their inner cities, and promote the knowledge of how dogs made mankind among school children — lest they forget.
The Hebrew word for dog is כלב (keleb), hence the name Caleb, which looks like כ (ke), meaning like or as if, plus לב (leb), meaning heart. Our Greek noun κυων (kuon) looks like it has to do with the verb κυω (kuo), to be or make pregnant (see below).
Our noun κυων (kuon), dog, occurs a modest 5 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, but from it derives:
- The diminutive of the previous, namely κυναριον (kunarion), meaning little dog or puppy. This diminutive form occurs 4 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, which is worthy of note since in the classics the regular word is vastly more common than this diminutive. The occurrences of our diminutive occur in the sole context of the puppies (small dogs) feeding off the crumbs (small bits of food) dropped by the master's children (small masters). The poet Pindar uses our word when he mentions a ritual involving little waxen figurines in the shape of a dog, via which a lover might secure the attentions of his lady (Pyt.4.213). In the classics, a more common diminutive of κυων (kuon) is κυνιδιον (kunidion), but this word does not occur in the New Testament.
The noun κυμα (kuma) describes anything swollen (but mostly waves and billows of seas and rivers), and its spelling is the standard spelling of a result or instance of the verb κυω (kuo), to be or become pregnant with. The verb is not used in the New Testament and the noun occurs 5 times (see full concordance) always with the meaning of ominously and portentously billowing water waves.
Note that in Hebrew, a large accumulation of "dry land" is called הר (har), or mountain, which also describes a cultural hotspot — hence the "mountain" of YHWH (Genesis 22:14) and national-mountains like Mount Seir and Mount Sinai and international-efforts such as Mount Moriah and finally Mount Olivet. The Hebrew word for pregnant is הרה (hera), and the advent of the reign of the Christ was closely associated with the "pregnancy" of an international accumulation of some kingless tribe (a virgin). The difference between the Hebrew word for pregnant and the Greek one is that the Hebrew one has to do with dry land (conscious or rational knowledge), whereas the Greek one had to do with water (subconscious or intuitive knowledge).