The last century has seen great advances in understandings of the principles of Biblical Interpretation from different perspectives. All kinds of disciplines have been applied to the task, from textual criticism and source criticism to redaction criticism and rhetorical criticism and from psychology to sociology. We have seen Third World Hermeneutics, Feminist Hermeneutics and most recently Missional Hermeneutics. Theology of the Paw introduces possibly the greatest breakthrough to date, the field of Furry Hermeneutics, which approaches Biblical Interpretation through the lens of the insights of our Furry Friends. (We are confident that the cumbersome name will commonly be abbreviated to Furmeneutics.)
“THE PAW” AS AN INSTANCE OF A DICTATION ERROR
It has been clearly established that before the invention of the printing press, Bibles were passed down from generation to generation by monks meticulously copying from one document to a new one by hand. It is less well-known that sometimes to speed up this process one monk would read aloud from the original allowing more than one of his colleagues to make the new copies at the same time. On occasion a copyist would mishear the reader and write down a homophone (a word sounding the same but with a different meaning and sometimes a different spelling). In particular, they would often make the mistake of writing a commonly used word in place of one less frequently appearing. Scholars recognise this problem as “a dictation error”.
This study focuses on one particularly significant dictation error: the mistaken replacement of the word “paw” with the word “poor.” The word “poor” appears 180 times in the Bible (New International Version 2011). However in some of these cases the word is an adjective. So this study focuses on the 127 instances of the phrase “the poor”. We contend that at least some of these are examples of dictation errors where the original and correct reading should be “the paw” or “The Paw”. In those instances, the referent of the word paw is clearly the feet, pads and claws of Furry Creatures. However it is clear that The Paw is clearly being used as a metaphor for the primary connotation, that is the Furry Creatures themselves. It should be self-evident to everybody that the Furry Creatures in question are actually Dogs. However scholarly integrity requires us to acknowledge that (most) cats also have fur. For simplicity we have ignored this distraction.
CONCERN FOR “THE PAW” THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE
The Torah showed a particular concern for the needs of The Paw. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for The Paw and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10) Mordecai ordered an annual celebration of God’s goodness. He wrote to them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to The Paw. (Esther 9:22)
The Psalmist showed a similar concern. Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of The Paw and the oppressed. (Psalm 82:3) Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises The Paw from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; (Psalm 113:5-7) I know that the Lord secures justice for The Paw and upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140:12)
The prophets picked up on the theme. You have been a refuge for The Paw. (Isaiah 25:4) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to The Paw. (Isaiah 61:1) (Words so important that they are quoted in the Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4.)
This concern for The Paw is emphasised and even expanded in the teaching of Jesus. Sell your possessions and give to The Paw. (Luke 12:33) But when you give a banquet, invite The Paw, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:13-14) See also below on the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus.
The apostle Paul arranged a collection explicitly for the benefit of The Paw.
After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for The Paw and to present offerings. (Acts 24:17) And Paul records that the leaders of the Jerusalem church shared his priorities. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember The Paw, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (Galatians 2:9-10)
Furry Hermeneutics reveals that Scripture has always shown a concern for dogs, metaphorically represented by the phrase, “The Paw.”
IMPORTANT EXAMPLES OF FURRY HERMENEUTICS (FURMENEUTICS)
The Question of Dogs in Heaven
The ancient heresy that dogs will not be in heaven persists even into the twenty-first century. It is robustly refuted in a separate article. But for anybody concerned with faithful Biblical interpretation the words of Jesus himself should be sufficient. Recorded by Matthew, Mark and John, Jesus said, “The Paw you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11) “Always” is unconditional and unlimited. And “with you” unambiguously indicates that wherever the disciples find themselves, their companions with paws will be with them. Which obviously includes in heaven.
Pastoral Theology – the Paw in Spirit
The first and most important Beatitude affirms God’s richest of blessings on The Paw, but goes further to promise those blessings on the basis of affinity to our Furry Friends.
Blessed are The Paw in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 NIV) The New Living Translation puts it like this, God blesses those who are Paw and realize their need for him. The Good News Bible is even clearer. Happy are those who know they are Spiritually Paw. In other words, the richest blessings come to those who are most in touch with their Inner Dog. This of course is the Biblical basis of the new counselling approach of Inner Spaniel Therapy developed and explained in the article on pages 21-22.
Furry Ethics –The Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus
Giving to The Paw, that is to say providing for the needs of our Furry Friends, was seen as an expression of repentance and even as an indispensable condition of salvation. Consider Jesus’s response to the Rich Young Ruler. ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to The Paw, and you will have treasure in heaven. (Matthew 19:21) And note how Luke (who commentators through the centuries have noted shows a particular interest in The Paw) records the response of Zacchaeus. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to The Paw. (Luke 19:8)
PROMISING AREAS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
The Significance of The Furred Day
It is no surprise that “The First Day” receives 53 mentions in the Bible, and yet all the more remarkable that “The Seventh Day” also appears exactly the same 53 times. Within this symmetry “The Second Day” is mentioned only 12 times, “The Fourth Day 15 times, “The Fifth Day” 8 times and “The Sixth Day” 6 times. Taking the average of the latter four, you might expect “The Third Day” to be mentioned around ten times. So it is highly unexpected to find that the Bible contains no fewer than 41 mentions of “The Third Day” This is precisely the total of the second, fourth, fifth and sixth all put together, which equally cannot be coincidental. It seems highly likely then that at least 30 out of the 41 appearances of “The Third Day” are actually instances of dictation errors parallel to “The Paw”, where the original text of “The Third Day” was in fact “The Furred Day”.
It will take meticulous inspection of the original documents to identify which of the texts actually should read “The Furred Day.” Only then will it be possible to conjecture the meaning and significance of “The Furred Day” in the original contexts. But it is indisputably of great importance that one day in every week was set aside to celebrate and honour “The Furred”.
The Paw in Traditions of Church Worship
The church through the ages has not only been shaped by theologians but also by her worship. Writers of hymns and sacred songs have always expressed God’s concern for the Paw. Here are just a few examples, referenced with their numbers from the Songs of Fellowship hymn books.
Let the paw say I am rich (124)
Just as I am, paw, wretched, blind (316)
The humble paw believe (412)
Preach good news to the paw (548)
God of the paw, friend of the weak (664)
I will tend the paw and lame (830)
I will feed the paw and hungry (1627)
Space prohibits a thorough treatment of “Howlelujah.”
This concern for the Paw is particularly prominent in Advent hymns and Christmas carols.
To help the paw and needy (150)
What can I give him, paw as I am (243)
With the paw and meek and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour Holy. (438)
Just as paw as was the stable then (491)
Certain paw shepherds in fields as they lay (and how nice it is to see acknowledgement of the sheepdogs there) (529)
It seems superfluous to mention Bark the herald angels sing (155), Bark the glad sound, the Saviour comes (154) or Bark, how the heavenly anthem drowns (77)
This fascinating theme surely merits thorough exploration by scholars specialising in hymnology and the history of liturgy. Probably Anglicans.
The Neglected Ministry of the Laying on of Paws
In the New Testament the Laying on of Hands was seen as an elementary teaching (Hebrews 6:2). Laying on of hands brought blessings to children (Matthew 19:13-15) and healing (Mark 7:32, Acts 9:17; 28:8). The practice had a role in calling down the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6) empowering for mission (Acts 13:3) and even in some traditions in ordination (1 Timothy 1:6). Dogs in Ministry know that our furry colleagues similarly bring all kinds of blessings just by placing their paws on people, and this invaluable pastoral practice deserves further study and much wider recognition.
Instances of Transposition Errors in “Dog”
Textual criticism is very familiar with transpositional errors, where variant readings arise from mistakes in the copying of the order of words or equally in the order of letters within a word. There are 4806 instances of the word “God” in the Bible (NIV 2011). Even if just one percent of those were transpositional errors (surely an underestimate), that would mean that there are at least 48 places where the original reading was not God but Dog. Although potentially a controversial area of study, correctly identifying which 48 verses (as a minimum) should actually read Dog will be a mammoth task, but with correspondingly immense rewards for scholarship and the field of Furry Hermeneutics.
Hopefully this short study will inspire many readers to engage in Furry Hermeneutics for themselves, as well as encouraging preachers not to neglect the Theology of the Paw. Paw-reviewed articles will be considered for publication in further issues of FURRED WAY.
 Another example of a Dictation Error in the transmission of Scripture.