A NEW TESTAMENT ACCOUNT OF TYRE AND SIDON
A RESEARCH PAPER
SUBMITTED TO TIMOTHY JENNEY
FOR ACADEMIC WRITING
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE MASTERS OF DIVINITY DEGREE
IN THE REGENT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY
TAMEKIA D. BELL
NOVEMBER 28, 2011
Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-31 both record that, toward the end of his ministry, Jesus visited the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. In Matthew 11:20-22, Mark 7:24-31, and Luke 10:13-14, he indicates that Tyre and Sidon have sinned in some grave fashion placing them in position of harsh judgment. Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 3:8, Mark 7:24-31, and Luke 6:17 indicate that, in spite of their sins, Jesus was able to do many great miracles for the people of that area. Jesus’ interaction with them is a standalone testament to the cultural context of that time. It helps us to understand better the ministry of Jesus to the Jews but also to the gentiles. It is by no coincidence that Christ chose to visit these cities toward the end of his life. Nor is it that he just so happened to mention the impending judgment of the cities and that in spite of his decrees, he still did many miracles for these gentile people. Events such as these have proved to be the building blocks for preaching the message of the gospel to the gentiles. It is important to grapple with the juxtaposition of Jesus’ cultural lean and the universality of his ministry. The questions I am asking are what are the sins, which brought about judgment to the Tyrians and the Sidonians? Why did Jesus visit those cities just before his crucifixion? Finally, why did he or why was he able to heal and perform miracles among them? My effort is to examine and lay bare Christ’s activities and thoughts toward the cities Tyre and Sidon and the Phoenician people. My hope is that this investigation will help us to better understand these cities and the scriptures in which they are mentioned.
Tyre and Sidon are two of the chief cities of the Phoenicia. Phoenicia is region that was where modern Lebanon is now, with adjoining parts of modern Syria and Israel. The area was well-known for merchandizing, trading, and the colonizing of the Mediterranean. Its chief cities were Sidon, Tyre, and Berot (modern Beirut). They were also known for the production of the Tyrian purple. In fact, Phoenicians received their name from the Greeks in response to this trade. The word Phoenicia in Greek means “dark red” and refers to the royal Tyrian purple dye that Phoenicians extracted from snail murex shells to use as dye for cloth. It is not certain what the Phoenicians called themselves in their own language; it appears to have been Kena’ani (Akkadian: Kinahna), “Canaanites.” In Hebrew the word kena’ani has the secondary meaning of “merchant,” a term that well characterizes the Phoenicians. Nothing is known of their original homeland, though some traditions place it in the region of the Persian Gulf.
“Tyre was originally an island ‘surrounded by the sea. Today Tyre is a peninsula joined to the mainland.’ The peninsula or causeway was built by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.” Apparently, the island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later. It was originally called Ushu in cuneiform texts and later Palaetyrus (“old Tyre”) in Greek texts. So in essence, either there are two cities called Tyre or the city has two sections to it. Sidon was off the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. According to Matthew 15:22 and Mark 7:24, Jesus left from Galilee to the region of Tyre and Sidon in Syrian-Phoenicia where he heals...
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