Mark 7: 24-30 - was Jesus wrong?

Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician Woman

We had this passage for our Church of Fools service earlier. In preparing the message with @fineline it was suggested that my first draft had suggested that Jesus was wrong to limit His mission to Jews only, and that the challenge from this Gentile woman caused Him to change His mind, correcting that error and extending His mission to Gentiles as well as Jews.

So, the question is does this exchange suggest that Jesus changed His mind, that He'd initially limited His mission to Jews but now realised He was mistaken and recognised that His mission was wider than that. Or, did Jesus always know that His mission would be to all people and He took the opportunity of this woman coming to Him in her hour of need to manoeuvre her into pointing that out, showing that faith exists outside of the Jews, and then allowing Him to demonstrate that by healing her daughter.
«1

Comments

  • windsofchangewindsofchange Shipmate
    edited May 22
    ISTM the answer to that question is completely dependent on how you view Jesus. Is (was) He the all-knowing, all-seeing God, at all times fully knowing how everything in His life was going to play out, and fully aware of the ripple effects His words and actions would set into motion throughout the rest of human history?

    Or ... not so much? Which POV might also be supported by Luke 11:38, wherein Jesus refuses to wash His hands before dinner, thus (in)directly throwing shade on all those today who refuse to wash their hands, wear face masks, etc.?
  • We looked at the parallel passage in Matthew 15 in our Bible study group a while back, which adds Jesus' initial words “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Mt 15:24).

    It does sort of read to me, all the more so in Matthew, as if Jesus starts out by repeating what he thinks his mission is, and comes to a fuller realisation of it through the woman's persistence. You can almost hear him think the issue through out loud. At least I can.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    My thoughts - I'm okay with being not entirely sure, butI think how I'm seeing it is not quite either of these. Though I think it's more the second than the first. I don't see it as simply manoeuvring her - I see it as a genuine interaction with her, extending his love to her in an unusual way. Empowering her to speak out, to have a voice in a society where she likely hadn't been given one, and where she was seen like a dog. He could have said it himself, but he let her say it, and he then gave it his approval. Much more empowering than simply granting her request. I tend to suspect that if she felt he really held that view, that he saw her as a dog, she wouldn't have seen any point in pursuing her request for help from him. I also tend to suspect that if he'd felt she would believe him that he saw her as a dog, he wouldn't have said it.

    But equally it wasn't just for her sake - it was for the wider message, of equality, not just for non-Jews, but also for women, in a very male-dominated society. Showing that he let a woman contradict him and applauded her for it.

    My thoughts, though, are not from any in-depth historical knowledge, or knowledge of the original language. More the context of how I understand Jesus in general, from the gospels and from my own faith.

    Equally, I suppose he could have simply not realised at that point that his mission was for everyone, not just Jews. I imagine as a human he wouldn't have seen and known everything all at once, and God would reveal things to him as time progressed, and could have used this situation, spoken to him through this woman, though it gets weird talking about God and Jesus as separate beings, as also I believe they were/are one. But Jesus in his human body would have had some human limitations.

    I do think it's one of those stories where we simply don't/can't really know, and that this is okay, and it's interesting to speculate.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    My thoughts - I'm okay with being not entirely sure, butI think how I'm seeing it is not quite either of these. Though I think it's more the second than the first. I don't see it as simply manoeuvring her - I see it as a genuine interaction with her, extending his love to her in an unusual way. Empowering her to speak out, to have a voice in a society where she likely hadn't been given one, and where she was seen like a dog. He could have said it himself, but he let her say it, and he then gave it his approval. Much more empowering than simply granting her request. I tend to suspect that if she felt he really held that view, that he saw her as a dog, she wouldn't have seen any point in pursuing her request for help from him. I also tend to suspect that if he'd felt she would believe him that he saw her as a dog, he wouldn't have said it.

    But equally it wasn't just for her sake - it was for the wider message, of equality, not just for non-Jews, but also for women, in a very male-dominated society. Showing that he let a woman contradict him and applauded her for it.
    I really like this. I agree we can’t know for sure, and I think that’s okay. But I really like this. Thank you!

  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited May 22
    You know I always like to do a close (read: picky picky picky) reading of the text. It's my lit crit background, maybe. Here it causes me to notice this stuff.
    First of all, I think Jesus meant what he said, and I don't think he changed his mind at all. He WAS sent "only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (from parallel passage, Matthew 15). It was the CHURCH that was sent "to every creature," "to every tribe and nation," and so forth, and that only three years later, so it's not like the non-Jewish universe was being terribly disadvantaged.
    Jesus, being one man, had a limited amount of time at his disposal, and he focused it on the people to whom God had made the strongest and clearest promises--namely, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You could say he was keeping God's promise. Paul sees this too, when he speaks of the Gospel coming "first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile." It has nothing to do with importance, or loving somebody more than somebody else, or what have you. It has to do with "There are only this many hours in the day, and I have promises to keep, and a pre-existing relationship to attend to." So when the woman asks for the "crumbs," she is essentially saying, "Surely you can squeeze me in around the edges." And being the kind of loving person he is, he does exactly that--and not just with her, but basically with any non-Jew who crossed his path.
    This whole thing has had special urgency for me and my family, because 30 years ago we were called to serve the Vietnamese immigrant/refugee community of St. Louis, and we were basically the only ones for a long, long time. That led to hellishly long days of service, and nights spent in the emergency room (sometimes four nights a week!), and people literally living in our home, and there was no way in hell we were going to be able to (say) pick up an additional ministry to the Laotians, or the Hispanics, or the African American community around us. We were gasping for breath as it was.
    Still, being really clear about what God had sent us to do did NOT mean that when the occasional Laotian/Puerto Rican/black/white/whatever person wandered in needing help, we just left them in the lurch. Of course we let them attend English language classes--though with a warning that the teaching was going to be partially in Vietnamese, and we wouldn't be able to adapt that fact. Of course we fed them when they were hungry, though again the food was Vietnamese (it was what we had!) and if they didn't like it, they could go elsewhere. We found quite a few non-Vietnamese "fellow travelers" over the years, as well as a number of people who chose to go elsewhere. If they chose to stay, we presumed they were "specials" that God had chosen to drop in our laps, and we treated them just as we treated everybody else under our care. It was wholly up to them whether to go or stay--we had our focus, and would have been derelict in duty if we'd tried to cover more than the extremely exhausting field we'd been given.
    You'll notice that Jesus is delighted with the woman's backtalk, and her persistence, and he gives to her as readily as he does to the Jews. So I really don't think there was any racism here. I do think there was a certain amount of byplay going on between Jesus and the watching disciples, but I've talked about it several times on the Ship and won't go into it here unless anyone wants a repeat.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited May 22
    [And this is an aside, and I hope it isn't being thread-hoggish to mention it...] You'll notice that in John 12 some Greeks show up, wanting to see Jesus--and these are apparently more than just a random couple of people, more like a delegation of some sort, the way they attempt to arrange a formal introduction through the disciples. And as soon as Jesus gets word of their wish, he says this:

    23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

    He then goes off on an anguished meditation on the upcoming crucifixion, mentions several times that it is almost upon them and that the crowd listening to him is about to run out of time with him and had better make use of his light while they can--and then he "hides himself from them." It looks like the Greeks never got their meeting, though we don't hear for sure one way or the other.

    Why does the coming of the Greeks = "My Passion is starting immediately" to Jesus?

    IMHO it's because Jesus knows, and has always known, that the evangelization of the non-Jewish world is the task of the Church. A Gentile here and there is no big shakes, but when the first tiny wavelet of Gentiles-as-a-group shows up, that's a sign that the age of the Church is beginning, and that Jesus himself will be leaving the stage momentarily--and it overwhelms him.

    Given this mindset of Jesus, I can see why he made the distinction so clear earlier in his ministry, and also why he felt able to make exceptions for people like this woman--and the centurion, and the Samaritan woman, and and and... In each case, "hey, it's just one, I can squeeze you in." Until the ocean of the nations began lapping against his very toes...

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I'm with Nick Tamen on this. Fineline's suggestion is the best I can remember hearing, very moving as well.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I'm with LC on this. Her reading of the text is both compassionate and fits the data.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    I tend to suspect that if she felt he really held that view, that he saw her as a dog, she wouldn't have seen any point in pursuing her request for help from him.

    Some people have a knack for saying things that on paper are incredibly rude and offensive, and yet somehow it isn't offensive, because the way they say it makes you know they don't really mean it. I get the impression Jesus was a bit like that.

    E.g. at Cana. Mary says the wine has run out. Jesus says: "What's that got to do with me? My hour hasn't yet come." Which, on paper, sounds like he's telling her to sod off, but Mary knows he isn't, because her immediate reaction, without even needing to argue with him, is to tell the servants "Do whatever he tells you".
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    @Lamb Chopped - that is the most interesting insight into Jesus' ministry that I have heard for a long time, thank you.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    @Lamb Chopped - that is the most interesting insight into Jesus' ministry that I have heard for a long time, thank you.

    +1
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I don't see how Jesus could be wrong. He wasn't even wrong when he chose a disciple who he knew would betray him.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I'm with LC on this. Her reading of the text is both compassionate and fits the data.
    Agreed, though I have no problem blending her take and fineline’s.


  • Telford wrote: »
    I don't see how Jesus could be wrong. He wasn't even wrong when he chose a disciple who he knew would betray him.

    There's a difference between being wrong and not being fully informed/aware.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I don't see how Jesus could be wrong. He wasn't even wrong when he chose a disciple who he knew would betray him.

    There's a difference between being wrong and not being fully informed/aware.

    Indeed.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Thanks, folks. The Judas thing interests me, because I suspect he did not know in its fullness at the time he chose Judas exactly who was going to betray him. If he had known, that would have a) been cruel--why put someone in a position to damn themselves? b) tainted their relationship from the start, and c) removed the ordinary human experience of loving and trusting someone, only to have your heart knocked out of you when you realize said person not only doesn't return the love and trust, but is actively trying to destroy you. (I hate betrayal, I'd rather deal with losing someone through death than through betrayal, it hurts so fucking much worse).
    Humanity being what it is, Jesus could be sure one of them would betray him in the end--if a close friend or relative didn't get to it first.
  • DooneDoone Shipmate
    Yes, that makes absolute sense to me, @Lamb Chopped.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Come on, folks, somebody fight with me and tell me I'm an asshole. Please?
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    My thoughts - I'm okay with being not entirely sure, but I think how I'm seeing it is not quite either of these. Though I think it's more the second than the first. I don't see it as simply manoeuvring her - I see it as a genuine interaction with her, extending his love to her in an unusual way. Empowering her to speak out, to have a voice in a society where she likely hadn't been given one, and where she was seen like a dog. He could have said it himself, but he let her say it, and he then gave it his approval. Much more empowering than simply granting her request.

    I'm not sure I buy the idea that it's "[m]uch more empowering" to make people beg for help and literally dehumanize them. There's nothing in this little vignette, as told, that contradicts the idea of this woman's sub-human, dog-like inferiority. Jesus likens her to a dog and instead of convincing Jesus that he's wrong about that she goes along with that narrative and makes the case that even a dog deserve a fair shake.

    This may be at variance with other accounts in the Gospels (and Acts) about gentiles, but the story as written doesn't support the notions of universal humanism that's often read into it. In the Matthew version Jesus goes as far as saying that the woman has great faith, but that's not the same thing.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    I don't think Jesus knew Judas would betray him. I think he realized that Judas was not committed to him in the same way that the other disciples were, but lack of commitment does not usually lead to betrayal.
  • The Judas thing interests me, because I suspect he did not know in its fullness at the time he chose Judas exactly who was going to betray him. If he had known, that would have a) been cruel--why put someone in a position to damn themselves? b) tainted their relationship from the start, and c) removed the ordinary human experience of loving and trusting someone, only to have your heart knocked out of you when you realize said person not only doesn't return the love and trust, but is actively trying to destroy you. (I hate betrayal, I'd rather deal with losing someone through death than through betrayal, it hurts so fucking much worse).
    I think Judas provides an interesting point where we can test hypotheses about how much Jesus knew. We have a spectrum of possibilities ranging from one extreme of He knew everything God knows and retained that omnipotence, through a range of possibilities where He was privy to some of what God knew, to He only knew as much as any human being could know.

    I think most people would really struggle with Jesus retaining omnipotence, because that would make Him not human. Besides, He also at times clearly expresses ignorance (eg: about the time of the second coming, which the Father alone knows and even the Son is ignorant of).

    So, let's go to the other extreme. Is it reasonable that He knew only as much as any human could know without some "words of knowledge" (to use a phrase common among Charismatics I knew 30 years ago) or other super-natural understanding. To me, it appears that a lot of the time Jesus shows an understanding of His mission and what is about to happen that draws heavily upon the Scriptures, He's clearly well versed in the Scriptures and in them sees a description of what it is He needs to do and how He will be treated, but this does appear to be an understanding that His contemporaries failed to see - which could suggest some divine guidance in understanding what the Scriptures were saying, or at least something about His personality which meant that whatever was making His contemporaries blind to that meaning didn't affect Him - which could just be a bundle of preconceptions. In summary I think this other extreme, that He only knew as much as any human being could know, is plausible though some form of Spiritual guidance and divine insight that is a fairly common experience among Christians could certainly been a factor.

    So, back to Judas. I think LC has an important insight here (sorry, another person who's not going to tell you you're an a**hole), by not knowing that Judas would betray Him Jesus experiences all that it means to make a friend and for that friend to betray you, to trust someone (remember, Judas also kept the money for the group) and have that trust abused. And, LC is right, betrayal hurts more than bereavement - if someone dies from an illness or accident you may think "that silly old bugger shouldn't have smoked so much?" or "why did she cross the road without looking properly?" but we know they didn't deliberately go out of their way to hurt you - whereas a betrayal is a much more deliberate act. The Incarnation is all about God becoming human and experiencing what it means to be human - it culminates with experiencing death on the Cross, but it includes all the rest of the human experience along the way. If He had known Judas would betray Him then that experience of making a friend, finding someone to trust as well as being betrayed would have been false.

    And, coming back to the Syro-Phoenician woman. Could Jesus have known that His mission would also be to the Gentiles, at least to the extent of fitting them in around the central mission to the lost sheep of Israel, with just what any human being could know? I think He could have, the Scriptures have enough in them about being "a light to the Gentiles" and similar to have let Him know that before He went to Tyre to have a rest. Though, of course, "could have known" is different from "did know".
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    He had the Scriptures DOWN (good Jewish boy, that, worked hard in his school days!) and as you say, they are full of stuff about the nations coming to God. So yeah, I'm sure he had that understanding.

    I could live with the idea that he had a purely human understanding guided by the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Indeed, I suspect that's how he went around pretty much all the time with the exception of occasions where something more was called for for the sake of others (not himself)--for example, when Nathanael needed a bit of spooky show-and-tell ("I saw you under the fig tree") or the woman at the well (the five husbands bit). But for himself, well... He doesn't normally use his other non-human powers for himself (no bread-into-stones for him). So laying aside his omniscience except in ministry situations seems typical of him.

    But to that, we have to add the fact that we're dealing with an unfallen human being--and that complicates things in a major way. Ordinary fallen human beings normally walk around in a bit of a fog, even the best of us--it's a reflection of the fact that we live in a broken, fallen world, infected by sin, where nothing works perfectly right, even our brains. But now take a human being as they were meant to be--one with a perfectly unclouded intellect, unbiased reasoning, perfect perception--what might a person like that see in the Scriptures? Probably a helluva lot more than I do, and much more clearly.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    You'll have to work harder, @Lamb Chopped. You're an asshole but not on this thread so far.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Give me time...
  • Ordinary fallen human beings normally walk around in a bit of a fog, even the best of us--it's a reflection of the fact that we live in a broken, fallen world, infected by sin, where nothing works perfectly right, even our brains. But now take a human being as they were meant to be--one with a perfectly unclouded intellect, unbiased reasoning, perfect perception--what might a person like that see in the Scriptures? Probably a helluva lot more than I do, and much more clearly.
    That was part of what I was getting at with saying His contemporaries don't seem to have seen the same mission in the Scriptures, that they were blind to that interpretation. Would the baggage we carry around with us, which can so easily make us see what we want to see in Scripture be part of our fallen-ness? Probably.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    edited May 24
    That was part of what I was getting at with saying His contemporaries don't seem to have seen the same mission in the Scriptures, that they were blind to that interpretation. Would the baggage we carry around with us, which can so easily make us see what we want to see in Scripture be part of our fallen-ness? Probably.

    As I mentioned earlier that seems to be the case here, with a lot of folks forcing the story to fit their idea of how Jesus should behave rather than reading it simply as it is. If we re-wrote it to be a story about someone else, say Jesse Helms, we wouldn't see it in quite the same light.
    Jesse left that place and went to the vicinity of Charlotte. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter needed hospitalization came and fell at his feet. The woman was black, born in Fayetteville in the Sandhills. She begged Jesse to appropriate funds for Fayetteville's hospital.

    “First let the white folks eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the white folk’s bread and toss it to the n*****s.”

    “Master,” she replied, “even the n*****s eat the white folk’s scraps.”

    Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; I’ll vote for the appropriation.”

    Put in that frame, it doesn't sound so nice. Jesus Jesse is placated by the woman's reassurance that she'll be content with scraps rather wanting a place at the table for herself or her daughter. The main difference seems to be that most of us have very different intellectual priors about Jesus Christ than we do about Jesse Helms (for those of us who remember who Helms was).

    Since the overwhelming majority of modern Christians are themselves either gentile converts to the faith or the descendants of gentile converts so the question of gentile status is a very important concern to them, though one that's not often discussed. Reading the story as written it seems to be saying the gentile converts should be happy with their crumbs/scraps, just like the Sandhills Fayetteville Syro-Phœnician woman. For reasons that seem largely based on motivated reasoning most modern Christians come to the opposite conclusion, that they won't have to satisfied with crumbs but will have a place at the table.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Crœsos wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    My thoughts - I'm okay with being not entirely sure, but I think how I'm seeing it is not quite either of these. Though I think it's more the second than the first. I don't see it as simply manoeuvring her - I see it as a genuine interaction with her, extending his love to her in an unusual way. Empowering her to speak out, to have a voice in a society where she likely hadn't been given one, and where she was seen like a dog. He could have said it himself, but he let her say it, and he then gave it his approval. Much more empowering than simply granting her request.

    I'm not sure I buy the idea that it's "[m]uch more empowering" to make people beg for help and literally dehumanize them.

    Yes, that interpretation also occurred to me, and I think it is very possible for such an interaction to have gone that way too. It's why I specified that I suspect she knew he didn't really see her as a dog, and he knew she knew this - subtleties of human interaction and context that don't always come across in a quick retelling of a dialogue. The same words can be said in very different ways, coming across very differently, depending on such sutleties, as Ricardus also mentions above.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Also, I'd add, Lamb Chopped's analysis makes a lot of sense to me.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I'm not sure I buy the idea that it's "[m]uch more empowering" to make people beg for help and literally dehumanize them.
    Yes, that interpretation also occurred to me, and I think it is very possible for such an interaction to have gone that way too. It's why I specified that I suspect she knew he didn't really see her as a dog, and he knew she knew this - subtleties of human interaction and context that don't always come across in a quick retelling of a dialogue.

    Again, a straightforward reading of the text denies this interpretation. Both of the participants in the dialogue seem to be in agreement about the Syro-Phœnician woman's dog-like nature. (Or more accurately her daughter's dog-like nature, since that's who Jesus is being asked to help.) She just insists that even as a metaphorical dog it's not wrong for Jesus to help her daughter.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    For what it's worth, the word "dog" in this context is a diminutive--τοῖς κυναρίοις, the little dogs, the house dogs, not the rather dangerous scavengers that roam the streets. I'm just dropping this here to further complicate the discussion. You all know what I think already.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Crœsos wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I'm not sure I buy the idea that it's "[m]uch more empowering" to make people beg for help and literally dehumanize them.
    Yes, that interpretation also occurred to me, and I think it is very possible for such an interaction to have gone that way too. It's why I specified that I suspect she knew he didn't really see her as a dog, and he knew she knew this - subtleties of human interaction and context that don't always come across in a quick retelling of a dialogue.

    Again, a straightforward reading of the text denies this interpretation. Both of the participants in the dialogue seem to be in agreement about the Syro-Phœnician woman's dog-like nature. (Or more accurately her daughter's dog-like nature, since that's who Jesus is being asked to help.) She just insists that even as a metaphorical dog it's not wrong for Jesus to help her daughter.

    Yes, she's going along with his argument, in a clever way. But if she were taking his words as not genuinely meant, her reply would be more a clever twisting of his words than seriously calling herself a dog. People do this sort of thing all the time. I am not reading it as her begging in a desperate, self-abnegating way, but as making a spirited, clever reply, with a warmth of trust in Jesus.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    edited May 25
    I think this is a part of Mark's structuring for his audience. It is a transition story.

    In Mark 6 we have the feeding of the 5000 Jews. After the feeding, there are 12 (a special number) of crumbs leftover.

    In Mark 7 we have the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman who would like some of those crumbs.

    In Mark 8 we have the story of the feeding of the 4000 gentiles with 7 baskets of crumbs left over.

    Note that these stories are followed by the disciples not understanding the meaning of feedings and to beware the teachings of the Pharisees, and then the illustrative healing of the blind man that requires two attempts which I take to be a metaphor for Mark's audience of disciples, and by extension to us, that even for Jesus it is hard to open the eyes of the blind disciples.

    Mark has constructed a sophisticated set of narratives and early narratives are linked and prepare us for later narratives. If we look at a passage in isolation we miss the message that Mark is trying to convey.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The main difference seems to be that most of us have very different intellectual priors about Jesus Christ than we do about Jesse Helms

    I wonder how anyone could possibly have acquired any intellectual priors about Jesus? I mean, everyone knows that Mark 7:24-30 is literally the only evidence we have about what Jesus was like.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    For what it's worth, the word "dog" in this context is a diminutive--τοῖς κυναρίοις, the little dogs, the house dogs, not the rather dangerous scavengers that roam the streets.

    I think that's clear from the Syro-Phœnician woman claiming to be the kind of dog you'd find under a table.
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The main difference seems to be that most of us have very different intellectual priors about Jesus Christ than we do about Jesse Helms
    I wonder how anyone could possibly have acquired any intellectual priors about Jesus? I mean, everyone knows that Mark 7:24-30 is literally the only evidence we have about what Jesus was like.

    My point is that the story in itself doesn't contain enough material to supply any subtext that the characters aren't honestly expressing themselves but rather they're talking in code. This is necessarily the case with the Syro-Phœnician woman, who only exists in this one passage of Mark and a parallel passage of Matthew. Jesus, of course, has four Gospels of narrative backstory and there are a lot of cases where his disciples say 'Surely you don't mean to include them, Lord?' and Jesus' response is almost always 'Yes, I do, and these other folks too.' Centurions? No problem! Adulterous women? Yeah, that's cool too. The one exception seems to be this Syro-Phœnician woman who Jesus makes grovel and jump through hoops after giving her an initial refusal. It should also be noted that Mark contains only one other passage of the 'surely not them, Lord!' variety, at least as far as I can tell, so it's not a theme that's important to the author of that specific Gospel.
    I think this is a part of Mark's structuring for his audience. It is a transition story.

    In Mark 6 we have the feeding of the 5000 Jews. After the feeding, there are 12 (a special number) of crumbs leftover.

    In Mark 7 we have the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman who would like some of those crumbs.

    In Mark 8 we have the story of the feeding of the 4000 gentiles with 7 baskets of crumbs left over.

    Note that these stories are followed by the disciples not understanding the meaning of feedings and to beware the teachings of the Pharisees, and then the illustrative healing of the blind man that requires two attempts which I take to be a metaphor for Mark's audience of disciples, and by extension to us, that even for Jesus it is hard to open the eyes of the blind disciples.

    Mark has constructed a sophisticated set of narratives and early narratives are linked and prepare us for later narratives. If we look at a passage in isolation we miss the message that Mark is trying to convey.

    But if you take several isolated passages and put them together in a different order than the author did, you can glean the secret decoder ring version? Here's the narrative with the gaps you've left out filled back in.

    Feeding of the 5,000 (no explicit mention that they're Jews)
    Jesus walks on water (invents surfing?)
    Jesus heals the sick of Gennesaret (without asking about their ethnic backgrounds)
    Jesus gets in an argument with some Pharisees about hand washing (topical!)
    Jesus and the Syro-Phœnician woman
    Jesus heals someone else (without giving him grief about his ethnicity)
    Feeding of the 4,000 (no explicit mention that they're gentiles)

    That's a lot of filler that has to be cut out to reach the correct "narrative". I'm not sure it accomplishes much beyond substituting our own preferred narrative for that of the author.

    There's also the distinct possibility that the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000 are the same incident included twice during compilation. They have pretty much exactly the same elements. Jesus preaches in a remote area, it gets late, the disciples feed several thousand people with an inadequate number of loaves and fishes, there are unexpectedly left-overs, Jesus and crew depart via boat. If these stories were included in two different Gospels we'd conclude they described the same incident with the difference in details just variations between accounts. The fact that they're both in the same Gospel makes it a little more complicated. But that's getting a bit far afield.
  • Crœsos wrote: »
    Jesus and the Syro-Phœnician woman
    Jesus heals someone else (without giving him grief about his ethnicity)
    Feeding of the 4,000 (no explicit mention that they're gentiles)
    There's a point I didn't appreciate until the last couple of days. For the Zoom service I picked the Mark version at random , but in the process of developing the short message noticed that Mark tells us where Jesus went next (which Matthew omits by moving straight to the feeding of the 4000). Mark says Jesus didn't go back to the Judean side of Galilee, He went to the Decapolis, remaining within Gentile territory where He heals the deaf mute. Then He feeds the 4000 before crossing the lake - Mark says to Dalmanutha which is unknown, Matthew to Magadan often interpreted as Magdala on the western shore (ie: He could have started from the Gentile eastern shore, near the Decapolis, though equally it didn't need to be directly across the middle of the lake so He could have started anywhere).

    For our message on Friday I'd noted that Jesus stays in Gentile territory after this story (for at least the next healing, and quite possibly for the feeding of the 5000). What I hadn't registered is that Matthew omits this; so Mark makes a point of Jesus ministering to Gentiles (or, at least, within Gentile territory) right after this story, whereas Matthew has Him going back to Galilee.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    The main difference seems to be that most of us have very different intellectual priors about Jesus Christ than we do about Jesse Helms
    I wonder how anyone could possibly have acquired any intellectual priors about Jesus? I mean, everyone knows that Mark 7:24-30 is literally the only evidence we have about what Jesus was like.

    My point is that the story in itself doesn't contain enough material to supply any subtext that the characters aren't honestly expressing themselves

    Yeah, I agree that if you take the passage in total isolation, the most natural reading is that Jesus is being a jerk, but given that we actually do have the rest of the Gospel, there's no real reason to read it in isolation.

    As you say, Mark generally portrays Jesus as being pro-Gentile. So it isn't irrational or dishonest to read the passage with a prior assumption that Jesus is pro-Gentile.
    but rather they're talking in code.

    I think 'code' is a bit of a strawman. I recall a priest once saying to me 'Cor you look like shit warmed up'. A tender-hearted shipmate could write an anguished post about how he was dehumanising me by comparing me to waste matter and that this was reminiscent of the kind of clericalism where father knows best and the laity know their place. Would such a shipmate be correct? No. Was the priest talking in code? No.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Jesus and the Syro-Phœnician woman
    Jesus heals someone else (without giving him grief about his ethnicity)
    Feeding of the 4,000 (no explicit mention that they're gentiles)
    There's a point I didn't appreciate until the last couple of days. For the Zoom service I picked the Mark version at random , but in the process of developing the short message noticed that Mark tells us where Jesus went next (which Matthew omits by moving straight to the feeding of the 4000). Mark says Jesus didn't go back to the Judean side of Galilee, He went to the Decapolis, remaining within Gentile territory where He heals the deaf mute. Then He feeds the 4000 before crossing the lake - Mark says to Dalmanutha which is unknown, Matthew to Magadan often interpreted as Magdala on the western shore (ie: He could have started from the Gentile eastern shore, near the Decapolis, though equally it didn't need to be directly across the middle of the lake so He could have started anywhere).

    For our message on Friday I'd noted that Jesus stays in Gentile territory after this story (for at least the next healing, and quite possibly for the feeding of the 5000). What I hadn't registered is that Matthew omits this; so Mark makes a point of Jesus ministering to Gentiles (or, at least, within Gentile territory) right after this story, whereas Matthew has Him going back to Galilee.

    Matthew 14.21......And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

    People often forget abot the women and children. Mikhail Gorbachev famously commented that there could have been as many as 15,000
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    The Judas thing interests me, because I suspect he did not know in its fullness at the time he chose Judas exactly who was going to betray him. If he had known, that would have a) been cruel--why put someone in a position to damn themselves? b) tainted their relationship from the start, and c) removed the ordinary human experience of loving and trusting someone, only to have your heart knocked out of you when you realize said person not only doesn't return the love and trust, but is actively trying to destroy you. (I hate betrayal, I'd rather deal with losing someone through death than through betrayal, it hurts so fucking much worse).
    I think Judas provides an interesting point where we can test hypotheses about how much Jesus knew. We have a spectrum of possibilities ranging from one extreme of He knew everything God knows and retained that omnipotence, through a range of possibilities where He was privy to some of what God knew, to He only knew as much as any human being could know.

    I think most people would really struggle with Jesus retaining omnipotence, because that would make Him not human. Besides, He also at times clearly expresses ignorance (eg: about the time of the second coming, which the Father alone knows and even the Son is ignorant of).

    So, let's go to the other extreme. Is it reasonable that He knew only as much as any human could know without some "words of knowledge" (to use a phrase common among Charismatics I knew 30 years ago) or other super-natural understanding. To me, it appears that a lot of the time Jesus shows an understanding of His mission and what is about to happen that draws heavily upon the Scriptures, He's clearly well versed in the Scriptures and in them sees a description of what it is He needs to do and how He will be treated, but this does appear to be an understanding that His contemporaries failed to see - which could suggest some divine guidance in understanding what the Scriptures were saying, or at least something about His personality which meant that whatever was making His contemporaries blind to that meaning didn't affect Him - which could just be a bundle of preconceptions. In summary I think this other extreme, that He only knew as much as any human being could know, is plausible though some form of Spiritual guidance and divine insight that is a fairly common experience among Christians could certainly been a factor.

    So, back to Judas. I think LC has an important insight here (sorry, another person who's not going to tell you you're an a**hole), by not knowing that Judas would betray Him Jesus experiences all that it means to make a friend and for that friend to betray you, to trust someone (remember, Judas also kept the money for the group) and have that trust abused. And, LC is right, betrayal hurts more than bereavement - if someone dies from an illness or accident you may think "that silly old bugger shouldn't have smoked so much?" or "why did she cross the road without looking properly?" but we know they didn't deliberately go out of their way to hurt you - whereas a betrayal is a much more deliberate act. The Incarnation is all about God becoming human and experiencing what it means to be human - it culminates with experiencing death on the Cross, but it includes all the rest of the human experience along the way. If He had known Judas would betray Him then that experience of making a friend, finding someone to trust as well as being betrayed would have been false.

    And, coming back to the Syro-Phoenician woman. Could Jesus have known that His mission would also be to the Gentiles, at least to the extent of fitting them in around the central mission to the lost sheep of Israel, with just what any human being could know? I think He could have, the Scriptures have enough in them about being "a light to the Gentiles" and similar to have let Him know that before He went to Tyre to have a rest. Though, of course, "could have known" is different from "did know".

    There is a school of thought that Jesus privately encouraged Judas to betray him.
  • Telford wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Jesus and the Syro-Phœnician woman
    Jesus heals someone else (without giving him grief about his ethnicity)
    Feeding of the 4,000 (no explicit mention that they're gentiles)
    There's a point I didn't appreciate until the last couple of days. For the Zoom service I picked the Mark version at random , but in the process of developing the short message noticed that Mark tells us where Jesus went next (which Matthew omits by moving straight to the feeding of the 4000). Mark says Jesus didn't go back to the Judean side of Galilee, He went to the Decapolis, remaining within Gentile territory where He heals the deaf mute. Then He feeds the 4000 before crossing the lake - Mark says to Dalmanutha which is unknown, Matthew to Magadan often interpreted as Magdala on the western shore (ie: He could have started from the Gentile eastern shore, near the Decapolis, though equally it didn't need to be directly across the middle of the lake so He could have started anywhere).

    For our message on Friday I'd noted that Jesus stays in Gentile territory after this story (for at least the next healing, and quite possibly for the feeding of the 5000). What I hadn't registered is that Matthew omits this; so Mark makes a point of Jesus ministering to Gentiles (or, at least, within Gentile territory) right after this story, whereas Matthew has Him going back to Galilee.

    Matthew 14.21......And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

    People often forget abot the women and children. Mikhail Gorbachev famously commented that there could have been as many as 15,000
    Yes, sorry for the mistake. I meant the feeding of the 4000 men - the 5000 men were fed prior to the story we're looking at.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    The story needs to be taken in context, and we need to allow it to be what it is - a first century narrative - and not expect it to share the concerns or answer the sort of questions we’d expect of a modern account.

    Mark’s Gospel pivots around Peter’s confession in chapter 8 and the transfiguration that follows it. The Gospel itself is explicit that it is ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’, but it is also clear that there were issues around this identification throughout Jesus’ ministry. In the first part of the Gospel we have the nature and extent of Jesus ministry laid out. We also have the beginning of conflict.

    When we get to chapter 7 it begins with Jesus declaring all foods clean. This question of clean and unclean is very closely related to the Jew-Gentile question which is then explored in the later part of the chapter. It is also significant that the next part of the action (in chapter 8) takes place in the heavily Gentile Decapolis. Thus, at this point the ‘surely not them’ question comes into focus not for the self-separated ‘sinners’ among the Jews (Mark 2.13-17 - see below), but for the racially separated ‘unclean’ among the Gentiles. So while this may be generally true:
    Crœsos wrote: »
    <snip>It should also be noted that Mark contains only one other passage of the 'surely not them, Lord!' variety, at least as far as I can tell, so it's not a theme that's important to the author of that specific Gospel.
    at this point the issue has come into focus. (Arguably Mark 10.13ff falls into that category as well.)

    There is no textual clue either way as to the tone of the exchange between Jesus and the woman. There is no textual clue to tell us whether this was good humoured banter or a genuinely hostile interaction. It is not clear whether ‘dogs’ would have had the same derogatory force to her that it might have done to a Jew. The term used (distinguishing pet or house dogs) may have taken some sting out of it. Jesus says the ‘children’ must be filled first, the woman in response points out that the dogs get the crumbs (implicitly) even while the children are being fed. Jesus is shown as responding to the woman’s faith - a significant theme for Mark - but the lead-in from the earlier part of the chapter where he abolishes the clean/unclean suggestion can clearly be seen as leading up to the point where he heals this Gentile woman’s daughter.

    The feeding of the four thousand which follows is significant in taking place in culturally Gentile territory, and the symbolism of the number of baskets is important. In the feeding of the five thousand the number of gathered baskets signifies sufficient feeding for all the twelve tribes of Israel. In the feeding of the four thousand, the seven baskets signify sufficient for the traditional seven nations of the Gentiles.
    Crœsos wrote: »
    <snip>There's also the distinct possibility that the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000 are the same incident included twice during compilation. They have pretty much exactly the same elements. Jesus preaches in a remote area, it gets late, the disciples feed several thousand people with an inadequate number of loaves and fishes, there are unexpectedly left-overs, Jesus and crew depart via boat. If these stories were included in two different Gospels we'd conclude they described the same incident with the difference in details just variations between accounts. The fact that they're both in the same Gospel makes it a little more complicated. But that's getting a bit far afield.
    While they could be two tellings of the same incident, it is clear within the Gospel as we have received it that it is explicitly understood as two separate incidents (Mk 8.19-20). If it is an ‘accident’ of compilation, it is clearly one of which the compiler(s) were aware. And there are no good text-critical reasons for seeing it as anything other than two separate accounts - possibly becoming more like each other in the re-telling process of transmission.

    As far as any subtext in the interaction between Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman is concerned There are three possible sources of illumination. The first is the fact that the text is fairly evidently pointing in the direction that Jesus will do what she asks - though Mark is careful to lay out explicitly what the objections are. Secondly in a purely literary and textual level we are entitled to ‘read’ Jesus in the light of how he is presented elsewhere in Mark. Thirdly, I would argue, if we see the four gospels as different witnesses to one underlying reality, we are entitled to take into account those other witnesses when considering how best to interpret this exchange. I don’t think this produces a clear-cut certain result. I do think it allows space for this to be something other than the apparently hostile interaction that it appears (at least initially) to be.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I think this is a part of Mark's structuring for his audience. It is a transition story.

    In Mark 6 we have the feeding of the 5000 Jews. After the feeding, there are 12 (a special number) of crumbs leftover.

    In Mark 7 we have the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman who would like some of those crumbs.

    In Mark 8 we have the story of the feeding of the 4000 gentiles with 7 baskets of crumbs left over.

    Note that these stories are followed by the disciples not understanding the meaning of feedings and to beware the teachings of the Pharisees, and then the illustrative healing of the blind man that requires two attempts which I take to be a metaphor for Mark's audience of disciples, and by extension to us, that even for Jesus it is hard to open the eyes of the blind disciples.

    Mark has constructed a sophisticated set of narratives and early narratives are linked and prepare us for later narratives. If we look at a passage in isolation we miss the message that Mark is trying to convey.

    But if you take several isolated passages and put them together in a different order than the author did, you can glean the secret decoder ring version? Here's the narrative with the gaps you've left out filled back in.

    Feeding of the 5,000 (no explicit mention that they're Jews)
    Jesus walks on water (invents surfing?)
    Jesus heals the sick of Gennesaret (without asking about their ethnic backgrounds)
    Jesus gets in an argument with some Pharisees about hand washing (topical!)
    Jesus and the Syro-Phœnician woman
    Jesus heals someone else (without giving him grief about his ethnicity)
    Feeding of the 4,000 (no explicit mention that they're gentiles)

    That's a lot of filler that has to be cut out to reach the correct "narrative". I'm not sure it accomplishes much beyond substituting our own preferred narrative for that of the author.

    The order I put them in is exactly the same as they appear in the gospel.

    And I don't see why a number of themes cannot be running at the same time. It seem to be part of the writing style to interpolate a number of teachings. It is narrative theology, not systematic theology.

    Just because we want Mark to be explicit about Jesus being in gentile territory because we are less familiar with the geography, does not mean it is a requirement for Mark's audience.

    And what is so unusual about finding a preferred narrative? That is the history of commentaries.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    edited May 26
    BroJames wrote: »

    Mark’s Gospel pivots around Peter’s confession in chapter 8 and the transfiguration that follows it. The Gospel itself is explicit that it is ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’, but it is also clear that there were issues around this identification throughout Jesus’ ministry. In the first part of the Gospel we have the nature and extent of Jesus ministry laid out. We also have the beginning of conflict.
    Peter clearly has no idea what Jesus being the Messiah means, so much so that he objects when Jesus starts telling him what it means and Jesus implies that his is a satanic suggestion for thinking (in my words) that Jesus' mission is for a human kingdom (restoring the kingdom to Israel) rather than the divine kingdom which is not of worldly culture and values.

    So in some ways this hardly counts as a confession.

    I suppose Mark could be saying to his audience that when you start out on your journey of following Jesus you are likely to be as clueless as Peter.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    I have greatly appreciated the exchange between @Crœsos and @LatchKeyKid. To my mind, it highlights the tension between eisegesis and, for want of a better term, lectio divina. When does reading for inspiration morph into self-deception? It is not easy to discern. ISTM that one help in staying within the lines is offering up one's insights to the larger faith community, which both recognizes the nature of the activity and (ideally) is willing to call into question the legitimacy of our inspirations.
    I was especially struck by Croesos' recasting of the story into modern terms. It is disturbing how easily it fits into such a narrative. Given the long history of such use of scripture, it is important to take such resonances seriously. Nonetheless, I find LatchKeyKid's contextualizing of the story to be both insightful and useful.
    As Christians, we read scripture to be remade ever more in the image of Christ. To my mind, this exchange has been wonderful in highlighting both the perils and the prospects of that effort.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    My point is that the story in itself doesn't contain enough material to supply any subtext that the characters aren't honestly expressing themselves but rather they're talking in code.

    I think 'code' is a bit of a strawman. I recall a priest once saying to me 'Cor you look like shit warmed up'. A tender-hearted shipmate could write an anguished post about how he was dehumanising me by comparing me to waste matter and that this was reminiscent of the kind of clericalism where father knows best and the laity know their place. Would such a shipmate be correct? No. Was the priest talking in code? No.

    I meant it in the context of the term "code-switching", where different dialects, modes of interaction, grammatical conventions, and sometimes even languages are used to communicate with different people. Your example is exactly this; the priest is code-switching based on his audience, addressing you in a way he wouldn't speak to (for example) his bishop. His bishop wouldn't have the same context as you (presumably) to crack the code.

    What's being suggested here by several people is that Jesus is for some reason "code-switching" with this Syro-Phœnician woman as an explanation as to why he treats her so differently than every other person who approaches him for help in Mark. The suggestion that she's really his bestie from the hood (straight outta Tyrus, yo!) and they're just trash-talking each other doesn't seem supported by anything in the text, or indeed anything other than a desire to see this text as something other than a plain, straightforward reading would render. I'm intensely suspicious of conclusions reached solely based on motivated reasoning.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    This is not a text that HAS a "plain, straightforward reading." If it did, it wouldn't get dragged out of the closet every year.

    Take what appears to be your preferred reading--that Jesus is, at least part of the time, being an asshole, and a racist one at that. That runs you smack into the problem of context--because we just don't see that behavior in him anywhere else I can think of, in the two Gospels in which this story occurs. Such a violent shift in character cries out for an explanation, in any narrative. You could not, for example, have Beowulf suddenly develop an intense fear of the kitchen cat without doing violence to the whole character built up in his poem.

    Let's suppose we DO turn up a fragment of Beowulf that indicates he lives in daily terror of Fluffy. Any number of scholars will be looking to see if the fragment is authentic, all the more because it's so counter to the rest of the poem. And if they agree it's authentic, a second brigade of scholars will start combing Old English literature and culture, desperately looking for something, anything, that will make sense of the oddity. Because the only other explanation is "the author(s) completely suck at drawing characters," and that is just as unbelievable as an obnoxious, rude and racist Jesus. It isn't borne out by the other written evidence we have.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    edited May 27
    Thanks @Lamb Chopped

    And I don't think it is borne out by the Son of God/Messiah that Mark is teaching about in the rest of his take on The Teaching for Christians.

    Further:
    Early Christianity had to come to terms with a Jewish sect including a large number of gentiles, not just the odd ones that Judaism included. Each of the Gospels/Acts deals with this in their own way. Matthew, who IMHO presents Jesus as the expected prophet like Moses, includes gentiles (and women) in his genealogy, Mark includes a feeding of the four thousand.

    The strangeness of this is not something we have to deal with as our Christianity has been separated from Judaism for as long as we can remember. So in our cultural separation we miss the significance.

    Also, the first person (we can exclude the demons who knew all along) to understand that Jesus was the Son of God was the Roman Centurion for whom this could be regarded as treachery as that was the titled owed to Caesar.
    This is in spite of Mark narrating that God had named him as his Son at Jesus' baptism at the start of Jesus' ministry (and at the start of the Gospel) and at the transfiguration, where the disciples are symbolically told by God that what Jesus says is much more important than The Law (Moses) or The Prophets (Elijah). And just to clear up a niggling doubt over Jesus being the Messiah Mark identifies John the Baptiser as Elijah who was expected to come before the Messiah.

    And thank-you @tclune for your kind remarks.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I'm intensely suspicious of conclusions reached solely based on motivated reasoning.

    I think that's also a strawman, or, at least, using the term 'motivated reasoning' so broadly as to be almost meaningless.

    No-one's argument is based SOLELY on the grounds that Jesus being a jerk would make them sad. People are arguing based on Mark's portrayal of Jesus in the rest of the Gospel. Now granted, you could say this is also motivated reasoning inasmuch as it implies a desire for Mark to be consistent, but by that logic, trying to interpret Act I scene iv of a Shakespeare play in the light of the rest of the same play is also motivated reasoning because it shows you want Shakespeare's works to be coherent.

    Now if the context was the other way round - that is, if the Gospel mostly had Jesus saying 'Keep yourself pure from those unclean Gentiles', but there was one passage where he was nice to a Gentile, and Christians insisted on interpreting every single one of the 'keep away' passages in the light of that one time when he was nice - then yes, I would agree that motivated reasoning was in play.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    An interesting and relevant post from another thread. The context is the efficacy of repeated prayer for the same end, which seems exactly on-point to the current discussion.
    But this is a ridiculously flawed methodology. You don't test people that way (here "people" = God). People make decisions based on their criteria or on no criteria at all, if they choose. In this case, there is no reason to imagine that the mere number of pray-ers, or number of prayers, is going to have any influence at all on God. This reasoning is the same as that by which children conclude that the more they whine, and the more siblings they can recruit to join the whine fest, the more likely Mom is to stop and buy them ice cream. Fuck no.

    Whether I choose to stop and buy ice cream will depend on a number of variables, including how close we are to dinner time, whether the children have been absolute shits today or not, how much money I have, whether anybody's lactose intolerant, and (perhaps, to a limited amount) whether someone asks me nicely. One ask is all it takes. For that matter, no "asks" is all it takes if I'm in that kind of a mood. But any asking (or praying) that goes on AFTER the first one is more for the benefit (or in my case, dis-benefit) of the asker than it is for me.

    Interestingly Jesus disagrees with @Lamb Chopped here, giving a different response to the second request than he did to the first one. For that matter the Syro-Phœnician woman would seem to be at fault for pestering Jesus for ice cream the healing of her daughter after his initial and very clear refusal.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Give me a freaking break. Jesus says (Matthew 6:7-8), “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

    That is my grounds for saying that the first asking is the one that counts, in terms of God "hearing" and making a decision. Anything after that is for your own benefit--either just the relief of still venting about it, or the strengthening of faith that comes with persistence, or any number of other possibilities. But sheer weight of asking--as if God had a tipping point and 5,787 prayers wasn't enough, but one more might be--absurd.

    Getting back to this Gentile woman. Do you honestly read Jesus' first answer "I was sent to the Gentiles" as a flat-out refusal? Because if it was, then it's the only example of Jesus refusing healing to anybody in all the Gospels. And that can't be explained away with a mere "She was a Gentile," because Mark 5 (two chapters before) he heals a man who was almost certainly a Gentile--the demon-possessed man living among the tombs, the time when the pigs wound up drowned in the lake?--without even being asked. Same Gospel, earlier incident.

    I read Jesus' first answer to her as a carefully-phrased evasion. Nothing would have been easier than to say "No," or even "Go away," especially after she kept bugging him. He notably refrains from either of those answers. Based on character consistency across the Gospels (all four of them) and also within the individual Gospels where this story occurs, I'd say he made up his mind to heal the girl the minute she asked--if not before. What happened after that had a different purpose.





  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Give me a freaking break. Jesus says (Matthew 6:7-8), “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

    That is my grounds for saying that the first asking is the one that counts, in terms of God "hearing" and making a decision. Anything after that is for your own benefit--either just the relief of still venting about it, or the strengthening of faith that comes with persistence, or any number of other possibilities. But sheer weight of asking--as if God had a tipping point and 5,787 prayers wasn't enough, but one more might be--absurd.

    And yet most Christian sects have a tradition of repetitive prayer, and not without scriptural basis.
    Getting back to this Gentile woman. Do you honestly read Jesus' first answer "I was sent to the Gentiles" as a flat-out refusal?

    Yes. Or more accurately when Jesus refers to her request as "not right" (or "not fair" or "not good", depending on your translation). Telling someone that what they're begging for is wrong or unfair or bad is usually taken as a refusal.
    Because if it was, then it's the only example of Jesus refusing healing to anybody in all the Gospels.

    That's what makes it so interesting. It breaks a pattern. It also breaks a pattern in that it seems to be one of the only times Jesus changes his mind about something.
    And that can't be explained away with a mere "She was a Gentile," because Mark 5 (two chapters before) he heals a man who was almost certainly a Gentile--the demon-possessed man living among the tombs, the time when the pigs wound up drowned in the lake?--without even being asked. Same Gospel, earlier incident.

    And yet that's the explanation given in the passage, both with the set-up narration ("The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia") and in Jesus' dehumanizing language towards her. Taking the time to specify this woman's ethnicity in such exacting detail, especially when the author typically doesn't do so, usually referring to someone generically as "a man" or some similar generic phrase, signals to the reader that this is an important fact about this woman and will be relevant to what follows.
    I read Jesus' first answer to her as a carefully-phrased evasion.

    Again, telling someone what they're begging for is wrong (or bad or unfair) doesn't seem that evasive to me.
    Based on character consistency across the Gospels (all four of them) and also within the individual Gospels where this story occurs, I'd say he made up his mind to heal the girl the minute she asked--if not before. What happened after that had a different purpose.

    And yet Jesus himself explains why he changed his mind. "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." Jesus says the healing was granted because the woman gave him "such a reply", implying that if she hadn't given that reply the healing would have been withheld.

    As I said, it's a break from the pattern presented elsewhere, both in this Gospel and in the others, which is what makes it interesting. I think it does an injustice to the author's intent to just pretend that such inconsistencies don't exist. The author of Mark (and Matthew, where this story also appears) clearly knew how to write stories about Jesus healing without hesitation people who ask him. Here he gives us something different, and I can't just hand-wave that off as an accident rather than a deliberate authorial choice.
Sign In or Register to comment.