After mass on Sunday, I spoke with my pastor, Father Ros, about the story of the Syrophoenician woman and also the blog post I had read that portrayed Jesus in a racist light. He rolled his eyes and asked me to please forward the post to me. By the way, my pastor is a blunt, to the point Dominican dude who use to pastor in the Bronx. I love his straightforwardness and his eyerolls.
He sent me back a few links in response, so I figured I’d share them with you all.
“We are shocked at Jesus’ response. “Let the children be filled first, for it is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v. 27). This is one of the most troubling verses in the New Testament.
Some scholars try to soften Jesus’ words, suggesting that this is a well-known proverb that would not sound so harsh in context — or that the diminutive, kynarion, refers to household pets, implying an affectionate tone. However, we cannot validate this saying as a common proverb, and it is exclusionary in any event. Jesus clearly feels it necessary to focus his mission on the Jews. The time will come when Gentiles will be welcome in the church, but the time is not yet.
“But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord. Yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.'” (v. 28). It is a good answer — a soft answer with a sharp edge. The woman acknowledges the special place of the Jews, calls attention to her own need, and turns Jesus’ words to press her plea. The kynarion — pets indeed — are part of the household and are not excluded from the master’s care.
“He said to her, “For this saying, go your way. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
She went away to her house, and found the child having been laid on the bed, with the demon gone out. (vv. 29-30).
This woman serves as an example of persistent prayer that refuses to be discouraged when the prayer is not immediately answered. She provides us with a model for engaging God fully and passionately in prayer rather than simply reciting rote prayers or a laundry list of our needs.
The woman also provides a stark contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who challenged Jesus in the preceding story (7:1-23). They had opportunity to see (or at least to hear about) the Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:30-44) and the healing of the sick in Gennesaret (6:53-56), but they chose to look only for ways to find fault with Jesus and his disciples (7:1-23).”
From Christ’s Notes:
“Christ never put any from him that fell at his feet, which a poor trembling soul may do. As she was a good woman, so a good mother. This sent her to Christ. His saying, Let the children first be filled, shows that there was mercy for the Gentiles, and not far off. She spoke, not as making light of the mercy, but magnifying the abundance of miraculous cures among the Jews, in comparison with which a single cure was but as a crumb. Thus, while proud Pharisees are left by the blessed Saviour, he manifests his compassion to poor humbled sinners, who look to him for children’s bread. He still goes about to seek and save the lost.”
And some info on Phoenicia from Wikipedia. So, does anyone out there want to take a stab at this admittedly “hard” bit of Scripture? If so, comment away!