THREAD (1/19): So I have some thoughts on this passage that actually reinforce Jesus's divinity as well as his sinless humanity (which is actually true humanity; our sin-infected experience is actually a warping of true humanity). @DZRishmawy @benjamindcrosby
(2/19) First, the context of the passage is key here. Right before Jesus heads to Tyre in Mark 7:24, he has just had a long exchange with Pharisees about the nature of sin and being unclean. The Jewish Pharisees and scribes value outward observances to the detriment of the heart.
(3/19) Jesus quotes Isaiah saying: "This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far away from me." He then explains this: "there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man."
(4/19) Jesus adds further clarification to this, going on to list multiple vices and evils that find their origin in the heart. And this is all in reference to the hearts of observant Jewish Pharisees and scribes. The "children" that Jesus will go on to mention in 7:27.
(5/19) Mark then goes right into the narrative of the Syrophoenician woman in 7:24-30, with all the commentary to the Pharisees and scribes immediately in the mind of the audience.
(6/19) Now, some background on Tyre. In the Second-Temple period, Tyre was known as an enemy of Israel and a stalwart example of pagan excess. Tyre was where the evil queen Jezebel (enemy of the righteous prophet Elijah) was from.
(7/19) Tyre sided with Ptolemaic forces against Israel during the Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BCE. The prophets decried the terror of Tyre (e.g., Ezek. 26:17; Zech. 9:3). Even Josephus called Tyre "notoriously our bitterest enemy" (Ag. Ap. 1.13)
(8/19) Long story short, Tyre is a no go zone for faithful Israelites. The people there are supposed to be evil, pagan-worshipping enemies of Israel's God. And yet, Jesus as Yahweh embodied goes to Tyre immediately after decrying the Pharisees' and scribes' false piety.
(9/19) And it is a pagan woman who comes to Jesus, believing that he can expel the demon that has been tormenting her daughter. Now we come to the problem text, 7:27-28. First off, this where it is necessary to read the Greek text.
(10/19) The word that Mark uses for "dog" here is different than that used for strays and street dogs (kyōn). Instead, the word used is a diminutive version (kynarion) which denotes a small dog kept as a house pet that was fed scraps from the table.
(11/19) While still a blunt statement, at least in Mark's telling of the event Jesus does not mean to call the woman the equivalent of a street dog. And here we see the faith of the woman come into play.
(12/19) Jesus's mini-parable about the children and the little dog is meant to reflect conventional Jewish understanding of the sharp divide between Israel and Gentiles. This is seen when Jesus uses the word teknōn for "child," denoting a "biological child."
(13/19) The woman makes a change though. Instead of replying to Jesus in 7:28 with the same word (tekōn) she uses a different, more generic term for Israel, paidiōn. This is a more inclusive term that could include both biological children and servants' children in a household.
(14/19) The woman has, with one word, changed the passage's understanding of God's mercy. She, without erasing the real distinction between Jews and Gentiles, has realized what the Pharisees were blind to: God's mercy extends not only to the children but to the "dogs" as well.
(15/19) When Jesus hears her response he does not rebuke her at length like the Pharisees and scribes (the "children") in the preceding verses. Instead he acknowledges the truth of her claim. The woman has spoken rightly of God's mercy where His own "children" did not.
(16/19) Jesus's use of the word "dog" then is not reflective of what he actually thinks of Gentiles. Indeed, he rebukes the Pharisees who do think this way and then proceeds to go to where the "dogs" are: Tyre. It is a way of teaching.
(17/19) Jesus repeats conventional wisdom to the woman to see how she will respond. Where the Pharisees and scribes (the "children") failed, the Gentile woman from "evil" Tyre succeeds. Yahweh in Christ tests the woman's faith with what Mark Gundry calls "a duel of wits."
(18/19) Jesus thus does not think of the woman as a dog like many of his fellow Jews do. He uses what they would say to see if the woman has true faith, the kind that comes from the heart, just as he taught about in the earlier verses of ch. 7.
(19/19) This text not only demonstrates Jesus's true humanity in that he realizes and works within the dynamics of Jewish and Gentile relations, but also his true divinity in that he tests the faith of the woman in Him. And it actually elevates the woman as an exemplar of faith.
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