Monday, October 04, 2004

The Syro-Phoenician Woman and the Imperfectability of Jesus

I'll make a few quick comments on the previous post. First, no, there is no way that I can explain the use of an ethnic slur in this passage. I can try to explain Jesus' initial refusal to heal the woman's daughter, but I really can't explain his us of an ethnic slur. It's there.

However, I think it is important to note that Jesus does not directly apply the ethnic slur to the woman. (Wouldn't it be nice if we had a name for her... but alas, that is another discussion altogether) He doesn't say, "you are a dog" or "your people are dogs." What he does do is use the illustration of children and dogs and explain why his message is coming to the Jews before it comes to the Gentiles. (That's also interesting, because is argument isn't that Gentiles are unworthy, but that the Jews must be first) It's still pretty upsetting as far as I'm concerned. But, what I guess I'm saying, is that it could have been worse. The use of the ethnic slur here is at least somewhat tempered, though still problematic.

Second, as to the imperfectability of Jesus, according to Mark at least, it seems that he is imperfect. In fact, Jesus is just about to head on a downward spiral of imperfectness and loss of power. In the very next section (7:32-35), Jesus has to resort to magical techniques in order to heal the deaf man, whereas previously, his word had always been sufficient. In 8:22-26, Jesus' first attempt to heal a blind man (also by magical means) fails, and he has to try again. Later, at 11:12-14 & 20, Jesus becomes angry with a fig tree that doesn't have any figs on it (even though figs weren't in season at the time) and curses it, withering it. (That's also about the time of his temper tantrum in the temple 11:15-18.) In the end, Jesus ends up completely forsaken by all of his disciples and followers, and even, apparently by God: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (15:34) But my favorite example of Jesus' imperfection is way back at Mark 5:24-34 when the hemorrhaging woman is healed. She comes up and touches his robe and she is healed. But he's surprised. He can't tell who was healed. We'd never find this kind of oh-so-human stuff in the other Gospels (especially not John). But it's all there in Mark. Mark gives us a very warty Jesus.

I know that doesn't really help with a dealing with a passage like this one. It's just a difficult and disturbing passage. It probably always will be. Maybe it's supposed to be. If it weren't so difficult, we certainly wouldn't be spending as much time working with it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It truly amazes me how people can continue to misuse the words of God to adhere to theire own understandings and misconceptions.

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It truly amazes me how people can continue to misuse the words of God to adhere to their own understandings and misconceptions.

4:42 AM  
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