Did Jesus Call a Woman a Dog?

Did Jesus Call a Woman a Dog? February 23, 2017

Jesus and the Canaanite womanOn the Season 2 premiere of Word Matters, Trevin Wax and I discuss a question raised in Matthew 15, “Did Jesus call a woman a dog?” Here’s the context:

21 When Jesus left there, he withdrew to the area of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” 23 Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples approached him and urged him, “Send her away because she’s crying out after us.” 24 He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 But she came, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, help me! ”26 He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was healed. (Matt. 15:-21-28, CSB)

We discussed three views:

1. Jesus is being a sexist, racist bigot.

We may laugh at this assertion, but it’s a common thing for non-Christians and even some self-proclaiming Christians to say. They say he was a man of his time, and so it makes sense that he would be so tough on a Canaanite woman.

2. Jesus is reiterating what he said right before this—that he’s been sent for Israel.

We did a podcast not long ago about Jesus’s focus on Israel (he is Israel’s Messiah, after all), particularly how he focused on Israel as a vehicle through which he would save everyone else. So maybe there’s something here in that he’s reluctant to help this Gentile woman because of his focus on Israel.

3. Jesus isn’t talking about race, sex, or nationality at all; rather, he’s talking about faith.

Jesus is being pointed here about the lack of faith of some people. So when the woman asks for help, he is essentially saying, “I’m not here to help someone who just wants a handout or a free ride”—that would be like throwing children’s food to dogs. In other words, he’s testing her intentions behind asking for her daughter’s healing.

To hear our views and listen to more episodes, click here.

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