and he did not insult the Canaanite Woman. I’m writing about this here at the Catholic Weekly:
Understand: I’m not claiming to know for certain the inmost mind and heart of every Canaanite as they sat at home. We simply don’t know what every last Canaanite thought about dogs. Indeed, we don’t know fully what the most famous Canaanite of the entire first century–the Canaanite Woman–thought about dogs, which is the point. My reader’s entire sweeping, utterly confident narrative is a house of cards. Could it be accurate? Sure. Could it be completely wrong? Yes. After all, some Canaanites did, in fact, respect dogs so much as to give them formal burial. The Canaanite dog cemetery we discussed in Part 3 of this series says that not all Canaanites saw them as vermin. Did the Canaanite Woman? We have no certainty.
The point is this: super-confident declarations here are reckless, especially when they lead to this as your main claim:
In this Gospel story, the prepaschal Jesus insults a Canaanite woman requesting healing for her daughter by inferring that she is a ‘dog’ (Matthew 15:26)–considered vermin by first century Middle Easterners. Actually he begins his insulting stance towards her by ignoring her (Matthew 15:23). In this culture, an unrelated man and woman should not engage socially in public, all the more when the woman is a foreigner. This deed is culturally appropriate but rude and insulting. Furthermore, Jesus explains his behavior ethnocentrically: ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24). There is no obligation to engage in face work in such a context. The woman gives a perfect riposte to Jesus’ challenge, thus making this the only argument in the New Testament that Jesus LOSES. Nevertheless, as a GOOD LOSER, Jesus grants the favor.
This woman will not give up. The crowd and the Twelve look to Jesus. Is it that he is not able to do this? Jesus, the broker of the Patron (the God of Israel) must perform the service… and he does, saying her loyalty (faith in the Bible) is great. In other words, “touché!” Request granted.
My editor include this outtake from Convinced, which I did not know was available at Youtube. That was a fun day yakking with Don Johnson out in the back yard: