Dogs with Crumbs of Faith: What Jesus Learned from a Syro-Phoenician Woman

Dogs with Crumbs of Faith: What Jesus Learned from a Syro-Phoenician Woman August 12, 2019

When it comes to the subject of Jesus learning from women, the Syro-Phoenician or Canaanite woman who appears in the Gospels is the one example that most people (although by no means all) would point to as an example. The story certainly seems to many readers to involve Jesus having an encounter with a woman in which he learns something from her that changes his perspective. Many are uncomfortable with this notion, to be sure, whether because they don’t think Jesus learned, or because they don’t think he learned from women. Both those views, however, are seriously problematic both in relation to what the Gospels depict, and the humanity of Jesus.

I particularly appreciated Elizabeth Watson’s mentioning (in her discussion of this story in her book Wisdom’s Daughters) how twelve-step programs define humility in connection with Jesus’ humility illustrated in this story. “Humility is the willingness to become teachable.” This story illustrates Jesus’ humility, his teachability, in ways that directly challenge forms of Christian theology which can only affirm Jesus’ humility as a point of abstract dogma, and not as a reality when the rubber hit the road in his human life.

If one reads this story and that of the Centurion and his servant in sequence, one can trace a development in Jesus’ attitude towards Gentiles, and in particular, one can see the impact of what Jesus learned from this woman on his encounter with that man. Mark doesn’t include the story about the centurion. Matthew and Luke both add it in different places. I would love input on the question of whether that story was in Q. If so, it would be the only narrative of that sort. If both Matthew and Luke introduced it independently, placing it earlier than the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, did they do so to lessen the extent to which Jesus is seen to owe something to a woman’s influence?

Also about the story and related matters:

Did Jesus Ever Say “I’m Sorry”?

Because Jesus Choosing Male Disciples Doesn’t Mean What We Think….

A dog at the table

Yung Suk Kim’s perspective on the story

Ian Paul’s perspective on the story

Even Jesus fell short of perfect love

Morna Hooker on Mark’s Syro-Phoenician Woman

Mike Bird on Rachel Held Evans on Jesus the racist

Calling People Dogs: Juxtaposing Jesus and Trump

What we can learn from being offended

Civility and jokes

Hearing a Dog, Seeing a Human: Crossing a Border with Jesus

Thrown to the Dogs: Matthew 15:21-28

How To Handle Divine & Political Barriers: A Womanist Perspective

When a Woman Speaks

By Their Fruit … (RJS)

Also of possible interest is Daiana Felecan’s article, “The Canaanite woman’s request or about prayers as forms of linguistic politeness.” Also connected is a story that should probably be viewed as a sequel to this one, one in which we see clearly what Jesus learned from his encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman. See too Jared Byas on how Jesus responded to “interruptions.”

Somewhat distantly related, here is a post of mine from a while back about salvation and dogs (in the Book of Revelation and thus a rather different context).

Revelation 22:15: No Dogs Go To Heaven

Finally, and perhaps most distantly related to this topic, here is a review of a recent book on researching female faith.

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