St Francis Q&A

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Commentary on Mk 7:24-30

On Feb. 8, Anon commented, “Father, I was really confused about the Gospel today (Mk 7:24-30) -- was Jesus refusing to help her initially because she wasn't a Jew and there was an hierarchal order to things? However, because of her faith in Who He Was, her daughter was healed?”

Here are some of the notes on this passage from the Jerome Biblical Commentary that will hopefully help to answer your questions, and shed light for others as well:

“The Syro-Phoenician Woman (7:24-30). This pericope continues the universalist theme of the Loaves Section, showing Jesus to be the Savior of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. A comparison with Mt 15: 21-28 shows that in the Gospel tradition the cure of the girl was developed into a pronouncement story on faith, whereas the dialogue between Jesus and the woman remained practically unchanged.

v. 26: a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician: Thus she stands in contrast to the Jew Jairus who was the ‘leader of a synagogue’ (5:22). Mark is more emphatic than Matthew about her being a Gentile both by religion and by birth. The reading ‘Syro’-Phoenician is not universally attested…

she asked him to cast the demon out of her daughter: Such requests are usually reported by Mark in direct discourse; in this story (vv. 27-28) the customary graphic touches are absent, and the attention is primarily on the dialogue in vv. 27-28.

v. 27: it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the pups: The connection of this pericope with the Loaves Section is maintained by the mention of bread (ton arton). It is difficult to account for the connection of this dialogue with the miracle because Jesus’ saying is more applicable to teaching than to a cure (cf. Mt 7:6). To say that the two were first combined in the Gospel tradition leaves unsolved the question why Jesus, who first refuses the woman’s request, ultimately accedes to it. The ‘children’ are the Jews (Ex 4:22, 14:1, Is 1:2; Hos 1:10; Rom 9:4). Gentiles were vulgarly called dogs…but Jesus uses the milder diminutive “pups”. His words betray a certain particularism (cf. Jn 4:22), and yet it is significant that he has the children and the pups in the same house and eating from the same table…

Jesus is the father who dispenses to his children the bread of life, and although at first he refuses to feed the pups until the children have been fed, the refusal is, as in Jn 2:4; 4:48, followed by a miracle, and Jesus ultimately feeds them too. This thought is quite in keeping with the universalism of the Loaves Section…

v. 28: even the pups under the table eat the children’s crumbs: The woman cleverly retorts that in eating what the children reject, the pups are only taking their due.

v. 29: for saying that, be on your way, the demon has left your daughter: No other miracle is so tersely narrated by Mark; as in Jesus’ other cures of Gentiles (Mt 8:5-13 par. Lk 7:1-10; Jn 4:46-54) this one occurs at a distance.”


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