Jesus loves you,
but only if you are Jewish
For today's lesson, we will look at one of Jesus's Biblical tossing out of a demon miracles - the tale is told with somewhat different details in both Matthew and Mark, but there are enough similarities that we can assume this event happened only once. We are looking at this, not for the miracle - but to see Jesus's clearly expressed attitude towards those who are not Jewish.
Mark 7 version
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 28 But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29 Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Matthew 15 version
21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ 24 He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ 26 He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 27 She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ 28 Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
So, putting the stories together - we have a woman who wants her daughter healed - but she's not Jewish. First, Jesus ignores her, and then he says "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." When she repeats her request, he compares her to a dog. As it still is today in the Middle East, calling someone a dog is one of the worst possible insults. And Jesus compared this woman, desperate for help, to a dog.
She swallows the insult, and turns it back saying that even dogs get crumbs from the table. Only then - after she has accepted the insulting comparison - does Jesus toss her the crumb of curing her daughter.
If you look for a Christian gloss on this, you will find arguments about how this shows Jesus's love and compassion for all humankind. But clearly the compassion was dragged out of him, and there is no indication whatsoever he changed his categorization of this poor woman as a dog.
So what do we learn here:
- Jesus, by his own words, was there only for the Jews.
- Paul's subsequent development of Christianity as a religion for Gentiles (dogs, as far as Jesus was concerned) was not Jesus's or his supposed father's intention.
- And when we hear "God is love" or "Jesus loves you," "love" at best refers to the feeling for a pet dog.
- Of course these differences are a logical impossibility in an inerrant text.
- If it happened twice, once with a Canaanite and again with a Syrophoenician (which implies she was either of Greek origin, or identified with Greek culture), then it only emphasizes the message - non-Jews were dogs as far as Jesus was concerned.