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Rethinking The Phoenician Woman

Posted on February 26, 2005 in Gender Myths & Mysticism

From Mark, Chapter 7:

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

28 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

square056.gifThis passage is usually given in defense of the notion that Jesus’s message was universal. And it was. But modern interpretations miss an important element of the interaction: a woman talked back to Jesus when he hinted that the Jews came before any other people.

And so I believe there is a subtext here to which we should pay heed: Jesus showed by example that you should listen to what people say regardless of their gender, religion, or nationality. If they make a compelling argument, then you should not stand on “traditional sex roles” or any other prejudice: you should acknowledge their better judgement and proceed accordingly.

This is scripture that all who hate in Christ’s name should read. I speak to male church elders, ministers, and others who would use their authority as men to subvert the Gospel message. Christ demonstrates how a man should treat a woman’s “backtalk”. And, perhaps, he points to us in the Twenty First Century: we’re overdue living as spiritual and intellectual equals. Any church which does not grant woman a voice on par with the men does not follow the Word as the Teacher preached it.

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