Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Syro-Phoenician Woman

Jesus calls her a 'dog'. What this some kind of hyperbole? A test? I doubt it, those these are the classical Christian answers. If Jesus was raised in a strict exclusivist type Jewish household, and knew nothing but that kind of racialism, is His initial reaction to her a sin? Is it sinful to steal if you are taught your whole life that stealing is morally permissible or obligatory? Can one make a moral mistake without sinning?

If Jesus' reaction to the woman's righteous response was one of opening up His ministry, of becoming more worldwide in awareness, if He immediately abandoned that older view once He became truly aware of alternatives, does this flow from His sinlessness? I am inclined to this view: Jesus didn't know better before the Syro-Phoenician Woman, and indeed couldn't have known better. Once He met her, and was given the chance to know better, He did. So the sinlessness of Jesus is maintained. But this answer feels contrived and I'm not very certain of it.

I am convinced this is a historical event in Jesus life. No later editing here, no way out of the theological tension. It is a tough issue.

Perhaps Peter Berger and Marilyn McCord-Adams are right about sinlessness not being necessary for Jesus to be fully divine. Perhaps seeing sin as an objective fact, as metaphysical rather than moral, is the right way to go. I have made a distinction before, and I think it is a good one, between 'sinning' and 'being in sin'. Perhaps Jesus could commit sins without being 'in sin'. Stuff to think about....

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