Posted by: mattcolvin | December 5, 2011

Notes on Matthew 15: the Canaanite Woman’s Faith


Monday of the 2nd week in Advent: Matthew 15:21-28.

This is the story of thewoman with a demon-possessed daughter who prevails upon Jesus to heal her.

15:21 – Jesus “withdrew” (ἀνεχώρησεν) to the region of Tyre and Sidon. This verb marks a change of scene, and would also be used of a military withdrawal.

15:22 – The woman “cried out” (ἔκραζεν), just like the blind men in 9:27. Indeed, they all cry the same words: Ἐλέησόν με, κύριε υἱὸς Δαυίδ” — “Son of David, Lord, have mercy on me.” It is very interesting that the words are the same. We may either suppose that they are Matthew’s formula, or (more interestingly) that the Jews had a model of how to address the Messiah.

15:23 – Note the disciples’ annoyance at the woman “crying out behind them.” I believe this is deliberately echoed in Acts 16:17-18, when the girl possessed with the spirit of divination is following Paul around and “cried out… But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit…”

15:27 – The woman’s reply to Jesus’ harsh rebuke oddly employs the plural: “even the little dogs eat from the crumbs which fall from the table of their masters.” Why plural? Does she mean the Jews? If so, it is interesting that in Acts and Paul’s letters, salvation for the Gentiles is, indeed, the rejected leftovers of the Jews.


Responses

  1. That prayer right before communion has always bothered me. “We are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs from under the table…”

    What are your thoughts on it?

    • It is an artifact of what Warfield (approvingly) calls “miserable sinner Christianity.” It is not appropriate for the children of God to pretend that they are “little dogs”, and it is rather offensive for us to think that God sees us that way. So I agree with you.

      That said, I don’t think the author of that prayer (Cranmer?) intended the full meaning that the expression has in Matthew 15. In the context of the prayer book, it is merely an expression of humility and recognition of our own sinfulness, which is fine.

  2. Thanks, that’s helpful.


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