Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30
(Huck 116; Aland 151; Crook 170)
|Table of Contents|
To view the Greek text of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman click on the link below:
Conjectured Stages of Transmission
The story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman is found only in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Since we believe the author of Mark used the Gospel of Luke as his primary source, we are faced with the question of the origin of the Canaanite Woman story. Did Mark take the story of Jesus and the Canaanite Woman directly from the Anthology (Anth.), a source he shared with Luke? Did Mark take this story from some other written source or from oral tradition? Or did the author of Mark compose this pericope himself?
As we will discuss in the Comment section below, Mark’s version of the Canaanite Woman story is extremely difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew. On the other hand, the Canaanite Woman pericope in Mark is laden with signs of Mark’s editorial activity, including the use of diminutive nouns, εὐθύς, the historical present, and typically Markan themes such as Jesus’ desire for solitude and secrecy. If the author of Mark found the Canaanite Woman pericope in the Anthology, he must have reworked it so thoroughly as to entirely eliminate the Anthology’s Hebraic style of Greek. An analysis of Matthew’s version is necessary, therefore, to determine whether the Jesus and a Canaanite Woman story descended from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
There are significant differences between the Markan and Matthean versions of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman and minimal verbal agreement. If, in addition to the Gospel of Mark, the author of Matthew used Anth. as a parallel source for this pericope we would expect Matthew’s version of the Canaanite Woman story to be more Hebraic than Mark’s. In particular, we would expect to find examples of Hebraic Greek concentrated in precisely those places where Matthew’s version differs from Mark’s. However, as we will demonstrate in the Comment section below, Matthew’s version of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman is just as difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew as Mark’s version of this pericope. In the places where Matthew’s version diverges from Mark’s there are numerous signs of Matthean redaction, but scarcely any indication of an underlying Hebraic text.
The lack of evidence for a Hebraic text underlying the Markan and Matthean versions of the Canaanite Woman story, and the difficulty of reconstructing either version of this pericope in Hebrew, lead us to the conclusion that the story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman was not a part of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, and therefore did not derive from Anth. The author of Mark may have received the story about Jesus and a Canaanite Woman from oral tradition, or he may have composed the story himself. The author of Matthew, who used the Gospel of Mark as one of his two main sources, took the Canaanite Woman story from Mark and reworked it for his own purposes (on which, see below).
Our conclusion that Jesus and a Canaanite Woman cannot be traced back to the Hebrew Life of Yeshua does not require one to assume that the story is fictional. According to the Gospel of Mark, the disciples were not present to witness the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, and for that reason it might not have been recorded in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, which we believe was composed by an eyewitness to the events about which he wrote. If the story reports a real event, it would have been told by the Canaanite woman herself and passed on by people who received her testimony. If this were the case, the story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman would not have been told in Hebrew, which was spoken only by members of the Jewish community, it would have been formulated in Greek, or perhaps Aramaic. The author of Mark, who probably knew Aramaic as well as Greek, may have received such a report, perhaps even from individuals acquainted with the Canaanite woman or her daughter, and incorporated it into his Gospel. The author of Matthew would then have taken the story from Mark and modified it to suit his own literary and theological purposes.
The author of Mark placed the Canaanite Woman story in a section of his Gospel—beginning at Mark 6:45 and extending through Mark 8:26—which is unparalleled in the Gospel of Luke. This section of Mark is characterized by several unusual features, including two healing stories (Mark 7:32-37; 8:22-26) in which Jesus employs thaumaturgical techniques practiced by Hellenistic magicians and healers but not attributed to Jesus elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels, a story doublet (Feeding 4,000; Mark 8:1-13), and a geographically improbable tour that describes Jesus traveling in the opposite direction of his stated destination. According to Mark, after his encounter with the Canaanite woman Jesus went out from the borders of Tyre and came via Sidon to the Sea of Galilee passing through the midst of the Decapolis (Mark 7:31). A more circuitous route toward his destination territory can hardly be imagined, and since the journey took Jesus through Gentile territory it was in violation of his own prohibition against going in the way of the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5). Perhaps the best way to account for Jesus’ journey to the north and east of the ancient borders of Israel into Gentile territory is to suppose that Mark 6:45-8:26 is a literary construct that the author of Mark created in order to give the impression that Jesus conducted a mission to non-Jews.
It is possible that the author of Mark found inspiration for the literary construction of a Gentile mission for Jesus in the writings of Luke. If Mark had read in Luke Jesus’ woe against Chorazin and Bethsaida (“…if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon…”; Luke 10:13; RSV), he might have conceived the notion, contrary to the plain meaning of the text, that Jesus did indeed perform miracles in these cities and constructed a narrative that described such a journey. Another point of contact between the Canaanite Woman story and the writings of Luke was observed by John Chrysostom (fourth cent. C.E.), who noted that the transition from Mark’s account of Jesus’ discourse on ritual handwashing and eating impure foods (Mark 7:1-23) to the story of a Gentile who put faith in Jesus (Mark 7:24-30) follows the pattern of Acts 10 where Peter has a vision about non-kosher animals, which Peter then interprets as divine permission to share the gospel about Jesus with a Gentile.
It is also possible that the author of Mark borrowed the imagery of dogs and food from the table from the Rich Man and Lazar parable (Luke 16:19-31). Note the common vocabulary in Mark 7:27-28 and Luke 16:21:
|Mark 7:27-28||Luke 16:21|
|καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτῇ· ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα, οὐ γάρ ἐστιν καλὸν λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων καὶ τοῖς κυναρίοις βαλεῖν. ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίθη καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· κύριε· καὶ τὰ κυνάρια ὑποκάτω τῆς τραπέζης ἐσθίουσιν ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων τῶν παιδίων.||καὶ ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πειπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης τοῦ πλουσίου· ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ κύνες ἐρχόμενοι ἐπέλειχον τὰ ἕλκη αὐτοῦ.|
|And he said to her, “First let the children be filled, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”||…and he was desiring to be filled from what fell from the table of the rich man. But the dogs would come and lick his sores.|
In the Lukan parable Lazarus longed to be filled (χορτασθῆναι) with what fell from the table (τραπέζης) of the rich man, but instead dogs (κύνες) came and licked his sores. In the Canaanite Woman story Jesus says that the children should first be filled (χορτασθῆναι), and that it is not right to give their food to dogs (κυναρίοις), to which the woman replies that even the dogs (κυνάρια) under the table (τραπέζης) eat the crumbs. Lindsey believed that Mark frequently picked up words and phrases from Luke, Acts and the Pauline Epistles and used this picked-up vocabulary to rework the traditions he received, and possibly even to create new stories about Jesus not found in his sources. Although any individual instance of such recycling of Lukan material in Mark is difficult to prove, the cumulative evidence cannot be dismissed so easily. In the Jesus and a Canaanite Woman story we have identified at least three possible instances of Luke’s influence on Mark. If these examples are indications of Mark’s dependence on the writings of Luke, this strengthens our hypothesis that Jesus’ tour of Gentile lands described in Mark does not reflect an historical recollection, but is rather a theologically motivated literary invention of the author of Mark.
The author of Matthew placed Jesus and a Canaanite Woman in the same order as Mark, between the discourse on the causes of impurity (Matt. 15:1-20) and the Feeding 4,000 narrative (Matt. 15:29-39).
Since we have concluded that the story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman was not derived from a Hebraic source, and therefore did not stem from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, this pericope has not been included in the LOY Map.
L1 Ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς ἀπῆλθεν (Mark 7:24). Whereas ἀναστὰς δὲ + aorist can translate וַיָּקָם + vav-consecutive in LXX (cf., e.g., Gen. 23:7; 31:17; 32:23; Exod. 2:17), beginning a sentence with ἐκεῖθεν (ekeithen, “from there”) is un-Hebraic, as comparison with Delitzsch’s translation demonstrates.
Καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἐκεῖθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνεχώρησεν (Matt. 15:21). The καί + participle + aorist construction could reflect an underlying vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive pattern; however, it is more likely that the opening phrase in Matt. 15:21 is simply a paraphrase of Mark 7:24. Both Mark 7:24 and Matt. 15:21 use the adverb ἐκεῖθεν and a compound form of the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to go”). The verb ἀναχωρεῖν (anachōrein, “to depart”) is a Matthean term, occurring 10xx in Matthew, 1x in Mark and 0xx in Luke, and is therefore more likely to reflect Matthean redaction than the wording of a non-Markan source.
L2 εἰς τὰ ὅρια Τύρου (Mark 7:24). As we have noted, there is no indication in Luke that Jesus ever visited Tyre. Luke does mention that people came from the coastlands of Tyre and Sidon to see Jesus (τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος; Luke 6:17; cf. Mark 3:8), and Jesus condemned the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida on the grounds that, had the works he performed in those Galilean towns been done in Tyre and Sidon, those Gentile cities would have repented (Luke 10:13-14; cf. Matt. 11:21-22). Perhaps the author of Mark understood these references to Tyre in Luke as hints that Jesus once visited this region. If Mark was familiar with a tradition about an encounter between Jesus and a Phoenician woman, he would have had all the more reason for drawing such a conclusion, since he might have assumed that the encounter took place in or near a Phoenician city.
L3 καὶ Σειδῶνος (Matt. 15:21). Many New Testament manuscripts omit “and Sidon” in Mark 7:24. Copyists may have added the reference to Sidon in order to harmonize Mark 7:24 with Matthew’s version. The author of Matthew probably picked up the reference to Sidon from Mark 7:31.
L4-6 The author of Matthew omitted Mark’s description of Jesus entering a house, desiring anonymity, and being unable to escape notice.
L4 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς οἰκίαν (Mark 7:24). In Mark there are a number of stories or incidents in which Jesus is said to be in a house, but the owner of the house—and sometimes the location of the house—is left unspecified. These “ownerless” houses are an editorial feature of Mark’s Gospel. In Luke plenty of stories are set in a house, but the owner of the house is always identified (cf., e.g., Luke 4:38; 5:29; 7:36; 8:41; 14:1; 19:5). In Triple Tradition pericopae Luke and Matthew often agree against Mark to omit references to an “ownerless” house, an indication that a house was not mentioned in the pre-synoptic source(s) known to Luke and Matthew. In contrast to Luke, however, the author of Matthew picked up on Mark’s habit of setting stories in unidentified homes. These occur either in verses unique to Matthew’s Gospel or in verses heavily redacted by the author of Matthew.
In the Canaanite Woman story Jesus’ entrance into a home is especially unlikely if we are to understand that the house was the home of a Gentile. Evidence from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the book of Acts indicates that Jesus’ halachic approach to ritual purity included the avoidance of entering Gentile homes and that this practice was maintained by Jesus’ early followers (cf. Matt. 8:8; Luke 7:6; Acts 10:28; 11:3). According to Acts, a thrice-repeated vision was required to convince Peter to change his practice of not entering Gentile homes. Such divine intervention would hardly have been necessary had Peter’s master been known to frequent Gentile residences. We conclude, therefore, that the description of Jesus entering a home in the region of Tyre was a literary invention of the author of Mark.
L5 Delitzsch’s translation of L5 shows how difficult it is to reconstruct this part of Mark’s sentence. There are no indications to suggest any other conclusion than that the author of Mark composed this verse in Greek.
L7-9 Comparison of the Greek text of Mark 7:25 with Delitzsch’s translation demonstrates how difficult it is to reconstruct Mark’s sentence in Greek. Lindsey’s translation is closer to Mark’s arrangement of the clauses, but still has significantly different word order. This verse in Mark contains characteristically Markan features, including the use of εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”), the diminutive form θυγάτριον (thūgatrion, “little daughter”) and the term “impure spirit.”
L7 ἀλλ᾿ εὐθὺς ἀκούσασα γυνὴ περὶ αὐτοῦ (Mark 7:25). Note the similarity between this description and the story about the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage: ἀκούσασα γυνὴ περὶ αὐτοῦ (Mark 7:25); ἀκούσασα περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ (Mark 5:27). Both women hear about Jesus, which prompts them to seek him out.
καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ Χαναναία (Matt. 15:22). The author of Matthew identified the woman as a Canaanite. This phrase is the one instance in the Canaanite Woman story where Matthew’s version is apparently more Hebraic than Mark’s. Whereas Mark’s description of the woman as a Greek of Syro-Phoenician stock (L10) is practically impossible to reconstruct in Hebrew, Matthew’s phrase is quite easy to reconstruct in Hebrew as וְהִנֵּה אִשָׁה כְנַעֲנִית (vehinēh ’ishāh chena‘anit, “And behold, a Canaanite woman!”). In LXX καὶ ἰδού (kai idou, “and behold”) is the standard translation of וְהִנֵּה (vehinēh, “and behold”), and it is likely that וְהִנֵּה ultimately stands behind many instances of καὶ ἰδού in Matthew and Luke (καὶ ἰδού does not occur in Mark). However, not all instances of καὶ ἰδού in Matthew are necessarily derived from a source. Having encountered καὶ ἰδού so frequently in LXX and in his non-Markan source, the author of Matthew may have become so habituated to its use that he employed this phrase, which is coarse Greek, even when it did not occur in his sources.
As for the description of the woman as a Canaanite, Grintz contended that in Greek and Aramaic the word “Canaanite” is “simply devoid of meaning” and that it is only on account of “the meticulous fidelity of the present text of Matthew that we are left with this Hebrew ‘memorial.’” But is it true that Matthew’s reliance on a Hebrew source is the only plausible explanation for his description of the woman as a Canaanite? Two facts make Grintz’s contention unlikely. First, the numerous Scripture quotations in the Gospel of Matthew indicate that the community out of which this Gospel originated was biblically literate. Since Χαναναῖος (Chananaios, “Canaanite”) occurs no less than 71xx in LXX, this term would certainly have been meaningful for the Matthean community. Second, a variety of ancient sources indicate that Phoenicians used the term “Canaanite” as a self-designation well into the first century, and indeed for centuries thereafter.
Evidence for the continued use of the term “Canaanite” by Phoenicians comes from second-century coins from Beirut with bilingual inscriptions reading l’dk’ ’š bkn‘n (“Laodicia which is in Canaan”) and ΛΑ[οδίκεια ἡ ἐν] Φ[οινίκη] (“La[odicia which is in] Ph[oenicia]”); a reference by Philo of Byblos to an ancestor of the Phoenicians named Chna (= Canaan); and Augustine of Hippo’s testimony (fifth cent. C.E.) that the descendants of Phoenician colonists in North Africa continued to identify themselves as “Canaanites” in the Punic language, a Canaanite dialect. As the term Χαναναῖος would have been familiar to the author of Matthew from LXX, and since there were people in Matthew’s time who continued to identify themselves as Canaanite, it is unnecessary to postulate a Hebrew source to explain the use of this term in Matthew’s Gospel. The author of Matthew could have been aware that “Syro-Phoenician,” the description of the woman’s pedigree in Mark, was the equivalent of “Canaanite” without recourse to a Hebrew source.
Matthew’s motive for changing the description of the woman from “Syro-Phoenician” to “Canaanite” cannot simply be attributed to his awareness of the equivalence of these terms, however. It seems rather that the author of Matthew introduced this editorial change because of the rhetorical force he knew the term “Canaanite” would have for his audience. We believe the reason the author of Matthew chose to copy the Canaanite Woman story from Mark was that he wished to use this story to neutralize Jesus’ prohibition against going to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5; Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, L52), which he found in the Anthology. The author of Matthew therefore re-wrote Mark’s story to prove that even Canaanites, those idolatrous people whose wickedness was so great that they were supposed to have been exterminated by the Israelites, could find favor with God if they put their faith in Jesus. Using the term “Canaanite” increased the impact of the story for Matthew’s audience, which was familiar with biblical history.
Despite the inclusion of disparaging remarks about Gentile practices and beliefs in the Gospel of Matthew (cf., e.g., Matt. 6:7-8, 32), the overall tendency in Matthew is strongly Gentile inclusive. The author of Matthew rewrote the Healing a Centurion’s Slave story to imply that the Gentiles will displace the descendants of Abraham at the messianic banquet (Matt. 8:10-12), and revised the parable of the Wicked Tenants to suggest that the Kingdom will henceforth be given to the Gentiles (Matt. 21:43). Matthew’s Gospel concludes with a commandment to make disciples among the Gentiles (Matt. 28:19).
It is fascinating to observe how the author of Matthew retold stories about two representatives of the enemies of Israel—the Canaanites whom Israel conquered in the distant past, and the Romans who were the conquerors of Israel in the present—to advance his theological agenda.
ἀπὸ τῶν ὁρίων ἐκείνων (Matt. 15:22). Matthew’s use of ὅριον (horion, “boundary,” “border”) is an echo of εἰς τὰ ὅρια Τύρου (“to the borders of Tyre”) in Mark 7:24.
L9 ἐλθοῦσα προσέπεσε πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ (Mark 7:25). The woman falling at Jesus’ feet is reminiscent of the story about the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage, where we read: ἡ δὲ γυνὴ…ἦλθεν καὶ προσέπεσεν αὐτῷ (“But the woman…came and fell [before] him”; Mark 5:33). It is also similar to the action of Jairus (Yair) who falls at Jesus’ feet (πίπτει πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ; Mark 5:22) when he appeals to Jesus on behalf of his daughter (θυγάτριον; Mark 5:23). Thus, in the space of a single verse, Mark has alluded to the intertwined stories of Yair’s Daughter and a Woman’s Faith three times (the woman hears about Jesus, the diminutive of θυγάτηρ, falling at Jesus’ feet).
ἐξελθοῦσα ἔκραζεν λέγουσα (Matt. 15:22). Matthew’s ἐξελθοῦσα (exelthousa, “going out”) echoes ἐλθοῦσα (elthousa, “going”) in Mark 7:25. The verb κράζειν (krazein, “to cry out”) is Matthew’s preferred term for shouts of “Son of David!” (cf. Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15).
L10 ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς Συραφοινείκισσα τῷ γένει (Mark 7:26). Mark’s description of the woman’s ethnicity is practically impossible to reconstruct in Hebrew. Lindsey’s translation is וְהָאִשָּׁה יְוָנִית מִמּוֹצָא פִינִיקִי סוּרִי placed in parentheses. The word פִינִיקִי (Finiqi, “Phoenician”) does not occur in BH, DSS or rabbinic literature, although the proper noun פְּנִיקְיָא (Peniqyā’, “Phoenicia”) is attested in rabbinic sources. Likewise, סוּרִי (Sūri, “Syrian”) is unattested in ancient Jewish sources, although the proper noun סוּרְיָא (sūryā’, “Syria”; var. סוּרְיָיה [sūryyāh], סוּרְיָה [sūryāh]) does occur in rabbinic sources. Thus, in order to translate Mark’s description of the woman’s pedigree, Lindsey found it necessary to resort to Hebrew vocabulary that did not exist in the first century C.E., while Delitzsch, who confined himself to biblical and rabbinic terminology, produced an even less literal translation of Mark’s Greek text.
The construction ethno-geographic term + (τὸ) γένος is un-Hebraic; it is found only once in LXX where τῷ γένει Ισραηλ (tō genei Israēl, “to the race of Israel”; Jer. 38:1) is a loose translation of לְכֹל מִשְׁפְּחוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל (lechol mishpeḥōt yisrā’ēl, “to all the families of Israel”; Jer. 31:1). Apart from Mark 7:26, in NT we find the construction ethno-geographic term + (τὸ) γένος only in Acts, but it is a standard usage among Greek authors.
The term Συροφοῖνιξ (Sūrofoinix, “Syro-Phoenician”) was evidently quite rare in Greek. Apart from Mark 7:26, LSJ cite only one example from the work of the second-century C.E. author Lucian of Samosata. Comparison of Mark 7:26 with the example from Lucian is surprising, for whereas Mark describes the woman as both Greek and Syro-Phoenician, Lucian uses these terms as though they were mutually exclusive:
Διόνυσος…οὐδὲ Ἕλλην μητρόθεν ἀλλὰ Συροφοίνικός τινος ἐμπόρου τοῦ Κάδμου θυγατριδοῦς….
Dionysus…on his mother’s side he is not even Greek, but the grandson of a Syrophoenician trader named Cadmus…. (Parliament of the Gods §4)
Probably Mark’s description should be understood to mean that although the woman was ethnically Phoenician, she was culturally hellenized—in other words, at the very least a Greek speaker.
In the writings of Philo we find a description of Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah the patriarch (Gen. 38:6), which is similar to Mark’s description of the Syro-Phoenician woman:
Θάμαρ ἦν τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς Παλαιστίνης Συρίας γύναιον
Tamar was a woman from Palestinian Syria. (Virt. §221; Loeb)
The Greek construction of ethno-geographic term + (τὸ) γένος, and the extreme difficulty in reproducing Mark’s description in Hebrew, lead us to conclude that Mark’s words in L10 were composed in Greek.
L11 ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ (Mark 7:26). The construction ἵνα + subjunctive is un-Hebraic and often indicative of Greek editing or composition.
לְגָרֵשׁ אֶת הַשֵּׁד (Mark 7:26; Delitzsch). Whereas Delitzsch used גֵּרֵשׁ (gērēsh, “drive out”) as the equivalent of ἐκβάλλειν (ekballein, “to cast out”), Lindsey preferred הוֹצִיא (hōtzi’, “cause to go out,” “bring out”). For Lindsey’s reasons, see the discussion in Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L21.
ἐλέησόν με, κύριε υἱὸς Δαυείδ (Matt. 15:22). Mark and Luke each report one story in which someone calls out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Man Healed of Blindness; Mark 10:47-48; Luke 18:38-39). Matthew tells this story too (Matt. 20:30-31), but he also reports two other stories in which a plea for mercy from David’s son appears: Two Men Healed of Blindness (Matt. 9:27) and Jesus and a Canaanite Woman (Matt. 15:22). The cry for mercy from the Son of David must have had particular significance for the author of Matthew or the community for which he composed his Gospel, since it appears in Matthew with much greater frequency than in Mark or Luke. In the Canaanite Woman story, however, the title “Son of David” seems out of place. How would a Gentile woman know about Jewish messianic expectations? And even if she were aware of these expectations, what meaning could they have for her? After all, “Son of David” is an especially ethno-centric and politically charged messianic title that could hardly have positive connotations for a person of Canaanite ancestry. Perhaps on the lips of a Gentile woman this messianic title expresses the author of Matthew’s conception of his community as the true spiritual Israel of Gentile stock that has dispossessed the natural “sons of the kingdom,” the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (cf. Matt. 8:11-12).
ἡ θυγάτηρ μου κακῶς δαιμονίζεται (Matt. 15:22). In place of the woman’s direct request for Jesus to cast out the demon in Mark, in Matthew’s version the woman’s request is less specific: she asks for mercy on behalf of her daughter who is sorely demonized. The verb δαιμονίζεσθαι (daimonizesthai, “to be demonized”) occurs in Matthew with a higher frequency than in Mark or Luke, and we have observed that the author of Matthew often avoided Mark’s use of “impure spirit,” replacing this term with “demon,” “demoniac” or “demonized.” Since Mark used “impure spirit” in L8, and since δαιμονίζεσθαι never occurs in LXX and appears to be un-Hebraic, “demonized” in L11 is best explained as stemming from Matthew’s usual editorial habits.
L12-16 Matthew 15:23-25 has no parallel in Mark’s version of the Canaanite Woman story. Jesus’ unresponsiveness and the disciples’ request to send the woman away heighten the dramatic tension, which in turn increases the impact of the resolution when Jesus apparently broadens his mission to include more than just “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew’s importation of this phrase from the Conduct on the Road pericope (Matt. 10:6) is the key to understanding Matthew’s thorough rewriting of Mark’s story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman. By repeating the restrictive slogan τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ in a context where Jesus reverses course, the author of Matthew was able to defuse the meaning of a saying he could not deny. Apparently Jesus’ command to the apostles to go “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6) was so well known that the only way for the author of Matthew to neutralize this statement was to place it in a tendentious revision of a story that shows Jesus himself changing his opinion.
L13 καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ (Matt. 15:23). Note that in Mark’s version the disciples are not present to witness the exchange between Jesus and the woman who came to seek deliverance for her daughter. According to Mark, Jesus had gone to the region of Tyre specifically to seek solitude. By introducing the disciples into the story the author of Matthew makes them witnesses of Jesus’ change of course, which strengthens the impact of the story.
L14 ἀπόλυσον αὐτήν ὅτι κράζει ὄπισθεν ἡμῶν (Matt. 15:23). Nolland noted that the disciples’ request to send the woman away is patterned after the similar request to send away the crowds in the Feeding 5,000 story (Matt. 14:15; Luke 9:12). As Nolland notes, the modeling of the disciples’ request to send away the Canaanite woman on the similar request in the Feeding 5,000 story undermines the opinion of some commentators who interpret the request to mean “send the woman away with what she wants.” It was in keeping with the instructions they had received (Matt. 10:5-6) that the disciples intended to deny the woman’s request. It is the author of Matthew’s intention to show how callous was the restriction of Jesus’ mission to Israel alone.
L15 τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ (Matt. 15:24). The phrase “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” is unique to Matthew in the Gospels, where it appears twice: in Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve (Matt. 10:6) and here in the story of Jesus and a Canaanite woman. Jeremias believed that “It is impossible to question the authenticity of Matt. 15:24,” and argued that “Matthew’s only reason for preserving the logion in spite of its repellent implication was that it bore the stamp of the Lord’s authority.” Davies and Allison, on the other hand, admitted that Matt. 15:24 was “redactionally inserted into a Markan pericope,” but they took this as evidence that the limitation of Jesus’ mission to Israel “had special meaning for [the author of Matthew—DNB and JNT] and was congenial to him.” For Davies and Allison, Jesus’ confinement of his activities to ethnic Israel was important to Matthew because this proved God’s covenant faithfulness to the descendants of Abraham. We do not accept either of these positions.
Unlike Jeremias, but in agreement with Davies and Allison, we believe that in the Canaanite Woman story Jesus’ statement about being sent only to Israel is an editorial insertion that the author of Matthew introduced from a different context. But contrary to Davies and Allison, we do not agree that the restriction of Jesus’ mission to Israel was a congenial concept for the author of Matthew. Quite the opposite: the author of Matthew found the notion that Jesus’ mission was confined to ethnic Israel to be completely repugnant, and for precisely this reason he reworked the Canaanite Woman story he found in Mark in order to refute and effectively repeal the “Israel only” slogan.
Jesus’ prohibition against going to any but the lost sheep of the house of Israel bears the marks of authenticity: the prohibition can be easily reconstructed in Hebrew (see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L55); it fits ideas and vocabulary Jesus articulated elsewhere (see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L55); the use of the name “Israel” (as opposed to “the Jews”) is insider language, more likely to be spoken by someone who identified himself as a part of Israel than composed by the author of Matthew, who regarded his community to be in competition with Israel; and the prohibition is historically plausible.
Unlike the author of Luke, who simply omitted the prohibition against going to the Gentiles in Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve, the author of Matthew evidently felt constrained to acknowledge this prohibition. Perhaps the prohibition was too well known within the Matthean community for Matthew to ignore. Maybe the command to go only to Israel had attracted attention in the course of polemical exchanges between Christian Jews and Gentile Christians over the legitimacy of the post-resurrection Gentile mission. Whatever the case, although Matthew could not ignore the saying, the rhetorical force of repeating the “Israel only” slogan in the Canaanite Woman story is to undermine its authority and deny its continuing validity. By rewriting Mark’s story about Jesus and a Canaanite Woman, the author of Matthew intended to show that Jesus himself had changed his opinion and abrogated the prohibition against going to the Gentiles.
L16 ἡ δὲ ἐλθοῦσα προσεκύνει αὐτῷ (Matt. 15:25). Matthew uses the verb προσκυνεῖν (proskūnein, “to prostrate oneself,” “to worship”) much more frequently than the other synoptic writers. Apart from the temptation narrative, where Satan demands worship, in Matthew worship or prostration is always directed toward Jesus. In Luke, by contrast, the verb προσκυνεῖν is not used for prostration before Jesus except in post-resurrection appearances.
κύριε βοήθει μοι (Matt. 15:25). Matthew places the language of the Psalms on the lips of the Canaanite woman. As with her cry to the “Son of David,” it is Matthew’s intention to show that the Gentile woman has a faith in Jesus which he believed the Jews of his day ought to have had.
L17 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτῇ (Mark 7:27). Lindsey considered the use of the imperfects ἔλεγεν and ἔλεγον to be a Markan stereotype. Its use here is another clue suggesting Markan authorship of the Canaanite Woman pericope.
ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν (Matt. 15:26). At this point Matthew begins again to pick up Mark’s narrative, but he does not copy Mark’s wording. Instead, Matthew repeats “but answering he said” from Matt. 15:24 (L15). This phrase will appear again, with slight variation, in Matt. 15:28 (L22). Such repetition is a literary device that emphasizes Jesus’ dramatic change of opinion at the end of the story.
L18 ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα (Mark 7:27). Some scholars have suggested that Mark’s “Let the children first be fed” is an echo of Paul’s motto, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι (“to the Jew first, [but] also to the Gentile”; Rom. 1:16). If this suggestion is correct, then we may have discovered Mark’s motivation for referring to the Syro-Phoenician woman as a Greek. Lindsey believed that Mark often picked up words and phrases from the Pauline Epistles to embellish his Gospel narratives. Comparison with Delitzsch’s translation shows that Mark’s word order is un-Hebraic.
L19 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν καλὸν λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων καὶ τοῖς κυναρίοις βαλεῖν (Mark 7:27). Unlike the narration of the story, Matthew’s record of Jesus’ speech is nearly identical to Mark’s wording. Mark uses a diminutive form for “dog,” which Matthew copied. As we noted above (Comment to L8), the author of Mark was partial to diminutive forms. In this instance, however, it is possible that Mark used the diminutive form in order to indicate a household pet as distinct from a guard dog or a hunting dog. In any case, his usage is un-Hebraic since there is no diminutive form of כֶּלֶב (kelev, “dog”).
The scene Mark and Matthew have Jesus describe, in which dogs are present at the family dinner, is culturally inappropriate for a first-century Jewish context. Whereas in the larger Greco-Roman society dogs were often portrayed positively and regarded affectionately as pets—one has only to think of Odysseus’ dog Argos (Homer, Odyssey 17:290)—the status of dogs in Jewish sources is much less privileged. Dogs might be kept by shepherds out of doors or in courtyards to guard property, but in first-century Jewish culture dogs had no place in the home where the family ate its meals. Even the dog in Tobit, which is exceptional in Jewish literature for its positive portrayal, is not a family pet; it is a hunting dog or a guard dog that is never depicted in the home and is not dignified with a personal name. It is culturally improbable that Jesus would have suggested a scenario like the one imagined in Mark 7:27 and Matt. 15:26.
Bread as a food for dogs, on the other hand, while it might sound strange in a contemporary Western setting, was the ancient norm. Jewish sources refer to עִיסַּת הַכְּלָבִים (‘isat hakelāvim, “dogs’ dough”), which shepherds might feed to dogs (m. Hal. 1:8; cf. t. Hal. 15). We also read of bread being given to dogs in popular works like Aesop’s Fables, and in more literary works like the writings of Columella. It is therefore unnecessary to translate ἄρτος (artos, “bread”) in this context with the generic term “food.”
L20 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ (Mark 7:28). Mark introduces the woman’s response using an historical present. Historical presents are un-Hebraic, but are typical of Mark’s compositional style.
L21 ναὶ κύριε καὶ τὰ κυνάρια ὑποκάτω τῆς τραπέζης ἐσθίουσιν ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων τῶν παιδίων (Mark 7:28). In addition to the diminutive form for dog, Mark uses two other diminutive forms: ψιχίον (psichion, dim. of ψίξ [psix, “crumb”]) and παιδίον (paidion, dim. of παῖς [pais, “child,” “servant”]). Matthew accepted Mark’s word for crumbs.
Whereas Mark’s version of the woman’s response could be understood to mean that the children themselves give their leftovers to the dogs, Matthew has elaborated the imagery by introducing a lord or master, who becomes the passive benefactor of the dogs, who get to eat what falls off his table. Mark’s version is better suited to the woman’s actual situation, since her argument was that it would not be wrong for Jesus, one of the sons, to actively share with the dogs (i.e., herself and her daughter).
The exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman is similar to an exchange Philostratus described between a critic and a man named Damis who, as a follower of the itinerant philosopher Apollonius, wrote a chronicle of his teacher’s sayings. According to Philostratus, some readers found fault with Damis’ writings because of his poor grasp of the Greek language (Damis was a native of Nineveh):
And I may mention the answer which he [Damis—DNB and JNT] made to one who cavilled and found fault with this journal. It was a lazy fellow and malignant who tried to pick holes in him, and remarked that he had recorded well enough a lot of things, for example, the opinions and ideas of his hero, but that in collecting such trifles as these he reminded him of dogs who pick up and eat the fragments which fall from a feast. Damis replied thus: “If the banquets are those of gods, and it is gods who are being fed, surely they must have attendants whose business it is that not even the parcels of ambrosia that fall to the ground should be lost.” (Life of Apollonius 1:19; Loeb)
In both stories the person who is scorned for being like a dog outwits an adversary by turning the comparison to his or her advantage. Another point of comparison is that the protagonist of each story is a foreigner who represents an ancient civilization (Phoenician/Canaanite in Mark and Matthew; Assyrian in Philostratus).
The story about Jesus and a Canaanite Woman can also be compared to the following anecdote about Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi:
רבי פתח אוצרות בשני בצורת אמר יכנסו בעלי מקרא בעלי משנה בעלי גמרא בעלי הלכה בעלי הגדה אבל עמי הארץ אל יכנסו דחק רבי יונתן בן עמרם ונכנס אמר לו רבי פרנסני אמר לו בני קרית אמר לו לאו שנית א″ל לאו אם כן במה אפרנסך [א″ל] פרנסני ככלב וכעורב פרנסיה בתר דנפק יתיב רבי וקא מצטער ואמר אוי לי שנתתי פתי לעם הארץ אמר לפניו ר′ שמעון בר רבי שמא יונתן בן עמרם תלמידך הוא שאינו רוצה ליהנות מכבוד תורה מימיו בדקו ואשכח אמר רבי יכנסו הכל
Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] opened his storehouses during a period of privation. He said, “Students of Scripture, students of Mishnah, students of Gemara, students of halacha, students of aggadah may enter. But ame haaretz [i.e., common folk] may not enter.” Rabbi Yonatan ben Amram pressed in and entered. He said to him, “Rabbi, give me sustenance!” He said to him, “Have you learned Scripture?” He said to him, “No.” He said to him, “Have you learned Mishnah?” He said to him, “No.” “If so, why should I give you sustenance?” “Give me sustenance like the dog and like the raven.” So he gave him sustenance. After he went away, Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]’s conscience smote him and he said, “Woe to me that I gave my piece of bread to an am haaretz.” Rabbi Shimon ben Rabbi Sama said before him, “It was Rabbi Yonatan ben Amram, your student, who wishes never to receive benefit from the glory of the Torah.” It was checked and found to be the case, so Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] said, “All may enter [the storehouse].” (b. Bab. Bat. 8a)
The main points of comparison here are the refusal on the part of a Jewish sage to help someone in need, the argument on the part of the needy person that he or she should be treated at least as well as a dog, and the sage’s change of policy.
L22 τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῇ (Matt. 15:28). For the third time we have in Matthew the phrase “answering, he/Jesus said,” but this time the phrase is introduced by the conjunction τότε (tote, “then”). The use of τότε is typical of Matthean redaction. Here Matthew has introduced a variation to the introduction of Jesus’ response using τότε in order to highlight the change of heart the woman’s witty remark provoked.
L23 ὦ γύναι μεγάλη σου ἡ πίστις (Matt. 15:28). Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman is reminiscent of his response to the centurion: παρ᾿ οὐδενὶ τοσαύτην πίστιν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ εὗρον (“with no one in Israel have I found such faith!”; Matt. 8:10). The author of Matthew probably intended his readers to make this association. Both the Healing a Centurion’s Slave and the Canaanite Woman stories were highly edited by Matthew to make similar points about the acceptance of Gentiles on account of their demonstrations of faith.
L24 διὰ τοῦτον τὸν λόγον (Mark 7:29). Matthew’s emphasis on faith is made more conspicuous by its absence in Mark. In Mark’s version Jesus does not mention faith, but only the woman’s words: “because of this saying….”
γενηθήτω σοι ὡς θέλεις (Matt. 15:28). In Matthew—but not in Mark or Luke—Jesus makes similar pronouncements to the centurion (ὡς ἐπίστευσας γενηθήτω σοι [“As you had faith, let it be done to you”; Matt. 8:13]) and to the blind men who called out for mercy from the Son of David (κατὰ τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν [“According to your faith, let it be done to you”; Matt. 9:29]). The formula γενηθήτω + personal pronoun as a result of faith is a sign of Matthean redaction.
L25 καὶ ἀπελθοῦσα εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς εὗρε τὸ παιδίον βεβλημένον ἐπὶ τὴν κλείνην καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐξεληλυθός (Mark 7:30). Mark’s conclusion, with its string of participles (ἀπελθοῦσα…βεβλημένον…ἐξεληλυθός), is not what we would expect from a Hebraic-Greek source.
καὶ ἰάθη ἡ θυγάτηρ αὐτῆς ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης (Matt. 15:28). Matthew’s conclusion of the Canaanite Woman story echoes the ending of the Healing a Centurion’s Slave story, where we find καὶ ἰάθη ὁ παῖς [αὐτοῦ] ἐν τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (“And his slave was healed in that hour”; Matt. 8:13). The three instances of the phrase ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης in NT are all in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 9:22; 15:28; 17:18).
The story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman appears only in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. The two versions have very different wording except for Jesus’ reply about not taking a child’s food to give to a dog and the woman’s retort that even a dog has the benefit of the leftovers.
Mark’s version of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman is so thoroughly saturated with Markan themes and vocabulary that we are led to the conclusion that the author of Mark composed this pericope on his own. This is not to say that he made up the story, but rather the telling of the story is not based on a written source. The author of Mark told the story “in his own words.” Among the grammatical features that are distinctive of Mark’s compositional style are the stereotype εὐθύς (L7) and the exaggerated use of diminutives (θυγάτριον, L8; κυνάριον, L19, L21; ψιχίον, L21; παιδίον, L21, L25). The setting of the story in a house whose owner is undisclosed (L4) and Jesus’ desire for anonymity and his inability to elude detection (L5-6) are literary themes typical of Mark’s style. Mark’s version of the Canaanite Woman story draws on images and vocabulary from Yair’s Daughter and a Woman’s Faith (Mark 5:21-43), including hearing about Jesus, the petitioner falling at Jesus’ feet, and the reference to the little girl as θυγάτριον. Un-Hebraic constructions such as ethno-geographic term + (τὸ) γένος (L10) and ἵνα + subjunctive (L11), as well as the overall difficulty in reconstructing Mark’s version of the Canaanite Woman story in Hebrew indicate that Mark did not rely on a Hebraic-Greek source. The Canaanite Woman story in Mark was originally composed in Greek, in all likelihood by the author of Mark himself.
Matthew’s version of the Canaanite Woman story is told in words very different from Mark’s version. This has led some scholars to conclude that Matthew’s version was supplemented by a second source in addition to Mark’s version. If Matthew’s version of the Canaanite Woman story was partly based on a Hebraic source, we would expect to find Hebraic features, particularly in the places were Matthew’s version diverges from Mark’s. Our discussion has shown, however, that most of Matthew’s changes are very un-Hebraic, although they are consistent with Matthew’s own editorial habits. The one Hebraic sentence, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” was imported from a different context (Matt. 10:6). Matthew’s version is characterized by Matthean vocabulary (ἀναχωρεῖν, L1; κράζειν, L9, L14; υἱὸς Δαυείδ, L11; δαιμονίζεσθαι, L11; τότε, L22; γενηθήτω + personal pronoun, L24; ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης, L25), and in his retelling of the Canaanite Woman story he added allusions to the Healing a Centurion’s Slave (Matt. 8:5-10, 13; amazement at the petitioner’s faith, L23; “Let it be to you,” L24; “from that hour,” L25), the Feeding 5,000 (Matt. 14:13-21; the disciples request to send the woman away, L14) and the Two Men Healed of Blindness stories (Matt. 20:29-34; “Have mercy, Son of David,” L11).
We have detected a strong motivation that lies behind most of Matthew’s rewriting of the Canaanite Woman story: the author of Matthew sought to neutralize the restriction of the apostles’ mission to Israel by telling a story in which Jesus himself reversed his previous policy. None of Matthew’s revisions to Jesus and a Canaanite Woman require the supposition that Matthew combined Mark’s version with a second source.
The story of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite (or Syro-Phoenician) woman does not show signs of having descended from a Hebraic source. This conclusion does not mean that the story is fictional, only that it did not appear in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. This conclusion also helps us understand why the story of the Canaanite woman does not occur in Luke, even though the author of Luke was particularly interested in stories about women and Gentiles. Luke’s main sources were Anth. and FR, both of which descended from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Since the Canaanite Woman story did not appear in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, it did not appear in Anth. or FR either. Mark supplemented his Gospel with this story, which might have come to him via oral tradition, and Matthew reused the Canaanite Woman story because he found it to be a convenient vehicle for conveying his own theological message.
-  For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’“ ↩
-  For an overview of our understanding of how the Synoptic Gospels are interrelated, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’” ↩
-  For a discussion of typical features of Markan redaction, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.” ↩
-  See France, 297; Marcus, 1:466. ↩
-  Other scholars have also concluded that Mark was Matthew’s sole source for the Canaanite Woman pericope. Among these are Davies-Allison (2:543), Hagner (2:439), Nolland (Matt., 631) and Luz (2:336). ↩
-  When applying his seventeen criteria for determining whether a Greek text is the translation of a Semitic source to the Jesus and a Canaanite Woman pericope, Martin concluded that the Canaanite Woman story falls in the middle category between what is clearly a Greek composition and what is clearly a translation of a Semitic source. According to Martin’s criteria, Matthew’s version is somewhat more Semitic than Mark’s. See Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1987), 44. ↩
-  The disciples are mentioned in Matthew’s version (Matt. 15:23), but they were written into the story by the author of Matthew. ↩
-  According to Mark 7:26, the woman was a Greek, which may be a reference to her language and culture. ↩
-  In the first century C.E., Aramaic was spoken by many non-Greek Gentile inhabitants of the eastern Roman Empire. Cf. Marcus, 1:462. ↩
-  The Gospel of Mark is the only Gospel to include Aramaic sentences. See Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Greek Transliterations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Hebrew/Aramaic Words in the Synoptic Gospels.” On the author of Mark’s use of Aramaic, see Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem,” thesis 4; David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  For this reason, scholars who accept the theory of Markan Priority often refer to this section as Luke’s Great Omission. For a challenge to this scholarly assumption, see Halvor Ronning, “Who Made the ‘Omission,’ Luke or Mark?“ ↩
-  The Hellenistic thaumaturgical techniques include the use of “power words” (εφφαθα; Mark 7:34) and the use of saliva (Mark 7:33; 8:23). See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  Notley observes that Mark’s topographical descriptions of Jesus’ movements in Mark 6:45-8:26 are both puzzling and problematic. In Mark 6:45, for instance, Jesus instructs the disciples to go by boat to Bethsaida on the other side of the lake. In Mark 6:53, however, when the disciples have “crossed over” they arrive not in Bethsaida, but in Gennesaret on the western shore of the lake, presumably near the point from which they had launched their boat. In other words, the disciples made a U-turn in the course of their voyage across the lake. It is not until Mark 8:22, where Mark begins to recount the healing of a blind man, that the author of Mark has Jesus and the disciples arrive in Bethsaida. It is noteworthy that it is immediately following the conclusion of this narrative that the Lukan and Markan narratives resume contact. As Notley writes:
It is during the crossing of the Sea of Galilee that the literary gap, “the Great Omission,” begins. While in Luke’s Gospel Jesus and his disciples arrive at the intended destination, such is not the case in Mark and Matthew. These Evangelists give no indication that they are aware of a change of direction…. It seems more than a coincidence that the literary disjuncture between Mark and Luke coincides with a corresponding geographical parting of the ways…. In light of the Markan U-turn on the lake, if Luke is relying upon Mark for the structure of his Gospel, he has uncannily nuanced the geographical lapse of Mark and eliminated the circuitous route to Bethsaida. Most scholars would hardly allow such sophisticated knowledge of the land by Luke.
See R. Steven Notley, “Literary and Geographical Contours of ‘The Great Omission’” (Rainey-Notley, 360-362; quotation on 361). ↩
-  Notley suggests that mention of the Decapolis (Δεκάπολις; 3xx in NT: Matt. 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31) might be evidence of a post-70 C.E. date for the composition of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (Luke does not use this term). In Josephus the few references to the Decapolis (Life 341 [τὰς ἐν τῇ Συρίᾳ δέκα πόλεις], Life 342 [τῶν δέκα πόλεων], Life 410 [τῆς Συρίας δέκα πόλεων]; J.W. 3:446 [δεκαπόλεως]) are in the context of the Jewish revolt in the Galilee. Since there is no mention of the Decapolis in Greek or Latin sources prior to the Jewish revolt, Notley writes that the Decapolis “may have stemmed from the desire of these cities to define themselves in contradistinction to the neighboring regions heavily populated with Jews, who had recently rebelled against Rome. Use of the term ‘Decapolis’ in the Gospels may reflect the period in which the individual writings were composed (i.e., post-70 CE), because there is no corroborating evidence to suggest that the Decapolis was known in the days of Jesus” (Rainey-Notley, 362).
Bundy (279) noted that “Tyre, Sidon, and Decapolis are instances of geographical proper names which occur often in the latter part of Mark’s Galilean story and which always appear at the beginning or at the end of the stories to which they are attached. They never appear in the body of the stories, and they are unorganic to them. In general they are to be regarded as the editorial contribution of Mark, as his attempt to give unlocalized stories a known scene and setting.”
For references to the Decapolis in ancient sources, see S. Thomas Parker, “The Decapolis Reviewed,” Journal of Biblical Literature 94.3 (1975): 437-441. ↩
-  On the prohibition against going to Gentiles in Matt. 10:5, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L52. ↩
-  Taylor (633) wrote: “No preaching or teaching to Gentiles is recorded [in Mark 7] because the tradition had no knowledge of it, and, although the disciples suddenly reappear in [Mark] viii. 1-21, in the region of Tyre Jesus is alone. No mission to the Gentiles is recorded; only intimations of such a ministry. The section is a defeated attempt to represent what would have been welcomed if the tradition could have supplied the evidence.” Cf. Jeremias’ statement that “The topographical details in [Mark] 7.24, 31; 8.4, 13, 22, 27 might suggest that Mark intended this section to be a description of an extended activity among the Gentiles on the part of Jesus; but an analysis of the section leads to the result that the only concrete material which the evangelist possessed for this supposed Gentile activity on the part of Jesus consisted of the story of the Syrophoenician woman” (Joachim Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations: The Franz Delitzsch Lectures for 1953 [London: SMC Press, 1958], 33). ↩
-  Cf. Matt. 11:21. The saying is not found in Mark. ↩
-  John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 52:1; cf. Davies-Allison, 2:543; Marcus 1:466. ↩
-  It must be noted that there is also a phrase that, in NT, occurs only in Luke 16:21 and in Matthew’s version of the Canaanite Woman story, namely, τῶν πειπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης (“that which is falling from the table”; Matt. 15:27). While it is theoretically possible that Matthew picked up this phrase from Luke or that Luke picked up this phrase from Matthew, the preponderance of evidence leads to the conclusion that Luke and Matthew had no knowledge of one another’s works. ↩
-  See Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.” ↩
-  See Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L2. ↩
-  Within the Synoptic Gospels, the verb ἀναχωρεῖν is found in Matt. 2:12, 13, 14, 22; 4:12; 9:24; 12:15; 14:13; 15:21; 27:5; Mark 3:7. ↩
-  See Metzger, 95. ↩
-  Mark mentions unidentified houses in Mark 2:1; 3:20; 7:17, 24; 9:28, 33; 10:10. ↩
-  See Hawkins, 35. ↩
-  There is not a single example in Luke or Matthew of agreement with Mark’s mention of an unidentified house:
- Mark 2:1 (TT); cf. Matt. 9:1; Luke 5:17 (This may be a possible exception, however, since the “roof” of a building is mentioned in Luke 5:19 when the paralyzed man is lowered down to Jesus, so this may imply a house—whose owner is unidentified—even if the word “house” isn’t used in the story.)
- Mark 3:20 (TT); no equivalent verse in Matt. or Luke
- Mark 7:17 (Mark-Matt.); cf. Matt. 15:15
- Mark 7:24 (Mark-Matt.); cf. Matt. 15:21
- Mark 9:28 (TT); cf. Matt. 17:19; no equivalent verse in Luke
- Mark 9:33 (TT); cf. Matt. 18:1; Luke 9:46
- Mark 10:10 (Mark-Matt.); cf. Matt. 19:10
-  In Matthew unidentified houses are mentioned in the following passages:
- Matt. 9:10 (TT); cf. Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29 (In this instance Matthew might have expected readers to infer that the house belonged to Matthew, the tax collector who is mentioned in the previous verse. See Call of Levi, Comment to L27.)
- Matt. 9:28 (U)
- Matt. 13:1 (TT); cf. Mark 4:1; Luke 8:4
- Matt. 13:36 (U)
- Matt. 17:25 (U)
-  Davies-Allison (2:546) state that the conclusion that the home in the region of Tyre where Jesus is said to have stayed was the home of a Gentile is inevitable. ↩
-  For a discussion of Jesus’ halachic avoidance of Gentile homes, see Peter J. Tomson, “Jewish Purity Laws as Viewed by the Church Fathers and by the Early Followers of Jesus,” in Purity and Holiness: The Heritage of Leviticus (ed. M. J. H. M. Poorthius and J. Schwartz; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 73-91, esp. 87-89. ↩
-  Lindsey’s translation of Mark 7:25 is as follows: כִּי מִיָּד שָׁמְעָה עָלָיו אִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר בִּתָּהּ אֲחוּזַת רוּחַ טֻמְאָה וַתָּבוֹא וַתִּפֹּל לְרַגְלָיו. See Lindsey, HTGM, 115. ↩
-  On the use of εὐθύς in Mark, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes”; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” in the entry for Mark 1:10. ↩
-  The term θυγάτριον occurs only 2xx in NT: Mark 5:23; 7:25. On Mark’s tendency to use diminutive forms, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  The author of Mark picked up on the term “impure spirit” in Luke and expanded its use. See Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” under the entry for Mark 1:23. ↩
-  See Marcus, 1:467. ↩
-  Grintz cited Matthew’s description of the woman in Matt. 15:22 as “Canaanite” as evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was translated directly from a Hebrew source. See Jehoshua Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple,” Journal of Biblical Literature 79 (1960): 32-47, esp. 35. ↩
-  The phrase καὶ ἰδού occurs 28xx in Matthew: Matt. 2:9; 3:16, 17; 4:11; 7:4; 8:2, 24, 29, 32, 34; 9:2, 3, 10, 20; 12:10, 41, 42; 15:22; 17:3, 5; 19:16; 20:30; 26:51; 27:51; 28:2, 7, 9, 20. ↩
-  In the works of Josephus καὶ ἰδού does not occur at all, while the ten instances of καὶ ἰδού in the works of Philo are confined to biblical quotations (Leg. 3:169; Det. §126; Migr. §135; Her. §159, 249; Somn. 1:3 [2xx], 133; 2:19, 216). ↩
-  The phrase καὶ ἰδού occurs, for instance, in the story of the magi (Matt. 2:9), which probably did not come from Anth., but was likely composed by the author of Matthew himself. ↩
-  Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language,” 35. ↩
-  Thus, Nolland’s comment that “the choice of ‘Canaanite’ is archaising” is incorrect (Nolland, Matt., 631). ↩
-  See Anson F. Rainey, “Who is a Canaanite? A Review of the Textual Evidence,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 304 (1996): 1-15, esp. 12. ↩
-  Philo of Byblos (first-second cent. C.E.) was an historian of Phoenician ancestry who endeavored to dress Phoenician culture, history and religion in Hellenistic garb, comparable to Philo of Alexandria’s adaptation of Judaism to the Hellenistic world. ↩
-  Philo of Byblos refers to Χνᾶ…μετονομασθέντος Φοίνικος (“Chna…whose name was changed to Phoenix”; quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica 1:10 §39). For the Greek text and English translation, see Albert I. Baumgarten, The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos: A Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 1981), 19 (text), 216 (trans.); and see Baumgarten’s comments on 232. Josephus, too, regarded Canaan as the ancestor of the Phoenicians. See his paraphrase of Gen. 10:15 in Ant. 1:138. ↩
-  Hippo, the city in North Africa where Augustine served as bishop, was settled by Phoenicians as a colony of Tyre centuries before the rise of the Roman Empire. ↩
-  According to Augustine,
Unde interrogati rustici nostri, quid sint, Punice respondentes: Chanani, corrupta scilicet, sicut in talibus solet, una littera, quid aliud respondent quam: Chananaei?
…if you ask our peasants what they are, they will answer in Punic “Chanani” which, although it is missing a letter, which is usual in such case, can mean nothing other than “Canaanite.” (Exp. quaest. Rom. 13:5)
Text and translation according to Paula Fredriksen Landes, Augustine on Romans: Propositions from the Epistle to the Romans, Unfinished Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Chico, Calif.: Scholars, 1982), 68-69. Tsirkin mentions the discovery of a Punic inscription that refers to an individual as “man of Canaan.” See Ju. B. Tsirkin, “Canaan. Phoenicia. Sidon,” Aula Orientalis 19 (2001): 271-279, esp. 271. ↩
-  Flusser surveyed the archaeological and epigraphical evidence for the persistence of Canaanite religion in the land of Israel into the Roman period in David Flusser, “Paganism in Palestine” (Safrai-Stern, 2:1065-1100). Ancient Jewish sources witness to the Jewish perception of the continued presence of a Canaanite population in the land of Israel (cf. 1 Macc. 9:37). Canaanite slaves, for instance, are mentioned in m. Maas. Sh. 4:4; m. Eruv. 7:6; m. Kid. 1:3; m. Bab. Kam. 8:3, 5; m. Bab. Metz. 1:5; m. Arach. 8:4. Tabi, the slave belonging to Rabban Gamliel II (cf. Safrai-Safrai, 28), is mentioned in connection with his Canaanite ancestry in b. Yom. 87a. See Eyal Ben-Eliyahu, “The Rabbinic Perception of the Presence of the Canaanites in the Land of Israel,” in The Gift of the Land and the Fate of the Canaanites in Jewish Thought (ed. Katell Berthelot, Joseph E. David, and Marc Hirshman; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 275-284. ↩
-  See the comments in Luz, 2:338. ↩
-  See Katell Berthelot, “Where May Canaanites Be Found? Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Others in Jewish Texts from the Hellenistic and Roman Period,” in The Gift of the Land and the Fate of the Canaanites in Jewish Thought, 253-274, esp. 264-265. ↩
-  These disparaging remarks about Gentiles were probably taken over from the Anthology. Matthew’s view seems to have been that the members of the Church were neither Jews nor Gentiles, but the true, spiritual Israel, who had become heirs to the promises to the patriarchs and of the prophets on account of their faith in Jesus. ↩
-  Lindsey, HTGM, 115. ↩
-  See Jastrow, 1190. ↩
-  Cf. m. Dem. 6:11 (2xx); m. Shev. 6:2 (2xx), 5, 6; m. Maas. 5:5; m. Hal. 4:7 (2xx), 11; m. Orl. 3:9 (2xx); m. Rosh Hash. 1:4; m. Bab. Kam. 7:7; m. Edu. 7:7; m. Avod. Zar. 1:8 (2xx); m. Ohol. 18:7. ↩
-  Κύπριος τῷ γένει (“a Cypriot by birth”; Acts 4:36); Ποντικὸν τῷ γένει (“Pontian by birth”; Acts 18:2); Ἀλεξανδρεὺς τῷ γένει (“an Alexandrian by birth”; Acts 18:24). ↩
-  Cf. Σύρα τὸ γένος (“a Syrian by birth”; Philo, Congr. §41) and the numerous instances of “τὸ γένος (or τῷ γένει or γένει or γένος) in apposition to adjectives or proper nouns denoting origin” in the works of Josephus cited by Shaye J. D. Cohen, “ἸΟΥΔΑΙΟΣ ΤΟ ΓΕΝΟΣ and Related Expressions in Josephus,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith (ed. Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 23-38, esp. 29-30. ↩
-  See LSJ, “Συροφοῖνιξ,” 1732. The reference to Juvenal cited in LSJ is in Latin. The toponym “Syro-Phoenicia” is mentioned in Justin, Dial. chap. 78. ↩
-  Text and translation according to Lucian with an English Translation by A. M. Harmon (8 vols.; Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936), 5:422-423. ↩
-  But according to Cohen, “‘Greek’ should be construed here as a cultural term, which in Jewish settings means ‘pagan.’” See Shaye J. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkley: University of California Press, 1999), 79. ↩
-  Note also Philo’s topographical description of a region in the Levant:
ἡ Σοδομιτῶν χώρα, μοῖρα τῆς Χανανίτιδος γῆς, ἣν ὕστερον ὠνόμασαν Συρίαν Παλαιστίνην
The region of Sodom, part of the land of Canaan, afterwards called Syria-Palestine…. (Abr. §133)
-  The title “Son of David” occurs 10xx in Matthew (Matt. 1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42), 3xx in Mark (Mark 10:47, 48; 12:35) and 3xx in Luke (Luke 18:38, 39; 20:41; cf. Luke 1:32, 69). ↩
-  See Davies-Allison, 2:548. ↩
-  The verb δαιμονίζεσθαι occurs in Matt. 4:24; 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22; Mark 1:32; 5:15, 16, 18; Luke 8:36. ↩
-  See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L20. ↩
-  See Nolland, Matt., 633. ↩
-  Meier is one scholar who understands the disciples to be urging Jesus to grant the woman’s request. See John P. Meier, “Matthew 15:21-28,” Interpretation 40 (1986): 397-402, esp. 398. ↩
-  Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, 27. ↩
-  Davies-Allison, 2:557. ↩
-  See Luz, 2:71 n. 3, 2:336. If Jesus really did believe that he had been sent only to Israel, one wonders what he was doing with his disciples in Gentile territory. This discrepancy strengthens our suspicion that the “Israel only” saying is a Matthean interpolation. ↩
-  See Peter J. Tomson, “The Names Israel and Jew in Ancient Judaism and in the New Testament,” Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie 47 (1986): 120-140, 266-289. ↩
-  According to Gal. 2:8, even in the post-resurrection period Peter continued to view his apostolic mission as directed to the Jewish community. ↩
-  Cf. Streeter, 191 n. 1. ↩
-  In Matthew προσκυνεῖν occurs 13xx (Matt. 2:2, 8, 11; 4:9, 10; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 18:26; 20:20; 28:9, 17), compared with 3xx in Luke (Luke 4:7, 8; 24:52) and 2xx in Mark (Mark 5:6; 15:19). ↩
-  Although προσκυνεῖν can mean either “to prostrate oneself” or “to worship,” it seems likely that the author of Matthew intended the latter when we consider that nearly all instances of προσκυνεῖν in Matthew are redactional. ↩
-  Compare the woman’s plea with κύριε, εἰς τὸ βοηθῆσαί μοι πρόσχες (“Lord, pay attention to helping me!”; Ps. 39:14); ἀνάστα, κύριε, βοήθησον ἡμῖν (“Arise, Lord, help us!”; Ps. 43:27); σύ, κύριε, ἐβοήθησάς μοι (“You, Lord, helped me”; Ps. 85:17); τὸ ἔλεός σου, κύριε, βοηθεῖ μοι (“Your mercy, Lord, helps me”; Ps. 93:18); and βοήθησόν μοι, κύριε (“Help me, Lord!”; Ps. 108:26). ↩
-  See Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem,” thesis 6; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” under the entry for Mark 2:16. ↩
-  See Davies-Allison, 2:541. ↩
-  Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:552-553; Marcus, 1:466. ↩
-  See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups”; idem, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke.” ↩
-  Apart from the variation between οὐ/οὐκ, the omission of γάρ, and the different placement of βαλεῖν, Matthew’s wording is the same as Mark’s. ↩
-  The noun κυνάριον (kūnarion, “little dog”) occurs nowhere else in NT apart from the Canaanite Woman story. Furthermore, the noun κυνάριον does not appear in Josephus, Philo or LXX. The word κυνάριον is extremely rare in Koine Greek. ↩
-  See Luz, 2:340; Yamauchi, “Dogs,” in Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity (ed. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2015), 2:136. ↩
-  As to whether “little dog” or “puppy” should be considered less offensive than “dog,” Jeremias wrote, “quite apart from the fact that it is uncertain whether in contemporary Greek the diminutive had any mitigating force, it cannot be pressed, since Semitic has no corresponding form” (Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, 29). ↩
-  In the Hebrew Scriptures dogs are consistently portrayed in a negative light (cf., e.g., 1 Sam. 17:43; 2 Sam. 9:8; Isa. 56:10). “Dog” is a pejorative term in Phil. 3:2 and Rev. 22:15. See Michael Avi-Yonah, Views of the Biblical World (Vol. 5: The New Testament) (Jerusalem: International Publishing Co., 1961), 54. ↩
-  See Joshua Schwartz, “Dogs in Ancient Rural Jewish Society,” in The Rural Landscape of Ancient Israel (ed. Aren M. Maeir, Shimon Dar, and Ze’ev Safrai; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2003), 127-136; idem, “Dogs in Jewish Society in the Second Temple Period and in the Time of the Mishnah and Talmud,” Journal of Jewish Studies 55.2 (2004): 246-277. In Ben Sira, when dogs are mentioned in the home (some Hebrew MSS of Sir. 4:30; 11:30), they are unwelcome intruders. ↩
-  See Tob. 5:17; 6:1 (Sinaiticus); 11:4; 4QTobb ar [4Q197] 4 I, 5 (= Tob. 6:1). ↩
-  See, for example, Phaedrus, Aesopic Fables 2:3; 3:7. ↩
-  Columella (first century C.E.) wrote:
…barley-flour with whey is a suitable food for all dogs without distinction; but if the land is closely planted with young shoots and affords no pasture, they must be given their fill of bread made from emmer or wheaten flour, mixed, however, with the liquid of boiled beans…. (Columella, De re rustica 7:12.10)
For these references we are indebted to Schwartz, “Dogs in Ancient Rural Jewish Society,” 130. ↩
-  See the footnote on historical presents in David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  See Randall Buth, “Edayin/Tote—Anatomy of a Semitism in Jewish Greek,” Maarav 5-6 (1990): 33-48; idem, “Matthew’s Aramaic Glue.” ↩
-  See David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560, esp. 556); R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Matthew’s ‘True Israel.’” ↩
-  See Davies-Allison, 2:556. ↩
-  Nolland, Matt., 636 n. 218. ↩
-  See Beare, 132. ↩
-  See Allen, 169. ↩
-  See Davies-Allison, 2:543; Nolland, Matt., 631; Hagner, 2:439; Luz, 2:336. ↩