The Syrophoenician Woman

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Matt. 15.21-28

Mark 7.24-30

21 Jesus left that place and went off 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 afler us". 24 He answered, "1 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, "II is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs". 27 She said, "Certainly, lord, for also the does eat from 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 from that hour.

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did nol 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 jtjs not fair to take the children's food and tlirow it to the dogs". 28 But she answered him. "Certainlv, lord, and the does under the table eat from the crumbs of the children". 29 So he said to her, "For saying that, you may go, the demon has left vour daughter" 30 So she went to her home, and found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

The picture here is very similar. The story is again clearly the same: an event which took place in the district of Tyre; a non-Israelite woman with a demon-possessed daughter; healing at a distance. Most striking is the fact that the two versions share very few words in common apart from the core section (underlined). The core of the story is manifestly the exchange between Jesus and the woman, held constant, more or less verbatim (Mark 7.27-28/Matt. 15.26-27). Apart from that the retelling is completely variable: in particular, Mark emphasizes the woman's Gentile identity, while Matthew both plays up the resulting tension and the woman's faith. As with the story of the centurion's servant above, the fact that the healing was successful is almost an afterthought in each telling.

Here too the same feature is evident as in the stilling of the storm: the variation between the two versions is such that the hypothesis of literary dependence becomes very implausible. A connection at the level of oral retelling is much the more probable. Either Matthew knew the story through the tradition of oral performance and drew directly from that tradition, or he himself retold Mark's story as a storyteller would. We should note that it would be misleading to say that Matthew knew a different version of the story.206 For that would be to slip back into the idiom of literary editions, as though each retelling of the story was a fresh 'edition' of the story; whereas the reality with which we are confronted is more like spontaneously different variations (retellings) on a theme (the identifiable subject matter and core).

Hi. The Healing of the Possessed Boy

Matt. 17.14-18

Mark 9.14-27

Luke 9.37-43

14 And when they came to the crowd.

a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, 15 'Lord, have mercy on son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him'. 17 And Jesus answered. '0 faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am 1 to put up with you? Bring him here to me1.

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, 'What are you discussing with them?' 17 And one of the crowd answered him, 'Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and 1 asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able'. 19 And he answered them, 'O faithless how long am I to be with you? How long am 1 to put up with you? Bring him to me'. 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried,

'Teacher, I beg you to look upon my son, for he is my only child; 39 and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him till he foams, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, and they could not'. 41 Jesus answered. 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long am 1 to be with you and to put up with you? Lead your son here'. 42 While he was coming, the demon tore him and convulsed him.

206. Characteristic of discussion dominated by the literary paradigm is the assumption that variations between the two versions can be explained only in terms of conflation of sources; see, e.g., V. Taylor, Mark (London: Macmillan, 1952) 347.

18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour.

25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again'. 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, 'He is dead'. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.

Here again we what is clearly the same story — the healing, as is generally recognized from the description, of an epileptic boy.207 And here again the verbal agreement across the three accounts is very modest, hardly inviting the explanation that Matthew and Luke derived their versions solely as an exercise in literary editing of Mark's account. If indeed Mark's long version was the only version they knew, then they have severely abbreviated it by retelling it in oral mode, feeling free to vary introduction, description of the boy's condition and cure, and conclusion, and holding constant only the core of Jesus' verbal rebuke. Alternatively, the degree of verbal agreement between Matt. 9.40b-could indicate that Matthew and Luke happened to know another (oral) version which they echoed at that point.

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