Saturday, June 29, 2013

Misquoting Jesus on Jews & Gentiles

Recently on a Facebook conversation a member of the Hebrew-Israelite church presented to me Matthew 15:21-28 in an effort to convince me that Jesus did not love everyone and that they, as the true descendants of Israel, are the only ones who will be the beneficiary of Gods grace and salvation.

Intentionally I choose not to deal with the absurd claim that they are Israel and focused on the question of Gods love for all of humanity.  
I have shared my response to him here, in the hope that the conversation might prove useful to a wider audience.

Brother once again you've missed the point of this story. Before you continue “barking up the wrong tree” you might want to take into account the entirety of scriptures and read it in proper context. 

That God came to Israel first is nothing new. It is evident from the Scriptures that the Jewish nation would be the initial recipient of that message. In addition to Matthew 15:24 which you quoted, when Jesus sent the twelve apostles out He told them: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).  

However by the work of the Apostles Jesus’ message would eventually reach the Gentile world. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, he said this to the apostles: “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The sequence of places where the apostles would witness is in the same order in which the Gospel would be preached (i.e., the Jews first and then the Gentiles). It's not "to Israel only" and "not the Gentiles."

What's more the Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the church at Rome, continued that tradition in this statement: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Jesus’ statement to the Syrophoenician woman indicated that Israel was Jesus’ first target for evangelism. It did not exclude the salvific message reaching the Gentiles. It was not an indication that she was not worthy of salvation or the divine grace of God. In fact, her FAITH expedited her entrance into the experience of his grace. As Paul tells us in Romans 3:29 "is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too."

NOW CONCERNING JESUS REFERRING TO HER AND GENTILES AS DOGS... proper understanding of the original Greek text is key. The word translated in our bibles as DOG in the original Greek is " more accurately reflects a"little dog." 

To our modern ears, the idea that Jesus would refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” has the potential to sound belittling, insulting or as if he thought less of them. Yet when we consider how we often use animal, even dog terms in our idiom or culture, Jesus’ comments seem harmless and even endearing.

For instance we commonly refer to a tough guy as “bulldog”. We also use that term when we refer to a short guy who is very build up from constant weight training. This could be good or bad depending on the conversation. Or we might call a harmless person (usually a child or senior) “cute as a puppy” or has “puppy dog eyes.” In Puerto Rico to call someone a horse is to call them dumb. But in Dominican lingo it means one who is firm, strong, or a leader.

If someone has a lucky day, we might say something like “every dog has its day.” But we also use that phrase when referring to someone whom we think deserves misfortune. When a person refuses to learn new things, we say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In addition, one might say that a person “works like a dog,” is the “top dog” at the office, or is “dog tired.” To call someone “top dog” could not possibly convey a derogatory tone.

So the point is.... rather than assume that Jesus was looking to demean the woman, wouldn't it be more likely that he was behaving with her the way he behaved with others? Wouldn't it be more likely that Jesus is consistent in his ministry of love and reconciliation. 

We can try to read the scriptures to confirm what we already think!!!!!!!!!! or we can choose to read it IN CONTEXT, understanding the words that were written almost 2000 years ago.


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