Thursday, September 2, 2021

Mark 7.24-30 Translations and Notes (RCL15th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

The text for this coming Sunday (5 September 2021) is Mark 7.24-37, and I am providing translations and notes for the first part, Mark 7.24-30, the story of the Syrophoenician woman. There are some critical interpretive issues, and this is a text where the 'performance' of it can significantly change the reception of it. I think it can be agreed that the point of a story is not simply to indicate that Jesus can cast out unclean spirits.

The biggest issue is how one perceives Jesus' role in the story and thus how one 'performs' his words.

  • Is he aware of how it will all turn out and intends to help her all along, so that one perceives him gently provoking or merely testing the woman to get her to express her confidence in him? (But note that "faith" is never mentioned in the story at all! Matthew's version in 15.21-28 is quite different, and he does make faith the final point.) 
  • Or is Jesus genuinely annoyed at being disturbed, affronted by the woman's boldness (in that culture, no woman, especially this non-Jewish one, should interrupt or initiate a conversation with a man) and intentionally insulting her? In that case, the woman genuinely changes his mind.

IMO, the latter is more likely.

  • In the story, there is one use of the historic present to introduce the woman's response. I.e., more attention is given to her statement than to Jesus'. 
  • I parallel this story to the sort of verbal sparrings that occur throughout Mark. E.g., in 12.13-17 the Pharisees and Herodians test Jesus asking about taxes. Jesus replies with a question, and that results in a conclusion that was not anticipated but opens new perception. Similarly, you'll see in my translation that I take a small liberty in the Greek and set her statement as a question to Jesus.
  • I also think this story ties in directly with the preceding 7.1-23 where Jesus has been talking about impure/unclean foods, hand, and pots and such. In a way, the woman forces Jesus to acknowledge that what he said about what comes out of a person is the defiling factor (not the externals or what goes in) also applies to people. And remember it's an "unclean spirit" that comes out of her daughter. The woman and her daughter are not impure because of their race, gender, or ethnicity.

As an example of the way performance affects interpretation, check out this collection of performances collated by Phil Ruge-Jones.  

Here is my collation of translations including my own along with notes and introduction: 

No comments:

Post a Comment