Southern Religion

Baptist bloggers passionately object to the question: Was Jesus was a racist?

Miguel De La Torre ignited a Southern Baptist blog firestorm Monday with an iconoclastic reading of Matthew 15:21-28. That passage has Jesus responding to a Canaanite woman’s plea that He heal her child. In the key phrase Jesus says:

I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not good to take the bread of the children and throw it to the dogs.

Jesus’ comparison of the woman of color to “dogs” strikes De La Torre and many before him [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 . . . ] as an arguably racist remark.

His conclusion in the Associated Baptist Press (ABP) opinion piece, not a new one to the world of progressive Christianity, strikes the fundamentalist bloggers as saying that Jesus committed a sin: racism. Yet Jesus is God incarnate, argues J. Thomas White of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Perfect. Sinless. Some therefore suggest that De La Torre is heretical when he writes:

To deny this woman a healing and call her a dog reveals the racism his culture taught him. But Jesus, unlike so many within the dominant social structure of today, was willing to hear the words of this woman of color, and learn from her.

Passions run high. They call the piecetripe,” “heretical trash” and so on. Some swear off the ABP for presuming to publish a “false teaching.” They wonder at the competence of the ABP editors and want the piece deleted. Only a couple gently defended open debate.

Quietly reasoned explanation of the text, the sort of explanation which might be heard by skeptics and others whom our angry ministers would regard as unsaved, was rare.

Should we wonder whether there is a relationship between this occasional Baptist blogger preference for heated expostulation and the report in this year’s National Council of Churches’ Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches that Southern Baptists are declining in number?

February 25, 2009 - Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. It is interesting to once again see this argument being placed in print. I being only a third year Greek student to not contend to know even one tenth what many of you do but let me express my views with your humble patience for such an unlearned person as myself.

    First, let’s begin with a common ground. MAtt 15:24-27 NA27:24 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· οὐκ ἀπεστάλην εἰ μὴ εἰς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ. 25 ἡ δὲ ἐλθοῦσα προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγουσα· κύριε, βοήθει μοι. 26 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· οὐκ ἔστιν καλὸν λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων καὶ βαλεῖν τοῖς κυναρίοις. 27 ἡ δὲ εἶπεν· ναὶ κύριε, καὶ γὰρ τὰ κυνάρια ἐσθίει ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων τῶν πιπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης τῶν κυρίων αὐτῶν.

    κυναρίοις is by many of the commentators used to express that Jesus is using this Noun in the Dative Plural state to express a racist comment referring to the lady as a “Dog.” But allow me to refer you to BDAG pg 575 and here it is being used not as a dog of an indignent force but rather as a little lap dog. Second, if one will refer to the context of the children context found earlier in this passage, we see it is being used in the passage tense. May I also refer you to Ralph P. Martin’s comments concerning the use of a passive context being used to illistrate a point figuratively and not physically. The combination of the children and the lap or pet dogs was not to say the woman was equal to a dog but was merely pointing to the idea that food should first be consumed by the children (Israel) and then it could be consumed by the pets (Gentiles).

    In conclusion, Jesus never intended this to be a racist comment but rather was a valuable lesson to the woman and all of us to Jesus’ magnificent pegagogical abilites.

    Comment by John Lawless | March 17, 2009

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