New Testament scholar Dr. Larry Hurtado (author of the excellent tome Lord Jesus Christ) has a great article on the meaning of a frequently misunderstood passage in the Gospel of Mark:
Who gets fed first? The kids or the pets?
“Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:26-28 ESV)
A lot of people think Jesus is being harsh to this woman, in effect calling her a “gentile dog” – a very pejorative term, for sure.
Dr. Hurtado does a great job of explaining how Jesus is doing nothing of the sort. He is speaking in word pictures, like He almost always does – He was a first-century Jewish teacher, after all 🙂
The “dogs” in this little mini-parable refer to house pets. Just as it wouldn’t be right for the master of the house to feed his pets before he feeds his children, so it wouldn’t be right for Jesus to shift the focus of his ministry to the gentile world. His mission, first and foremost, was to the lost sheep of Israel. The gentiles would be “fed,” but only after the “children” had their chance first.
Read the whole article here: