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Jesus, the Syrophoenician Woman, and Other First Century Bodies

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image of Biblical Interpretation

Social identity is embodied identity. Therefore, in order to come to terms with cultural complexity, we must come to terms with the implications of embodiment. Attention to corporal performance of social identity is critical to the project of intersectional theory. In any given encounter, an individual is unlikely to keep intersecting facets of her identity "in mind," but without conscious analysis she will perform her complex identity "in body." The body is where cultural complexity takes place. I focus on the dynamics of cultural complexity in the exchanges of Jesus of Nazareth with those he encountered; or, more humbly, in representations of those dynamics—representations which are already informed by the culturally complex worlds of their creators. As a case study, I focus on the story of the Syrophoenician woman from the Gospel of Mark. I argue that explicit attention to the embodiment of cultural complexity helps us better appreciate what is at stake in Mark's representation of Jesus' exchange with his stubborn interlocutor.

Affiliations: 1: Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY


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