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The Construction of Identity in Mark 7:24-30: The Syrophoenician Woman and the Problem of Ethnicity

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This article explores the relationship between religious and ethnic identity in the NT by examining the way in which the interaction between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30 defamiliarizes the reader's deficient norms regarding ethnicity. The pericope's narrative context and setting lead the reader to expect that Jesus will fulfill the Syrophoenician woman's request and heal her daughter. The author's use of various stylistic and rhetorical elements within the pericope (type-scenes, stock characters, and two-step progressions) subtly suggest that these expectations may be frustrated. When Jesus rebuffs the woman, the reader must reexamine the assumptions that contributed to misplaced expectations. Through this process of defamiliarization, the text exposes two deficient norms potentially held by the reader: the notion that the gospel obliterates ethnicity as a component of social identity, and the competing notion that one's particular ethnic identity must be rejected in order to respond faithfully to the gospel.

Affiliations: 1: Valparaiso University;, Email:


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