Gentiles And The Ministry Of Jesus: Further Observations On Matt 10:5-6; 15:21-28 -- By: J. Julius Scott, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:2 (Jun 1990)
Article: Gentiles And The Ministry Of Jesus: Further Observations On Matt 10:5-6; 15:21-28
Author: J. Julius Scott, Jr.


Gentiles And The Ministry Of Jesus:
Further Observations On Matt 10:5-6; 15:21-28

J. Julius Scott, Jr.*

Several passages in Matthew’s gospel record Jesus, either explicitly or implicitly, confining his ministry to Jewish people. Most significant are Matt 10:5–6; 15:21–28. In the former, his mission charge to the twelve as he sent them out to preach, Jesus ordered: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles (eis hodon ethnōn), and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Later, while he was in the district of Tyre and Sidon, a Syro-Phoenician or Canaanite woman came requesting healing for her demon-possessed daughter:

But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not good (kalon) to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “0 woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly (15:23–28).

Some interpreters suggest that Jesus’ words, “Do not throw pearls before swine” (7:6), may be a veiled prohibition against preaching to Gentiles.

At the same time Matthew shows Jesus responding favorably to seeking Gentiles and commanding a mission among them1 in such a way

* Julius Scott is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois.

that a recent writer can claim: “This gentile bias is the primary theme in Matthew.”2

Other gospels also include hints of a universal purpose in Jesus’ mission, but without the restrictions of Matthew. There were cases in which Jesus healed and/or carried on ministry to individual Samaritans and Gentiles.3 Mark 11:17, in recording Jesus’ teaching in connection with the cleansing of the temple, includes the full quotation from Isa 56:7b: “My house shall be called a house of ...

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