John Dominic Crossan
In Historical Jesus (1991:328), Crossan suggests that this story is the product of Christian imagination rather than Christian memory:
119 Distant Boy Cured [1/2] and 237 Distant Girl Cured [2/1] are the only two miracles that Jesus performed for Gentiles and performed at a distance. And, although this is not unique to those cases, they are performed for a child rather than the child's parent. It is hard not to consider those twin miracles, requested by a father for his son and a mother for her daughter, as programmatic defenses of the later Gentile mission, as Jesus' proleptic initiation of that process. It is quite likely, it seems to me, that those cases are not at all a movement from event to process but actually from process to event. Early Christian communities symbolically retrojected their own activities back into the life of Jesus.
The judgments of the Seminar can be represented as follows:
- There probably was a historical core to Mark's story. (57% of fellows voted Red or Pink)
- A Greek woman regarded Jesus as an exorcist.
- Jesus had a conversation with that woman .
- Their conversation involved an exchange of witticisms in which the woman got the better of Jesus.
- Jesus visited the region of Tyre in southern Lebanon.
- Jesus viewed foreigners as "dogs."
- Jesus said: "It isn't good to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to the dogs."
- Jesus said: "Let the children be fed first."
- A demon left the girl because of her mother's wit.
- A demon left the girl because her mother trusted Jesus.
For a brief commentary on the Seminar's voting, see The Acts of Jesus, pp. 96-98.
Meier deals with this miracle in Marginal Jew II,659-61. On this particular story he concludes:
Weighing all the pros and cons, it seems to me that the story of the Syrophoenician woman is so shot through with Christian missionary theology and concerns that creation by first-generation Christians is the more likely conclusion. (p. 660f)
After this negative conclusion (the equivalent of a Black vote in Jesus Seminar terms), Meier outlines his considered judgment on the seven exorcisms attributed to Jesus in the NT tradition:
If, however, one is pressed to judge whether some historical core lies behind the stories of exorcism in the the narrative sections of the Gospel, the following positions, are, in my view, the most likely: (1) The story of the possessed boy and the brief reference to Mary Magdalene's exorcism probably go back to historical events in Jesus' ministry. I tend to think the same is true of the story of the Gerasene demoniac, though in this case the arguments are less probative. (2) In its present form, the exorcism of the demoniac in the Capernaum synagogue may be a Christian creation, but it probably represents "the sort of thing" Jesus did during his ministry in Capernaum. (3) The brief story of the exorcism of a mute (and blind?) demoniac in the Q tradition (Matt 12:24 || Luke 11:14-15) is difficult to judge. It could go back to some historical incident, or it could be a literary creation used to introduce the Beelzebul controversy. (4) In contrast, it seems very likely that the story of the mute demoniac in Matt 9:32-33 is a redactional creation of Matthew to fill out his schema of three groups of three miracle stories in chaps. 8-9 of his Gospel. (5) The story of the Syrophoenician woman is probably a Christian creation to exemplify the missionary theology of the early church. (p. 661)
Sanders [The Historical Figure of Jesus, 159, 191] deals with this tradition in a way that suggests he sees it as a historical report.