My Take On The Question(s) Behind The Question
Based on the cursory information available in Wikipedia, Ched Myers is a Liberation Theologian. There's nothing wrong with this as it provides some valuable insight into a potential, auxiliary reading of a given text. As such, it is natural that he views this in light of social stratifications, and how those strata were crossed in given contexts.
Because of the emphasis on this area, it follows that this becomes an exchange in honor and shame which was the primary social currency of the milieu. In Myers' interpretation, Jesus cedes honor, which necessarily means that he takes on shame, and this as a foreshadowing of the implication of allowing Gentiles into the eschatological reality promised to Israel.
Where this line of thinking gets a bit dicey is where the emphasis becomes one of fairness and equality. Though Paul will later tease out a bit more of the equality of believers, at this point in the theological history of the Gospel it is more about inclusion. Jesus leaves the Pharisees in Jerusalem after a discussion of clean vs. unclean (the first part of Mark 7) and heads to Tyre, a place full of unclean people. A literary reading (my default bias) would see this as an opportune juxtaposition of two circumstances in which Mark emphasizes the reality of Jesus' teaching in the first part of the chapter.
I find the position that Jesus' response is based on argumentation and not on faith rather unpersuasive. They are not mutually exclusive nor are they even binary opposites. Faith does not preclude argumentation, nor does the woman's response indicate a lack of faith. In fact, the very response to Jesus' healing was one of faith - "she went home" without further argument. I would rather the honor/shame dynamic to be read in the sense of honor was taken from the Pharisees by Jesus and was also bestowed upon the woman by him.
The liberationist perspective certainly helps to push out the boundaries of our understanding of this situation, but needs to be taken in light of other approaches.
The diminutive may be used for any number of reasons.
- To soften the epithet
- To further humiliate the person
- ?? (open to other ideas)
I don't believe that issues of race were more self-evident than which words were used. I'm not advocating a "Jesus was a racist" position, but saying that racial tensions didn't ebb and flow based on which words and terms were or were not used. There's something specific going on here that Mark wants to record. I personally prefer that it was a means of Jesus setting his audience up for a dramatic reversal, and the sudden and dramatic inclusion of a "little dog" in the promise of restoration. "Puppies" may be an adequate conceptual translation in an extremely literal sense, but I think that it may soften what exactly is going on since we view puppies as cute, soft, cuddly little critters ... even though they pee on the hardwood floors right next to the paper we'd set out for them.