Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar
Dr. Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar (she/her/hers) lives in Atlanta, GA, and teaches at Payne Theological Seminary. She received her Ph.D. in Biblical Studies (Old Testament) in May 2020 from Drew University. Her dissertation, entitled “Trafficking Hadassah: An Africana Reading of Collective Trauma, Memory, and Identity in the Book of Esther and the African Diaspora,” is a dialogical cultural study of sexual trafficking in the book of Esther and during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
“Rise to Life: A Syrophoenician Woman Rouses Jesus to Do Public Theology”
Mitzi Smith interprets the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30 through a womanist hermeneutical lens of sass, which she defines as a legitimate contextual language of resistance to multiple and interlocking systems of oppression. Smith avers, sass is a “mother tongue”, a subversive, defiant, grown woman’s speech that enables black women to know, seek clarification, or refused to be silenced or dismissed. In this paper, I will build upon Smith’s hermeneutical framing of “sass” and illustrate that the Syrophoenician woman is not solely resisting interlocking systems of oppression but also invites Jesus to do public theology. As a result of this powerful exchange, not only is her daughter granted an opportunity to rise to life but are other gentiles and Jesus himself. The daughter’s physical needs are met; the gentiles are welcomed into God’s reigndom; and Jesus’s god-consciousness is raised by the Syrophoenician mother which enables him to abandon the interlocking demonic forces of ethnic, class, and gender supremacy. In this way, the public theology in which this woman and Jesus engage is one that is inclusive of and concerning the people as a whole.