Artist: William Hole
Medium: Printed book illustration
Size: 29 x 24 cm
Location: From “The Life of Jesus of Nazareth Portrayed in Colours.” London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.
Matthew 15:21-28 - Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes it is, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
The woman beseeching Jesus is a descendant of the ancient Canaanites, the bitter biblical enemies of Israel whose paganism had often led Israel into idolatry. When Jesus’ disciples ask him to send the woman away, He chooses not to, which may have encouraged her to persevere. To this insistent entreaty Jesus responds with almost equal firmness. Some Jewish teachers would have reached out to the woman, hoping to make her a proselyte; Jesus simply snubs her. It is possible that he is testing her, as teachers sometimes tested their disciples, but ultimately Matthew stresses again that God's compassion extends to all Gentiles.
William Hole (b. Salisbury 1846 – d. 1917) relocated to Edinburgh as a youth where he received his education at the Edinburgh Academy. But after serving as an apprentice to a civil engineer in the city, he decided that he wanted to see more of the world. While traveling through Italy he befriended some artists in Rome who convinced him that he should pursue a career in art. On returning to Edinburgh, he began formal training in both painting and etching at the Royal Scottish Academy.