Barry Newman's Blog

October 7, 2012

The Parables of Jesus (part II)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus — barrynewman @ 10:41 am


Prior to this blog series I have been reading a number of works including the following:

Jeremias, J., The Parables of Jesus, Revised Edition, Study Edition, (trans. Hooke, S.H. from the German Die Gleischnisse Jesu, 6th Ed., Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen, 1962), SCM, London, 1963

Bailey, K.E., Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, Combined Edition, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1976

Bailey, K.E., Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2008

Kristemaker, S., The Parables of Jesus, Baker, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980

Carson, D.A., Sections in “Matthew” in Matthew, Mark, Luke, The Expositors Bible Commentary, volume 8, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984, pp. 3 – 599 – pp. 300 – 334

In spite of his commitment to a fairly rigid way of analysing the Gospel documents, Jeremias offers much for serious consideration.  He endeavours to set his work in an historical context in which the way people have understood the parables has varied over the centuries. He compares and contrasts different accounts of the same or similar parables where they occur in the synoptic gospels and non-canonical writings such as the Gospel of Thomas.  He also offers his own view of various cultural features that he considers pertinent to understanding the parables.  His basic approach is to discover allegorical aspects of the parables which then need to be stripped away in order for us to discover what Jesus really said.  While allowing Jesus to have uttered some sayings that were exaggerations or otherwise distortions of reality he tends to see such, along with the allegories, as additions or changes made by post-apostolic communities.  Whatever objections one might have as to how Jeremias handles the textual material and as to how he interprets some of the parables he still offers much food for thought.

Many would see Bailey as the modern guru on the parables of Jesus, especially as they are found in Luke. The subtitle to Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes – “A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables of Luke” clearly identifies the direction taken by that combined work.  Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is more general, revisits some of the parables of Luke and deals with a few more from Luke and a couple from Matthew.  His cultural insights are very thought provoking.

I have referred to Kristemaker because his work offers some simple but not naive or simplistic comments on most of what people would commonly call the parables of Jesus.  Unlike Jeremias he does not try to arrive at what Jeremias would consider was what Jesus originally might have said but simply reflects on the various Gospel accounts where pertinent.  There is also a not unwelcome hortatory element that underlies his analysis.

Interestingly, both Jeremias and Kristemaker list 40 parables, the former in an index, the latter in his table of contents.  However, in a couple of cases, what one considers one parable the other considers as two. Additionally each includes two parables that the other does not include. In the index given by Jeremias he excludes references to metaphors and similes.

Carson has an extended section dealing with parables in general before dealing with seven parables of Matthew chapter 13 – what he terms, “the parable of the soils”, “the parable of the weeds”, “the parable of the mustard seed”, “the parable of the yeast”, “the parable of the hidden treasure”, “the parable of the net” and “the parable of the teacher of the law”.  At the same time he confronts the issue of the understanding of parables given to the disciples but not to the crowds.  He offers an historical overview of how the parables have been understood from time to time and at certain points is highly critical of the approach undertaken by Jeremias and before him, C.H. Dodd.


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