Barry Newman's Blog

October 11, 2012

The Parables of Jesus (part IV)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus — barrynewman @ 12:33 am

What is a Parable?

How many parables of Jesus are recorded in the Gospels? This is a question that can only be answered with some difficulty.  Any answer depends on what we consider a parable to be in the first place. 

I quote Jeremias at some length where he deals with how he intends to use the notion of “parable” in his work.[1]

“The Hebrew mashal and the Aramaic mathla … may mean in common speech of post-biblical Judaism, without resorting to a formal classification, figurative forms of speech of every kind: parable, similitude, allegory, fable, proverb, apocalyptic revelation, riddle, symbol, pseudonym, fictitious person, example, theme, argument, apology, refutation, jest.  Similarly, parabole in the New Testament has not only the meaning of ‘parable’, but also ‘comparison’ (Luke 5:36; Mark 3: 23) and ‘symbol’ (Heb. 9: 9; 11: 19 cf. Mark 13: 28); in Luke 4: 23 it should be rendered ‘proverb’ or ‘commonplace’, in 6: 39 ‘proverb’; in Mark 7: 17 it means ‘riddle’ and in Luke 14: 7 simply ‘rule’.  Similarly the meaning of paroimia varies between ‘parable’ (John 10: 6), ‘proverb’ (2 Peter 2: 22), and ‘riddle’ (John 16: 25, 29). The word ‘parable’ is used in this study … in the broad sense of mashal or mathla.”

In understanding the word, “parable”, Carson has a similar view to Jeremias. “Behind it stands the Hebrew mashal … a word referring to proverbs, maxims, similes, allegories, fables, comparisons, riddles, taunts, stories embodying some truth … and the word “parable” in the NT comes close to duplicating this range … Most, though not all, parables are extended metaphors or similes … Most generalized conclusions about parables require painful exceptions; and on the whole it is best to deal inductively with parables.”[2]

In this blog series, I will look at one specific parable.  I might then proceed to look at others from a combined list gathered from both Jeremias and Kristemaker together with a few others from the Synoptic Gospels, some of the figurative sayings and teachings of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel, and a few examples of what I consider could be enacted parables.

[1] 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, p. 20

[2] Carson, D.A., “Matthew” in Matthew, Mark, Luke, The Expositors Bible Commentary, volume 8, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984, pp. 302, 303


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