Barry Newman's Blog

March 8, 2013

The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep (part IV)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep — barrynewman @ 9:45 pm

The cultural and other backdrops to the parables

I think one needs to be cautious about writing into the parables what one considers to be the natural backdrop to the parables.  Jesus may have chosen to ignore some of what would be described as normal, in order to make a necessary point.  However, it may be of some value to consider the following perspectives.

According to Kistemaker[1]

Kistemaker, who recognises that Jesus may have told a similar story twice in two different settings, treats the parables as one. He draws upon material produced by Bishop, Smith, Armstrong, Jeremias and Brouwer. Referring to Bishop he writes, “A person who owned a hundred sheep was a man of small to average means.  He himself cared for the sheep, knew them by name, and counted them at least once a day.”  While recognising that the parable simply indicates that the 99 sheep are left by the shepherd, he points out that it does not say that they were unprotected and quotes Smith, saying, “We must probably picture them as driven into some enclosure.” He further writes, making references to Armstrong and Jeremias, “Sheep are very social animals; they stay and live together as a flock.  When a sheep is cut off from the flock, it becomes bewildered. It lies down unwilling to move, waiting for the shepherd.  When he at last finds it, he puts it on his shoulders, in order to cover the distance back to the flock more quickly.  Soon shepherd, sheep and flock are together again.” He also mentions Jeremias and Brouwer, portraying “the shepherd with a sheep around his neck, grasping front and hind legs with each hand.” In dealing with the difference between Matthew and Luke as to where the 99 sheep are left he refers to Black whom he says, “suggests that the word mountain may have been influenced by the Aramaic tura ‘which in Palestinian Syriac has the twofold use of “mountain” and “country,” the “open country” as contrasted with inhabited places.’”  I will refer again to this matter of “mountain” and “open country” later.

 [1] For Kistemaker’s chapter on the parable see Kistemaker, S., The Parables of Jesus, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978, pp. 206 – 210


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