Christology, Controversy, and Community: New Testament Essays in Honour of David R. Catchpole

By David G. Horrell; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview

THE EARTHLY JESUS IN THE SYNOPTIC PARABLES

Birger Gerhardsson

Almost all utterances which the synoptic tradition attributes to Jesus of Nazareth must, with regard to form, be assigned to one and the same Jewish genre: the mashal (Hebrew

, Greek ). The Jews used that broad term for any text which was brief and formulated in an artistic way; in other respects these texts differ widely from each other. In our modern exposition, we find it worthwhile to divide the synoptic sayings of Jesus into logia and parables—I prefer the designations aphoristic and narrative meshalim—but we must keep in mind that this division is one we make ourselves; it is not articulated in the text material.1

The dominical sayings in the synoptic tradition are thus all meshalim, apart from a few occasional statements (“Let us go across to the other side” Mark 4:35) and rejoinders. This ought to mean that their content, too, is homogeneous; they should in principle treat the same themes. But we notice, surprisingly enough, certain differences of content between the aphoristic meshalim and the narrative ones. I intend to discuss one of these differences here. I dedicate this essay to my friend David Catchpole, who is well known among New Testament scholars throughout the world, not only through his fine contributions to biblical scholarship but also through his years of service as an efficient and gracious secretary in the SNTS.


Aphoristic Meshalim about Jesus Himself

One of the two main types of synoptic meshalim, the logia, includes a long series of statements in which Jesus speaks of himself and his ministry. Most important of these are two groups of closely related sayings:

1 See B. Gerhardsson, “The Narrative Meshalim in the Synoptic Gospels: a
Comparison With the Narrative Meshalim in the Old Testament”, NTS 34 (1988)
339–63.

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