The Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus


A premier New Testament scholar explores how Jesus' trial and execution are portrayed in the New Testament and how that portrayal has affected biblical studies, Christian theology, and Jewish-Christian relations through history. Tomson has written an accessible, responsible analysis of the biblical accounts of Jesus' death, demonstrating how, through compounded misunderstandings, they contributed to anti-Jewish sentiment in the early church and later history. Tomson's question of how Jesus is to be understood in his first-century Judean context is a critical one not only for biblical scholars, but for anyone concerned about human rights and interreligious dialogue today.


Every interpretation of the Bible rests on hermeneutical presuppositions that are often not explicitly discussed, because for a long time there was neither a scholarly nor an ecclesial tradition of such discussion. It was first of all the liberation theologies that made a point of naming the social context of those who interpret texts. The methodological necessity of this reflection, however, has still been acknowledged only in marginal fields of scholarly interpretation. Besides, when it takes place it often possesses all the charm of an immigration form: white, female, middle-class, Western European, and so forth.

This contextualization of one's own interpretation is not thorough enough, as feminist and Jewish-Christian discourse in particular have shown. These approaches have brought to light presuppositions that, for the most part, have influenced Christian biblical interpretation for hundreds of years.

I see four fields of hermeneutical assumptions that require critical attention: (1) the ideology of Christian superiority over other religions, especially Judaism; (2) dualisms in various areas of theology; (3) assumptions that underlie Christian notions of guilt and sin and human suffering through violence; and (4) orientation toward a "Christian" duty to maintain the social status quo and its structures of power.


The presupposition that the Christian religion is superior to all others—and combined with it the presupposition that "the church" receives a promise of divine salvation in the biblical texts—dominates biblical interpretation, as we have already seen above. Now perhaps, at the beginning of the third millennium of the Common Era, there are many Christian people who would no longer want to say that Christianity is superior to all other religions, but in biblical interpretation the idea persists that in Mark 4:11 Jesus is addressing his disciples and thus, indirectly, the church: "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God." Or, to take another example: The kingdom of God is taken away from Israel and given to the church, the people that yields fruit (that is, the kingdom of God) (Matt 21:43).

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