Poet and Peasant; And, through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke

Poet and Peasant; And, through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke

Poet and Peasant; And, through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke

Poet and Peasant; And, through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke


This volume is a combined edition of Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, Kenneth Bailey's intensive studies of the parables in the gospel of Luke.

Bailey begins by surveying the development of allegorical, historical-eschatological, aesthetic, and existential methods of interpretation. Though figures like Julicher, Jeremias, Dodd, Jones, and Via have made important advances, Bailey sees the need to go beyond them by combining an examination of the poetic structures of the parables with a better understanding of the Oriental culture that informs the text.

Bailey's work within Middle Eastern peasant culture over the last twenty years has helped him in his attempt to determine the cultural assumptions that the teller of the parables must have made about his audience. The same values which underlay the impact of the parables in Christ's time, Bailey suggests, can be discovered today in isolated peasant communities in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Because time has made almost no impact in these cultural pockets, it is possible to discern, for example, what it meant 2,000 years ago for a friend to come calling at midnight, or for a son to ask for his inheritance prior to his father's death.

In addition to illuminating the cultural framework of the parables, Bailey offers an analysis of their literary structure, treating the parabolic section as a whole as well as its individual components. Through its combination of literary and cultural analyses, Bailey's study makes a number of profound advances in parabolic interpretation.


William Thomson, famous nineteenth-century missionary, traveler, and author, described twenty-five years of surface study of Palestine as it relates to the Bible in his two-volume work, The Land and the Book. When he comes to describe Jerusalem he makes this remarkable statement:

Do not set out … resolved to make discoveries. There is not a foot of ground
that has not been already scrutinized by a thousand eyes as keen as yours, and
the old adage, "If true not new, if new not true," may be applied to Jerusalem
and her monuments with more propriety than to any other place on earth.

Many in our day doubtless feel the same way about the parables of Jesus. Surely after centuries of study and reflection there is nothing fundamentally new in these stories. But even as there was far more to be discovered about the city of Jerusalem than Thomson ever dreamed, even so there is a great deal yet to be precisely understood in the deceptively simple parables of Jesus.

In spite of the wide attention given to the parables in past and in recent scholarship, two aspects of parabolic interpretation still need serious attention. These aspects are the cultural milieu and the literary structure of the parables.

The culture reflected in the Dominical parables is that of first-century Palestine. While the externals of the Palestinian scene relevant to the parables have been analyzed with precision, the internal aspects of personal relationship and attitude have been imprecisely discerned. a more precise delineation of the Oriental culture that informs the text of four major Lucan parables is the first task of this study. the second aspect is that of literary structure, a facet of the parables that has probably had less attention than any other. the theology of the four

Thomson, The Land. ii, 468 (emphasis his). the author gathered his material during a trip through
Palestine in 1857.

Bultmann, Tradition, 166.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.