The Challenge of Jesus' Parables

The Challenge of Jesus' Parables

The Challenge of Jesus' Parables

The Challenge of Jesus' Parables

Excerpt

The parables of Jesus are commonly assumed to be simple stories, told in an engaging manner and easily understood by almost everyone. People can still be heard to say, "Give us only the parables, and the Christian religion will be more readily welcomed, more quickly understood, and more easily assimilated." But Jesus' parables, while seemingly simple in their story lines, set before their modern readers a number of complex and significant challenges: challenges having to do with (1) Jesus' purpose in telling these parables, (2) how they were used by the canonical evangelists in their Gospels, and (3) the depth and breadth of meaning that they possess — but also, and probably more important, (4) our being awakened anew to the radical message that they proclaim.

The word "parable" (parabolē) appears forty-eight times in the Synoptic Gospels (seventeen times in Matthew, thirteen in Mark, and eighteen in Luke). It is entirely absent in John's Gospel and is missing in the rest of the New Testament as well, except for two uses in Hebrews 9:9 and 11:19 that are without importance for a discussion of Jesus' parables. The word has various shades of meaning in the Synoptic Gospels and can be understood to refer to a number of ways in which Jesus both taught and ministered. John's Gospel, however, presents Jesus as speaking in extended discourses, not in sayings or parables, though parabolic forms may underlie some of the Johannine discourses (e.g., 10:1-5; perhaps also 3:29; 8:35; 11:9-10, and 12:24).

What follows in this book are thirteen articles written by thirteen . . .

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