The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary

By Arland J. Hultgren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

Parables of Wisdom

Several parables are concerned about wisdom, and usually that is about being a wise disciple of Jesus. That is particularly true of the six parables that are discussed in this chapter. To be sure, there are other parables that express the theme of wisdom in one way or another, such as the Parable of the Children in the Marketplace (Matt 11:16-19//Luke 7:31-35), but in those cases other themes are stronger. The parables discussed here express the need to possess and to practice wisdom as their main thrust.

The wisdom tradition is old, broad, and perennial in biblical literature. It antedates the writing of the Scriptures, for it appears in the ancient literatures of Egypt and Mesopotamia prior to the writing of the biblical books. The tradition arose out of an international movement that was not dependent on revelation to any particular people by means of their election or by historical acts. Within the traditions of Israel its origins go back at least to Solomon, who was famous for his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34). The wisdom tradition was carried on primarily by sages, scribes, and officers (both religious and political) through the centuries well after the rise of Christianity.

Within the OT various literary units are classified as wisdom literature. These include the books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Psalm 37. In addition, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) and the Wisdom of Solomon among the OT apocrypha/deuterocanonical books are considered wisdom literature.

According to Gospel traditions, Jesus of Nazareth was known to be a wise man and teacher of wisdom. In Matthew 11:28-30 he is portrayed explicitly as a teacher of wisdom. When the passage is compared with Sirach 51:23-26 concerning the call of wisdom to her pupils, the point is drawn with utmost clarity. At Luke 11:31 Jesus refers to "the wisdom of Solomon" and then declares that, by virtue of his teachings, "something greater than Solomon is here." In addition to these passages concerning Jesus as a sage, or teacher of wisdom, there are

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