into the parables

December 21, 2008 | 6 Comments

I’m excited to dig in to the parables after the first of the year. We are to beginning a study the parables in our Austin Mustard Seed gatherings.

Most teachings on the parables feel like they fall short to me. It doesn’t ring true to treat parables like one of Aesop’s Fable with a simple moral to be extracted. To be honest, I don’t know what a good study of the parables should look like, but I like what Thomas Keating has to say: “It is charateristic of the parables to ask the question, ‘What makes you think that the world is the way you see it?'” That feels like a good place to start.

Below are the main texts I’ll be using for study. If you have others you’d recommend, please leave a comment.

  • I would start with the Bible. Just saying 🙂

  • Worth Wheeler

    All of those sources look like they’ll be helpful. I know the one by Brad Young was especially helpful. I read it a year and a half ago to do a study on the parables as well and thought it was very insightful. I do have trouble distinguishing some of his deeper comments when it comes to early Jewish sources. I’m becoming more and more aware, ever since seminary, that we have to be careful making claims about Jewish thought-life, context, and understanding in the 1st century. A lot more research and discovery is required. What happens a lot is Jewish studies by contemporary authors cite material from 2nd and 3rd century sources and import them in reverse toward the 1st century to make claims and (dangerously?) application for today. While I think that probably a lot of latter 1st century and early 2nd century study may be valid in making these kind of claims, we still need to be careful. That’s my half cent when reading anything that claims to delve deep into Jewish tradition at the time of Jesus. I learned this the hard way by using Kittel in seminary to back-up by research claims, and I got slammed hard by some very knowledgeable profs (i.e. Kittel is dated and can’t be used very often for making contextual/historical claims for the 1st century). Now, all this being said, Young’s book is quite exceptional, and I think he’s a fantastic scholar and does none of the above (or very little). And since I’ve said a lot about that book, and haven’t read the others, I’ll sign off for now. Later.

  • Worth,
    Thanks for your comments…I’ve seen that same argument. I can’t remember which, as it’s been a while since I originally read them, but I know that one of these parables books makes the claim that Jesus was the first to teach in parables, and it became common in Jewish teaching after that. While another argues that parables were common, but Jesus subverted many of the common parables by tweaking them.

    Clearly, it would be an error to dispute one has a comprehensive understanding of first century Judaism…it was too diverse, even then.

  • Big one you’ve missed! Klyne Snodgrass’s Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus is the best new academic reference to the parables of Jesus. Snodgrass is brilliant, engaging, third-way moderate evangelical, and this is a result of a life work (he’s taught New Testament for 30+ years). They sold out at the Society of Biblical Literature in November, which lets you know that his colleagues are thinking this is a landmark book. Will be my first and last stop for treatment of the parables for a long while.

    Okay, I’m done with the praise-fest. But this would be one to not miss.

  • Chris,
    Thanks for the recommendation. I hadn’t seen this one before, but looks great.