Saturday, June 24, 2006

Luke, Shame, Kingdom, and Prayer - some reflections by a NT tutor

After teaching a course on Jesus and the Gospels which focuses on Luke's parables and another course on Luke-Acts, it has really driven home to me just how many of Luke's parables, esp. those about prayer, appeal to God's honour or not shaming God as a basis for prayer or action.

The parable of the friend at midnite (Lk. 11.5-8) makes the point that God welcomes "shameless" audacity (anadeia) in prayer and will answer because his honour is on the line.

The parable of the persistant widow (Lk. 18.1-8) likewise appeals to God's honour as the basis of his action since he does not want to be worn down or shamed like the unjust judge with the widow.

The parable of the Shrewd Manager (Lk. 16.1-14) seems to propose the idea that the role of disciples is to accrue honour to God by placing others in his debt.

What is quite shocking about many of Luke's parables is that the figures who symbolize/represent God are quite harsh or unsympathetic. Consider these three examples:

1. The "man of noble birth" in the parable of the Ten Minas (Lk. 19.11-27) who was probably based on Archelaus son of Herod the Great.

2. The "manager" in the parable of the Shrewd Manager (Lk. 16.1-14)

3. The "friend" in the parable of the Friend at Midnite (Lk. 11.5-8).

What does this tell us about Luke's doctrine of God? Is Luke being ironic? Is Luke trying to drive home the impartiality and severity of God's judgments? Of course such parables need to be juxtaposed with the parables of Luke 15 and the "lost things" like the coin, sheep and son which underscore the radical compassion of God. Still, it makes for some interesting thinking.


NWMihelis said...

What are your top three reccomendations for monographs on the parables?

georgebailey said...


Loren Rosson just did/is still doing an interesting series on parables where he counters the normal view (in some instances) that God is the main character, and a positive one; LR argues in favor of peasant/subversive readings.

Philip Magee said...

first posting here - thinking through what you have said here about God being equated with one of the characters in the parable. My feeling would see why Jesus had used such a parable - while I have not studied the two latter parables(Luke 16 & Luke 19) in any great depth I wouldnt say that God is the Friend in Luke 11. My feeling is that Jesus is using it to demonstrate here the persistence in prayer. Again in Luke 18, we find Jesus' interpretation in v7. God is the one who is going to grant justice. I do not think Jesus is saying that God is like this unjust Judge. I dont think in this parable we should get lost in what character or object even is equal to what! I totally agree that Luke-Acts is rich with this theme of prayer - Thanks for this post!