Thursday, December 11, 2008

Parables and the Kingdom—Stories with Intent, Post One

My colleague Klyne Snodgrass has written a very important book on the Parables called Stories with Intent.
You would have thought that a guy who has done a ThM in NT and a PhD in Gospel Studies should know a great deal about the parables. If truth be told, the study of the parables of Jesus is one--but certainly not the only--significant lacuna in my knowledge base of the NT. It appears that there is now no better place to begin building up one's knowledge of the parables than Klyne's new book. Instantly it has become THE book on the study of the parables. 

One quote particularly stuck out to me in the opening pages of the book both for its style and content. Kylne writes:
The parables of Jesus presuppose the kingdom they seek to disclose. (p. 2)


Mason said...

I agree, Kline’s “Stories With Intent” is absolutely brilliant. The format, the comprehensiveness, the way it makes you really think through the parable, and the little touches like quoting primary sources (as opposed to just citing) , all add up to the best resource I’ve used in studying parables.
I find that even when I at times disagree with the end interpretation he gives, that still the tools he lays out for understanding the parable allow me to see why I agree or disagree. Also I always end up with a deeper understanding of what is going on in what are at times quite difficult statements by Jesus.

Wieland Willker said...

The parables ARE very difficult. Ultimately we will never know, what Jesus really meant.

C. Hedrick wrote in his "Many things in parables":
"They do not 'teach' anything in particular or in general. ... They raise questions and issues, but provide no answers ..."

Mason said...

While I agree that we can not claim to know definitively “Jesus meant exactly (A) by this parable” I do think that they do and did actually mean something in their context, and are not just vague aphorisms.
Clearly the people he was talking to often reacted in ways which presumed he meant something specific, and often subversive, as opposed to just going ‘hmm, that makes me think’.

Wieland Willker said...

"I do think that they do and did actually mean something in their context"

But the problem is that we don't know the context in which Jesus actually spoke a certain parable.
Either there is no context at all or, if there is one, it is not reliable, but probably made up by the Gospel authors, who possibly already have a certain interpretation (so Hedrick).
We are left with the parables as such.
Difficult stuff!
Hedrick's book was recommended to me on Jim West's list as a complementary balance to Snodgrass' book. I recommend it, too!

Mason said...

"Either there is no context at all or, if there is one, it is not reliable, but probably made up by the Gospel authors"

I think that when one looks at the work of, for example, Bauckham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses", we see the Gospel authors had a vested interest in accurately conveying the setting and meaning of what Jesus said both because the actual events mattered to them, and because they were not the only witnesses to the events so there was something to compare their testimony to.
Critical scholarship may balk at this assertion, but I think there is a very sustainable case to be made for seeing the accuracy of the Gospel accounts and rejecting the idea that the authors just made up things willy-nilly. This case is not based on a naive fundamentalism, but rather detailed research by the best in the field like Bauckham, Wright, Dunn, etc.