I am pleased to recommend Brad Young’s research into the parables of Jesus, and I am sure that his new book, Jesus and His Jewish Parables (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989), will help its readers gain a clearer understanding of Jesus’ words and teaching.
There is no question that the way to understanding Jesus leads through his Jewishness. To be a Jew in Jesus’ day meant learning not only the Hebrew Bible but also a wealth of rabbinic interpretation. Jesus’ contemporaries called him “Rabbi” (Teacher) and my experience has shown me that Jesus was a very learned man. His words were sometimes simple as salt (e.g., Matt. 16:26), but even in such cases he alluded to Jewish learning, and he sometimes also spoke as a rabbinical authority (e.g., Matt. 12:11-12).
A knowledge of this Jewish background is vital for a modern reader to understand what Jesus really meant. You do not have to be Jewish to be nourished by Jesus’ bread, but to become a New Testament scholar it is essential to acquire a sound knowledge of ancient Judaism. If you want to understand Jesus’ parables without becoming a scholar, you have to find a teacher who is an expert in Jewish matters. Dr. Young is such an expert, a scholar whose books reveal new aspects both in Jewish and in New Testament research.