Even casual Gospel observers notice that some of Jesus’ parables and similes come in pairs that resemble one another so strongly that they might be regarded as twins. But how does one determine which parables and similes truly are twins, and which might just bear a family resemblance? In this post David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton suggest five criteria that authenticate parables and similes as true twins.
When Jesus’ twelve emissaries to Israel returned from their mission, thrilled by their success at exorcising demons, Jesus described to them a vision of the expulsion of Satan from heaven. The vision’s message was double-edged: on the one hand, the downfall of the angelic prince meant that the way was opened for the redemption of Israel; on the other hand, having fallen to earth, Satan was about to unleash his fury against God’s chosen people.
When three eager prospective disciples asked permission to follow Jesus, Jesus responded to each of them with a riddle. Why would God allow Jesus and his followers to sleep on the ground when he provides safe places even for the animals to sleep? How can the dead bury a corpse? Why would a disciple set his hand to a plow when Elisha had given up plowing in order to follow Elijah? These riddles would have to be puzzled over before their meaning was fully understood. But each of the riddles were ominous, and it appears that each of the three prospective disciples reconsidered his desire to join Jesus.
This excursus, which is a work in progress, is an attempt to identify and collect certain redactional words and phrases characteristic of the editorial style of the author of Mark’s Gospel, specifically the “Markan stereotypes” (words that appear with unusually high frequency in Mark) and “Markan pick-ups” (words that the author of Mark borrowed from other sources). We will continue to add to the catalog as further Markan pick-ups and Markan stereotypes are identified in the course of our research for “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.”
The Tower Builder and King Going to War similes attempt to explain why full-time discipleship was not suitable for everyone. Not everyone had the freedom and the ability to give up their livelihoods and leave their families in order to travel with Jesus from place to place. Full-time discipleship was for the select few who could set aside their ordinary activities and engagements in order to master Jesus’ message in order that they, in turn, might accurately pass it on to others. Jesus was willing to take on as full-time disciples only those whom he believed were up to this extraordinary task.
In Widow’s Son in Nain, David Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton ask “Which Nain was the town where Jesus raised the widow’s son?” and “What is the meaning of the people’s exclamation that a prophet had arisen among them?” The possibility of a Judean ministry early in Jesus’ career and of the messianic connotations of the Widow’s Son in Nain story are discussed in detail in this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary.