One of the finest articles ever written on rabbinic parables and the parables of Jesus was published in 1972 in the now defunct Christian News from Israel. The article is a classic, but, unfortunately, no longer available. Jerusalem Perspective is pleased to resurrect this milestone article together with the responses of founding Jerusalem School members, the late Robert L. Lindsey and David Flusser.*
Material from Ezekiel 17:24, and more often 21:3 (20:47 in the English Bible) has often been cited as the source of Jesus’ saying in Luke 23:31, “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?“ Other commentators have questioned this assumption. If the material was borrowed from Ezekiel, however, was it borrowed directly or was it sifted through hundreds of years of usage, only to find its way into the mouth of Jesus?
The order of The Four Types usually implies ascending gradation from worst to best. When I read The Parable of the Sower, I am inclined to see the third group as representing the category in which most of us fall—including me.
Once, when Jesus and his disciples were enjoying themselves at a dinner party, a simple observation was made: “Your disciples don’t fast!” The observation was innocent and simple enough; it was not an accusation, but an honest exclamation of perplexity. Jesus’ response, however, was far from simple.
It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.
Gospel parables are probably the most widely identifiable teaching form of Jesus. However, readers seldom recognize Jesus’ sophisticated skill as a first-century Jewish parabolist. Indeed, many Christians are unaware that his use of story parables is one of the strongest links between Jesus and contemporary Jewish piety. His parables also demonstrate that Jesus taught in Hebrew.
Scholarship has recognized the similarities between the Parable of the Talents and the historical account of Archelaus’ attempts to inherit the kingdom of his father, Herod the Great. When Herod died, Caesar Augustus divided the kingdom between Herod’s three sons, Archelaus, Antipas and Philip.
Once while listening to some people praise the grandeur of the Temple, Jesus remarked, “The days are coming when there shall not be left here one stone upon another stone” (Lk. 21:6). Those who heard his sober remark could not help but to ask, “When will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” Jesus’ answer to these questions is found in Luke 21:8-9, 20-24 and 28-31. Often Christians have missed the thrust of Jesus’ concluding parable about the fig tree (Lk. 21:29-31), because it includes a sophisticated Hebrew wordplay and is intricately interwoven with first-century Jewish ideas. Here, I hope to shed light on both the ingenuity of Jesus’ answer to the questions about the Temple’s demise and the meaning of his message of hope.
The Jericho Road is no more than a thirty-minute drive from where we live. Yet the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) can be as distant as the period of time in which it happened. Such a dramatic experience—passing up someone in dire need—would never happen to us! But how about someone who is not in such dire need? Let’s consider someone who needs just a little help.
In rabbinic parables God could be portrayed as behaving in a morally ambiguous manner: he might be a cruel slave owner or a heartless judge. In a few Lukan parables, Jesus also portrayed God as behaving scandalously. Often unsettling for modern readers, such portrayals added humorous elements to the plot and heightened the dramatic effect.
Jesus gave his disciple Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and promised that whatever Peter “bound” and “loosed” on earth would be “bound” and “loosed” in heaven. What scriptural allusions lurk beneath these expressions and what are their implications? How does the Jewish literary background of Matthew 16:19 help us better appreciate Jesus’ words?