The scourge of anti-Semitism has not departed from the Church. Though recently there have been encouraging signs, many Christians still harbor prejudice against Jews. The Synoptic Gospels may have helped spawn this prejudice. They may even play a continuing role in perpetuating it.
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?
The “king parable” is a special form of parable often used by Jesus. Here is the opening of a “king parable” from rabbinic literature: “The matter may be compared to a king who arranged a banquet and invited guests to it. The king issued a decree that stated, ‘Each guest must bring something on which to recline.’ Some brought carpets, others brought mattresses or pads or cushions or stools, while still others brought logs or stones. The king observed what they had done, and said, ‘Let each man sit on what he brought.'”
One of the many interesting results of synoptic research is the discovery of parallels between rabbinic literature and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Rabbinic parallels enhance our understanding of the sayings of Jesus, and vice versa. Jesus’ parable below is more understandable when compared with its rabbinic parallels, and the rabbinic sayings are illuminated by Jesus’ parable.
There is a vast difference between the approach of the Essenes toward unbelievers, and that of Jesus and his disciples. The Essenes practiced extreme separatism, particularly forbidding economic relations with outsiders. Whoever wanted to follow Jesus, however, had to live in brotherly love with the outside world and not withdraw from society. This emphasis on relations with others not only guaranteed Jesus’ followers friendship with outsiders, but helped open non-believers’ hearts to Jesus’ message of love.
The dragnet or seine is the oldest type of fishing net, and its use was once the most important fishing method on the Sea of Galilee. In the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud it is called HE·rem, and in Greek sagene, from which the word “seine” is derived. Sources such as Egyptian tomb paintings dating from the third millennium B.C.E. suggest that this fishing method was widely used in ancient times throughout the countries of the East.
From the outset Young argues that the best way to understand what Jesus was teaching in his parables is to try to hear him as he spoke to his people. The author argues that this can best be done by analyzing the parables of Jesus together with those told by other rabbis of his day.
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,” will help its readers gain a clearer understanding of Jesus’ words and teaching.
The late Dr. Robert Lindsey, pioneer translator of the Gospels into modern Hebrew, synoptic researcher and pastor of Jerusalem’s Narkis Street Congregation, resided in Israel for over forty years. His discoveries challenge many conclusions of New Testament scholarship from the past two hundred years. Lindsey created a new approach to the study of the Synoptic Gospels. Here, Lindsey provides an introduction to the field of synoptic studies and the “Synoptic Problem.”