Parables Unplugged

Parables Unplugged: Reading the Lukan Parables in Their Rhetorical Context

Lauri Thurén
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Parables Unplugged
    Book Description:

    For far too long, Lauri Thurén argues, the parables of Jesus have been read either as allegories encoding Christian theology—including the theological message of one or another Gospel writer—or as tantalizing clues to the authentic voice of Jesus. Thurén proposes instead to read the parables “unplugged” from any assumptions beyond those given in the narrative situation in the text, on the common-sense premise that the very form of the parable works to propose a (sometimes startling) resolution to a particular problem. Thurén applies his method to the parables in Luke with some surprising results involving the Evangelist’s overall narrative purposes and the discrete purposes of individual parables in supporting the authority of Jesus, proclaiming God’s love, exhorting steadfastness, and so on. Eschatological and allegorical readings are equally unlikely, according to Thurén’s results. This study is sure to spark learned discussion among scholars, preachers, and students for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6526-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Part I.
    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-50)

      The parables told by Jesus are among the most fascinating and beloved of all tales, and the most studied as well. Values and ideas attributed to these short stories have inspired later cultures in many ways, and the teaching of the Christian churches constantly refers to them. Surprisingly, there is no unanimity about their meaning or purpose. Instead, a single parable can be interpreted in innumerable different ways.¹

      Perhaps the main reason for the diversity of interpretations is that the parables are used for a wide range of purposes. Spiritual readings have been mainly interested in the parables’ christological² or...

  5. Part II.
    • 2 The Bad Samaritan (10:25-37)
      (pp. 53-76)

      The touching story of a lonely man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho has become an invaluable source for christological¹ and ethical² interpretations. Historical reconstructions abound.³ The parable has served as a test case for modern and postmodern readings as well.⁴ However, its meaning and function in the existing text should not be neglected. An unplugged reading offers a fresh perspective.

      The parable in 10:30b-35 is often used for purposes that have little relevance to the situation described in the framework narrative (10:25-30a, 36-37). When it is exploited as a source of information about the historical Jesus and his sociohistorical environment,...

    • 3 Persuading the Pharisees (15:1-32)
      (pp. 77-106)

      The story of a man with two sons (Luke 15:11-32) would certainly benefit from an unplugged reading, as its later high status appears to have resulted in suffocation of the narrative and its main figures. The same applies to the preceding parables in 15:4-10.

      TheProdigal Sonis typically assessed as touching “the human condition like no other story.”¹ It has been “the most influential on the mind of the church and of Western man as a whole,” as it deals with “the great themes of the Christian Doctrine,” and the most profound human questions.² Its influence on art and...

    • 4 The Unjust Steward (16:1-9)
      (pp. 107-148)

      The simple, vivid story of theUnjust Stewardin Luke 16:1-9 is generally, albeit surprisingly, assessed as “the most difficult of the parables.”¹ Its original meaning is either considered to be completely lost,² so that Luke too was perplexed,³ or the parable is thought to convey a complex message that is hard to perceive at first reading. The reason for the bafflement is obvious: by presenting his hearers with a deceitful man as a role model Jesus appears to commend immoral behavior. For most religious and academic readers this is unacceptable. Moreover, it is difficult to combine the unethical parable...

    • 5 The Wicked Tenants (20:9-19)
      (pp. 149-178)

      The parable of theWicked Tenantssuffers from the too-obvious christological interpretation and too-alluring intertextual and historical connections, which have left the actual story in the shadow. Thus the attempt to look behind all the extraneous material to see how the story is designed in order to persuade its actual recipients, the audience of the Lukan Jesus and the readers of the Lukan work, is intriguing.

      There are at least eight factors that influence how the parable is currently understood, although these factors do not appear in the text:

      1. The influence of theOld Testament backgroundon the parable’s imagery...

  6. Part III.
    • 6 The Overall Mapping of the Parables
      (pp. 181-248)

      No general hypothesis about the Lukan parables is reliable if it is based on a selective reading.¹ Therefore, after the previous deep analysis of some key parables, the next step is to create a comprehensive presentation of all Jesus’ parables in Luke.² I will do this in two interrelated parts. chapter 6 will provide a synopsis of the parables. I will examine how to identify them and their essential qualities, such as length, type, images, audience, exigency, credibility, and references. The overall results for each question and their most interesting correlations will be displayed. One specific aim of this chapter...

    • 7 The Parables as Persuasion
      (pp. 249-344)

      The most important challenge when interpreting any parable is recognizing its function: How is it intended to convince its audience? Only thus can its meaning or message can be accurately perceived. Together with the story line, contextual factors such as the speaker, the audience, and the exigency determine the function of a parable. The argumentative structure is just as important. This chapter presents a comprehensive unplugged analysis of every Lukan parable told by Jesus, focusing on these issues.

      An unplugged approach to the argumentation means that only the function in the written context, lacking any reconstructed Lukan or other early...

    • 8 Re-Plugging the Parables
      (pp. 345-374)

      In conclusion I shall ask how and why Jesus, as Narrator, uses parables in order to persuade his audience—and how Luke, as Author, has the same intent with respect to those who read his text. I shall begin by classifying and analyzing the messages supported by each particular parable. This is enabled by the above study of their argumentative structure. Do these messages have any bearing on classical topics such as theology, Christology, and eschatology—or on historical issues? If so, this would mean that the outcome of this book should bere-pluggedto accommodate traditional theological and historical...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 375-390)
  8. Index of Names
    (pp. 391-396)
  9. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 397-410)
  10. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 411-422)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 423-423)