Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Parables of Jesus

I've just finished reading Luise Schottroff's book, The Parables of Jesus, newly available in English translation from Fortress Press. While I frequently found myself disagreeing with her interpretations, I learned a great deal and found her methods well worth considering.

Schottroff's basic method is to resist the traditional "ecclesiological" interpretation of the parables, seeking instead to find an interpretation that is grounded in the socio-historical relevance of the parable. She is constantly on guard against anti-Jewish and pro-patriarchal interpretations. This leads her to some understandings of the parables that are exact opposites of the traditional interpretations.

For instance, in the parable of the talents, she takes the slave who buried his talent in the ground and named the harshness of his master to be the hero of the parable. I'm not prepared to accept such radical reversals. Even so, while the effect of seeing it is jarring, it is jarring in a good way. Even if I disagree, I'm forced to reconsider my own view of the text. I can no longer take things for granted.

Most compelling is Schottroff's sensitive awareness of the terrible images that we are willing to accept as pictures of God. In the introduction she writes:
In the doominant tradition of interpretation God is represented in these texts by the owner of the vineyard who destroys the murderous tenants, the bridegroom who excludes the "foolish" young women from bliss, and the king who kills his guests. This tradition of interpretation compels the interpreters to read a horror story as Gospel. Is God really to be compared to a king who executes his own guests?

Well, sure, when you put it that way it sounds terrible. And shouldn't it? Then, once that grip has been loosened, things get interesting.

Last year, I blogged through the parables as an Easter devotion. I was going to do something different this year, like maybe the Sermon on the Mount, but I think I will have another go at the parables, seeing if I can apply some of what I've learned from Luise Schottroff to my own readings of these texts.

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

Another book to add to my wish list...(and to add to my pile of unread books...) Thanks for the review and the highlights.