Friday, October 14, 2016

Parables of Jesus, Part 4: Parable Hermenuetics

Parables of Jesus, Part 4

Primary Sources:

1.The Parables of Jesus, James Montgomery Boice, Moody Publishers, 1983
2.The Parables of Jesus, R. C. Sproul, video series and Study Guide, Ligonier Ministries, 2013

Parables of Jesus, Part 1
Parables of Jesus, Part 2
Parables of Jesus, Part 3

Parable Hermeneutics

An unintentional bait and switch. I know I said the next part (this one) would discuss an actual parable. It won't. You have to listen to one more sales pitch before you get your free day at the resort. (That metaphor doesn't really work, but I like it.)

The early church up to the medieval church generally interpreted parables allegorically.

Allegory is a literary device in which characters or events in a literary, visual, or musical art form represent or symbolize ideas and concepts. (Source: Wikipedia1)

In Christian Literature, Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) is the definitive allegorical work. Unconstrained, allegory in biblical exegesis can lead to allegorical silliness:

Not all ancient theologians advocated allegory:

“It is not right to search curiously, and word by word, into all things in a parable; but when we have learned the object for which it was composed, we are to reap this, and not to busy ourselves about anything further.” –John Chrysostom (347-407 CE), Archbishop of Constantinople

The modern view (right or wrong) is:
  • A parable consists of (one, usually) two, or at most three simple messages.
  • Do not look for hidden meanings or symbols.

When Jesus explained why he used parables he quoted the book of Isaiah: “lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

This does not mean that parables are hard to understand and it does not mean that unbelievers cannot understand them in the usual sense of the word “understand.”

How much more so--Will not God?

Many parables teach the lesson that fits the pattern: 

If even fallen men with impure motives can do [the right thing] (though it may take persistent prodding),

How much more so will our God…, or

Will not God do even more?

That is, many use persistence in men to demonstrate how much more faith we can have in God.

Next we will move on to, well, an actual parable! No, I mean that. Really. So concludes the four-part introduction. Stay tuned.

1 And therefore is correct. Just ask my students.
2 As best demonstrated by Winston Churchill (1941): "Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never."


Jump to Part 5

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