This week brings me the good publication news. My version of Right Kingdom on Luke will be published also by Wipf and Stock soon. I’m in the process of copyediting the work at the moment. We must now go to the more relevant matter of talking about A-J. Levine’s work Short Stories by Jesus.
We have come to chapter 3. She starts by pointing out the highly likely authenticity of the parable of the yeast in Mathew 13.33 in the view of the Jesus Seminar.
She goes on to point out the erroneous interpretations which include seeing yeasts as invisible. Yeast is small but it’s visible. I think her insistence that yeast parables are in fact bread type scenes is interestingly insightful. She basically asks the broader cultural question of what yeast is for. Levine is correct in seeing these as horribly misreading of Jesus simply because the influence of their reading come from wrong presuppositions of reading the Bible as “one book”. I think her concern is total legitimate. I’m thankful that in my own reading of this parable that I insist on the immediate context as the best definition of meaning.
Although the yeast was visible, Levine points out that the yeast was hidden in the dough. The function of its hiddenness was to bring forth the impact of the kingdom. Her conclusion is that a most insignificant thing such as yeast could represent something so significant as the kingdom. She also connects yeast to many of the OT texts that talk about yeast. At this point, I’m unsure whether we can connect yeast with Gideon or Abraham the way Levine did. Perhaps we can’t control the imagination of Jesus’ original Jewish audience, but the parable hardly seems to connect to those OT stories.
While in general, I do agree with Levine, I wish to add an element of importance to the yeast parable. Whether we’re reading Matthew 13 or Luke 13, the amount of dough was very large and the “hiding” of the yeast through mixing consists of hard work. The woman then shows that the insignificant yeast certainly required hard work nevertheless.