I’m starting a series of blogs to give excerpts on my new book Right Parables, Wrong Perspectives: A Diverse Reading of Luke’s Parables. Feel free to share these excerpts with everyone who likes to read the Bible or on your Facebook wall. These are used with the permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. You can get your discounted copy here or on Amazon. Maybe with the holiday coming up, you can give your friends and families the gift of reading. Today, I’m going to address what this book is for with the following excerpt from pp. ix-x.
Jesus’ parables are polyphonic. His parables could represent one voice, while there are also multiple voices of ways the stories could have been told. This explains my title and subtitle. The title refers to the wrong perspectives. Jesus was a polemical teacher who didn’t hesitate to disclose and denounce the wrong perspectives of his day. The many voices could be the many perspectives people used to view a particular issue, while Jesus emphasized his own perspective. When reading as modern readers, we should keep in mind these perspectives. There have been a number of very good books on parables in recent years. Klyne Snodgrass’s Stories with Intent probably provides the most thorough methodological demonstration of various ways to read New Testament parables. Amy-Jill Levine’s brief work Short Stories by Jesus also provides a uniquely Jewish perspective, demonstrating the provocation Jesus was bringing to his audience while correcting anti-Semitic readings common in the modern West. In this book, I try to be more concise than Snodgrass and focus more on the original readers in addition to Jesus’ own audience. My book serves the curious and nontechnical reader who wishes to understand Jesus’ parables in Luke.
In this book, I will take sample parables of Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke to show how reading them within their literary and cultural context will challenge both the ancient and modern readers. Inevitably, I shall skip over a few of the parables simply because my purpose isn’t to write a thorough commentary on Luke’s parables, but to see how a certain way of reading can help us understand any of Luke’s parables more accurately, creatively, and clearly. At the end of our study, we shall discover that Luke had a very practical and social message that often addresses how resources ought to be used within the faith community and by the faithful individual. It remains a challenging message today in our churches.
I write to serve two primary groups of readers. I serve the busy pastor who wishes to get the gist of Jesus’ parables while juggling a busy ministerial schedule. I also serve the lay-person who wishes to go beyond the usual popular studies on Jesus’ parables to something with a solid intellectual spine, but without the academic jargon. This effort will cause me to be selective about presenting technical information that may be better suited to academic commentaries on either the parables or on Luke (and there are so many excellent ones out there). My goal is simple. I wish to help my readers appreciate the fact that we often retell Jesus’ parables in ways opposite to Jesus’ intent. When certain essential elements are missing in our interpretation, we not only risk interpreting a partial truth, but we often derive the opposite message. This book hopes to correct some of our misreading by looking at how ancient audiences could have read them, and then how that also reflects modern misreadings.
This book is also a continuation of my book on Matthew, Right Kingdom, Wrong Stories. Readers of Right Kingdom will notice similarity in format and differences in content. I will not rehash in detail the preface from Right Kingdom. The summary below will serve our purpose in reading Luke’s stories.