Today, we’ll look at what a parable is. The following excerpt from pp. x-xi gives a very simple discussion on what a parable is.
In order to study a parable, it is important to define the term. Scholars have debated what parables essentially are.
1 Are they fables or allegories? Do they have one or multiple points? These questions tend to drive the discussions.
2 Whatever agreements or disagreements, we can’t dismiss the fact that these parables had relevance for Jesus’ original Jewish audience and Luke’s original readers. Thus, their origin was decidedly Jewish but their reception in Luke was Gentile. We shall discuss this matter shortly.
In past discussions regarding parables, many have sought to find a universal model to describe Jesus’ parables. Jesus’ parables however seem to defy such efforts. While many parables seem to have one clear message, many do not. I think it’s probably going to be a tough effort to find that one clear universal model. Perhaps we’re asking the wrong questions. Models may or may not determine the meaning. Forms may or may not determine the meaning. So what does?
The interaction between Jesus and his Jewish audience, per the description in the text, determines meaning. Then, the interaction between the author and readers also determines meaning. In other words, every parable encompasses two layers of meaning. How many points a parable makes ultimately doesn’t shed enough light to make the debate worth our while. Rather, two boundaries (the interaction between Jesus and his audience and the interaction between Luke and his readers) give us the range of meaning. The parable is the word picture reflecting the issues that are brought up by the two interactions.