Monday, September 7, 2015

Adolf Jülicher and the Parables (part 2)

Jülicher sets out to prune the allegorical overgrowth found in the gospel versions of the parables. Thus he assumes not only that such an allegorical overgrowth exists—some clearly does—but that scholars armed with proper sets of shears and trained eyes can pare back the allegorical overgrowth in the gospels to uncover the parables of Jesus as he spoke them, thus uncovering more authentic elements of Jesus’s teachings. Jülicher finds that Jesus used parables to “illustrate the unfamiliar by the commonly familiar, to guide gently upwards from the easy to the difficult” (1963 I.146). Jesus’s “original” parables are not allegorical, not meant to obscure his message, not (intentionally) created to be difficult puzzles to solve, and do not serve as stumbling blocks for “outsiders” (cf. Mark 4:11-12). Instead, the parables as told by Jesus before they were distorted by the Gospel authors are always straightforward discourse (immer eigentliche Rede) in clear language that is “meant to inform, clarify, and persuade” (McKim 2007: 586). Jülicher declares:
So far as I see, we cannot escape explaining the meaning and understanding of the evangelists [gospel authors] as a misunderstanding of the essence of Jesus’ parables. The difference can be expressed as follows: According to the theory of the evangelists, the “parables” are allegories, and therefore figurative discourse that to some extent requires translation, while in fact they are—or, we should say, they were, before they came into the hands of zealous redactors—something very different: parables, fables, example paradigmatic stories, but always literal discourse (Kümmel 1972: 187; emphasis in the original: Jülicher 1963: I.49).

Jülicher thus argues that despite the fact that centuries of interpreters had considered the parables of Jesus to be allegories—including the gospel authors themselves—the evidence points to Jesus’ parables not being allegorical (1963 I.61).

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