Monday, February 15, 2021

Revised and Expanded What Are They Saying about the Parables?

What Are They Saying About the Parables?

Good news for those of you who use my What Are They Saying about the Parables? as a textbook: A second, revised and expanded version will be published in fall 2021. This second edition includes significant revisions of and additions to the original seven chapters as well as two entirely new chapters. The paperback is sold out at Paulist Press and is currently over $600 on Amazon! The Kindle version is $8.22. 

I’ll talk about what’s in each chapter in a series of posts, but here is the new Table of Contents: 

Preface to the Second Edition 
Introduction to the First Edition 
1. Historical-Critical Approaches to the Parables
2. The Emergence of Literary Approaches to the Parables
3. Fully Developed Literary Approaches to the Parables 
4. The Parables of Jesus in/and the Synoptic Gospels: The Dialogues Continue (NEW)
5. The Parables and Their Jewish Contexts
6. The Parables and Their Hellenistic Contexts
7. The Parables and Their Social Contexts
8. From Simile and Metaphor to Symbol and Emblematic Language 
9. What do Parables Want?: Receptions and Ethical Applications (NEW)
Select Bibliography
Scripture Index 

My father loved parables—stories that taught, stories that presented ideas and morals in ways that made pictures in people’s minds...Because he believed stories were so important as teaching tools. – Octavia Butler 

The question to ask of pictures from the standpoint of poetics is not just what they mean or what they do but what they want—what claim they make upon us, and how we are to respond. – W. J. T. Mitchell 

Much has changed in the more than two decades since the first edition of this book appeared. Parable scholarship continues to be a dynamic area of New Testament research, and a number of important studies were published and significant developments have occurred during those years. Jesus’ parables, these simple but profound stories, continue to challenge us, and, even after many readings, continue to reveal new insights. 

Not surprisingly, parable scholarship remains fascinating, and this book explores three distinct but inter-related components of parable interpretation, all of which are connected to the quotes from Butler and Mitchell above. 

First, since parables are teaching tools, parable scholars endeavor to determine what parables mean. I argue that, as a dialogic process, the emphasis should instead be on understanding. 

Second, scholars seek to discover what parables do or how parables work, how they produce meaning/understanding, such as the literary or rhetorical ways in which they seek to communicate and persuade. A critical component, as Octavia Butler puts it, is how they create “pictures in people’s minds,” which is not surprising, since, as C. H. Dodd states, Jesus’ parables “are the natural expression of the mind that sees truth in concrete pictures rather than conceives it in abstractions.” How are we to understand the “pictures” these parables create in our minds? 

Third, insightful interpreters explore what parables —or the pictures they create—want of us. Parables make demands on their hearers/readers; they have ethical implications. Their goal is not just to persuade people to see the world, God, themselves, or other human beings in strikingly new ways; parables also demand that their hearers/readers respond in concrete actions by putting those new or changed perceptions into practice in their everyday lives. 

As noted above, the seven existing chapters were significantly revised and two new chapters were added. The first new chapter (chapter 4) focuses on major recent books with differing understandings of the parables and the historical Jesus, the authenticity of the parables, and whether to interpret parables in their gospel contexts. The second new chapter (chapter 9) broadens the discussions by highlighting studies that focus on what parables want, first by introducing a discipline that only recently has come into prominence—reception history of the Bible—and second by including additional studies that explore practical, ethical applications of parables. This revised and expanded edition thus brings the analyses of scholarship up to date, extends the discussions, and includes diverse studies that may be less accessible to many readers of this book.

I'll post more about each chapter in succeeding posts. 

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