Ruben Zimmermann's contributions to parable study are vast and significant, and more is forthcoming from him. In brief, though, through his books (and dozens of articles), Zimmermann makes significant methodological, hermeneutical, and ethical contributions to parable interpretation, including his efforts to facilitate collaboration among scholars around the world.
The “integrative method” of historical, literary, and reader-oriented approaches that Zimmermann proposes advances dialogues not just in parable scholarship but also in historical Jesus scholarship.
Zimmermann’s work is also comprehensive in the ways discussed in the Preface to my WATSA Parables? book. He investigates what parables do and how they work; he explores their meanings; and, perhaps most importantly, he endeavors to ascertain what parables want, the ways in which parables challenge their hearers to act.
Yet these explorations, discussions, and collaborations need to be extended. An integrative method, for example, is not new or unique, and, in fact, should be—as some already are —even more comprehensive, integrating not just literary, rhetorical, and socio-historical analyses but also additional insights, for example, from socio-economic, socio-cultural, and other social-scientific analyses of the first-century Mediterranean world.
In addition, a richer dialogue with literary approaches would strengthen discussions about the dialogic function of parables embedded into larger narratives, which includes (a) centripetal elements that necessitate interpretation of the parables within their literary contexts and (b) centrifugal elements that require analyses of how the narratives can attempt to impose more-monologic discourse on the more-dialogic parables (see the discussion of “monologic authority” at the end of Chapter 3 above). Sometimes embedding parables into larger narratives can change their meanings dramatically. In these cases, the tensions between parables and the larger narratives in which they are embedded cannot control, contain, or complete the parables’ ability to create or communicate meaning.
The next post will offer a brief conclusion about heteroglossia, polyphony, and parables. After that, on to discussing Chapter 5 of What are They Saying about the Parables?