The bibliographic material contained recent scholarship from tremendous Biblical scholars.  Bailey also included sources outside of the Western tradition that were more akin to the culture of Jesus.  This helped to provide insight into parts of the text that might otherwise be foreign to us.  As Bailey mentioned, it is important to dialogue with other cultures because our interpretations can be challenged and corrected in the process.  However, Bailey does not include women in his bibliography, which is an unfortunate area of lack, considering Bailey’s emphasis on the female characterization of God in the text.

To better understand Jesus’ parables, it is important to understand what type of teacher he was.  He was often called rabbi and taught in rabbinic fashion.  This suggests that Jesus had formal training as a teacher of the Law.  As such, when Jesus engages the scholars of his day in discussions of the Law, he is teaching in a deeply theological manner.  In other words, these aren’t merely the words of a simple carpenter, but they are carefully constructed metaphors that clearly communicate Jesus’ theology.

All stories are bound up in language and the culture that language inhabits.  As such, to truly grasp a story, one must understand the context from which that story emerges.  The Western Church is far removed from the Middle Eastern way of life and it should pay careful attention to that culture’s way of life and the interpretations of Scripture from that culture.  It may be that light could be shed in new ways where our cultural blinders prohibit us from understanding more fully.

It’s also important to understand the story of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son(s) together, not separately.  Each is connected closely with the next and sheds light on God’s character, as well as Jesus’ character.  Furthermore, we cannot read these as allegory without inherent dangers.  We cannot read something that the original hearers would not have understood.  That does damage to the intent of the parable.  And, a parable can have one meaning, one meaning with sub-points, or multiple points of meaning.  We should keep this in mind as we read these texts.

It is interesting to see how Jesus uses Old Testament images for God and helps them to re-function in these parables.  The shepherd, the woman, and the father are all given new life that is now centered on who Jesus is and what Jesus does.  To claim equality with God, while at the same time confronting the religious leaders in this way, would have been grounds for death (which is what happens later).  Parables can be a dangerously subversive method of communicating.  Using Old Testament texts, such as the Jacob saga, in new ways was a typical method of communication.  The difference is that Jesus utilizes the Jacob saga to create dissonance in the audience by using both similarities and differences in the two stories to highlight his particular vision of God.  More importantly, Jesus paints the story to show that he is the key to properly understanding those Old Testament stories.

  1. Nate Cook says:

    Thanks for posting this… I needed the cliff notes!

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