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Nov 4

Characteristics and Interpretation of Parables

2009 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

Since Ryan has been preaching through some parables recently, here are two lists that offer helpful guidelines for understanding Jesus’ parables.  Both of these lists are from Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. These are just the headlines of each point, so if you want to read more you can either purchase the book or read some of it online here.

Characteristics of Jesus’ Parables (pp. 17-21)

  1. Jesus’ parables are first of all brief, even terse.
  2. Parables are marked by simplicity and symmetry.
  3. Jesus’ parables focus mostly on humans.
  4. The parables are fictional descriptions taken from everyday life, but they do not necessarily portray everyday events.
  5. Parables are engaging; they were told to create interest…
  6. Since they frequently seek to reorient thought and behavior, in keeping with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere parables often contain elements of reversal.
  7. With their intent to bring about response and elements like reversal, the crucial matter of parables is usually at the end, which functions something like the punch line of a joke.
  8. Parables are told into a context.
  9. Jesus’ parables are theocentric.
  10. Parables frequently allude to OT texts.
  11. Most parables appear in larger collections of parables.

How Should Parables Be Interpreted? (pp. 24-30)

  1. Analyze each parable thoroughly.
  2. Listen to the parable without presupposition as to its form or meaning.
  3. Remember that Jesus’ parables were oral instruments in a largely oral culture.
  4. If we are after the intent of Jesus, we must seek to hear a parable as Jesus’ Palestinian hearers would have heard it.
  5. Note how each parable and its redactional shaping fit with the purpose and plan of each Evangelist.
  6. Determine specifically the function of the story in the teaching of Jesus.
  7. Interpret what is given, not what is omitted.  Any attempt to interpret a parable based on what is not there is almost certainly wrong.
  8. Do not impose real time on parable time. The narrative time of parables is not real time chronology… [For example,] Luke 14:15-24… has a truncated chronology that assumes that the servant has gone out, done as instructed, and returned.
  9. Pay particular attention to the rule of end stress.  …what comes at the end is the clinching indicator of intent.
  10. Note where the teaching of the parables intersects with the teaching of Jesus elsewhere. …it will help prevent errors in interpretation.
  11. Determine the theological intent and significance of the parable.