Tag Archives: parables

sheep-goats

Quest for a Violent Jesus, Part 2: Away From Me!

In part one of this series I examined two gospel passages commonly used to suggest that Jesus advocated (sword-based) violence. That post was basically an apologetic, as I sought to demonstrate that the ethos and message of Jesus was consistently and inherently nonviolent. But it’s important to note that apology is not my default approach to every troublesome Bible text. In this case, I strongly believe that the true sense of the texts in question had been misunderstood and needed correcting. But in general, I am not committed to defending the Bible at all cost. I am open to being challenged and corrected, and I am willing to learn from or ultimately even to disagree with the text. The material today will put this to the test.

Many Christians, in service to inerrancy and systematic theology, accept apparent tensions and contradictions in the Bible as part of some grand, unifying plan. When it comes to Jesus, many Christians have no problem acknowledging that he was a teacher of peace, even as they have no doubt he will return to earth riding a wave of fire and retribution. Round one may have been all hugs and back pats, but round two will be a different story.

For the most part, this tense view of a peaceful-but-eventually-violent Jesus comes from contrasting what the gospels report about Jesus with what other New Testament texts (eg. 1 Thessalonians or Revelation) say about his return. But even in the gospels, Jesus offers his own vision of the “coming age,” replete with dramatic prophetic imagery. Since this series is concerned with the presentation of Jesus in the gospels, we will focus on his apocalyptic sayings, especially some in Matthew which seem to promise violence. Continue reading

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Prodigal Parables

In a previous post we discovered how scholarship casts fresh and revealing light on the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus. In a similar vein, revisiting his parables in a clarified historical context can illuminate even more about Jesus and his message. Reading the parables in the context of post-exilic first century Judaism brings them to life in unexpected ways.

Parables are short, allegorical stories designed to engage their hearer’s imagination and challenge patterns of thought. In this way they are not unlike apocalyptic texts, except that they feature decidedly mundane subjects and imagery. Jesus tells many parables throughout the synoptic gospels (though he tells none in the fourth). Most involve a king, boss, landlord, or other authority figure dealing with his subjects, employees, or tenants. Others involve characters discovering or losing valuable treasures, family drama, and lots of agricultural metaphors. Despite their diversity, according to Jesus himself, all of the parables serve the same purpose: to reveal “the secrets of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:11). What does that mean? Great question! But first…  Continue reading