Several weeks ago, I ordered three books on parables. They arrived in today’s mail. One, Hear Then the Parable by Bernard Brandon Scott, was published in 1989 and is probably well known to people who are interested in parables, so I don’t propose to comment on it. The other two are more recent.
The book I went on-line to order is Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to Parables by Klyne Snodgrass (Eerdmans, Michigan, 2008). It’s 844 pages and hardcover so I was happy to pay $31.50 at Amazon and I’m grateful to Chris Tilling over at Chrisendom for drawing my attention to it here (a review), here (scandal of the day) and here (guest post by Snodgrass). You can also find an interview with the author on Matthew D. Montonini’s New Testament Perspectives blog here.
The book starts with an introduction to the parables of Jesus – looking at what a parable is, how parables should be classified, the vexed question of allegories, a method for interpreting parables and then a section called “NT Criticism – Assumptions and Hesitations, Method and Procedure”. The next section covers Parables in the Ancient World – the Old Testament, Early Jewish Writings, Greco-Roman Writings, the Early Church and Later Jewish Writings. He follows this with analyses of individual parables. These analyses include helpful primary source material from the Ancient World, further reading and highlight issues requiring attention as well as providing comment on the texts themselves. There are also appendices at the back that detail the incidence of parabole in both the New Testament and the LXX and of mashal in the Hebrew Scriptures. These are followed by extensive endnotes. Snodgrass indicates in his guest post that he is no greater fan of endnotes than most other scholars, but some were too long to fit comfortable as footnotes. I’ve only skimmed the early material, but it looks like a really, really useful reference book.
The third book is a more recent one by Scott: Re-Imagine the World An Introduction to the Parables of JesusI (Polebridge Press, California, 2001). I must admit that it was something I bought because Amazon told me that other people who had bought Hear Then had also bought this one. It’s meant for a more general, rather than a scholarly audience, but it nevertheless provides some interesting insights into and background information on a number of parables, including the Woman with the Jar (Gos Thom 97). It also provides some information about the Jesus Seminar in the first chapter and it looks like the kind of material that would be useful for someone who is not trained in biblical studies but interested in progressive theology. He says in the introduction that this is not just a simplifying of Hear Then, but a rethinking of issues and in some cases he has changed his mind.
I know that Snodgrass’s work is going to have some effect on my thesis methodology. Scott’s Hear Then already has and Re-Imagine may do, too.