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Somehow the listener/ reader of the parables of the New Testament is led to a place of self-confrontation (Kirkwood 1983, p. Despite the seeming simplicity of the stories through which Christ revealed deep spiritual truths, it was those innocent at heart, whose soul was ready to accept the light shining forth, who understood what Christ taught (Orthodox Study Bible 1991, p. The result of the Pharisaic blindness and deafness was that they would remain in their sin, while the faithful who repented were open to the good news of the Kingdom of God (Orthodox Study Bible 1993, p. 318 citing Schurmann), that if they could not comprehend even this parable, then how were they to understand the rest (Matt. It is important to note, that Christ does not deliberately make people unreceptive to His message, rather it is individual persons who must take responsibility for being insensitive to the truth (Orthodox Study Bible 1993, p. It was also this form of teaching that allowed Christ to execute the divine plan without a premature arrest by the authorities.59), awareness and logical conclusion, that the only means of salvation is through love in action. 37) and who were given to “know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees who were present in the large crowds, and who were highly educated, were hard of heart, so did not “see” and did not “perceive”, and could not “hear” and had not “understanding” (Matt. The sacred parables then, served three distinct purposes, namely: “to 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
Christ questions him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? And again, “if I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? Compare this passage of Scripture with “all things come in parables” (Mark ). 15) noted, “as the allegory proceeds, the interpretation proceeds hand-in-hand with that, or, at least never falls far behind.” There is also strong speculation that the allegorical method, was already popularised through the heroes of Homer, making it a “ready-made tool” which could be applied to the Scriptures (Stein, 1981, p. In many ways, Christ is delivering an ethical discourse using guiding principles, without well-defined direct commandments as found in the Old Testament, prevalent in Exodus 20:1-17 with the words “You shall not” and also in the exhaustive ritual, legal and moral practices described in Leviticus. Auden has so magnificently put it: “You cannot tell people what to do, you can only tell them parables; …particular stories of particular people and experiences, from which each according to his immediate and peculiar needs may draw his own conclusions” (Bozorth 2005, p. Christ’s parables are unique and allow for flexibility in allegorical interpretation throughout the ages, which is what makes them so accessible.
John’s form of “parables” are recorded using a different style, to emphasise one’s personal relationship with Christ, and demonstrate that the faithful need spiritual eyes and ears to comprehend the multiple layers of meaning in the parabolic method we find in the Synoptic Gospels (Orthodox Study Bible 1993, p. Certainly the early church fathers interpreted the parables using the allegorical method (Stein 1981, p. And this method gained momentum over time and geographical expanse (Table 2). Rather, Christ uses non-coercive language to bring the listener (and later, the reader), to a point in the transmission of the word (and later, text) to a point of realisation, if their heart is open to the message of Christ. In John’s Gospel, when the language of the “person” is instituted, and typological characters are presented to us in dialogue with Christ, every Christian is being encouraged to develop a deeper relationship with Christ the Son of God through the Parables. It should be emphasised however, that not all of the early church fathers agreed with the extreme use of the allegorical method of interpretation. 47): “Men like Isidore of Pelusium (360-435), Basil (ca. -428), and Chrysostom (349-407) protested against the allegorical method.” Stein quotes Chrysostom who believed it was neither wise nor correct: “to inquire curiously into all things in parables word by word but when we have learnt the object for which it was composed, to read this, and not to busy oneself about anything further.” And Papadopoulos (1999, p.
Jülicher was more preoccupied with the form of parables, seeking “clear-cut definitions” of differences between parables, allegories, similes, and metaphors. Perhaps about the only light to have come forth from all of this modern scholarship, is the uniqueness of the Parables of Christ in the Gospels.
He simply took the parables literally and stressed they only had one point of comparison, not many (Caird 1980, p. No matter how hard scholars have tried to encapsulate the formula used by Christ when speaking in Parables, they have found themselves in a tangle.
For example, there were stark differences in the way that Augustine and Origen allegorised the interpretation of the Descriptions are summarised and slightly adapted from Stein (1981, ch. For a comprehensive analysis at Patristric Thought with respect to Descriptions are summarised and slightly adapted from Stein (1981, ch. For a comprehensive analysis at Patristric Thought with respect to The interpreter should be wary of over-elaboration or over-simplification when it comes to the parables (Tasker 1962, p. But this does not mean we reject the allegorical interpretation that was always intended by Christ. Rightly, John Chrysostom of Constantinople who was from the Antiochian School, was resistant to “flights of fancy,” preferring to discern the scope and purpose for each parable, rather than to “find a special significance in each circumstance or incident” (Unger 1980, p. This does not mean however, that Chrysostom shied away from interpreting the Parables himself. Hunter (1958) “rejected Julicher's moralistic interpretations in favour of the now generally accepted thesis that the parables had a particular reference to the ministry of Jesus and the crisis it inaugurated…” (Caird 1980, p. In an attempt to develop and in some cases correct Jülicher’s claims, form criticism and redaction criticism scholarship in Germany, and literary-critical studies in the United States, have proliferated in the field of “new hermeneutics” (Blomberg 1991, pp. simple simile, simple metaphors, simile story, metaphor story, example story).
For if allegory was missing, the Parables found in the New Testament would not have differed to those of the Old Testament, they would have been merely simple illustrations (e.g. See, for example, , where Chrysostom explains why the Pharisees did the very opposite to what Christ called the crowds to do: “not only disbelieving, not only not hearkening, but even waging war, and disposed to be very bitter against all” that Christ said, all because “They heard heavily.” St Gregory of Nyssa considered “allegorical interpretation necessary at points where symbolism or the words covered a deeper meaning”, and he also accepted the literal interpretation (Stavrianos 2012, p. Stein (1994) beautifully, dedicates several chapters to the form of Jesus’s writings, and the parables, describing him as an “outstanding” and “exciting” teacher; a “personality” who was “authoritative”.It would be all too easy to dismiss the work of the modern scholars which has gone against the grain of tradition, as being written by those ‘who had eyes but could not see’. 37) himself had to admit: “[i]t would appear that some parables possess undeniable allegorical elements” (e.g. (Luke -37) in Patristic thought, emphasises: “…even though the central truth of the parable remains the same, Christians in every era can adapt it to their reality, thus giving it new meaning and perspective.”There is no doubt, that outside the confines of the established church, there are so-called preachers who teach falsehoods, for example, the so-named “prosperity gospel” whose message bears no relationship to what was intended by Christ. St Basil of Caesarea warned against those who would take Holy Scripture, and instead of using common sense for their explanations, use “fancy wishes…Jeremias lays blame for the state of parabolic interpretation with the “early Christian teachers” (Tasker 1962, p. to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own end” (St Basil quoted in Stavrianos 2012, p. Of course, the Fathers seemingly would agree with Jülicher, that the "parables were intended to illustrate one truth only" (Tasker 1962, p. The Lord's parables draw memorable details from nature, human, social, economic, or religious life of His time." A parable is similar to an , although the latter usually denotes a more detailed comparison of elements of a tale (Tasker 1962, p. There is no doubt among Eastern Orthodox scholars, that the parables of the New Testament were allegories and lent themselves to allegorical interpretation demonstrated by Christ Himself and the Fathers of the Church. According to Potapov (2000), "a parable is a spiritual lesson of a story developed by comparison to everyday life.For example, in the (Luke -32), the Christian might find himself in the role of the forgiving father, the repentant younger son, or the older son.The ultimate language of the parables is not one of coercion but love and freedom. Christ relies on the parabolic approach to minister to the crowds, “but to those who are outside, all things come in parables” (Matt. Yet he emphasised, even to the disciples (Marshall 1978, p. The word ) means “comparison”, and was the manner in which the primitive Christian Church described the stories that Christ used to illustrate his teachings (Potapov 2000). This paper is broken into five parts: definitional; biblical sources; early church fathers; modern scholarship; and discussion.They could have only been written by the Son of God (Lithgow 1907, p. Scripture is the living Word, the text is dynamic and ever-changing, it is universal yet personal (Hogan 2016, pp.119-120), and couched in history, all at the same time. Dodd in particular takes exception with the fact that Christian preachers today deliver sermons that are far removed from the original meaning/ function of the parable, as set in the time of Christ (i.e.