Life & Teachings of Jesus
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Kathryn Smith
March 12, 2002
"The Parables of God's Reign"

I.   History
A.   Early wisdom traditions
B.   Part of Hebrew prophetic tradition
C.   Rabbinic parables
1.   BT Shabbat 153a
2.   Common figure of "a king of flesh and blood"
D.   Jesus' parables within Jewish tradition
II.   Terminology
A.   mashal (singular)
B.   meshlaim (plural)
III.   Characteristics of Jewish Parables
A.   Refer to something or someone outside the story (Parable of the Sower is not about farming)
B.   They have more than one possible meaning or application ("the birds of the air" can be interpreted in different ways)
C.   Often are accompanied by an explanation (because the meaning can be ambiguous the giver of the Parable often offers an explanation)
D.   Help explain a biblical text (not true with Jesus parables, but Jewish parables are included in commentaries)
IV.   Characteristics of Jesus' Parables
A.   Primary concerns
1.   the reign of God
2.   the character of God
a.   what is God like?
b.   how does God act?
B.   Uses common images familiar to hearers
1.   Uses farming examples because that was the society they lived in (ex: Parable of the Sower)
2.   Household images (ex: Lost Coin)
3.   Does not spend much time talking about the courts or kings
C.   Uses the common to force hearers to think in uncommon ways
1.   Most powerful characteristics about good parables
2.   There is usually a very unexpected item found in the parable (ex: the idiot shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to find the 1)
D.   Details are not necessarily important
V.   Some Parables for Discussion
A.   Matt 9:16-17; Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:36-39 - New win in old wineskins
B.   Matt 13:33 - Woman and leaven
1.   Surprising characteristics
a.   God = Women
b.   Yeast = kingdom of God (OT usually used yeast as a synonym for sin)
c.   Brevity of Parable
2.   Parallels to the Parable of the Mustard Seed
C.   Matt 21:28-32 - Two sons
1.   Analysis
a.   First son - Originally said "no" but eventually did the chore
i.   Credited to him as righteousness
ii.   Compared to the Prostitutes and Tax Collectors
b.   Second son - Originally said "yes" but never went and did chore
i.   Unrighteous, despite being first
ii.   Compared to John Hearers (Chief Priests, and elders)
2.   Surprising characteristics
a.   The prostitutes and tax collectors are praises ahead of Chief Priests
b.   In that society prostitutes and tax collectors could never regain status or have a second chance
D.   Mark 12:1-11 - Vineyard and tenants
VI.   Lady Wisdom
A.   Sirach 51:23, 26, 28; 6:19, 23-31
Sir. 51:23 Draw near to me, you who are uneducated,
and lodge in the house of instruction.
Sir. 51:26 Put your neck under her yoke,
and let your souls receive instruction;
it is to be found close by.
Sir. 51:28 Hear but a little of my instruction,
and through me you will acquire silver and gold.
Sir. 6:19 Come to her like one who plows and sows,
and wait for her good harvest.
For when you cultivate her you will toil but little,
and soon you will eat of her produce.
Sir. 6:23 Listen, my child, and accept my judgment;
do not reject my counsel.
24 Put your feet into her fetters,
and your neck into her collar.
25 Bend your shoulders and carry her,
and do not fret under her bonds.
26 Come to her with all your soul,
and keep her ways with all your might.
27 Search out and seek, and she will become known to you;
and when you get hold of her, do not let her go.
28 For at last you will find the rest she gives,
and she will be changed into joy for you.
29 Then her fetters will become for you a strong defense,
and her collar a glorious robe.
30 Her yoke is a golden ornament,
and her bonds a purple cord.
31 You will wear her like a glorious robe,
and put her on like a splendid crown.
B.   Cf. Matt 11:28-30 - Matt. 11:28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
1.   Jesus as Lady Wisdom (Sophia)
2.   Both conveys and embodies wisdom
3.   An early high Christology
a.   He was not just a random wise-guy
b.   He was embodied wisdom of God