Pondering Proverbs: A Review Essay -- By: James D. Kline

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 23:0 (NA 1991)
Article: Pondering Proverbs: A Review Essay
Author: James D. Kline


Pondering Proverbs: A Review Essay

James D. Kline

David Kline is an M.Div. graduate of ATS.

The late September winds race down the concrete canyons of downtown Chicago, whipping yesterday’s sports section from the Tribune two stories skyward to float past a silent observer in Room 203, Crowell Hall, Moody Bible Institute. Called back to attention by an abrupt crescendo in his hermeneutics professor’s otherwise monotone lecture, the student dutifully transcribes the teacher’s outline from the glaring overhead to a virgin sheet of notebook paper. Under the heading “Special Literary Methods: Parables,” he scribbles that one must look for the one main idea in each parable which serves as an interpretive key, integrating all the significant specifics of the story. The student unquestioningly adopts this hermeneutical principle for parable interpretation due either to his implicit trust in the orthodoxy of his professor’s position or to the mind-lulling influence of the overly generous radiator which sits beside him.

When an interpretive principle originally proposed by a 19th century German liberal such as Adolf Julicher becomes the hermeneutical dogma of a bastion of conservative Fundamentalism like Moody Bible Institute, one may be assured that it has thoroughly pervaded the scholarly community. With this in mind, one must admire the bravado of Craig Blomberg for openly challenging the established consensus in his book Interpreting the Parables (InterVarsity, 1990). Blomberg candidly admits that his position is virtually unknown across a broad theological spectrum of pastors, layfolk and even among many academics, but nevertheless plunges headlong into an extended polemic against the prevailing view of parable interpretation.

The parables are not limited to only one main point each, according to Blomberg, but rather tend to make three main points, each associated with a main character in the parable. To defend his thesis, he carefully critiques the hermeneutical and literary presuppositions upon which the majority position is founded, demonstrating the inherent weaknesses of such a position as well as the solutions provided by the minority view in the first half of the book. In the second half, he applies his thesis to the interpretation of all the major parables found in the Synoptics.

In the preface to this work Blomberg confesses, “This book has led a checkered life.” Research done for a doctoral dissertation on the tradition history of the parables in the central part of Luke’s Gospel has been combined with the findings of an unpublished manuscript on parables and modern literary criticism, and admixed with discoveries from his book The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Occasionally...

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