Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment -- By: Klyne R. Snodgrass

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 08:1 (NA 1998)
Article: Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment
Author: Klyne R. Snodgrass

Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment

Klyne R. Snodgrass

North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) remains in the spotlight as one of the most debated—and misunderstood—parables of Jesus. Three factors lead to failure in understanding this parable: (1) ignoring its OT and Jewish context; (2) the desire on the part of interpreters to avoid any thought of judgment; and (3) the desire to avoid any correlation with Jesus. It is concluded that this parable is a juridical parable, modeled after Isaiah’s juridical parable, or song, of the vineyard (Isa 5:1-7), which passes judgment against the ruling priests of Jerusalem.

Key Words: parables, tenant farmers, vineyard, Dodd, Jeremias

If, as Luther said, scripture has a wax nose,1 parables are “absolute sculptor’s clay.” Whatever one thinks is the gospel—or even a good idea—is read into the parables. If in Adoph Jülicher’s day the scandal was the Church’s allegorizing the parables,2 in my judgment the offence of our day is method that allows an equally unjustifiable reading into parables of whatever agenda we wish. Parables were not told as creative fictions without reference, despite C. Hedrick,3 or discussion starters, despite W. Herzog,4 for they are quite clearly stories with an intent.

Recent research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants provides ample demonstration of the problem. At virtually no point is there agreement concerning this parable. The amazingly varied approaches provide a window both into parables research and into analysis of the Gospels. An awareness of publications on this parable since the appearance of my own treatment (The Parable of the Wicked Tenants) in 1983 provides insight and deserves to be chronicled. As much as

Author’s Note: Appreciation is expressed to the PEW Foundation for funding my work on parables, of which this research is a part.

anything, attention to these publications forces consideration of methodological issues.

The problem is that the Parable of the Wicked Tenants says too much for many scholars to be comfortable that it represents the view a of Jesus, but if taken out of the sphere of Jesus talking about his own a mission, the interpretations appear trivial, banal, and without si...

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