A Hermeneutics of Hearing Informed by the Parables with Special Reference to Mark 4 -- By: Klyne R. Snodgrass

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 14:1 (NA 2004)
Article: A Hermeneutics of Hearing Informed by the Parables with Special Reference to Mark 4
Author: Klyne R. Snodgrass


A Hermeneutics of Hearing Informed by the Parables with Special Reference to Mark 4

Klyne R. Snodgrass

North Park Theological Seminary

Jesus’ parables were intended to enable hearing and elicit a response. They assume a hermeneutics of hearing, one that calls for depth listening and includes a hermeneutics of obedience. The Parable of the Sower more than any other is a parable of hearing, even though on the surface Mark 4:1112 seems to suggest the opposite. An analysis of the Sower, its Markan context, and its background in Isa 6 underscores the importance of hearing and provides a basis for understanding a hermeneutics of hearing.

Key words: Parables, hermeneutics, hearing, Mark 4

I have recently argued that a hermeneutics of hearing is a helpful paradigm for understanding the interpretive process and that hearing is what Scripture seeks from us.1 Such a hermeneutic has a built-in complexity, for the Hebrew word (שׁמעand the Greek word ἀκούειν have a range of at least eight nuances for which these words for hearing are used: literally to hear sound; to understand a language; to understand in the sense of grasping meaning or significance; to recognize; to discern; to pay attention; to agree with, accept, or believe what is said; and to obey. God seeks real and complete hearing of his message, one that hears correctly, discerns, affirms, and responds with obedience to what God speaks The parables of Jesus contribute directly to a hermeneutics of hearing, especially in the discussion of the purpose of parables in Mark 4 and parallels.

Hearing is the most important of all our senses, those receptors by which we order our world—God’s world. This might seem like an undue exaggeration. None of our sensory abilities is unimportant, but

Author’s note: This article was originally presented as part of the Carmichael-Walling Lectures at Abilene Christian University.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, following Aristotle, argues for the primacy of hearing. While other senses are limited to their own arena, hearing language provides an avenue to the whole of life, not just because one can hear about the other sense arenas, but because with hearing one is able to listen to the logos.2 Language opens a new dimension whereby tradition, the past, is made available to us and we are allowed to understand who we are. All that ancient G...

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