Rejection Imagery in the Synoptic Parables -- By: Karl E. Pagenkemper

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:610 (Apr 1996)
Article: Rejection Imagery in the Synoptic Parables
Author: Karl E. Pagenkemper


Rejection Imagery in the Synoptic Parables

Karl E. Pagenkemper

[Karl E. Pagenkemper is Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, International School of Theology, Arrowhead Springs, California.]

[This is article one in a two-part series.]

Synthesizing a biblically based soteriology, especially when attempting to relate works to faith, is an area of theology that attracts much attention.1 One aspect of the relationship of works to faith pertains to the requirements for entrance into or rejection from the kingdom of God. This two-part series discusses how Jesus’ parables contribute to this area of theology.

After clarifying the meaning of “rejection,” this first article identifies the parables important to the topic and explores the imagery used to describe this rejection. The second article addresses the impact of the imagery on the interpretation of the parables themselves, identifies the nature of the criteria God will use to accept or reject an individual from the eschatological kingdom, and suggests how Jesus’ parabolic teaching may help in synthesizing Synoptic and Pauline expressions of soteriology and the relationship of faith to works.

The “Rejection” Motif

The “rejection” motif found in certain parables is the element that describes a judgment to be carried out at the end of the age. The description of judgment most frequently focuses on the one being rejected. When an acceptance or “reward” element is also present, it is usually employed as a dramatic foil to highlight what is missed by those who are rejected.2 Each parable with such a motif is designed to challenge all hearers in light of their current response to Jesus: Is the listener prepared for the end? While many portions of the Gospels present Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom or eternal life, or a challenge to discipleship (including the demands to believe in the Son of Man, to give up all, to take up one’s cross, and so forth), few passages picture the end-time consummation of the kingdom and the subsequent judgment (rejection or acceptance) as clearly as do the parables.

Ten parables include material that reflects such an eschatological rejection motif: the Tares (Matt 13:24–30, 36–43); the Dragnet (Matt 13:47–50); two banquet parables: the Wedding Banquet (Matt 22:1–14)3 and the Narrow Door...

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