Assurance For Man: The Fallacy Of Translating “ Anaideia” By “Persistence” In Luke 11:5-8 -- By: Alan F. Johnson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:2 (Jun 1979)
Article: Assurance For Man: The Fallacy Of Translating “ Anaideia” By “Persistence” In Luke 11:5-8
Author: Alan F. Johnson

Assurance For Man: The Fallacy Of Translating “
Anaideia” By “Persistence” In Luke 11:5-8

Alan F. Johnson*

One of the most exciting areas today in NT studies is the interpretation of the parables. While not without its own problems, Jülicher’s “one main point” approach to the parables broke the stranglehold of centuries of allegorical interpretation.1 C. H. Dodd2 furthered the quest by recapturing the eschatological kingdom of God setting of the parables notwithstanding his truncated “realized eschatology,” while Jeremias3 has pushed the interpretation of the parables back into their first-century Palestinian culture. More recently, the insistence on the literary aspect of the parable as genuine metaphor has tended to balance the “severely historical” approach as well as to clarify the role of Jesus’ absolutely unique creative imagination.4 The most recent contributions have focused on the existential qualities of the parable as a “language event” that opens to the hearer new possibilities of understanding and calls for decision.5 Reference also will be made throughout this paper to the latest significant contribution in parable studies, a work by Kenneth E. Bailey. The author, a professor of Biblical studies at the Near Eastern School of Theology, Beirut, focuses on the Near Eastern cultural milieu and the literary structure of the parables in an approach he calls “oriental exegesis.” Though Bailey only discusses four parables in Luke’s gospel, it is easily the most significant study on the parables in the last several years.6

Our intent is to bring to bear certain features of this rich background material

*Alan Johnson is professor of Biblical studies at Wheaton College.

and recent interpretive trends on the interpretation of the parable of the “friend at midnight” in Luke 11:5–8. It is our thesis that this parable about prayer has been misunderstood by the Church since earliest times. Traditionally the parable has been interpreted to mean that “persistence” in prayer will eventually move God to answer. This paper will argue that the traditional understanding is both exegetically and theologically indefensible.

The meaning of the parable hinges on two crucial features found in the story: (1) the significance of the introductory words, “Who of you,” which introd...

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