New Horizons In Parable Research -- By: Craig L. Blomberg

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 03:1 (Spring 1982)
Article: New Horizons In Parable Research
Author: Craig L. Blomberg


New Horizons In Parable Research

Craig L. Blomberg

University Of Aberdeen

Warren Kissinger’s recent history of the interpretation of the parables of Jesus combines over two hundred pages of text with an equally lengthy section of bibliography. 1 Keeping up just with the research of the last few years is in itself a formidable task.2 Most students of the New Testament recognize the enormous contribution of Joachim Jeremias to the modern study of the parables.3 But many are perhaps still unaware of the various important advances in principles of interpretation that have been made more recently. This article does not attempt to survey all these advances either comprehensively or systematically, but merely to comment on six particularly interesting and controversial developments which challenge the consensus positions represented by Jeremias. Each of these developments also raises important questions for the study of biblical hermeneutics more generally.

I. Definition and Classification

Jeremias considers the earlier form-critical distinctions of metaphor, simile, parable, and example “a fruitless labour,” since the Greek translates the Hebrew mās̆āl, which referred to “figurative forms of speech of every kind: parable, similitude, allegory, fable, proverb, apocalyptic revelation, riddle, symbol, pseudonym, fictitious person, example, theme, argument, apology, refutation, jest.”4 This background certainly accounts for the broad semantic range of παραβολή in the New Testament. Luke, for example, can use it for as long a passage as the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) and for as short

a saying as “Physician, heal yourself” (4:23). Yet form criticism has surely taught us that forms may be more narrowly identified and classified even where the New Testament does not use a distinctive word or expression for them. The advantage of this precision is that like forms may well require like principles of interpretation. If we learn how to interpret one of a distinct kind of parables properly then perhaps the rest will fall into line more readily.5

Recent attempts to define “parable” have come to concentrate more and more on its characteristics as narrative. One of the best and most concise definitions comes from John Domin...

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