Over the centuries, some interpreters have attempted to explain what parables mean. Other interpreters have endeavored to articulate what parables do—how they "work" rhetorically or poetically. With the parables of Jesus, however, more is required, because Jesus’ parables have always demanded a response from readers or hearers. Interpreters, therefore, should also seek to ascertain what parables want, because the parables of Jesus not only stake claims and demand responses; they also challenge their hearers to act. This challenge reverberates across the centuries, calling us continually back to the texts to discover anew what these distinctive and wonderful stories show us about what it means to be human and the ways in which Jesus urges us to follow God in word and deed.
The Parables after Jesus is the first book to explore in a comprehensive way the "afterlives" of the parable tradition—how people have interpreted, been influenced by, and applied Jesus’ enigmatic and compelling parables in a multitude of ways, perspectives, eras, contexts, and media. Interpretation is never a solitary endeavor, for each interpreter stands on the shoulders of previous interpreters, continually in dialogue with other interpretations, past and present. Gowler’s reception history discusses more than fifty imaginative receptions of Jesus’ parables, selected from two millennia of parable interpretation—from those who have dominated discussions to often ignored or suppressed voices. From this we see how the use of Jesus’ parables affects society and culture and how powerfully parables have challenged—and continue to challenge—people’s hearts, minds, and imaginations.