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.
List of IllustrationsPrefaceAbbreviationsIntroduction1. The Afterlives of Jesus’s Parables in Antiquity (to ca. 550 CE)IrenaeusThe Gospel of PhilipClement of AlexandriaTertullianOrigenJohn ChrysostomAugustineMacrina the YoungerEphrem the Syrian The Good Shepherd in Early Christian Art Oil Lamp Roman Catacombs Dura-Europos House ChurchIlluminations from the Rossano GospelsByzantine Mosaics, Christ Separating Sheep from Goats, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (Ravenna, Italy)Romanos the Melodist2. The Afterlives of Jesus’s Parables in the Middle Ages (ca. 550–1500 CE)Gregory the Great Sahih al-BukhariWazo of LiègeThe Golden Gospels of Echternach The Laborers in the Vineyard The Wicked Tenants The Great Dinner The Rich Man and LazarusTheophylactHildegard of BingenChartres CathedralBonaventureThomas AquinasJohn GowerAntonia PulciAlbrecht Dürer3. The Afterlives of Jesus’s Parables in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth CenturiesMartin LutherAnna Jansz of RotterdamJohn CalvinJohn MaldonatusWilliam ShakespeareDomenico FettiGeorge HerbertRoger WilliamsRembrandt Harmenszoon van RijnJohn Bunyan4. The Afterlives of Jesus’s Parables in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth CenturiesWilliam BlakeSøren KierkegaardFrederick DouglassFanny CrosbyLeo TolstoyJohn Everett MillaisEmily DickinsonCharles Haddon SpurgeonAdolf Jülicher5. The Afterlives of Jesus’s Parables in the Twentieth and Twenty-First CenturiesThomas Hart BentonParables and the Blues: Rev. Robert WilkinsFlannery O’ConnorMartin Luther King Jr. GodspellTwo Latin American Receptions The Peasants of Solentiname Elsa TamezDavid FlusserOctavia ButlerThich Nhat HanhConclusion: What Do Parables Want?Appendix: Descriptions of the Parables Cited in the InterpretationsWorks CitedScripture IndexSubject Index
With The Parables after Jesus, David Gowler has provided contemporary readers with resources necessary to respond to what the parables want, with an answer that 'involves both understanding and action.' For this gift of erudite scholarship that culminates in a challenging call to action, we are in David Gowler’s debt once again.~Mikeal C. Parsons, Review of Biblical Literature
David Gowler invites us to participate in a two-thousand-year-old dialogue with those seeking to understand and implement the simple, yet often perplexing, parables of Jesus. Gowler has assembled fifty conversation partners from literature, poetry, hymns, the visual arts, and theater that span the Christian era. These voices hail from a broad and diverse range of historically, theologically, and culturally significant contexts. By entering into this dialogue, Gowler hopes that rather than find what we expect to find in the parables, we can take off our own interpretive blinders and come to a fuller understanding of the meanings and applications of the parables to our lives. He succeeds! The conversation in which he engages us here is truly an eye-opening and enriching experience.~Duane F. Watson, Malone University
Gowler has once again contributed a valuable work to the growing field of reception history and biblical studies. It is especially important to note that he sees this work as an 'introduction,' a 'starting point' and 'stimulus for further discussions,' and as such it certainly accomplishes this task.~Zechariah Eberhart, Religious Studies Review
This wonderfully engaging volume offers a rich array of insights, as the author introduces us to a chorus of diverse voices from a wide variety of media. David Gowler’s immense learning is expressed with superb clarity, making interpretations of the parables across two millennia accessible to all. Highly recommended.~Christine Joynes, Centre for Reception History of the Bible, University of Oxford
If the parables stimulate your mind, feed your soul, upset your values, and occasionally confuse you, you’re in good company. Exegetes, poets, hymn writers, allegorists, social reformers, novelists, and painters feature in this brisk tour through two thousand years of parable interpretation, often urging readers to see more in the parables or to view them through a different set of eyes. As a knowledgeable guide through a lively history, David Gowler highlights the evocative interpretations that emerge when a parable encounters a fertile imagination.~Matthew L. Skinner, Luther Seminary
For most of its history, parable research has, perhaps rightly, focused on the composition history of Jesus’s parables from the oral period in which they were spoken to their placement in the Christian Gospels. David Gowler has studied, taught, and written about the parables for many years, and in this fascinating study he has trained his eagle eye on the latter part of the parables’ ‘career’—the impact of their afterlife on the literature, music, and art that stand as heirs to this remarkable corpus of stories. Arranged chronologically, Gowler’s study spans two thousand years of reception. This treasure trove belongs in the library of anyone interested in the ways Jesus’s parables have challenged our hearts, minds, and imaginations, and it confirms that the world the parables has produced is no less interesting and complex than the world that produced the parables.~Mikeal C. Parsons, Baylor University