Because we associate parables exclusively with Jesus, we tend to think that Jesus invented them. We imagine them to be a method of teaching and preaching exclusive to him.
In fact, parables were an established genre. They were age-old literary conventions. Ezekiel, for example, wrote parables. One of them is about eagles and a vine (17.1.24). It expresses a concern about the relationship between Babylon and Israel. Ezekiel writes a careful explanation of its message.
Although it is probable that Jesus could both speak and read fluently more than one language, we have no evidence that he wrote anything. When he is described as making marks in the dust during the ‘trial’ of the woman caught in an act of adultery, there is no record of what he inscribed. But there is plenty of evidence as to how absolutely riveting Jesus could be when speaking in public. Crowds flocked, not only in the hope of having their physical ailments cured, but at the prospect of what he was going to say next. When the Temple Guards were given a dressing down for not arresting Jesus, part of their defence was that ‘No one ever spoke like him before.’
The description of someone as ‘a public speaker’ has for us, in the twenty first century, perhaps stale and possibly suspect associations: but when Jesus spoke to the crowds that followed him everywhere, he was listened to with open-mouthed fascination. He held his listeners ‘in the palm of his hand’. What parables did, was to put into a familiar, everyday context, which anyone without any formal education might instantly recognise, matters which otherwise could appear too difficult or too complex.
Jesus offers up a prayer of thanks that His Father’s message is one that is most easily accessible to ‘ordinary’ people. Discernment was then more difficult for the intellectual and worldly wise. This may still be true.
The disciples’ response to his teaching is interesting. They, too, did not always understand. And when, forty years after the events, the gospels came to be written, it is perhaps understandable that parables do not seem to be given the prominence which we might think appropriate.
The parables printed here are part of a larger project – a recorded, amalgamated gospel in blank verse. I wished to distinguish the parable stories, especially perhaps for younger readers, as fiction rather than as actual events. It was when I came to arrange them into some sort of order that I was suddenly, (and I am ashamed to admit it!) surprised, to find that they formed a cogent entity. They may appear to have been included in the gospels as they came to hand, but collectively they make a substantial, coherent and definitive statement about Christian morality and behaviour.
I realise that I have not included all the parables in my rhymed collection. A few do not sit well in our century. The idea of the blind leading the blind is not one, which for us, evokes much humour: and if a man’s house falls down, the reason is probably not that he has made a poor job of constructing the foundations but that someone has dropped a bomb on it.
Nevertheless I hope that what remains will be of value as part of a roadmap for those who wish to follow The Way.
|Dimensions||0.6 × 13 × 19.5 cm|
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