Thursday, June 1, 2017

faculty notes on teaching/parables

Jesus the Teacher
Doing your Three Worlds Presentations should have already surfaced some themes and observations regarding Jesus’ teaching. This section focuses more specifically on why Jesus is an interesting teacher and some of the methods or forms found in his teaching in the Gospels. Brainstorm with the class why people are so engrossed with Jesus’ teaching, especially their observations from reading the Gospels. What makes him interesting, why do they follow him around and listen?

Four possible reasons (from Robert Stein The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teaching, revised edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994)
1.    Content. In Jesus’ ministry God is again present among his people and proclaiming his will.
2.   Personality. People loved listening to Jesus teach because of the kind of person he was.
3.    Authority. Jesus teaches with immediate, not derivative, authority.
4.    Forms and techniques. The way in which Jesus taught was exciting and memorable.

Examples of forms and techniques (drawn from NOAB article “Literary Forms in the Gospels” pp. 397-400 NT)

1. Picturesque speech
Includes striking contrasts, vivid metaphors, exaggeration, colorful speech, hyperbole. Examples:
Matt 7.3-5 log and speck, Luke 14.26 hate mother (we hope Jesus is exaggerating in this passage.) Important to realize overstatement is characteristic of the way people talk in Jesus’ culture (sort of like us saying awesome, and eleventy billion). Danger of taking literally something Jesus overstates or of reading as overstatement passages which we don’t like or are hard to do (“sell it all and give it to the poor” or “turn the other cheek”).

2.   Poetry (rhythmical parallelism)
A characteristic of Hebrew poetry (Psalms). Jesus is showing his cultural context here; could be like us using sonnet form, limericks (or nursery rhymes?) (one Greek prof at Fuller teaches his classes the Greek alphabet to the tune of the itsy bitsy spider.) Three kinds:
a. Synonymous = says same thing different way. Luke 6:27-28
            Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you
bless those who bless you, pray for those who abuse you  NOTE: that's a chiasm!
b. Antithetic = second line sets up contrast with first. Matt 7:17-18 Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
c. Step second line picks up thought/word from first and builds on it, takes it further.
Luke 9:48
Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me
(and whoever welcomes the one who sent me...)

3.   Plays on words (puns)
Another Hebrew Scripture characteristic, double meanings (there’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight). Examples: Matt 16:18petros/petra John 3:8 pneuma (Genesis also, ruach). These are largely lost in translation—read footnotes, a good study Bible will point them out. Jesus is very clever.

4. Proverbs
Remember from Biblical Perspectives?  Yet another Hebrew Scripture genre. Maxims; crisp, forceful, memorable saying. Not only in Scripture—too many cooks spoil the broth, spare the rod spoil the child. Speaking this way is characteristic of wisdom literature, which is a common form of writing in the Middle East. It is an enormous and old tradition in Judaism, although it is not unique to Israel. An entire book of proverbs in Hebrew Scripture; not all of it is “religious”—some good common sense, a place were the commonality of human existence is displayed  Jesus, again reflecting his context, uses proverbs. Example: Matt 6:21 “where your treasure is there your heart will be.”

[Stein adds several other forms, including
 Riddle (saying with hidden meaning) Mark 14:58 “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”
6.   Irony (contrast between what is stated and what is suggested) Matt 16.2-3 “. . .you know how to interpret the appearance of the sky but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”
7.   Use of questions Mark 8:27-32 “Who do people say that I am? . .  .But who do you say that I am?”]

8.  Parables (from NOAB article and Stein)
Parables are the most striking feature of Jesus’ teaching. They are what he is most famous for and what he seems to use most frequently. Parables are not unique to Jesus (other teachers of the day and others in Scripture use them, e.g. Nathan to David in 2 Sam 12), but he uses them so effectively and frequently they are characteristic of his teaching. The article explains that 1/3 of Jesus’ spoken words in the Synoptics are parables. The word parable (Greek parabole) refers essentially to a comparison. A look at the way the term is used both in the OT and by Jesus reveals a wide range of meanings, including proverbs, similes, metaphors, similitudes, story parables (most familiar to us perhaps), example parables, and allegories. The thing to remember is that they make a comparison.

Brainstorm why Jesus teaches in parables.
The common answer (to illustrate his teaching) doesn’t go quite deep enough. Arguably, many of the parables don’t make things clearer, but more confusing. (Post a sentence in the forum about how you feel about that). Even the disciples need to have them explained.  Ask someone to read Matt 13:10-13.  There is no getting around the fact that this passage states the parables are not self-evident illustrations. The parables are provocative, often they include a surprising twist; a loud offensive fart in the salon (per Peterson).The parables have a way of disarming hearer, drawing hearer in, and then evoking a response (e.g. Mark 12 parable of vineyard, good Samaritan has this effect too, Luke 10.)

Stein offers these three possible reasons Jesus teaches in parables:

1.       To conceal his teaching from those “outside” (Luke 8:9-10, Mt 13:10-17 & 13:34-35)
2.       To illustrate and reveal his message to his followers
3.       To disarm his listeners—they force a response somehow, leave you wrestling, are provocative

Example of this disarming: The Good Samaritan.  There was no such thing as a GOOD Samaritan. This is not a nice parable about being nice to people.  People on our day think "Samaritan" is a synonym for nice; as in be a good neighbor!
Jesus intentionally offends by making the dreaded Samaritan the hero of the story,  Jews wouldn't touch a Samaritan; as they were ancient enemies !  They were the worst kind of outcast: They were half-breeds.  In a way, this is worse than an outcast:

Good article in the new Biblical Archaeology by Amy-Jill Levine (emphasis mine):
In the parable, the priest and Levite signal not a concern for ritual purity; rather, in good storytelling fashion, these first two figures anticipate the third: the hero. Jews in the first century (and today) typically are either priests or Levites or Israelites. Thus the expected third figure, the hero, would be an Israelite. The parable shocks us when the third figure is not an Israelite, but a Samaritan.
But numerous interpreters, missing the full import of the shock, describe the Samaritan as the outcast. This approach, while prompting compelling sermons, is the fourth anachronism. Samaritans were not outcasts at the time of Jesus; they were enemies.
In the chapter before the parable (Luke 9:51–56) Luke depicts Samaritans as refusing Jesus hospitality; the apostles James and John suggest retaliation: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). John 4:9 states, “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.” The Jewish historian Josephus reports that during the governorship of Cumanus, Samaritans killed “a great many” Galilean pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem (Antiquities 20.118–136). The first-century Jewish person hearing this parable might well think: There is no such thing as a “good Samaritan.” But unless that acknowledgment is made, and help from the Samaritan is accepted, the person in the ditch will die.
The parable offers another vision, a vision of life rather than death. It evokes 2 Chronicles 28, which recounts how the prophet Oded convinced the Samaritans to aid their Judean captives. It insists that enemies can prove to be neighbors, that compassion has no boundaries, and that judging people on the basis of their religion or ethnicity will leave us dying in a ditch.  link


Hatred Between Jews and Samaritans

Hatred between Jews and Samaritans was fierce and long-standing. In some ways, it dated all the way back to the days of the patriarchs. Jacob (or Israel) had twelve sons, whose descendants became twelve tribes. Joseph, his favorite, was despised by the other brothers (Gen. 37:3-4), and they attempted to do away with him.
But God intervened and not only preserved Joseph’s life, but used him to preserve the lives of the entire clan. Before his death, Jacob gave Joseph a blessing in which he called him a “fruitful bough by a well” (Gen. 49:22). The blessing was fulfilled, as the territory allotted to the tribes of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim (“doubly fruitful”) and Manasseh, was the fertile land that eventually became Samaria.
Later, Israel divided into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom, called Israel, established its capital first at Shechem, a revered site in Jewish history, and later at the hilltop city of Samaria.
In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity. The invaders then brought in Gentile colonists “from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim” (2 Kin. 17:24) to resettle the land. The foreigners brought with them their pagan idols, which the remaining Jews began to worship alongside the God of Israel (2 Kin. 17:29-41). Intermarriages also took place (Ezra 9:1-10:44;Neh. 13:23-28 ).
Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon in 600 B.C. Its people, too, were carried off into captivity. But 70 years later, a remnant of 43,000 was permitted to return and rebuild Jerusalem. The people who now inhabited the former northern kingdom—the Samaritans—vigorously opposed the repatriation and tried to undermine the attempt to reestablish the nation. For their part, the full-blooded, monotheistic Jews detested the mixed marriages and worship of their northern cousins. So walls of bitterness were erected on both sides and did nothing but harden for the next 550 years.
There are countless modern parallels to the Jewish-Samaritan enmity—indeed, wherever peoples are divided by racial and ethnic barriers. Perhaps that’s why the Gospels and Acts provide so many instances of Samaritans coming into contact with the message of Jesus. It is not the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to love, but the nearby neighbor whose skin color, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from one’s own.
Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. With whom do you have no dealings'
The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), pp. 340-341 

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