Sunday, May 21, 2017

The "Parable" In The Sermon On The Plain (Part 3)

Part 1 of this series is available here. Part 2 is here. The following is taken from Thomas' book on Luke 6:40 with only slight adaptation. You can find it on Amazon here.

TWH: Luke’s use of παραβολή is the same as the Matthean and Markan usage following Luke’s parallel material with the day mentioned in Matthew 12–13 and Mark 3–4.48 There are only three Lukan uses prior to the day of Jesus’s rejection as found in each of the Synoptics (4:23, 5:36, and 6:39). In Luke 4:23, Jesus says, “You will definitely say this parable to me: Physician, heal yourself!” (πάντως ἐρεῖτέ μοι τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην· Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν). The problem with translating παραβολή as “parable” (which is really only a transliteration) in this case is it does not bear the characteristics of what is generally understood as parabolic discourse as seen in Matthew 13 or Luke 14–15. In addition to this, nowhere in the Gospel accounts is there found a parable the likes of Matthew 13 directed toward Jesus. He is the instructor about the kingdom. For a discussion on classical and rabbinic parallels to this saying, see Nolland, “Classical and Rabbinic Parallels,” 193–209. Instead of a parable, it is a proverb. The material following the use of παραβολή in Luke 5:36–39 also lacks similarity with parabolic discourse found after Matthew 13//Mark 4–5//Luke 8, specifically that there is no story development. Also worth noting is how Matthew and Mark do not identify the material found in Luke 5:36–39 as παραβολή (Matt 9:16–17; Mark 2:21–22). While it may not be a verbatim recitation of a socially-accepted proverb, Jesus’s response to the Pharisees and their scribes in Luke 5:36–39 uses two everyday customs sagaciously. In this case he does so most likely to avoid prematurely announcing his coming death and resurrection while not avoiding the question. In Luke 9:21, Jesus clearly reserves this announcement for his closest disciples and commanded them with a warning that they should not share this information with anyone.

The third use is found in Luke 6:39a, εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς. There is no lack of discussion about how the use of παραβολή relates to the remainder of the Sermon on the Plain. Sharon H. Ringe believes that “Luke draws together a ‘parable’ and sayings found in various places in Matthew” (Ringe, Luke, 96). Likewise, Justo L. González calls them “sayings” and says they are “more like a series of proverbs or wisdom utterances” (González, Luke, 95). Tom Wright translates the word in Luke 6:39 as “riddle” (Wright, Luke for Everyone, 75). John Nolland simply refers to the content as “various parabolic pieces” (Nolland, Luke 1–9:20, 305) like Keith F. Nickle who calls them “four parabolic analogies,” or warnings (Nickle, Preaching the Gospel of Luke, 69). H. D. A. Major, T. W. Manson, and C. J. Wright refer to what follows as a “series of parables” (Major et al., Mission and Message, 349; see also Kingsbury, Conflict in Luke, 113; Talbert, Reading Luke, 78; Bock, Luke: Volume 1 (1:1—9:50), 609; Hobbs, An Exposition of Luke, 121). The major support for those who believe this is a series of parables, despite Luke’s use of the singular (παραβολήν), is the usage in Luke 15:1 and what follows. For example, Charles H. Talbert writes:
"Just as in 15:3, where the evangelist says Jesus told a parable (singular) and followed the statement with three parables in the remainder of the chapter, so the singular is followed here by four stories." (Talbert, Reading Luke, 78)
For a discussion of Luke 15 as three parables, see Chance, “Luke 15,” 249–57. Arguments that the setting in Luke 15:1–3 is not original to the material in Luke 15:4–7 are hardly convincing. Such arguments assume that Jesus used illustrations one time only throughout his teaching ministry, which is really unfounded. Is it not possible that Luke, while conducting his own research, met someone who or found some record that told about how Jesus used Luke 15:4–7 as a segway into the parable of the man with two sons? However, there is nothing within the text that indicates in any way that the first two stories should be read apart from the parable of the man and his two sons.

Luke’s use of παραβολή in 6:39a best refers to the material found in 6:46–49, the section that bears the ὅμοιός ἐστιν construction often found in Jesus’s parables. With the distinct, straight-forward content in Luke 6:39b–45 and the fact that Matthew does not refer to the similar content as παραβολή, there is no strong support to view Luke’s use as a collective singular. That he intends for his readers to think about vv. 46–49 in light of vv. 39b–45 is clear by his narrative insertion in v. 39a. Luke could have placed the introduction (εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς) immediately before 6:46, yet this would not have isolated and marked vv. 39–49 as the conclusion to the Sermon on the Plain. The end of the SOP, therefore, consists of four proverbial units: (1) 6:39b, (2) 6:40, (3) 6:41–42, and (4) 6:43–45. These seven verses constitute the first subdivision (6:39–45) of the SOP’s ending. Talbert identifies an ABA' pattern with these verses, the central section being vv. 41–42. Verses 39–40 and 43–45, according to Talbert, “function as the motivations for the central concern for the personal transformation before undertaking to assist others” (Talbert, Reading Luke, 78–79). Verses 46–49 contain the climax of the Sermon on the Plain. The parable found in 6:48–49 is a twofold comparison of what someone is like that comes to Jesus (ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με), hears his words (ἀκούων μου τῶν λόγων), and acts on them (ποιῶν αὐτούς) and someone that does not. The parable is illustrative, designed to reinforce the importance of coming, hearing, and acting. It does not have a concealing-revealing aspect to it like parables following the day Jesus was rejected.

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