Monday, May 14, 2007

Thoughts on Jesus' Parables in Luke

Richard once posted on Luke's parable of the unjust steward (Lk16.1-13). I had some initial notes on Richard's thoughts which I had not made public. After rereading them today, I feel that they may bear some relevance, or at least point us in a right direction for better conclusions. My initial thoughts on Jesus' parable of the unjust steward, and the other parables told in Luke 15-20, prompted by Richard's post:

1) The parable of the wicked tenants (Lk20.9-16) is the only parable after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. If the "step progression method" is being used by Jesus in Luke [as
suggested by Richard], then we should expect that Jesus has fully finished his indictment on the priesthood with this parable - a notion which is validated by the priests' reaction in 20.19.

2) Jeremias has suggested that the chief priests were constitued by a small number, maybe 15-20 persons [the citation elludes me at present]. Perhaps the 10 servants of Luke 19.13 represent the chief priests of Jesus' day. Again, the chief priests recognized that they were the ones under attack in these parables (cf. 19.47-48; 20.1, 19).

3) Concerning the parable of the prodigal son (15.11-32) - perhaps figure of the younger son is meant to represent the office of the high priest, and not a specific priest. If so, then the son's departure and squandering of possessions (mirrored again in 16.1, of the dishonest steward, whom we believe to be the high priest) might refer to the corruption of the priesthood. Conversely, the son's return, coming to his senses, and reception of a celebration might refer to Jesus as the high priest, reconstituting the office of high priest as a faithful priest [cf. my post
here], contra those "dishonest" and "unfaithful" and "wicked" folk normally employed to represent the high priest. In essense, Jesus is perhaps saying that one day the high priesthood will be worthy (contra the "unworthiness" of those previously holding that office, 15.19).

Additionally, NT Wright has argued that 15.24, 32 refers to resurrection, of Israel's "true return from exile" (Luke for Everyone, SPCK, p. 188). But what if Jesus meant to refer to his own resurrection? The story hinges on that one event, when the son who was "once dead is now alive, once lost is found" (15.24, 32). If the son represents the office of the high priesthood, then the son's resurrection and return would constitute a reconstitution of the faithfulness of the high priesthood. And, according to Jesus, who would bring that about? Jesus explicitly refers to a resurrection as the turning point in this story. Would it not be ironic if he did not mean his own resurrection, which he were to accomplish only days later?

Finally, note the elder son's accusation of the younger, that he "devoured [the father's] living with harlots". I wonder if perhaps the elder son represents the corrput priests of Jesus' day who accused Jesus of mingling with sinners throughout his ministry.

4) Notice these parallels in Luke, Jesus' use of maxims to convey the same general idea at the close of various parables and teachings: 7.41-43; 12.48; 14.11; 16.10; 18.14, 28-30; 19.17. Richard has suggested [somewhere!!!] that Luke is using Ezekiel's maxim-practice.

Again, these are initial thoughts made in early December 2006 following a post by Richard on Luke's parable of the unjust steward.

Copyright 2007

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