Course on the Gospel of Matthew by Francis Montagu                Session 3: Tuesday, 11th February, 2014
Website homepage All Saints' homepage
Wrington Website
All Saintsí Church
The recording can be paused, stopped, started by using these controls
MATTHEW'S PARABLES BACKGROUND 'Comparisons which use story telling techniques and details drawn from everyday life in order to present religious truth in a way which attracts the attention of the reader/ listener by its vividness or strangeness and thus provokes reflection and appropriate action' ( Graham Stanton) A concrete and dramatic form of theological language which calls for a response The most distinctive aspect of Jesus 'teaching for which there is little parallel in the OT Nathan- David and Bathsheba- is one of the few examples Jesus did not speak to the crowds without a parable (Mark 4.34) 'Parable' means in Greek 'set side by side- ie a comparison. The Hebrew word mashal is important - meaning riddle or enigmatic saying- the meaning is not has to be worked at and worked out Principally parables fall into 3- a narrative, similitude or an allegory ( and also proverb or riddle). In Mt 13 we have all 3 The sower is a narrative The mustard seed is a similitude- the kingdom of God is like- ie it can be compared to , there is a point of connection with The wheat and tares- an explained allegory where each action/ character has a particular meaning The gospel writers# have added (a) the setting ( Matthew has put ch 13 in this place in the gospel to explain why Jesus 'mission has not been successful - see Chapter 11 and 12), and also the individual settings of the parables (b) beginnings and endings- e g the last shall be first and the first last (c) arguably in the case of the Sower the explanation which appears to reflect the church's post- resurrection experience Modern understandings of the parables 1 A strong emphasis that each parable intended to make one point only
2.That the parables are connected with the coming of the kingdom which Jesus brings ( messenger and message) and the proclamation of the kingdom. That many are 'crisis' parables' in that they warn of impending catastrophe and call for a decision. They not only illustrate the kingdom but also convey something of the reality of the kingdom and have a vitality of their own. RS Thomas- The Bright Field 3 That they are 'weapons of warfare' used by Jesus against his opponents - eg they sometimes arise from a testing questioner e g the Good Samaritan, and have a 'polemic' quality 4 The cultural life of C1 Palestine needs to be 'recovered' so far as possible -family relationships, wedding customs, economic life - absentee landlords,.agricultural practices, debt 5 The story telling and poetic techniques of the parables- repetition, the central verse, parallelism 6 The theological cluster- a move away from the 'single point' theory which was itself a reaction against allegorising everything, to a belief that there are an interlocking set of theological ideas behind a parable - but controlled and limited by what Jesus and his audience would have understood ( Kenneth Bailey , an American who lived for many years in the Middle East -Poet and Peasant) PARABLES IN MATTHEW Chapter 13 1-9 The Sower 10-17 Purpose of the parables- a human response is needed - salvation is God's gift 18-23 Explanation of the Sower ( explanation not exhortation) 24-33 3 parables of growth - wheat and tares, mustard seed, leaven - the problem of evil 34-35 Purpose of parables Note OT formula quotation Note change of scene crowd -disciples 36-43 Explanation of parable of wheat and tares 44-50 3 further parables- buried treasure, pearl and net offish 51-53 The householder A thematic unity which moves from initial proclamation, to fruitfulness and certainty of victory, to final judgment- so both explanation and exhortation
Chapter 18 21-35 The unmerciful servant Chapter 20 - The labourers in the vineyard Chapters 21-22 3 further parables-The two sons, the tenants of the vineyard , the wedding banquet and the guest with no wedding garment Chapters 24 and 25 1-30,3 further parables- The servants left in charge The wise and foolish virgins, the talents (in Luke the parable of the pounds), R S THOMAS -THE BRIGHT FIELD I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it. I realise now That I must give all I have To possess it. Life is not hurrying On to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you. QUESTIONS 1 Why did Jesus teach in parables? 2 What does the quotation from Isaiah mean? 3 What did they see in the parables of the Sower, wheat and tares, mustard seed, leaven, field and pearl? 4 How do we cope with the theme of judgment? 5 Parable of the wise and foolish virgins What is the Kingdom being compared to ? Are the wise virgins selfish ? What is the significance of the bridegroom's time of return being unknown? Who is the bridegroom ? 6 Parable of the talents What is our opinion of the servant who buried his talent ? Is that the end of the story ?