Evaluate the claim that the parables are political in their importance. (35)


  • Parable comes from the Greek word ‘parabole’ and usually refers to a story within a deeper meaning or an extended metaphor.
  • It can be argued that the parables are political in their importance proposed by William Herzog who believed that the parables may actually be exposing exploitation rather than revealing justification.
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  • The greater reality that Jesus spoke of was the kingdom of god to which many people has many different ideas of.
  • However with the delay of the Parousia some believed that god really intended change in the social, economical and political circles of life on earth.
  • Trends about the study of Jesus have moved from a more historical and literary critique to more of a social science analysis.
  • A group of people known for the Jesus seminar make this move in arguing the parables to be more political.
  •  For example Borg believes that Jesus was the head of a reform movement who wanted to tear down the class walls.
  • Chilton sees Jesus as a wandering rabbi who promoted social and political change with Crosson arguing that Jesus supported radical egalitarianism. 
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  • The question that needs to be asked is was Jesus’ criticism against the Jews for the failing to follow the covenant or was it against the Romans?
  • The Romans imposed heavy taxation with landlords acquiring plots of land which many viewed to be highly unfair and oppressive.
  • However the Old Testament did not separate religion and politics as most prophets were against the separation.
  • When Jesus started talking about the justice some scholars believed he was talking about both religion and politics however it seems that the parables of Matthew take a more theological view and Luke more political although this distinction has been disputed.
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  • The parables of Matthew are central in understanding if the parables importance is more political or theological.
  • The parable of the 10 maidens shows the women as members of the early church a key theme in Matthew. Having received invitation they expected to be invited into the kingdom of god however RT France argues that the parable is a warning addressed specifically to those in the church who are not to assume their future is unconditionally assured. This is political in the idea of whom the true church is and who the true Israel is.
  • The parable of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew’s gospel is probably the clearest example of a political manifesto in the parables of Jesus in that the teaching is in reference to Israel and not the church. However it can be argued that this parable is simply a vision of the world at Parousia and would therefore be theological.
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  • The lost parables of Luke can be seen as more political than Matthew as they are treated as a literary unit which share common themes of God’s delight in repentance and an attack on the Pharisees which is in reference to the class system.
  • These are most clearly seen in the parable of the prodigal son.
  • The parable of the shrewd manager somewhat connects to Matthews parable of the Talents which is theological in nature in that Luke is arguing that you have to do the right thing to wait for the kingdom of god due to the anti wealth nature of the parable as money presented a problem for the early church. 
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  • In conclusion I would be more inclined to argue that the parables are more theological in nature rather than political.
  • It seems that the gospel writers did not intend for Jesus’ parables to be interpreted as such.
  • ****** argues that it is dangerous to differentiate between the historical Jesus and the early church which would lead to conclusions never intended by the gospel writers.
  • I feel that the Jesus seminar were taking a somewhat liberal view in bending the parables to their agenda as Matthew’s parables do not appear to be this and Luke’s parables can be argued both ways.
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