The Power of Parable – and metaparable

At “By Common Consent”, there is a review of John Dominic Crossan’s “The Power of Parable: How fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus”.

This interests me particularly for two reasons, firstly because BCC is a Mormon site, and I don’t get to look at Mormon sites very often. The more important reason, though, is that I read this book last year and would unhesitatingly recommend it as a radical new look at the Gospels.

I go along with most of what that review says; I love the direction of thinking Crossan is pursuing, but do not think he supports his hypotheses sufficiently rigorously for me to say “Yes, this is the way it was”.

But Crossan tells a wonderfully engaging and convincing story about how and why the Gospels were written, and one which is well worth considering as a possible way of reading them, and a new way which gives an additional and sometimes surprising set of insights. At the least, it can be regarded as a parable of its own (about writing parables about a teller of parables one of which is perhaps itself about parables – which is even more “meta” than the comment which starts the review).

I’m not sure I want to try to suggest what kind of parable it is, though. In a way, it’s a challenge parable, the “marginalised person” here being parables themselves. In a way it’s a riddle parable, because the stories themselves become significant of something other than what they first appear to be. I don’t at the moment see any indication of example parable there, but wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to correct me.

One thing Crossan does do here, however, is use the texts we know well to tell us some stories about the early development of Christianity and its transformation from being a Jewish sect to being a religion crossing divides of ethnicity, and to underline a particular understanding of Jesus. It’s an understanding of Jesus which resonates extremely well with me, and I like the book fine for that. It is, however, too limited an understanding of Jesus to reflect all that I consider Jesus to be to us now, even if (as I rather suspect) it may reflect a very substantial part of what Jesus was during his lifetime ministry.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.