Levine's deep insight? If you only have five sheep, you'll notice one missing, but if you have a hundred?
With the prodigal she overturns much that we repeatedly read and hear: that grown men didn't run in antiquity, for example, or that a son who squanders his inheritance is treating his father as dead. These pet notions don't stand up to scrutiny. Levine skewers dozens of scholars, from Jeremias to Scott to Buttrick to Hultgren, for passing along faulty readings--although in an analysis of her footnotes I detect that she takes on primarily books about the parables, and especially books on preaching the parables, rather than challenging commentaries.
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I am not surprised that books telling us how to make a parable work for a modern audience aren't up to snuff historically speaking. What made me shudder as I worked through Short Stories by Jesus, though, was discovering that many of us have unwittingly been passing along anti-Jewish stereotypes. Haven't we heard that Jewish fathers were stern and would cut off a recalcitrant son?
Or that the Pharisee's boastful prayer was typical of a works-righteousness Judaism? They challenge, they provoke, they convict, and at the same time they amuse. The parables … are pearls of Jewish wisdom. If we hear them in their original context, and if we avoid the anti-Jewish interpretation that frequently deforms them, they gleam with a shine that cannot be hidden.
And, if I can see that from my perspective outside of Christianity—then how much more so can Christians appreciate these stories from within. Every year, huge numbers of Americans tell pollsters that we own Bibles and read them regularly. Steve describes Jesus as a brilliant Jewish teacher with a knack for teaching the Jewish tradition to people who were largely illiterate, 2, years ago, and who had little time to study scripture.
Yes, this is the way I should be living my life! One of the running themes in your book is helping Christian readers understand the accurate Jewish context of these stories. In your book, you devote 45 pages to exploring this very short story as well as two others that appear just before it in Luke— the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.
There are so many questions worth exploring in this chapter that anyone with a Sunday school class or a small discussion group could spend a long time discussing all the issues. They come from ignorance.
So stereotyped images of scripture can find their way into sermons. We might hear a preacher telling us that we should be surprised when the Dad welcomes home the prodigal son. Fathers welcome home sons. And Jewish fathers at that time would have welcomed home sons. In the wake of the Holocaust, the whole world could see the tragic result of preaching contempt. What shaped me more as a kid were civil rights issues. My family knew what it was like not to have rights. So we knew that we should make sure that no one else was denied civil rights.
Short Stories By Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi | Zwinglius Redivivus
We understood how dangerous this was. I had a cousin by marriage who was a freedom rider and who was killed in Mississippi. I remember Passover seder meals when we talked about what it meant to be slaves today. My parents had very, very strong moral values and those were values that they inculcated in me. Then, my father died when I was quite young so I lived with my mother and her mother—so three generations of Jewish women in one household.
There was a great concern in our home for those who needed care, those who we should care for. Growing up, I knew there were forms of unfairness that could arise when you were Jewish in a Christian environment or widowed in a largely married environment.
Life in first-century Palestine was very different from our world today, and many traditional interpretations of Jesus' stories ignore this disparity and have often allowed anti-Semitism and misogyny to color their perspectives. In this wise, entertaining, and educational book, Amy-Jill Levine offers a fresh, timely reinterpretation of Jesus' narratives. In Short Stories by Jesus, she analyzes these problems with parables, taking readers back in time to understand how their original Jewish audience understood them. Levine reveals the parables' connections to first-century economic and agricultural life, social customs and morality, Jewish scriptures and Roman culture.
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Short Stories By Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi
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RETHINKING THE PRODIGAL SON
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