Well, maybe not "new" in the sense that no one has ever seen them before, but there are certainly parables in the gospels that are overlooked, neglected, or ignored for one reason or another—so the parables are "new" in the sense that they need to be "rediscovered" as parables. What is a parable? The classic form of parable is a brief narrative fiction about ordinary things. Basically a narrative is a story having at least three elements: a beginning, middle, and end. So a parable is a form of speech that is something more than a phrase, clause, or saying—it tells a story. A parable may be as brief as a single sentence: "a woman took and concealed a fermenting agent in three bushels of flour until the whole was leavened" (Matt 13:33); or a parable may extend to as much as two paragraphs in length (viz., A Father and Two Sons, Luke 15:11-32). In general, scholars tend to recognize a literary unit as a parable when they are introduced with the phrase: "The kingdom of God is like . . .," but that is not always the case. A Father and Two Sons (Luke 15:11-32), and An Injured Man on the Jericho Road (Luke 10:30-35) are not introduced by a parabolic comparative frame, and yet these two stories are universally recognized as parables.
The Jesus Seminar made a survey of early Christian literature in the first two centuries of the Christian era searching for parables attributed to Jesus, and found thirty-three that they thought should be included in the corpus of stories attributed to Jesus (Funk, Scott, Butts, The Parables of Jesus. Red Letter Edition [Polebridge Press, 1988). I have argued, however, that the corpus of Jesus' parables is comprised of at least forty-three parables, ten more than acknowledged by the Jesus Seminar. One that you may have missed is Settling out of Court (Matt 5:25-25 = Luke 12:58-59). I checked several commentaries on the parables at random and discovered that the following scholars apparently do not regard it as a parable (The Jesus Seminar, Kissinger, Scott, Bailey, Blomberg, Hultgren), but at least two do (Smith and Jeremias). Another story, The Persistent Friend (Luke 11:5-7) is not regarded as a parable by the Jesus Seminar and Scott, but Kissinger and Jeremias do discuss it as a parable.
One story, Offering your Gift at the Altar (Matt 5:23-24), appears to have gone virtually unrecognized as a story of Jesus by the scholars whose works I checked for this blog:
If, therefore, you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and first go become reconciled to your brother, and then coming offer your gift.
The Jesus Seminar colored the saying gray, as it did a similar saying parallel (Mark 11:25), but the story is not unlike its "twin" immediately following in Matthew (On Going to Court, Matt 5:25-26) in its use of the imperative; this "twin" parable is colored pink in The Five Gospels. Bultmann regarded the "saying" Offering Your Gift at the Altar as the more original form of another similar saying (Mark 11:25), since Matthew's parable "presupposes the existence of the sacrificial system in Jerusalem" (Bultmann, p. 132). Bultmann regards the legal style of Offering Your Gift at the Altar in Matthew as the work of the early church. The saying itself, however, is older, since the content had nothing to do with the church "brotherhood" (Bultmann, 146, 147). The use of the term "brother" when used in the gospels is generally read as a Christian motif, which may account for the general neglect of the parable, but that aspect of the saying is likely part of the Christian reworking of a much older saying. How might the narrative have appeared in its earlier pre-Christian form?
A man was offering his gift at the altar and there remembered his [friend] had something against him; he left his gift there before the altar and first went, became reconciled with his [friend], and then coming he offered his gift.
The term "friend" makes an appearance in other parables of Jesus in Luke (11:5-6; 14:10; 15:6, 9; 15:29).
What do you think?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University
Color gray: the saying is questionable as a saying of Jesus
Color pink: the saying is likely a saying of Jesus
Funk, Hoover and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels
B. T. D. Smith, The Parables of the Synoptic Gospels
Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition
Bailey, Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes
Kissinger, The Parables of Jesus
Scott, Hear Then the Parable
Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus
Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables
Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus