I am delighted to announce that Wipf and Stock, publishers in Eugene, Oregon, has recently published in their selective Cascade Series a new book of mine entitled Parabolic Figures or Narrative Fictions? Seminal Essays on the Stories of Jesus (Eugene OR: Cascade, 2016); the cost is $38.00 from the press. It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. and even in electronic form.
In the book I contend that parables do not teach moral and religious lessons; they are not, in whole or part, theological figures for the church. Rather parables are realistic narrative fictions told to Judean peasants, and like all effective fiction literature the stories are designed to draw auditors (and now readers) into their story worlds where auditors and readers make discoveries about themselves by finding their ideas challenged and subverted—or affirmed, by the stories.
The parables have endings but not final resolutions, because the endings raise new complications for careful readers, which require further resolution. The narrative contexts and interpretations supplied by the evangelists constitute an attempt by the early church to bring the secular narratives of Jesus under the control of the church's later religious perspectives. Each narrative represents a fragment of Jesus' secular vision of reality.
As I began this approach to parables over twenty years ago, I found myself moving further outside the mainstream of parables scholarship, both ecclesiastical and critical. I explored a literary approach to the parables in a series of early essays that, among other things, set out what I considered the basic rationale for a literary approach to the parables of Jesus. These early essays form the central section of the book, published in recently edited form along with previously unpublished critiques of a strictly literary approach to the parables and my response to my critics.*
I have been invited by Barnes and Noble in Springfield, Missouri for a meet-the-public and book signing on October 22, 2016. If you are in town, drop by and let's chat a bit about parables, my blog, or you could just share a bit of your own thinking with me. I am always happy to entertain new ideas.
What do you think of the parables as stories for a Judean peasant audience?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University
*adapted from the back cover of the book; used by permission of Wipf and Stock.