PG 518 The Gospel Parables: Narrative and Theology

Module Level

9/10 MTh / PhD / STL seminar course


Short Book Review (1500 words): 20% | In-class presentation and focus paper (1500 words): 20% | Final Research Paper (4000 words): 60% | Note: written work for this module may be submitted in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

Module Aims

As well as lying at the heart of gospel discourse, the parables generate key categories for Christian expression and self-understanding. The publication, in late 2015, of John P. Meier’s Probing the Authenticity of the Parables, the fifth volume of A Marginal Jew, his significant investigation of the Jesus of history, provides an opportunity and a focus to engage with parables scholarship in the early 21st century. Meier’s research and his historical synthesis raise important questions about the genre, character, historicity and theological import of the gospel parables.

Using a narrative methodology, this seminar course seeks to engage contemporary parable interpretation in a way that is biblically fluent, theologically stimulating and pastorally sensitive.

Indicative Syllabus

  • Parable—metaphor or allegory?
  • Towards the common perception of parable: Jülicher, Dodd, Jeremias
  • Parable and the wisdom tradition
  • Parable and prophecy
  • Approaches to gospel composition: kerygma, paradosis, redaction
  • Jesus from Galilean Jew to living Lord
  • Contemporary gospel criticism: rhetorical and narrative approaches
  • Parables in postmodernity: surplus of meaning and interpretative potential


  • Core Reading:
  • Levine, Amy-Jill. Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi. New York: HarperOne, 2014.
  • Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew—Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Volume 5, Probing the Authenticity of the Parables. The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015
  • Snodgrass, Klyne R. Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018.
  • Classic Texts:
  • [Jülicher, Adolf, Die Gleichnisreden Jesu. 2 volumes, Freiburg: Mohr, 1886 (volume 1) and 1899 (volume 2)]
  • Dodd, C.H. The Parables of the Kingdom. London: Nesbitt, 1935 [revised edition Glasgow: Collins, 1961]
  • Jeremias, Joachim. The Parables of Jesus. London: SCM, 1972 [original: Die Gleichnisse Jesu. Zürich: Zwingli, 1947]
  • Contemporary Parable Criticism:
  • McFague, Sallie. Speaking in Parables: A Study in Metaphor and Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975.
  • Parris, David P. “Imitating the Parables: Allegory, Narrative and the Role of Mimesis.” JSNT 25 (2002): 33–53
  • Schottroff, Luise. The Parables of Jesus. Minneapolis, Fortress, 2006 [original 2005].
  • Critical Introductions (Selection):
  • Beavis, Mary Ann (editor). Lost Coin: Parables of Women, Work, and Wisdom. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002
  • Blomberg, Craig. L. Interpreting the Parables. Second Edition. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012
  • Crossan, John Dominic. The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. New York: HarperOne, 2013.
  • Donahue, John R. The Gospel in Parable. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988.
  • ––––––––. “Jesus as Parable in the Gospel of Mark.” Interpretation 32 (1978): 369–86
  • Drury, John. The Parables in the Gospels. London: SPCK, 1985.
  • Hultgren, Arland J. The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
  • Scott, Bernard Brandon. Hear Then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
  • Tolbert, Mary Ann. Perspectives on the Parables: An Approach to Multiple Interpretations. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.
  • Zimmermann, Ruben. Kompendium der Gleichnisse Jesu. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2007.


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