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Snodgrass on the Parables

November 25, 2009

While in New Orleans I attended a session dedicated to Klyne Snodgrass’s new book on the parables. The session included papers from Mark Allan Powell and Scot McKnight, both of whom praised Snodgrass’s optimism about how much of the material in the parables goes back to the historical Jesus. Not suprisingly, this is the element I also heard most severly criticized by other scholars during the week. In any case, the book must have created a buzz among a number of scholars in recent months because I heard it referenced several times throughout the conference. In fact, in a conversation at Starbucks with John Meier, I learned that he is currently using Snodgrass’s book and Arland Hultgren’s The Parables of Jesus as the two course texts in his doctoral seminar on the parables this semester. (As an aside, this also led to an interesting discussion about what Meier sees in the parables and what he will be discussing in his fifth volume of A Marginal Jew. That’s a volume I am looking forward to seeing in print.) 

The subtitle of the book is A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. Over the years I have regularly consulted a handful of books on the parables, but this may be the most comprehensive book on the topic I currently own. Regardless of what one thinks of Snodgrass’s optimism about the parables going back to the historical Jesus, all of those who are interested in the parables of Jesus should purchase this book. Every parable is considered in a wide literary context, including parallels in the OT, early Jewish writings, Greco-Roman writings, writings from the early church, and later Jewish writings. It’s safe to say that no modern work on the parables is as comprehensive as this one and in this way, the subtitle of the book becomes a promise for the reader.

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