On the Path: Part 1

As a youngster, I liked to ask questions of the teacher in Sunday School class.  I would ask questions about one of the many stories that we were told.  How tall was Goliath?  How long did it take for Noah to build his ark?  Did Jericho really fall down after some horns were blown?  It was often answered with a chuckle and pat on the head from the teacher.  I did not feel that I had my answers from this person, but later the preacher would have a sermon on the very stories that I had questioned.  I learned quickly to not question the stories vocally.  It was a sin to question God and his Word.  It was a sin that led me to an eternal damnation.  So, I stopped in order to gain approval from the adults and not be punished with banishment from the comforts.  

However, this was the seed that began to grow into a sapling of a tree of knowledge.  I needed to water and care for this tree.  To find the water and food, I changed my posture on the questioning and began to ask from the point of view that was not from innocence.  I asked challenging questions that would force the preacher or teacher to examine their own beliefs to find the answers.  Essential, I investigated the Bible by understanding what others interpreted a verse or story to mean.  What does this parable mean?  What is the break down of the Sermon on the Mount?  How does one view the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness? Who Jesus is preaching to?  Who was Jesus?  Why was he a threat in Jerusalem?  What was his message?

It was a wellspring of information of opinions and interpretations of doctrines and dogma.  I often suggest that this mountain of knowledge compares to the idea of reading numerous reviews of a movie that you have never seen and forming an opinion.  However, I was able to pull together a skeleton of various doctrines and map out how different the minds of the Church can think.

The next step was to actually read the source and examine it in the method of a historian.  The historical context was the macrocosm while each book and chapter in the bible was examined as a whole.  If you take a single verse out of the bible, you can apply it to an interpretation that may not fit into the entire context of the chapter or book.  In the past, I have encountered numerous preachers, faithful members, and verse-spewing fanatics who love to pull out a verse to support their thoughts on a subject.  Of course, I remember that during the temptation of Jesus that he was tested by the devil doing the same thing.

By the time I learned enough from this historical method, I was ready to search for the deeper notions of the texts and compare them with the texts of the time.  I had studied enough of the contemporary history of the first century BCE and the first century CE that I felt that I could draw on it to answer my questions.

My first question was about the parables and why this form was used to convey the message that Jesus had brought.  It was very difficult question as the texts of the region that Jesus was supposed to have lived in were not known for its mass-produced texts.  In fact, it is easy to conclude that nearly all were illiterate.  The language of the early texts of the New Testament was mostly ancient Greek.  Most of the lands had come to know Greek during the Hellenization of the region after Alexander the Great’s conquest.

Parables have a higher rate of understanding due to their length and lack of complexity for the people of the region to understand.  These people were not thinking about the world beyond their daily routine.  A minister roaming the land that works to connect with his people is best served when he changes his words into short stories that can be easily memorized and told to others.  It is an example of early social networking.

On the thought of the language used, the texts of Gospels are accepted to be dated later in the first century CE, so this places them a few decades after the crucifixion.  In addition, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE.  It is difficult to believe that the Gospels were eye witness accounts written during Jesus’ time.  All are dated to the period after the Jewish Revolt, so it makes logical sense that the parables were passed along in an oral tradition until they were recorded and protected from destruction.  The Parables of Jesus survived as a simple vehicle in a region of illiterate people.

It is this group of people that became the core of the beginnings.  They were simple people on the rural edge of a sea that kept them away from all the politics of the world.  It is no surprise that the powers of the Empire did not give them much thought.  But this conclusion only answers one of my questions and not with much solid evidence.  The puzzle is missing pieces.

I will be working to explore this subject further and would love to hear from others on their ideas of parables and their use in the New Testament.  I have plenty questions to further understand.

crudus animus

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About I Write Irate

For me, this is a personal exploration into a part of me that has been silent for years. It is an opinion. It is an expression. It is who I am. The revelations will come and the patient reader will enjoy the craft displayed. I offer a challenge: Read this and you will come to understand a voice that speaks to the heart of the issue. It can reveal a compassion that some have left behind. Enjoy.

6 responses to “On the Path: Part 1”

  1. Alex Jones says :

    Parables, stories is a method of conveying knowledge to an illiterate people in a period of time when the oral tradition was important. The “story” is used amongst many cultures, especially in the orient. Stories are easier to remember that most sermons that priests put out in their churches today.

    • I Write Irate says :

      I have found that these parables have become the pieces of wisdom that express the ideals of this man, but they are quickly forgotten when it comes to the squabbles over matters. How can you be the Good Samaritan while you are told the doctrine that those not with us are against us? Parables are a cover for the doctrines that people pull out of the rest of the book.

  2. J. says :

    I, like you, questioned my religious leaders and received unsatisfactory answers. It was a very long time before I felt comfortable enough to do some hardcore questioning, for the same reasons you listed, but when I did, the answers came rolling in.

    I won’t go into a whole diatribe on the lack of evidence for a historical Jesus. That’s been done. But I will weigh in on the question of parables: I agree with your point about the length and complexity–or lack thereof. The authors of the gospels, like any writers should, knew their intended audience and wrote accordingly. Widespread literacy is a new phenomena, and so the authors would certainly be working with a mostly uneducated audience. Parables, like fables and fairy-tales, deal in small bits of knowledge expressed in narrative form. We all like to be told a story. As I like to say to my students: Mary Poppins sang that “a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Expressing complex concepts in this form made it easy to digest for any audience, and it made it more memorable. It’s the same reason that I often bring stories from my own life into the classroom: students understand it; it’s realistic; and it’s memorable.

    Thanks for the post.

    • I Write Irate says :

      It is through this questioning that I found the heart of the matter. I agree that such stories are a great tool of the rhetoric to enhance the point, but in this case, the parables are frosting cover a rock. Of course, my intention for this is to enter the debate of the historical Jesus as I try to puzzle out my own thoughts on it. I have read the numerous books and debates, but it is time for me to place my opinion out there. Thanks for the comment.

  3. The Water Bearer says :

    Thank you for this post! It reminds me of conversations with my best friend, My Dad, who I miss dearly. My dear departed Dad was practically thrown out of every church he attended because he questioned so intently. He ended up leaving the legalism of the church and spent the rest of his life studying to find the answers himself. Now while he had a brilliant academic mind and he gathered a mountain of evidence to back up his theories, it was through faith alone that he had his questions truly answered. It is fabulous to question and not swallow whole what the world tries to feed us, but through connection with God He can tell us what we need to know and guide us as to what He put us here for. (Abraham is claimed by many to be the founder of obedience to God, yet he didn’t have a Bible). I believe we are on a need-to-know basis and all our questions will be answered in God’s perfect timing. 🙂

    • I Write Irate says :

      I appreciate your comment and I am honored that it brought you the thoughts of your father. The mysteries of the Bible and the organizations around it are a thrill to explore. It is like a buffet table of information, but we only have teacup saucer to use for each visit to the table. I hope that we are all successful in the search for answers.

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