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Snodgrass: Stories With Intent (a propos RBL)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic; WSW; Klyne Snodgrass On: Parables With Intent (2008) From: Bruce The latest RBL contains a review of the above work which is nothing if
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 10, 2008
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      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic; WSW; Klyne Snodgrass
      On: Parables With Intent (2008)
      From: Bruce

      The latest RBL contains a review of the above work which is nothing if not
      acid. The RBL editors might perhaps have red-pencilled a few of the times
      where the reviewer resorts to the phrase "brushed aside;" at present, the
      impression is one of near-apoplexy.

      And it seems to me, style questions aside, that the apoplexy is
      substantively unwarranted. What Klyne has brushed aside, it turns out, is
      largely the gimmicks of literary theory and the models of the social
      scientists. What else *can* an honest man do with them, save brush them
      aside? They are a drag on research, and in discussion, they merely usurp the
      first two or three chapters of what might otherwise have been a helpful
      book. (These days, in picking up a Dissertation Monograph Series volume, one
      tends to grimace in advance). The point of a scholarly monograph should not
      be to affirm some theory, but to report some findings.

      Also "brushed aside" are some of the RBL reviewer's pet parable
      interpretations. (The reviewer's name, sure enough, does not figure in the
      45-page Bibliography). To judge by their brief mention in the review, the
      book has not necessarily lost a great deal in failing to consider them. What
      Snodgrass does do is to gather a great many possibilities for discussion,
      and even to focus the discussion in advance by identifying particular sticky
      points (we of WSW are currently grateful to David Nivison for providing a
      similar list of points for the discussion of his very complex Bamboo Annals
      reconstruction; the device is a very sound one). One senses the classroom
      atmosphere for which the book was intended, and one also imagines that the
      class would benefit greatly, in first coming to grips with the parables in
      an adult way, from the material here assembled. There will always be time
      later to consider other possible readings, or (if one dare mention the idea)
      to find a reading of their own. A book must end somewhere, and Snodgrass has
      made a quite defensible use of the 846 pages (plus front matter) at his

      For a differently balanced idea of the book's uses and missed opportunities,
      see the review at http://www.umass.edu/wsp/reviews/snodgrass.html

      The only point I might emphasize on the negative side is the author's
      assumption that the parables, collectively, represent the surest traces of
      Jesus's historical teachings. This is manifestly not so; the parables of
      Matthew and Luke partake fully in the expansion of theology which we see
      everywhere else in those Gospels. The Ranke prescription is unanswerable:
      With the parables, as with every other detail of the Gospel literature, if
      it is the actual Jesus we are after, it is to the earliest of the Gospels
      that we should go. For Christian edification in a more general sense, any
      and all will do equally well, and the later perhaps even weller than the
      earlier; but if that is the aim, then the promise of historicity should be
      soft-pedaled about two notches.

      No one, as far as I know, has ever sought to track the parables as an
      evolution in three stages (not four; there is virtually no material in gJn).
      If and when they do, they may find something of interest. Of analogous
      interest, if it can be done, is the effort currently under way to separate,
      by early and late layers, the material in the first tier Gospel, Mark, since
      this allows us to watch the voice of Jesus evolving through the first couple
      of decades after his Crucifixion, and partway into the more recognizable
      persona familiar to all of us from our Sunday School years (Luke takes us
      the rest of the way). Ready or not, that possibility will be pursued at a
      7AM session on Monday 24 November at the coming SBL Meeting in Boston (in
      Sheraton Conference Room SH). Any who care to attend will be welcome;
      advance discussion material is available at

      [NB: Contrary to previous announcement, and due to the impossibility of
      determining in advance the number likely to be present, no refreshments are
      being provided. Please bring your own bagel].

      So much for the future; our thanks to Klyne for his handsome effort in the
      recent past.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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