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Two Lukan Parables (Lk 15)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG; Klyne Snodgrass In Response To: Chuck Jones On: Two Lukan Parables From: Bruce I remain unconvinced by Chuck s contention that nothing
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 9, 2009
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG; Klyne Snodgrass
      In Response To: Chuck Jones
      On: Two Lukan Parables
      From: Bruce

      I remain unconvinced by Chuck's contention that nothing can be told, from
      their superficial features, about any of the Synoptic materials. His latest
      reformulation of that now prolonged challenge involves two Lukan Parables,
      and I take up the matter from that new standpoint.

      ASSIGNMENT: "You know what? There isn't a formal or stylistic difference
      between the parable of the lost coin (L) and the parable of the lost sheep
      (double). So why would I propose that the coin was free composed while the
      sheep was based on a written source? I'd need a good philological reason to
      do that. Hmmmm."

      RESPONSE: It is conceded that the experts are helpless in this area, or if
      otherwise, they are keeping that fact to themselves. So other alternatives
      may be justified. I thus ask: if the question of these two parables were
      referred to any reasonably bright 4th grade class, say Mrs McMillan's, how
      might they approach it? I give fair warning that when going that way,
      discipline and the following of rules can't be counted on, and food fights
      are a constant possibility. But where might the little rascals start?

      1. By checking Klyne Snodgrass's book, Stories With Intent. He discusses
      these parables, but with a prefatory note on the structure of Lk 15 (p93),
      of which he says, "Luke has clearly arranged ch15 for rhetorical effect, and
      an understanding of how this section functions assists in interpreting the
      individual parables. The flow of the chapter is easily discernible:

      v1-3. Editorial description of the reason for these parables in the
      grumblings of the Pharisees and scribes at Jesus' reception of and eating
      with sinners (though in v3 the word "parable" is singular).
      v4-7. Parable of the Lost Sheep
      v8-10. Parable of the Lost Coin
      v11-32: Parable of the Two Lost Sons

      Matthew places the parable of the Lost Sheep in a completely different
      context, and GThos also has this parable, but the other two parables have no
      parallel. . . ."

      [I disagree with Klyne's title for the third of these, and for reasons of
      symmetry (not contradicted by the story as I read it), I will call it the
      Parable of the Lost Son - EBB].

      2. OK, the intro seems to envision only one parable following. Then
      presumptively the other two are later addenda to Lk's own Lost Sheep
      parable. We follow up on that. Specifically, the three introits are:

      v3 "So he told them this parable . . ." [Connected to preceding]
      v8 "Or what woman, having ten silver coins . . . [explicit alternate]
      v11 "And he said, There was a man who had two sons . . ." [explicit
      addendum]

      We [say the class members] also note that the Sheep parable has heavy
      Scriptural image connections, whereas the others do not. This dissimilarity
      makes two strikes against the latter two being original to this passage.

      3. Extroits (to coin, pardon the pun, a term):

      v7 "Even so, I tell you, there will be more joy in Heaven . . ." [Seems to
      sum up the intended message, and indeed to spell out that message, and thus
      to close the situation that began with v1]
      v10 "Even so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God . . ."
      [Repetition, suitable for addendum]
      v32 "It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother . . ."
      [End of story, no extroit; message is contained within the self-interpreting
      story itself]

      Tentative Verdict: Sheep parable well connected to preceding context; Coin
      parable joined on, Son parable simply there.

      4. Scale. The third Parable is humongously longer than the others, and
      involves a great deal of human interest and detail, complete with inner
      monologues of more than one character, none of which is true of the
      preceding two. It doesn't look like the same kind of thing as the other two.
      Son is much more literarily elaborate, just as it also floats free of
      narrative connection in Lk 15. It also has tremendous human interest, in
      working up sympathy for the Good Son, and having the father deal with that
      we well as rejoice over the Bad Son (which is the point at which it connects
      with the other two).

      5. Niftiness. Class discussion [not here transcribed from tape] finds that
      objections could be raised against the Sheep parable, like, you know, If the
      shepherd goes after the lost sheep, he risks losing the 99, which is really
      dumb. At least the woman's nine coins will stay put while she sweeps around
      looking for the tenth coin. On the other hand, how much of the found coin
      will go to pay for this party which the woman then throws? In the last
      story, it is emphasized that the good son "is always with me," and so
      doesn't risk being lost at all. And since the wealth in question is in the
      farm and not in the cash, the farm is not jeopardized by the party for the
      Lost Son. The problem for the Good Son is not the risk to which he is put by
      the search for the lost brother (as with the Sheep), or the squandering of
      the fruits of the search in celebrating the search (as with the Coin), but
      his perfectly human resentment at being ignored in favor of his after all
      delinquent brother.

      So the three parables might be seen as increasingly less problematic
      variations on the same theme. Each eliminates a detail which a rude Sunday
      School class might have raised questions about in the preceding one. This
      helps to differentiate them, and also suggests that if they had an order of
      origination, it was the order in which they now stand in Lk 15.

      7. The last parable, taken by itself and not as part of the series, might
      have had its origin in the resentment of old members of the movement at the
      fuss made over (and the effort to recruit) new members. The old members feel
      taken for granted, underacknowledged. This would not have been true of the
      nine coins, or the nine and ninety sheep. Then if the first parable is
      really responsive to the Pharisees' challenge (and at least it claims to
      be), and if the second is an improved variant on it, then the third, while
      still being readable as relevant to that concern, may add, or even originate
      in, another concern. It may thus be an adaptation as well as an addition.

      8. "Hey, wasn't the Lost Son parable the one that also occurs in Lotus Sutra
      4?" "Yeah, but the Lotus Sutra one is a thousand times better." "Also, the
      Lotus Sutra is later than the Gospel of Luke, you dummy." "OK, but since
      it's so sophisticated, couldn't it have had an origin in an earlier Indian
      story?" [Silence, and somebody writes it down on a notecard].

      9. You know how kids are, they WILL peek where they are not supposed to.
      "Hey, according to the Farmer Synopsis, the words identical with Matthew are
      not all that numerous. Is the story really that similar? For one thing, Mt
      says "IF he finds it," but Lk is more confident: "WHEN he finds it." . . .
      And the Mt story takes place on a mountain, where there is a real danger of
      losing the other sheep over a cliff, but the Lk story is in the wilderness,
      which is at least probably flat." "Yeah, but there are wild animals in the
      wilderness, and anyway there are gullies in the wilderness, where a sheep
      can easy break a leg." "But Luke could have THOUGHT he was making it safer."
      . . .

      10. Also, "Looky here, the Mt version of the Sheep isn't in the same
      sequence, it's at Mt 18:12-14, and it doesn't make any sense where it is; it
      is in the middle of a bunch of things having to do with kids, and there
      isn't a Pharisee in sight. Did Mt take it out of Lukan context, and if so
      why, or did Luke rearrange earlier material thematically, and if so, where
      did he get the other two?

      11. "How about this for one of the two: there is a thing about Two Sons in
      Mt 21:28-32, it's not very like the Lukan Prodigal Son, but maybe it is
      relevant. Maybe it was Luke's inspiration." "Yeah, and looky here, there's
      this bit about "the tax collectors and harlots, which is like the setting of
      Lk 15:1-3 . . ."

      And at this point, the children having said a naughty word, Mrs McMillan
      comes in and shuts down the whole thing. Whether there is anything of
      developable value in what they did before that fatal indiscretion, I
      couldn't say.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Chuck Jones
      Bruce,   I didn t totally follow your train of thought here, but based on your use of the words arranged,   placed and synonyms in the snips below, it
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 9, 2009
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        Bruce,
         
        I didn't totally follow your train of thought here, but based on your use of the words "arranged," "placed" and synonyms in the snips below, it sounds like you and I think the same way about Lk 15's three parables preceding the context Lk creates for them (and about the lost sheep parable preceding Mt's placement of it).
         
        By pointing out the differences between the prodigal son to the other two, you are moving in the train of thought I've been trying to encourage.  You're looking at the text itself for signs of a greater authorial hand from ALk (maybe even free composition) in the Lost Sons vs. the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin.
         
        Thanks,
         
        Rev. Chuck Jones
        Atlanta, Georgia
        _____________________________________
         
        Bruce wrote:"Snodgrass...says, "Luke has clearly arranged ch15 for rhetorical effect, and
        an understanding of how this section functions assists in interpreting the
        individual parables....  "Matthew places the parable of the Lost Sheep in a completely different context, and GThos also has this parable, but the other two parables have no
        parallel. . . ."

        ...
         
        The third Parable is humongously longer than the others, and
        involves a great deal of human interest and detail, complete with inner
        monologues of more than one character, none of which is true of the
        preceding two. It doesn't look like the same kind of thing as the other two.
        Son is much more literarily elaborate....

        ...[T]aken by itself and not as part of the series, [it] might
        have had its origin in the resentment of old members of the movement at the
        fuss made over (and the effort to recruit) new members. The old members feel
        taken for granted, underacknowledged. This would not have been true of the
        nine coins, or the nine and ninety sheep. Then if the first parable is
        really responsive to the Pharisees' challenge (and at least it claims to
        be), and if the second is an improved variant on it, then the third, while
        still being readable as relevant to that concern, may add, or even originate
        in, another concern. It may thus be an adaptation as well as an addition.




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      • Chuck Jones
        Bruce and all,   Stripped of the Lk 15 context, the parable of the Two Sons has much in common with The Workers Hired Throughout the Day.  The younger son
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 9, 2009
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          Bruce and all,
           
          Stripped of the Lk 15 context, the parable of the Two Sons has much in common with The Workers Hired Throughout the Day.  The younger son and the 5:00pm hires receive unfair (better than fair) treatment, and those who've received fair treatment (the morning workers and the older brother) complain about the generosity that's been shown.
           
          Rev. Chuck Jones
          Atlanta, Georgia
















          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • E Bruce Brooks
          Chuck and all, Fairness is one of the basic human values; the kind that do not need to be inculcated. It s been discovered to exist even among our fellow
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 9, 2009
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            Chuck and all,

            Fairness is one of the basic human values; the kind that do not need to be
            inculcated. It's been discovered to exist even among our fellow citizens the
            animals. To my eye, it runs all through the Parable literature, and into
            much of the other Gospel literature as well. The commandment which Jesus (or
            someone, but possibly Jesus) added to what was left of the Decalogue was the
            commandment against fraud (there are Pentateuch precedents, but not
            Decalogue precedents), which at bottom is about fairness to workers.
            Economic justice. This works well, as I understand it, with conditions in
            Galilee at the time of Jesus, and might help to explain some of his appeal,
            or at any rate that of his early movement. The Romans weren't the only
            problem. The other problem was the rich landowning Jews.

            I gave a paper on this a year or so ago at one of the local SBL's. Perhaps
            not convenient for many, but it was the best I could do at the time.

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • Chuck Jones
            Bruce and all,   Something about Jesus message that I can imagine being unpopular in his social context was precisely his emphasis on god s unfairness and
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 9, 2009
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              Bruce and all,
               
              Something about Jesus' message that I can imagine being unpopular in his social context was precisely his emphasis on god's unfairness and injustice--the better-than-justice that we call forgiveness.
               
              God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (i.e., the exploiters of the just).
              That same god gives full pay to 5:00pm workers.
              That same god shamefully grants full sonship to his dishonorable, rebellious son.
              That same god prefers the prayer of an exploiting tax collector to that of a pious pharisee.
               
              I have trouble seeing the masses mobilizing for an Uprising for Justice based on these teachings.
               
              Rev. Chuck Jones
              Atlanta, Georgia

              --- On Mon, 2/9/09, E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...> wrote:

              From: E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...>
              Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Two Lukan Parables (Lk 15)
              To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
              Cc: "GPG" <gpg@yahoogroups.com>
              Date: Monday, February 9, 2009, 3:07 PM






              Chuck and all,

              Fairness is one of the basic human values; the kind that do not need to be
              inculcated. It's been discovered to exist even among our fellow citizens the
              animals. To my eye, it runs all through the Parable literature, and into
              much of the other Gospel literature as well. The commandment which Jesus (or
              someone, but possibly Jesus) added to what was left of the Decalogue was the
              commandment against fraud (there are Pentateuch precedents, but not
              Decalogue precedents), which at bottom is about fairness to workers.
              Economic justice. This works well, as I understand it, with conditions in
              Galilee at the time of Jesus, and might help to explain some of his appeal,
              or at any rate that of his early movement. The Romans weren't the only
              problem. The other problem was the rich landowning Jews.

              I gave a paper on this a year or so ago at one of the local SBL's. Perhaps
              not convenient for many, but it was the best I could do at the time.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              Warring States Project
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst



















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