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on June 23, 1999
This is a must read if you ever want to dig deep into the parables in scripture. Although it may have been written for students in theology, I find the reading to be challenging and fruitful as I get immersed in its intensive analyses and extensive citations from other bible scholars. I consider this one of several classic references in preparation for a Sunday School lecture series on "Parables for the People". After you digest this book slowly, you will be assured that teaching and understanding the parables can be a profound experience in pleasing God.
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on June 11, 2006
The title of this book would suggest that the focus was a direct study of the parables. That is true for the last 155 of 327 pages (a little less than half.) The first half of the book discusses hermeneutics.

Considering the implication of the title, I will begin with Blomberg's direct study of the parables of Christ. Dr. Blomberg discusses 40 parables directly in his discussion. Of these, he splits them into 4 categories: Simple 3-Point Parables, Complex 3-Point Parables, Two-Point Parables and One-Point Parables, with the last two being discussed together in one chapter. His view is different from most modern conservative theologians who teach the parable is a metaphorical story intended to teach one precept. He argues that even the most conservative scholars cannot avoid some amount of allegorizing of the parables, and study should include a very limited amount of allegory. His discussion of each parable is interesting, and not allegorical to the point of eisegesis. He does not adhere strictly to the rule that allegorical meaning must be implied in the text from other Scripture, but he does not go overboard in his figurative interpretations. Some of his categorical evidence for multiple-point parables is simply a restating of a previously mentioned precept. Each section describing the parable has an italicized section that summarizes his interpreted teaching points that are to be gleaned from the Scriptural passage.

Over half of the book is a discussion of hermeneutics (study of the methods of interpreting Scripture.) His method is not liberal, but is less conservative than most modern evangelicals are. He begins with a discussion over the debate between two competing ways of interpreting parables in: Parable vs. Allegory and Parable as Allegory. He is somewhat convincing that parables are not allegorical at all, but does not make a delineation between metaphorically figurative statements and outright allegory, which are two distinct genres. If he had looked at metaphorically figurative language in this way, much of his writing trying to convince that allegories were not "evil," would have been moot. He then discusses Form criticism and redaction criticism and their relations to the parables. He writes very briefly about Gospel authorship theories, but only discusses one of three major theories found in modern conservative scholarship. He then discusses the "New Hermeneutic." He concludes at the end that each parable has a central teaching point for each main character, which is how he arrives at the different belief that parables have more than one point.

Blomberg's discussion of the parables is a useful and detailed look at the parables. He does not delve into discussions of Greek or Aramaic, so knowledge of these biblical languages is not necessary. He does a superb job of pointing the reader to the important matter of his writing by putting conclusions in italics. While at first his book seems to flaunt previously held ideas of parable exegesis, he makes a good case for multiple teaching points within some of the parables. As is the problem with many theological ideas, we try to simplify things into rules that can be easily followed when studying Scripture, but this is not always the best method.

Overall, this is a useful study of the parables, although not the only study on the parables that one should have in a library. Moreover, if one is interested in hermeneutics, the first half of this book does not delve into all conservative evangelical ideals regarding the subject, so augment with other hermeneutical writings.
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VINE VOICEon June 26, 2006
Craig Blomberg is a professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary and has authored other books on the Gospels including "The Historical Reliability of the Gospels" and "Preaching the Parables." This book, "Interpreting the Parables" is an attempt to a) first trace the history of parable interpretation through the centuries and b) then provide an analysis of several New Testament parables. The book closes with a chapter examining the theology of the parables. Like a sandwich, the meat of this book is in the middle; the best part (by far) is the parable analysis while the less appetizing parts are the interpretive history and the chapter on the parables' theology.

The first half of "Interpreting the Parables" examines how others have interpreted the parables; it examines the various competing hermeneutical approaches to these highly debated sections of Scripture. Beginning with the Church Fathers' allegorization attempts (where every little detail has some theological significance), Blomberg examines Form Criticism (which looks for oral sources behind the text as we have it), Redaction Criticism (which assumes that an editor wove together various independent works and seeks to determine how he did it), and other lesser, still-emerging hermeneutical methods. For each, Blomberg gives a brief history of the interpretive method and points out some of its strengths and weaknesses. This reader didn't find this first part of the book very helpful. While it does point out contribution each interpretive method has made to New Testament scholarship as well as fallacies associated with each method, these discussion did not increase my overall understanding of the parables. Nor did this section help my overall understanding of hermeneutics as Blomberg's treatment of each hermeneutical method focuses not on the method itself, but rather on the writings proponents of this method have produced and their take on the concept of allegory in parables. During this course of this part of the book, Blomberg comes to three conclusions: 1) each school of thought has made positive contributions toward the study of parables, but no school of thought is flawless, 2) a balance must be struck between allegorizing parables and refusing to see allegory where it clearly exists, and 3) parables often make multiple, inter-related points.

The second half of "Interpreting the Parables"--the actual analysis of the Gospels' various parables--makes this book worth purchasing and keeping on your bookshelf. Blomberg examines several parables (divided into clusters based on their structure) pointing out helpful aspects of Palestinian/Roman culture, discussing the narrative context in which the parable is told, and analyzing the various characters in each parable. During this analysis, he interacts with other scholars' take on the particular parable and defends the authenticity of each. The result is a thorough, helpful summary of the parables and their main teachings. While I did find myself in disagreement with Blomberg about some of the main points Jesus was trying to convey, I walk away from this point with a great deal of respect for his positions. He has greatly increased my understanding of the parables, challenged my assumptions, and has provided a great resource for preaching and teaching these beloved stories.

The book ends with a chapter on the theology of the parables. In this chapter, Blomberg tries to synthesize the parables and draw out Jesus' main teachings. Through this, Blomberg argues that Jesus believed in a pre-millenialist eschatology (although he wasn't a dispensationalist); that Jesus' inaugurated God's Kingdom on earth which is to be characterized by obedience in the areas of stewardship and social justice; and that Jesus believed he had a special relationship with God, but never spoke of the nature of that relationship. In this chapter, Blomberg's methodology is questionable as one must examine the whole of Scripture to come to doctrinal conclusions (Blomberg himself disagrees with this methodology in his treatment of the Rich Man and Lazarus), his conclusions themselves border the heterodox (e.g. his sharp distinction between the Father and the Son), and the nature of this chapter (the theology of the parables) and its conclusions should be presented in a much more complete and better developed manner than in a short chapter that sums up a book.

In sum, this book will remain on my bookshelf because of its excellent material in the middle. Its writing style is fluid, main points are italiziced (which is really nice) and each chapter is divided in a very reader-friendly manner. Recommended for its middle section.
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on November 4, 2012
This is excellent, and the reader will only benefit. It goes into some detail over the question of allegory (is it or isn't it?!), probably too much so for this to be considered a devotional work. Thankfully Blomburg kicks back against the plethora of snobbish scholasticism against allegory. The thesis is very soundly rooted in kingdom theology, as it should be. However I believe this thesis runs out of steam a little too early. The kingdom only makes sense when seen as the work and reign of the king. So to what extent are the parables actually self-revelatory on Jesus' part? I hope to write a book on that myself some time soon.
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on November 29, 2012
This is a very good book for understanding the parables and their interpetations -- there are many viewpoints offered by way of references to other books, and the author does a good job of meshing those other viewpoints with his own. There is a lot of cultural information to help the reader understand what was going on behind the scene. When I looked at the reviews and "literary info", I was afraid that it would be almost a seminary-level treatise, but it is not. It is well written to be understood by anyone who is "as smart as a 5th grader".
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on April 23, 2014
first part of the book, note I have only read about 100 pages, is a little hard to understand, but as I read more it becomes more explanatory. Glad I have read other scientific books. I look forward to reading the balance.
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on July 25, 2007
Blomberg saw the need for contemporary scholarship to provide tools for pastors, scholars, and students to deal with parables. Interpreting the Parables was a thesis to challenge what he saw as misguided approaches to the interpretation of parables in the twentieth century. In chapter one, Blomberg provides a good overview of what to expect in the rest of the book.

Blomberg states that the church has interpreted parables in many different ways throughout history, with the most common interpretation being allegorical - that the narrative is in the heavenly realm where the physical characteristics have spiritual meanings. Many modern scholars have rejected the allegorical approach in favor of the view that each parable only makes one point. Others do not interpret every aspect of parables as allegorical, but see allegorical elements in every parable. Yet another group uses form and reduction criticism to interpret parables, believing that the early church modified parables and that the text does not accurately record the words of Jesus.

Some scholars believe that parables revolve around one main point of comparing a story's activity to Jesus' understanding of the kingdom. In contrast, Blomberg defines an allegory as a complex story told in a parable with numerous details to be decoded. This complex approach was popular among Christian scholars in the nineteenth century. Chrysostom, Aquinas, Calvin, and others had challenged this idea earlier, but even they used some allegory in their exegesis. The scholar Adolf Julicher, at the beginning of the twentieth century, attempted to demolish the allegorical interpretation of the parables. His main argument was that words such as "like" and "as" point to a straightforward comparison in the parables. Most commentators after Julicher would not agree with him on everything, but would hold to his view that each parable has a single proposition. The majority of recent scholarship has viewed the literary form of the parables as allegory. They do not believe the problem lies in an allegorical approach to interpreting parables, but rather in an overzealousness of some in the use of allegory.
The reader may be overwhelmed by the information from the interpretive debate as presented in this book. It would have been helpful if Blomberg had presented the information in the form of an outline and summarized his data.

According to Blomberg, there are two extremes in the study of the differences between the synoptic gospels. The first extreme is to ignore the differences and to combine all of the information from the synoptic gospels into one unified narrative. The other extreme is to claim that the gospel writers fabricated unhistorical material with no foundation from the life of Jesus. Blomberg believes the balanced approach is to realize that differences are due to distinct themes of individual writers. Another reason Blomberg offers for the differences is the significance of the larger context of each gospel. Blomberg offers good examples to support his position for the differences in the synoptic gospels by referring to the biblical context and a variety of word studies.

In chapter six, Blomberg interprets simple three-point parables. He does this by pointing out the three main characters and who they represent. He points out how the parables fit into the particular emphasis of the individual gospel writer compared to the other two gospel writers. Blomberg discusses when allegory is necessary and the dangers of over allegorizing. He provides examples of interpretational errors, as well as practical lessons to be learned in each of the parables he deals with.

In chapters six and seven Blomberg seems obligated to mention those who reject the authenticity of the complete biblical text. This doesn't seem necessary after his extensive treatment of higher criticism in chapters three and four. Blomberg is so rigid in his three-point format for interpretation that details not directly tied to those points are merely preface to the plot of the narrative. This leads him to criticize other commentators who place value on these points. For example, Blomberg believes that James Montgomery Boice erroneously emphasizes that the word "today" implies a sense of urgency in the parable of the two sons. Furthermore, Blomberg's interpretation of the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants does not allow him to deal with the knowledge of God's will because it does not fit into his three-point model.

Blomberg follows a similar format in chapter seven, with greater detail in dealing with complex three-point parables. He mentions several commentators who reduce those parables to one main point. At times Blomberg does refer to the Greek to aid in his interpretation in this chapter, but not nearly as much as one would expect at this level of work. He incorporates historical data when it clarifies a parable (such as the king's offer of dress in the "Great Supper") and the Qumran texts reinforcing the view that "unrighteous mammon" was a common idiom for money in Jesus' day. By the same token, Blomberg points out that some historical information may not always be relevant when interpreting the parables (e.g., it probably was not self-evident to Jesus' original audience that the unjust steward merely removed his surcharge when collecting the master's money.)

In chapter nine, Blomberg classifies several different parables by topic. He explains the necessity of understanding the multiple themes of the parables to be able to categorize them under central themes (e.g., the kingdom of God). Blomberg communicates the need to correctly understand the present and future aspects of the kingdom of God to correctly interpret the parables. Blomberg cites several examples of how pre-critical exegeses saw Christ as the key character of the parables. By contrast, Blomberg sees the parables as pointing primarily to God, God's people, and God's enemies. Blomberg does mention the indirect Christology expressed in the parables, including Jesus' claiming to be the unique bearer of the kingdom, and claiming divine authority and the ability to forgive sin.
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on November 10, 2005
I borrowed this book. It is thoughtful, makes the material interesting. Seems meant for undergraduate or even graduate level study. First half of study could be skipped if you are not into the theoretical. Go straight to the second half if you want to focus on the parable commentary.

I am buying my own copy because this is a valuable study resource.
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on September 7, 2008
In 1899, the German scholar Adolf Julicher published his two volume work on the parables entitled DIE GLEICHNISREDEN JESU. In this work, which has never been translated into English, Julicher set the stage for subsequent interpretation of Jesus' parables. First, parables are not allegories. Second, a parable makes one and only one main point.

Part of Julicher's rationale was to reject the allegorizing of the past, in which every character in a parable represented something else. Julicher was also a theological liberal who wanted to portray Jesus as a simple Jewish teacher whose message was in line with the teaching of his day.

Noted evangelical New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg rightly takes aim at the two presuppositions of Julicher's method. While conceding that the wild allegorizing of the past must be rejected, Blomberg persuasively shows that parables often make more than one point. Indeed, Jesus himself portrayed his parables at times as allegories, for example the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4.

This book discusses all the parables of Jesus, reviews the history of interpretation, and surveys contemporary literary theory as it applies to the parables.
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on January 31, 2014
it is a good book, and i would recommend the reading of this book to a friend or classmate at school
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