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The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus Hardcover – March 6, 2012


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The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus + Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written + Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How They Can Be Restored
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1ST edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061875694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061875694
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A refreshing and stunningly insightful treatment of the gospels as parables. In this book John Dominic Crossan has solidified his reputation as the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation.” (John Shelby Spong, author of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World)

“John Dominic Crossan, who has given the world a series of insightful books on Jesus, has done it again. His innovative presentation… offers a brilliant new way of looking at parable and metaphor in the gospels and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies Chapman University)

“Moving from the parables of Israel’s Scriptures to the parables told by Jesus of Nazareth to the parables of his life recorded in the ancient Gospels, Crossan combines acute historical investigation with challenging theological observation. In so doing, he recovers the profundity, and the provocation, of the biblical tradition.” (Amy-Jill Levine, author of THE MEANING OF THE BIBLE)

“This book is like unto a virus, which a crafty leprechaun took, and infected our preferred operating systems with a Jesus O/S, that is incompatible with previous versions. Verily I say unto ye, Fortunate is the church if a little Crossan goes viral. It may leaveneth the whole lump.” (Rev. David Felten & Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, co-creators of the Living the Questions series)

“A remarkable and important book for Christians and for all who seek to understand the Bible better—Crossan combines his customary literary and historical brilliance with fresh insights that illuminate not only the parables of Jesus but much of the Bible as a whole.” (Marcus J. Borg, author of Speaking Christian)

“John Dominic Crossan has done it again. His innovative presentation of how Jesus told stories about God’s kingdom and how the gospel authors told stories about Jesus offers a brilliant new way of looking at parable and metaphor in the gospels and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies Chapman University)

“A fascinating book, written with Crossan’s usual lucidity but likely to disturb conservative Christians; a must for most academic and seminary libraries as well as many church groups and pastors.” (Library Journal)

“Crossan’s exceptional clarity and methodical presentation combine to make this one of the best, most enthralling Bible-study courses many readers will ever take.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Offers valuable and accessible insights into the intentions of the evangelists and the revolutionary content of the gospels.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

In 1969, I was teaching at two seminaries in the Chicago area. One of my courses was on the parables by Jesus and the other was on the resurrection stories about Jesus. I had observed that the parabolic stories by Jesus seemed remarkably similar to the resurrection stories about Jesus. Were the latter intended as parables just as much as the former? Had we been reading parable, presuming history, and misunderstanding both?
—from The Power of Parable

So begins the quest of renowned Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan as he unlocks the true meanings and purposes of parable in the Bible so that modern Christians can respond genuinely to Jesus's call to fully participate in the kingdom of God. In The Power of Parable, Crossan examines Jesus's parables and identifies what he calls the "challenge parable" as Jesus's chosen teaching tool for gently urging his followers to probe, question, and debate the ideological absolutes of religious faith and the presuppositions of social, political, and economic traditions.

Moving from parables by Jesus to parables about Jesus, Crossan then presents the four gospels as "megaparables." By revealing how the gospels are not reflections of the actual biography of Jesus but rather (mis)interpretations by the gospel writers themselves, Crossan reaffirms the power of parables to challenge and enable us to co-create with God a world of justice, love, and peace.


More About the Author

John D. Crossan is generally acknowledged to be the premier historical Jesus scholar in the world. His books include The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and Who Killed Jesus? He recently appeared in the PBS special "From Jesus to Christ."

Customer Reviews

This book was very well organized and each concept was succinctly stated and explained.
Barry S.
His views of the parables Jesus told as well as his interpretation of the gospels as parables about Jesus are really insightful.
Jay D. Weaver
I checked this book out from the library, read it - and decided I had to have it for my personal collection.
Alan D. Eastman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 102 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on March 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Famous Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan, a popular guide in TV documentaries about the ancient world, hopes his newest book will free more people from the trap of trying to believe that everything in the Bible is literally true. As we follow him in this new tour through the Gospels, Crossan promises a bonus: If we free up our expectations about how the New Testament teaches God's truth, we may discover fresh inspiration in these time-worn stories.

In a nutshell, here's how he takes us down this path: What if the world-famous parables of Jesus--the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and all the rest--weren't the only parables in the New Testament? What if Jesus's approach to teaching by telling provocative stories became the over-arching style of early Christian teaching? What if the four Gospel writers actually weren't trying to nail down every single historical detail about Jesus like modern archaeologists in scientific reports? Instead, what if the Gospel writers' goal was to tell the most important stories about Jesus in the most memorable and thought-provoking way? After all, that's how Jesus told his parables. What if the Gospel writers were inspired to shape some of the details in their stories about Jesus to make them the most effective parables about Jesus that they could give to future generations?

At this point, some Christians will be upset with Crossan. If you are among them, then you are likely to have trouble with his new book. If you are a Christian who believes the Bible is true in a literal reading, then this kind of analysis is disturbing.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Vince Leo on April 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Dominic Crossan is part literary theoretician, part biblical scholar, and part prophet (as Crossan would say: one who speaks for God). In the Power of Parable, Crossan the literary theoretician constructs an overarching typology of parables that stresses their ability to engage audiences in dialogue. Crossan the biblical scholar uses that theory to re-read the parables of Jesus as well as those of Ruth, Jonah, and Job, revealing the agendas four gospel writers, especially as they relate to Judaism. Crossan the prophet calls us back to the underlying message and rhetoric of Jesus's parables: a challenge to rediscover the collaborative work of social justice. For Crossan, the Kingdom of God is now if we want it, though the work be never ending. That's the good news, then and now, no matter the messenger, no matter the language.
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The Power of Parable is an invitation to reconsider everything one thinks one knows about Jesus' parables in light of the historical development present within the New Testament. To aid in the exploration of Jesus' parables and the megaparables more commonly known as Gospels, John Dominic Crossan suggests four classifications: riddle, example, challenge, and attack. To more fully consider the breadth of material available, he divides the book into two sections ("Parables Told by Jesus" and "Parables Told About Jesus"), separated by a brief interlude. Sufficiently scholarly yet readily approachable, this book is certain to be a must read for years to come by all who seek to better understand Jesus' teaching.

"Part 1: Parables Told By Jesus" begins with chapters considering the three primary classifications (riddle, example, and challenge) that offer definition alongside examples in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments - in varying length: paragraph, chapter, and book) and secular literature. The first half of the book concludes with a chapter that provides additional historical insight and begins to illumine a bridge that is created and crossed in the interlude.

"Part 2: Parables Told About Jesus" provides in-depth considerations of each of the Gospels. These chapters follow a similar format and conclude with an explanation of the classification Crossan deems most appropriate for the given Gospel as a megaparable: Mark is a challenge, Matthew is an attack, Luke-Acts is both an attack (on Judaism) and a challenge (to Rome), and John is an attack (on Judaism) and a challenge (to Empire).
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dubious Disciple on April 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Crossan ponders, "I had observed that the parabolic stories by Jesus seemed remarkably similar to the resurrection stories about Jesus. Were the latter intended as parables just as much as the former? Had we been reading parable, presuming history, and misunderstanding both?"

In other words, are the stories of Jesus really book-length parables? Crossan presents three such parables in the Old Testament: Job, Ruth and Jonah. Ruth challenges a part of the Bible, Jonah challenges the whole of the Bible, and Job challenges the God of the Bible. But isn't there a major difference between the Old Testament books and the Gospels? Were the characters in these stories historical, the way we think of Jesus? So Crossan presents the story of Caesar at the Rubicon as "parabolic history" to show how even historical characters can be the subject of the development of parables.

Crossan separates parables by their flavor: riddle, example, challenge, and attack parables. I found the discussion of several New Testament parables insightful, but they served only as a lead-in to the bigger topic. In part 2, Crossan takes on the four Gospels each as a whole, presenting the meaning of them as book-length parables ... what they challenge, what they attack.

It is not really the historicity of the Gospels which Crossan contests, but their evangelical purpose. The undercurrent of truth, or lack thereof, is not the focus of his book; it is the way the stories are bent into parable, and what these book-length parables mean. Thought-provoking and well-written, a great read.
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