Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Guest post by Klyne Snodgrass

The following is a guest post by Prof. Klyne Snodgrass, the author of the important new volume, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. He responds to my review of the book, and, er, my little poke: Scandal of the day: Snodgrass critiques Wright. In the following, he confronts my Wrightian idolatry head on!

First, thank you for the attention given to my work. That others give serious attention to what I have done is about all I can ask. My goal was not to have people agree with me, but to provide—primarily for myself—a comprehensive treatment of each parable (well, at least most of them) and to provide as much as possible the resources and insights needed to interpret the parable, even if a person chooses not to agree with me.

I agree fully that footnotes would be better than endnotes. Some of the notes were so long (like one on allegory in the introduction) that they could not be placed at the bottom of the page. Incidentally, while scholars prefer footnotes, pastors have expressed gratitude that the publisher used endnotes.

You need to be aware that the title is a protest. This was my title, not the publishers. (On the other hand, the artwork on the dustcover is entirely from the publisher.) From the early days of the church to today people have done what they will with the parables to make them serve every purpose imaginable, but Jesus, like prophets before him, told parables with a prophetic intent to confront, challenge, and enlighten God's people. I have given a pretty full report of what others have done, but I have tried to see the parables within the larger context of Jesus' ministry to Israel. If we do not hear Jesus' intent, as hard as that may be at times, why are we even reading the parables?

You are correct that I am quite in line with Bauckham's work in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. On the scandal of the day, I did not know critiquing Wright was a scandal! Flee idolatry! I am quite sure Wright is wrong on the coming of the Son of Man, but Tom makes the work of the rest of us much easier. I love the guy, and I am more in agreement with Tom than not. Especially with regard to his approach to parables, Wright is very good. He is one of the few who sees that parables are prophetic instruments, and I push that point partly in dependence on him. However, his reading of individual parables is less convincing. While he is correct that some of the parables are Israel's story, with others I think this is overreading Jesus' stories and forcing all of them into a mold. No where is this more the case than with the Prodigal Son and Elder Brother, and in my mind if the elder brother does not represent the Samaritans, then it is difficult to see the prodigal pointing to the nation. Luke 15:1-2 certainly does not set up the parable that way. A word of caution is needed though. These parables are not allegories, but analogies, and there is a difference. Compare my treatment, e.g., of the Lost Coin. For a more direct treatment of Wright's approach see my "Reading and Overreading the Parables in Jesus and the Victory of God," Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God. Edited by Carey Newman. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999, 61-76.

One topic that I have not seen anyone comment on so far is my attempt to map out the eschatological givens of Jesus' message and work. I did this in the chapter on parables of future eschatology. I argue the parables in the Eschatological Discourse in Matt 24-25 are first hand evidence of Jesus' eschatology. Something akin to a hermeneutical circle is involved in talking about Jesus' eschatology and his eschatological parables. I am sure some will not like what I do with these parables, but I could do no other.

Peace and a meaningful Easter to all of you,




At 3/21/2008 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a scholar or a pastor but while a Wright admirer, I too always thought some of his interpretations of the parables in JVG were forced (biggest weakness in that book I think). However I had read some articles on the parables by Mr Snodgrass before I had ever read Wright and always appreciated Sndgrass on the parables so maybe I am biased.


At 3/21/2008 5:51 AM, Anonymous Matthew D. Montonini said...


Thanks for this post. Enlightening as always!

I was able to do a brief interview with Klyne and have found him a tremendous help in his treatment of parables.


At 3/21/2008 9:30 PM, Anonymous Craig said...

In regards to Wright and his reading of the prodigal son as a parable about Isreal, David P. Moessner's insightful volume "Lord of the Banquet:The Literary and Theological Significance of the Lukan Travel Narrative" reaches very similar conclusion independently of Wright.

I'm looking forward to reading Klyne's volume now.

At 3/22/2008 1:23 PM, Anonymous Valde said...

Wright's interpretation concerning the coming of the son of man is thoroughly implausible - I would say even absurd. It's impossible to isolate synoptic tradition from other NT stuff which clearly speak Jesus' parousia in traditional sense - not connected to destruction of temple.

For instance it's clear that Paul's description concerning Jesus' second coming in 1 Tess 4 presents the same idea as coming of the son of man in synoptic apocalypse (Mark 13; Matt 24; Luuk 21). David Wenham has covered this issue thoroughly.

It's also notable that Matt 16:27 and Mark 9:38 has clearly the theme of final judgment connected with the coming of the son of man.

At 3/23/2008 5:31 AM, Anonymous Judy Redman said...

Thanks, Chris, I think...

It sounds as though I am going to need to read this book for my methodology chapter. So it's nice to have my attention drawn to it, but it has also cost me money.

At 3/25/2008 4:59 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Eyewitnesses? Did I miss something?

Would "eyewitnesses" rely so closely on the earliest Gospel (the one attributed to Mark) that they copied words, phrases, sentences, passages, tales from it (including incidental phrases) and all in Greek which wasn't even Jesus' native tongue (Jesus spoke Aramaic)? (Compare Mark with Matthew and Luke to note the basis of the evidence for Markan literary priority and subsequent copying and then editing of the Markan material by Matthew and Luke)

Would "eyewitnesses" diverge most from each other in precisely those places where they could no longer follow Mark? (Luke and Matthew diverge most from each other in exactly those places where Mark is silent, in their nativity and post-resurrection sections, both of which Mark lacked.)

I'd also like to add some info concerning the ways in which the resurrection stories changed over time from Paul to Mark to Matthew to Luke-Acts to John. I have done so in a letter exchange with Gary Habermas. Google: Babinski and Habermas and the resurrection

I'd suggest getting back to basics. This stuff from Wright and B. and others is less obvious and does little to quell the most obvious and reasonable questions raised by previous generations of biblical scholars.

Speaking of Wright, see also the new work by Edward Addams, Stars Will Fall from Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the New Testament and Its World (Library of New Testament Studies), to learn how shallow Wright's understanding is of the way prophecy turned into apocalyptic during the Intertestamental period.

At 3/27/2008 1:34 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Craig, worth digging up.

For those of you who have jumped on the anti-Wrightian reading of the parable of the Prodigcal Son, I would add that I agree with Wright here, not Snodgrass - though I don't find the "Samaritan" spin Wright adds correct.

Hi Edward, I wouldn't write of Wright (I thought of that word play all by myself) soley based on Edward Adams, Stars Will Fall from Heaven.

At 9/29/2008 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris -

Fun to read my former professor on here. (I was trying to find a presentation he gave in Germany and stumbled upon your blog). I like your pictures of influential male leaders throughout history. What about adding some women and people of color to better reflect the whole body of Christ? Hope your studies go well and that you will be able to minister to many through your writings/teachings. Don't lose the fire - let God change your heart as you study God's amazing word! Peace, jh


Post a Comment

<< Home