Monday, May 23, 2011

Misinterpreting the Parables of Jesus

I've heard some really wacky "hidden messages" from the parables in my life, and they generally have been presented as Truth - you know, for those who "get it". Given the extremes, I tend to limit the interpreting I do of parables to the obvious stuff. I don't look for hidden meanings; I parse what actually is written.

In a nutshell, here's why:

Jesus was teaching mostly common folk, and he was using images from their lives that they would understand. I don't accept that he was "hiding" anything; I just think people who didn't (and don't) understand the image he used tend(ed) to look for ways to interpret them in ways that often aren't consistent with the intended meaning. They get twisted, for example, by urbanites who don't know crap about farming - or modernites who've never used an oil lamp with a wick that needs trimming, in an era when it was impractical to carry excess oil around on your person. The story makes absolute sense to someone who has used such a lamp in such a situation (like a hike, where every ounce you carry is planned carefully).


Thomas Parkin said...

yeah, but then you have this.

10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Papa D said...

I get that, Thomas - and don't disagree at all with multiple meanings. I just believe those spiritual meanings aren't complex and hidden - that they are pretty straightforward to those who are willing to consdier multiple meanings.

Schwa said...

I have a family member who firmly believes that the "render unto Caesar" bit in Matt 22 is actually a hidden anti-tax message, on the grounds that since everything ultimately belongs to God nothing is genuinely Caesar's and therefore we are not justified giving the government anything... The moral being that if you're creative you can make any parable mean just about anything you want, even if it's tangential to or nearly the opposite of what the text says.

Papa D said...

That's a great example, Schwa. Thanks for sharing it.