This is the cover of "The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi" by Amy-Jill Levine. The book is reviewed by David Gibson. (CNS)
"Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi" by Amy-Jill Levine. Harper Collins (New York, 2014). 313 pp., $25.99.
"Short Stories by Jesus," Amy-Jill Levine's new book, reaches far back in time to listen "to the Jewish Jesus talking to fellow Jews" as he tells his many parables.
Believers over time domesticated the parables, ridding them considerably of their power to disturb and to surprise, Levine believes. Her goal is to show "what happens when we strip away 2,000 years of usually benevolent and well-intended domestication to hear a parable as a first-century short story spoken by a Jew to other Jews."
She characterizes this book as "an act of listening anew, of imagining what the parables would have sounded like" to people who had no idea that Jesus would "be proclaimed son of God by millions."
In a key observation, she concludes that whenever our interpretation of a parable "creates a neat and tidy picture, we need to go back and read it again." A parable's interpretation, she asserts, ought to raise questions for us and "open us up to more conversation" about its meaning -- its meaning in biblical times and for today.
Levine, the book's Jewish author, is a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University's Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences in Nashville, Tennessee. "The parables," she writes, "have provided me countless hours of inspiration and conversation."