David Gowler on Understanding the Parables

Some thoughts on understanding Parables…

Questions That Matter

I had the honor of asking David Gowler (the Pierce Chair of Religion and the director of the Pierce Program of Religion at Oxford College of Emory University) a few questions regarding the parables and how the modern reader can better understand them.

Enjoy!

What can we in the modern world compare a parable to, if anything?

David: What is parabolic, in many ways, exists in the eyes and/or ears of the beholder. Perhaps if I place the parable into its ancient context, that will help clarify things.

The Greek term for parable (parabolê) typically is used to translate the Hebrew term mashal (plural: meshalim). Mashal is extremely difficult to define, but a central aspect of its meaning is “to represent” or “to be like,” and it refers to a wide range of literary forms that utilize figurative language. The Hebrew Bible tends to use mashal for…

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