Biblical narrative 1
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Allegory and historical narrative
Course: Biblical Hermeneutics
Lecture: Narrative - Part 1
C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity – On Christian Marriage
What we call 'being in love' is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centeredness. But, as I said before, 'the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs'. Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called 'being in love' usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending 'They lived happily ever after' is taken to mean 'They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,' then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be 'in love' need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense-love as distinct from 'being in love'-is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be 'in love' with someone else. 'Being in love' first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
“Oh. Father we are thankful for the gifts you have given to all creation. We are thankful for the gift of marriage and we especially who are married here pray that you would bless our marriages and help them to be examples of what you have intended from creation. Grant our Father that we may love our wives and husbands in a new and unique way in each day. Help us to never take their love for granted but to seek to woo and to win our beloved until death us do part. Bless us this our now as we meet in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Last week we began to look at a particular genre, the genre of Parables and we sought several rules, main rules with regard to interpreting Parables.
One was to seek the main point of the Parable. Parables are not the same as allegories. In an allegory you are to interpret them allegorically, because the details are meant to be interpreted. But in a parable there is generally just one main point, and therefore don’t press the parable. Be satisfied with the one main point and we looked at a number of examples in which these difficult parables if you press the details, you get into all sorts of troubles. But if you are willing to be satisfied with the main point of the parable, you are alright.
Next seek to understand what the original Parabler – the teller of the parable – Jesus Himself, meant. And we looked at a couple of examples which take on a whole different meaning when we try to understand the parable in the setting in which it was told by Jesus. But the evangelists also are interpreters of the Parables and we should try to understand what the evangelists was seeking to teach by the Parables of Jesus.
Then finally we should seek to try to understand what God is teaching us today in the parable. We seek for its implications for us and its significance. Putting those together, we talk about application.
Then we have some sub-rules for arriving at the main point of the parable and that is: who are the two main characters in the parable? There are a number of characters, ultimately you zero in on two of them. What occurs at the end? The Rule of N-Stress [Hard to Hear] Good story telling brings everything to a peak at the end. Pay attention to how a story ends.
What occurs in direct discourse, when you have quotation marks being used?
It draws attention to what is being said. And who or what gets the most press? So you have the four main rules at the top. Then you have these four sub-rules for arriving at the main point which is the first main rule.
We want today to look at some other rules and this is now how to detect allegory in a parable. When do you look for meaning in the details themselves? Before I give you the rules, let us look at a parable and see how these rules apply. The parable I want us to look at is in Mark chapter 12, verses 1-12. This is the parable of the Worker in the Vineyard. Now as you turn to that in your Bible, I want to read for you a portion from the OT, from Isaiah 5:1-7. Don’t bother turning to that but you may just want to keep your eyes on the opening verses of chapter twelve in Mark as I read Isaiah here.
1 Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!
Now with that as a background, let me now read for you Mark, chapter twelve, the parable that we are looking at. And what you must think of is the hearers of this parable by Jesus, would they have immediately remembered the parable in Isaiah, chapter 5.
1 Then he [Jesus] began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a
vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built
a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another
country. 2 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to
collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they
seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 And
again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head
and insulted. 5 Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so
it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He
had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying,
'They will respect my son.' 7 But those tenants said to one another,
'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'
8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9
What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and
destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not
read this scripture:
'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the LORD's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes'?"
12 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they
wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and
Now, I want to suggest to you how to detect the presence of allegory in the Parables.
Two Rules: First, would Jesus with His audience have attributed meaning to these details? We looked at the Parable of the Prodigal Son and we noted a lot of allegorical details like the ring placed on the prodigal’s finger by his father is Christian baptism. The killing of the fatted calf refers to the Lord’s Supper and things of this nature.
Now we pointed out that it would have been impossible for audience of Jesus to attribute allegorical significance to those details. But what about this parable?
Wouldn’t the hearers, assuming that they knew the Old Testament pretty well and they did. Would they not have seen something about a vineyard, a watchtower, a hedge, a winepress and things of that nature?
I think they would have. I think immediately they would have said, “He is talking a parable about our nation”. And so the details here would have been sought after and looked at as being of the bearers of meaning for the audience of Jesus. So that now when we do this, we should also attribute meaning to those details. This vineyard is symbolic of the nation of Israel. Now you have other details that are not mentioned in Isaiah 5, but if you once have the owner of the Vineyard coming to the Vineyard and sending his servants, some they beat, some they kill, others they treat shamefully.
What would that have conjured up about the owner of Israel, God, having sent servants to his vineyard? The Prophets, right? Now. When it comes after the Prophets, we bring with us a Christological understanding of the NT, but let us go back before there is a NT. See Jesus giving this parable and then He says, the owner after sending servants had a beloved Son and he sent him. Is there not a clear distinct difference between those that was sent before the servant and the Son in the parable? Does that reveal a Christological understanding of Jesus in this parable? Of His uniqueness? Now I will tell you, if someone said, if someone said, “You know Dr. Stein, you preach just like Isaiah, Jeremiah,” I wouldn’t feel particularly put down by that. But Jesus is the Son, not a servant. Totally different relationship with God. His only Son. So you have a Christological understanding as well.
Now, certainly the second part, would the evangelists’ audience have understood these details as being allegorical? Yes and I think clearly they would have understood that as well. Now when we get back to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, would the audience of Luke - with Theophilus for example – have understood the ring as being a sign of Christian baptism? There is no sense at this time that baptism was ever used as a metaphor for a ring. Or I should reverse that – a ring was ever used as a metaphor for Christian baptism in Luke’s day. So that doesn’t – even for Luke’s audience have any symbolical and allegorical significance here.
Now I want to read to you the parallels in Matthew of this allegorical - in Matthew 21, verse 39, we have different description. You have the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, built a winepress and it built a tower, he leased it out to tenants and so forth. In verse 34, finally he sent his son to them saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come let us kill him and let us get his inheritance. So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.’
Do you notice anything here?
Student: [Hard to Hear] They killed him in the Vineyard.
Dr. Stein: Yeah. In Mark, they kill him and throw him out of the Vineyard. In Matthew 21:39 and if you looked at the Lukan parallel, in 20, verse 15, the same thing. They first threw him out of the Vineyard and then they kill him.
Why do Matthew and Luke have that? I believe that they changed Mark – Mark’s account, for a particular reason. Why? Yes.
Student: [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: Yes. Where was Jesus crucified? Outside the city of Jerusalem. Hebrews makes a big thing of that – outside the camp, He is slain.
Now. This indicates that they see this parallel allegorically. So you have here, Jesus’ audience would have understood these details allegorically. The Evangelists’ audience would have understood these allegorically. This parable is an allegory. The details are important. Other details, pouring on oil and wine, symbolic of loving kindness, nothing specific mentioned here. These are specifically to be understood. This is about Israel. About God sending prophets to them. Their slaying of the Son of God and the Vineyard being taken away and given to others. The Kingdom of God being – now I go to the Gentiles Paul says. And the Gentile world becomes the beneficiaries of God’s covenant with Abraham and so forth.
So here we have detecting allegory, the audience – would they have understood that this way? Yeah. They would have and so of course would the Evangelists’ audience as well. And the result is that here we have clear instance of an allegory, not just a single point, but the details should be pressed, because they are significant and they seek to convey meaning.
Now. Let me just stop there for a minute and see how we are doing?
Student: What if - do you think [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: Ok. Now. We are getting in to the areas of Gospel studies. If you had Gospel’s with me, this will make more sense than if you have not had it with me or any other Professor. I believe that Mark was the first Gospel written. And therefore in this area, I think he is quoting the Parable as Jesus had said the parable. But I think Matthew and Luke want to help the readers see even more the allegory here, and so they make it fit the life of Jesus more closely. Easy to think that than to think that Mark would breakdown the allegory by reversing the order. Good question. Yeah.
Student: As far as Luke and Theophilus [Hard to Hear] Is this saying that Theophilus was a Jew and therefore
Dr. Stein: No. Theophilus is not a Jew. His name is very Greek and Luke in general is written as a Gospel to non-Jews. I think we are pretty well settled, set with that. But he would have known the known the OT, maybe not as well as Jesus’ original audience but most of the converts from the Gentile world to Christianity in the first decades were what we called God-fearers. They had been attracted to the Synagogue. They had never been converted. Conversion meant becoming a kosher Jew. It meant having those kinds of things that were associated with a lifestyle like, didn’t allow you to eat with Gentiles any longer. It meant kind of a drifting away from your own people to a different nation and above all it meant circumcision. And that was a real stumbling block for Gentiles. So they attended the Synagogue, kept the Law, the Moral Law, but never converted as such.
Now when the Gospel is early preached to these people like Cornelius, a God-fearer, and you have Paul, in Pisidian Antioch where he addresses the members of the people of the Synagogue, “Children of Israel, and you that fear God.” Now he is not talking about the same group. He is talking about two different groups.
“Children of Israel and you who are Gentiles but fear God. Listen.”
And so this group is attracted to Christianity because everything they saw about Judaism that they liked was in Christianity. Oneness of God. Ancient religion. High morality. High family lifestyle uh… noble family life uh … manifested to the most part.
The things that they didn’t like: kosher living, circumcision were no longer required. In Christianity that was unnecessary so these tended to flock over and become Christians. And in fact there was a time when the Rabbi’s encouraged this kind of a half-Jewish state of a Gentile becoming a God-fearer but as Christianity comes along and wins most of these God-fearers, they realize that they are essentially just making a seed bed for the Christian church. And so eventually they say, look, either become a convert or just forget about it. And no longer is there a great group of God-fearers that existed.
Alright now, let us look at the parable now a little more and notice a couple of other things. You have the owner coming and destroying the tenants and giving the Vineyard to others. He will come and destroy the tenants.
I can’t imagine that any reader in Mark’s day or in Matthew or Luke’s day would not have thought of A.D. 70. For Mark it was still future but already the city was surrounded probably in a surrounded by other Roman legions; they will be destroyed. A.D. 70 refers to that. So you have here details that you have to take seriously.
But notice, this is the exception of all the parables that we looked at so far. But we are driven to that because His audience would have seen it that way. And greeters would have seen it that way. So that is the way we assume that Jesus and also the Gospel writers intended it to be understood.
Alright let us look at another parable like that. In Luke 14, verses 15 and following, we have a parable.
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, "Blessed is
anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" 16 Then Jesus said
to him, "Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time
for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited,
'Come; for everything is ready now.' 18 But they all alike began to
make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land, and
I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.' 19 Another said, 'I
have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please
accept my regrets.' 20 Another said, 'I have just been married, and
therefore I cannot come.' 21 So the slave returned and reported this to
Now it was very typical in those days that if you were planning something like this, you would go to your neighbors and say “We are going to have a” … probably you did this to a servant … you say “My master is going to have a great banquet in the near future and we would like you to come.” And he would say, “I would be honored to come.” And then all of a sudden these things come up. You say “Well? What does this man expect? You didn’t set a specific date. You are just not going to have a banquet sometime. Would you like to come?” So things can interfere. Not really things can’t interfere. None of these people are saying, “By the way, we are planning to go to Hawaii. And we just won’t be around at the time.” Where will people be?
They will be where they are. They don’t have vacations that they go somewhere. They don’t take long trips. This is home. This is where they are 365 days a year. So you say. “We are going to have a banquet. We would like you to come.”
So the banquet is there and everything is ready and now the second time a servant goes out and he says, “Alright the banquet is today and the master would like you to come.” And now they all start making excuses.
Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his
slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring
in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' 22 And the slave
said, 'Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.' 23
Then the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the roads and lanes, and
compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell
you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.'"
Now here you have a parable in which there are two sending outs of the servants to bring people in. There is a parallel somewhat like in the Gospel of Matthew that that has only one sending out. Luke is rather specific. Two sending outs: one to the immediate area, and the other to those further out to bring them in.
Now, I think this is to be understood allegorically. I think Luke wants Theophilus to understand this parable allegorically. The Kingdom of God has come – that is what the parable is about. The Kingdom of God is frequently likened to a great banquet: the Messianic Banquet.
And when it has come, those who had been invited - those you expected to come don’t come. They refuse it. Instead now the replacement guests are: the poor, the maimed, the lame the blind and they are brought in from the nearby streets.
Alright now, in the ministry of Jesus, can you see anything going on here that the parable is alluding to?
Jesus comes preaching the Kingdom of God is at hand. Those who you think were the most invited ones, like this man who said “Won’t it be wonderful when we all eat bread in the Kingdom of God?” and Jesus is saying “The Kingdom of God has come. Repent now.” And he is thinking of it still future. And in its place comes the publicans and the sinners. But there is still room. So go out further out. Now Luke’s audience would have thought of something here. It is not only the outcastes of Israel that are entering the Kingdom, but the outcastes of the Gentile world and this double sending out, I think is intended to be understood allegorically. I think Luke’s audience would have understood it that way.
22 And the slave said, 'Sir, - verse 22 - what you ordered has been done,
and there is still room.' 23Then the master said to the slave, 'Go out into
the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.
And consequently … I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.'"
The Pharisees and the Scribes, the first become last. They are excluded. The last, the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, the Publicans and the sinners of Israel, the cursed Gentile - the goyim – enter the Kingdom of God, but those whom you would have expected will not have tasted the dinner.
I think here is another parable that has allegorical significance to it. There are not a lot more. I think this is the main two. Most parables – not an issue. Parables teach one main point. Therefore don’t press the details.
Another parable I would like to share with you. That is Matthew 25:31-46. The parable of the sheep and the goats.
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with
him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will
be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put
the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king
will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my
Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of
the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and
you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed
me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took
care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'
Probably this is synonymous parallelism. Same thought essentially being repeated in rhythm. There are six lines here.
“37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we
saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something
to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you,
or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick
or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell
you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed,
depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you
gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,
naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did
not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we
saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and
did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just
as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'
46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into
Now note here the almost monotonous 4-fold repetition of doing acts of love. They can’t read this without saying, “It must be pretty important to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty. Welcome strangers. Give clothing to the naked. Visit the sick and take care of them. Visit those who are in prison. Repeated four times in this parable. Must be very very important.
Most times that you hear this parable, it is a parable that is interpreted as something like “Food relief Sunday.” You are to feed the hungry of the world and take care of them in their needs like, because we have an abundance and so forth. Now, I am not minimizing that. I think that, that is an important witness that we have to have.
Several – no must be – no it might be several decades ago now – my wife and I determined that we were going to give every year to food relief. We picked out maybe the most famous food relief and then I found out that the overhead of that was almost 40%. Which meant that sixty cents of a dollar went for food relief. And then I found another group, Food for the Hungry in which I found out that only 7 % is for overhead, so 93% went out. Which meant that the same dollar made me give … I got 33% more for the buck so to speak.
Then, as I became a Southern Baptist, I realized that whatever you give for food relief in the Southern Baptist Convention, it all goes. No overhead. That is taken care of by the normal missionary responsibilities, so we give there. Very important.
But is that what the meaning of this parable is?
Well. The key question to answer what the meaning of the parable is this: Who are the brethren that are referred to in verse 40? Because everything depends on it.
'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the
least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.'
So this then has to do with doing it to the least of these your brethren. Now, alright, how do you go about trying to understand what Matthew means by the “least of these my brethren” in his Gospel?
Concordance and you look up the word “brethren”.
Do you have access to a Greek New Testament – adelphois. You look up adelphos in a Greek lexicon and see where all the references are found, in Matthew, where this is found. Well. Lots of times, brothers refers to physical brothers. But the parable doesn’t mean that. So you have to go where is the term brothers used in the Gospel of Matthew, metaphorically? And I just happened to know where they are.
Brethren in Matthew in chapter 23, when it is not referred to particularly physical brothers and sisters. 23. Verse 8. We have an example of that. Verse 8. “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.” Alright, now this is addressed to primarily His disciples, because who else would ever thought of being called rabbi in the group. So you have these are the disciples of Jesus. 28:10 - 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid but go tell my brethren to go to Galilee; there you will see me." And this is addressed to the disciples, because they go on and tell the disciples about this and they go to Galilee.
So you have in these two references, brethren, same term used in the passage and it is always used for the disciples. Now there is another passage which is very much like this but which … 12:46 – 50. Let us do that one before I go to the other passage.
46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his
brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone
said to him, "Look, your mother and your brothers – brethren in other words –
are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." 48 But to the one
who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who
are my brothers?" 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are
my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my
Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
So you have here, brothers / brethren being used in the sense of a disciple.
Now there is another parallel here which that term is not used but the correspondence will become pretty clear, when we look at it. In 10:40, whoever welcomes you welcomes me. Alright see the parallel?
“I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was in prison and you visited me.” Here you have,
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, whoever welcomes me,
welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in
the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. And whoever
welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will
receive the reward of the righteous. Whoever gives even a cup of cold
water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple - truly I tell
you, none of these will lose their reward."
So you have this parallel “receives you, receives me” and in the … our parable that we looked at, you have this “receives who receives me” and you have a cup of cold being given and a cup of water being given in the parable as well.
So what we have here then from Matthew’s use of the analogy, if you do this to one, you do it to me, but what is that one person? It is a believer, a disciple. Then you do it to me. Then you also have the parallel of brethren elsewhere in Matthew. If it is not used for physical brothers, it is used metaphorically for a follower of Jesus, a disciple.
So I think then, it is rather clear. What you have here is “for as much as you did this to one of the least of these who are my disciples, you do it to me.” And in particular, I think this is probably best understood as to those who treat the disciples of Jesus in a way that shows respect and loving kindness. Not just anyone, but particularly, the disciple, because it is much more focused. The way you treat the messenger of Jesus is the way your treat Jesus. That is not true of every human being.
Those who bear the name of Christ and go out in his name and proclaim the Gospel – if you treat them poorly, you are treating Jesus poorly. If you treat them well, you are treating Jesus well, because they are part of His body, His church. Let me stop here and see, if you followed me or if it all seemed wild.
“What? It is all right. Ok.”
Now let me give a good example. It is not from Matthew, but it is from the book of Acts. There is a rather interesting story in Acts, in which, Paul is treated very differently, before that person became a Christian and then after that person became a Christian.
Can you think of which story that is?
It is the story of the Philippian jailer. In Acts 16:23,
“After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into
prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely.”
All right, so he is beaten up and thrown in jail. That is the way he is treated by the jailer. After he is converted we read:
33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds;
then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought
them into his house and set food before them; and he and his
entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
The attitude of the Philippian jailer radically changes after he is a believer. So that the attitude that he has toward this disciple of Jesus Christ reveals his heart and where he stands. And in the parable, the attitude that you have towards those who are followers of Jesus Christ, reveals where you stand with regard to the Christ they represent. Therefore, those who fed them, visited them, clothed them, clearly they are God’s people.
That shows why they are part of the family of God. They did it to Jesus and are well received. But those who abused the followers of Jesus are clearly not His followers. And that is why this can clearly be a heaven and hell issue so clearly. Because when you do that to God’s messengers, that reveals where you stand.
So the “least of these my brethren” means, this is the way you treat God’s messengers. Now I don’t want to have the press do a modern analogy, like we have say in America or something like that – where you preach Sunday and say “I want you to know ‘I am the least of these my brethren, so watch out, how you treat me brothers and sisters.’”
What you have in Jesus’ day are itinerant missionaries out there as they come to the village, the way you treat them reveals your attitude towards the faith. You treat them well, it is because you love the Lord, they proclaim. If you ignore them, it reveals the lack of love for the Lord they are proclaiming. It becomes much more a tight single issue there with regards to their faith relationship.
Finally let me just go to one parable real quickly. Luke 16:19-31, because sometimes people have a question about this. Is this a parable or is it a story?
19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and
who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man
named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger
with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come
and lick his sores.
Don’t think of this as “Isn’t that nice to have these loving lassie’s and Rin Tin Tin coming and trying to help the man by licking his wounds. These are curs. These are street dogs. These are adding insult to injury to the man – not a help.
22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be
with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
Notice the difference between the poor man … he is not even buried – thrown out somewhere. He doesn’t even have the nice funeral that the rich man has. No funeral.
23 In Hades, where he - the richman - was being tormented, he looked up
and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out,
'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his
finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.'
25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you
received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but
now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this,
between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who
might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can
cross from there to us.' 27 He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him
to my father's house — 28 for I have five brothers — that he may warn
them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' 29
Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should
listen to them.' 30 He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes
to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do
not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced
even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Now. There are a number of people who have suggested various times that this is not a parable but a real story. And the reason for that is, do you know of any parable in which a man’s name is given? There isn’t any. In no parable is a man given a name and so here we have Lazarus, a name specifically given and some have argued, this therefore is not a parable. This is a real story.
Well. For Luke it’s a parable and we know that because of the way Luke introduces parables. Turn with me to Luke 10:30.
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho”
14:16 - "A certain man gave a great dinner and invited many…”
The other one should also have been “A certain man was going down…”
15:11 - "A certain man had two sons….” The parable of the prodigal son.
16:1 - "There was a certain rich man who had a manager…” The unjust steward parable.
19:12 - “A certain nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return.” And you have the parable of the Kingdom of God there.
Now in all of these they are introduced by the Greek word tis – a certain man, a certain poor man, a certain judge or something like that, but it is always tis. There was a certain man who. There was a certain judge man. There was a certain father who had two sons. There was a certain … and all of these introduce parables.
Here you have also in our particular parable, the same kind of introduction. There was a certain rich man who was dressed in purple. That indicates that Luke wants Theophilus to know this is a parable. So this is a parable, not a real story. It is also a parable, because it takes liberties that you never could do with a real story. You can’t have for instance in a real story, people in Hell looking at Heaven and talking to Abraham in between. You can do that in a parable, but you can’t do it in a real story.
So this is a parable and it should be treated as a parable and not a real story. Any questions or comments that you want to raise with regard to parable interpretation? I assume you are all experts at it at this point. We have almost spent a week and a half on it. Yeah?
Student: [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: Don’t know for sure who it originated with, but it is fairly common since it the only parable in which a person is specifically named. The question then came up - if it were a parable then you wouldn’t have that name and must be therefore a real person. But the way it is introduced, it is clearly intended by Luke to be understood as a parable.
Student: Some of the I guess details of the story [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: You have to see here a lot of symbolism. The rich man goes to Hell and he sees to Hades, the place of the dead, and he looks up and he sees Lazarus and he talks to Abraham. I mean that – that’s all story telling kind of things. And the idea of … there is a lot of fascinating questions that arise on the parable, that people have speculated all sorts of things about. And the problem is that there is no answer to all of the speculations. It is very interesting, but there is somebody who does die and come back. Alright. The story of Lazarus in John. He returns and they don’t listen to him.
In fact, in John 11, Lazarus rises from the dead and in John 12, they decide they better kill him again – put him into death. Kill him because people are believing in him. So you have some similarity here and some have said, “Well. The story of Lazarus in John 11 came out of this parable.” And I would say, “No. The parable came out of the story and all this is speculation.” You have no way of knowing anything. It is fascinating. But uh – it seems rather clear, that this is a parable story and not a real historical incident.
And you have them saying, “Well. You know if someone really rises from the dead then they will believe. And the answer of course is even more important than Lazarus is when Jesus rises from the dead, it doesn’t force people to believe either. So you have a clear indication of how the church would have understood – “Yeah. Jesus rose from the dead. They didn’t believe Him either.” If they don’t believe Moses and the Prophets, then they won’t believe Jesus. Or this instance, Lazarus rising from the dead.
And, I have always been interested in that… people who say for instance “If God would work a miracle that I could really see I would really believe.” The answer is “No. You wouldn’t.”
If you are willing to believe, you have the Old and New Testament and that will lead you to faith. And if you won’t believe them, you wouldn’t believe even if someone … a miracle worked in your life. Because after all you can always attribute a miracle to a demonic thing.
If a person’s heart is right, there is enough evidence in the Scriptures to lead the faith, but if their heart is not right, they won’t listen to the Scriptures and they won’t be convinced if someone rises from the dead either in that respect.
Alright, we want to go now to the question of historical narrative – different genre altogether. We talked about parables, then we talked now about narrative. How did the early Christian, first couple of centuries – how did they know if something in the Bible was historical – say up to the time of the Reformation.
How did Christians when they heard or if they were able to read, read something in the Bible, how did they know if this was a true historical event or not? What would they do?
Student: [Hard to Hear] interpretation of the church
Dr. Stein: Alright. Yeah. I think you might say some of them didn’t personally think for themselves. They had the tradition that went that way. But supposing you were thinking for yourself and you read something in the Bible, how do you know if it is historically true or not before the Reformation? How do you know if something that you read in the Bible is historically true or not?
Student: [Hard to Hear] Fulfilled
Dr. Stein: Well. It is not a prophecy as such. IT is an event. Is this a true event or not?
Student: [Hard to Hear] I would say [Hard to Hear] NT [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: New. Old. Whatever you want.
Student: In the NT, they did keep some records [Hard to Hear] I guess they had something.
Dr. Stein: Alright.
Another student: I am not sure if [Hard to Hear] what you are asking. People read historical narrative in the Bible.
Dr. Stein: No. I didn’t say. I said, if you read anything in the Bible, how did you know if this is a historical event or not?
Student: By faith.
Dr. Stein: Uh. Yeah. That was an element, but there are things that even if you have great faith, you don’t believe everything that is historically true.
Student: It might be simplistic, but it sounds like an account. It sounds like a record.
Dr. Stein: Alright. Ok. And what do we call that in our vocabulary?
Student: [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: Subject matter. Ok. Well what about the subject matter in this passage we read in Luke 16. I think I know what you are getting at. I am looking for a different term.
Dr. Stein: Genre! Do you believe parables are historically true? Do you believe that there was a real prodigal son? Why? It is a genre of the parable. This is a story. These are fictional stories so that … which ones did you believe [Hard to Hear] The ones that had a historical narrative genre type. In other words, you could tell rather differently … when you interpret these two stories differently. Once upon a time and early in the morning of June 6th off the beach at Normandy. Now don’t you expect something historical? A historical account. So it’s the matter of genre.
There is a sense in which I can see where subject matter refer to this as historical stuff to it. Narrative has. So the way the early church would understand something were historically true or not – they would look and say – “Is this a parable? Is this a metaphor? Is this poetry? Or Is this historical narrative?” The genre of historical narrative is accepted as being true historically.
So it’s the issue of genre. How do we understand the genre if it is historical narrative? Historical narratives are true. Prophecies use exaggerated terminology. Poetry uses its own kinds of exaggerated terminology. Parables are made up stories and so forth. Narrative ? Historical narrative? No. We know those things to be true.
Alright. That … that is pretty much I think the way that things were up to the time of the Reformation. Well. Uh. Let us bring us up to today. This coming Sunday, you were going to begin to teach a Sunday school class – an adult Sunday school class in the church and you suggest to them, “What would you like to study during this time that we have together? We have two months in this opportunity to do this. What would you like to study?”
And somebody says “Well. You know I have heard a lot of stories about what happened with the Exodus and in fact the other day on tv, I watched a movie called the 10 Commandments and I never knew that Moses looked so much like Charlton Heston and so forth. I would really like to know what happened in the Exodus. I would to know what historically took place.”
And the others in the Sunday school say, “Yeah. Let us do that. That sounds great. We want to do that.” So you have a consensus. Now how are you as a Sunday school class at the First Baptist church of wherever you are – how are you going to go about doing it? How are you going to find out what really happened?
Dr. Stein: You read Exodus. Right? And you find out what happened.
Alright, well now we are a different group and this coming Monday or beginning of January when you are starting a J-term and you are in a class at the University of Louisville and this is a class on Humanities and we can study anything we wanted. And so you throw out suggestions and somebody in class says, “You know - I have heard a lot of myths about what took place during the Exodus and I would really like to know… I saw the 10 Commandments the other night on T.V. I would like to know what really happened way back then.” And everybody else in class says “That sounds good. Let’s do that. I’d like to know what really happened in the event which we call the Exodus. Alright, class is agreed. Now, where would your class go to, to know?”
Dr. Stein: Archeology. Saviour of the world is archeology, right? Yes. And so you look up archeological evidence. You look up reports going back to the time of the Exodus, sometime between 1280 to 1290 and 1400, something like that. And you look at cities… you are not looking at cities like Peru. You are looking at cities on the way from Egypt and to Israel, cities like Hatsor or Megiddo or Jericho. You look up the records and see what can be learned from that. Right?
And if you find out that around the time that the Bible says an Exodus took place, all these cities tended to be burned, destroyed and a different kind of civilization and the burn layers had lots of Ashtoreths and fertility gods and goddesses in it but this new level of civilization was much more simplistic and didn’t have those things and you say… “Ah… there might be some evidence here.” Alright that is one thing – archeology. What else?
Student: Egyptian history.
Dr. Stein: Yeah. Now, how do we learn about that? Inscriptions and you have this big ANE – Ancient Near Eastern literature. You have all this Babylonian materials, Egyptian materials and so forth and… so you read Ancient Near Eastern literature of that time and see if you can find something out about that. And you have an archeology involves not just digging things but inscriptions and things of that nature.
Alright well. Good. What else would you do?
Student: [Hard to Hear] Try to determine if the events themselves are possible…
Dr. Stein: Ok. Somebody might say, well none of these are possible because it talks about a miracle and miracles don’t happen. Yeah. You would have to discuss that. Ok. Sure. Someone hasn’t mentioned something.
Student: You could try to describe … [Hard to Hear]
Dr. Stein: Sure, you might try to find out, if you could explain some of these things on a non-supernatural basis. Yeah. Wouldn’t you read Exodus in the University of Louisville? Wouldn’t there be people… that is crazy…it doesn’t count there. Ancient Near Eastern literature – we have some. We all know it. So you would read – you would read the book of Exodus as well.
So, what you would do then would be look at all the sources that are available and you try to analyze the account in the Exodus. The account square with that – is it possible by science to explain it this way and so forth and so on. Ok. But notice the difference. Notice that up to the Reformation and even today in our Sunday School, if you want to know what happened in the Bible, you find out, “Is this historical narrative?” and then you read it. Then you know. And that’s the way things continued for about 1700 years.
Until the 1700s, that’s the way people learned what historically had taken place. Now in the 1700s, something does take place that is different and let me get for you some quotations. You don’t write them down… it is just something that we can discuss.
Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative – great book. Too bad it is not translated into English. “In the early Protestant interpretive tradition, we have noted the literal – that is the meaning of the author – and the religious meaning, the significance or meaningfulness is the term he uses, of the text, and the judgment of their factual accuracy has been wholly united.
The point to realize is not that they had been conceived to be in harmony with each other, but they had not even been generically distinct issues. As the 18th century wears on, this situation is increasingly at the end of the back [Hard to Hear]”
In other words, if, up to the end of the 1700s, if you read a story in Mark about the healing of the paralytic and someone asked you, “Well. I wonder what really happened?” [Hard to Hear]
“I just told you what really happened.” Then the paralytic was lowered via a roof and Jesus healed him. [Hard to Hear]
“No” – He says “What I really want to know is – Did this really take place?”
“Of course it took place. I just read it to you. Don’t you understand words anymore?”
The idea of the difference between the account and what really happened, quote on quote, is a foreign thought in their minds. It has not yet arisen.
The idea of the difference between what the text said and what really happened has not yet really been understood. The faith commitment of people was such that it was not an issue. Now however that does become an issue. And so from the 18th century on, you are now going to have, the idea arising is the account and the event described in the account, are they the same or are they different?
Furthermore, if the account and what really happened are different, where are we going to find meaning in all of this? That is the issue that comes up and that Hans Frei writes very nicely - writes in a very complicated way, but very astutely about. We are going to pick it up at that point in 15 minutes. Thank you.