Monday, October 12, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 3

Continuing the series of posts on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, today I read Klyne Snodgrass' article in the Bulletin for Biblical Research titled, "Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment". Although the article is about a decade old, he still does a good job surveying some of the interpretive thoughts that have been synthesized from this odd parable. Anyway, this is what he said:

Today, despite the recoil many still have against the word allegory, Jülicher's position has completely eroded away. Some scholars even urge the use of the word allegory to describe NT parables because parables often have more than one point of correspondence. Some would argue that allegory is not a literary genre at all but a device of meaning, and many would say no distinction can be made between parable and allegory. Both parable and allegory—if allegory is a genre—are stories with two levels of meaning. The more one is aware of OT and Jewish parables, the less one finds it necessary to denigrate allegorical significance. Note, for example, the critiques leveled against Jülicher and his followers by David Flusser and David Stern. Even scholars who confidently mark out allegory as something entirely different from a parable end up qualifying their statements to such a degree that the distinctions become unclear. Incidentally, the frequent claim that after an allegory has been interpreted the text may be left behind is simply not true, certainly not more so than for any other form of literature. Otherwise the Wizard of Oz—originally a political allegory on the gold standard, the allegorical significance of which has long been lost--would never be retold.

Snodgrass is basically trying to regain some of the ground lost due to Jülicher's influential position in his rejection of allegories (and allegorizations) and it seems that this may be a good angle to approach the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. On an unrelated note (somewhat), Snodgrass wrote in the footnote:

The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful and enjoyable story with a great deal of wisdom, but if one understands the symbolism, it is a historically rooted, howling, political satire on the American scene. The work was written in 1900, about the time of the collapse of the Populist party that was based on an alliance of Midwestern farmers and industrial workers who challenged bankers and economic interests and also wanted a silver standard to replace gold. The scarecrow represents the Midwestern farmers, the tin man the industrial workers, the cowardly lion who can roar but little else represents reformers like William Jennings Bryan (the orator who failed in his presidential campaign), and Dorothy the common person. They all travel along the yellow brick road (the gold standard) to Oz (the abbreviation for ounce) to seek favors from the the wizard (the president), who is just a common man who has power by deception.

Now only if the parable in Mark 12 along with its parallels in Mattew/Luke and Gospel of Thomas became as crystal clear as the story of Oz...

The Wicked Tenants Series:
Part 1, Part 2

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