Are the Parables Still the Bedrock of the Jesus Tradition?

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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The parables of Jesus have long been considered the most reliable access to authentic teaching of Jesus. This conviction has been challenged recently by John Meier, who argues only four parables can confidently be assigned to Jesus, but Meier’s method is faulty and his conclusion unacceptable. I argue Jesus’ parables are the place we can be most confident about his teaching. There are reasons to be less suspicious of the tradition behind the Gospels and more suspicious of assumptions about authenticity criteria and the assured results of our discipline. The principle of multiple attestation, on which Meier relies heavily, is not a trustworthy criterion. The correlation of parabolic and nonparabolic material increases confidence about what Jesus taught. Further, no one was telling narrative parables like Jesus’ parables—certainly not in the church and not in early rabbinic parables. If Jesus did not tell these parables, who did?

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