Parables in Changing Contexts

Essays on the Study of Parables in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism


In Parables in Changing Contexts, new venues in the comparative study of parables are addressed by scholars of Judaism, New Testament, Buddhism and Islam. Essays cover parables in the synoptic Gospels, Rabbinic midrash, and parabolic tales and fables in the Babylonian Talmud. Three essays address parables in Islam and Buddhism. The volume shows how parables are suitably adapted in terms of form and rhetoric to enhance religious identity formation. Parables serve as media, as sensational forms making the sacred present, albeit encoded or riddled, in all cases invoking the listener’s active interpretative participation and cultural imagination. Adapting a multidisciplinary approach to these gems of storytelling, parables in a particular way provide new insights in the cultures that produced them.

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Eric Ottenheijm (1961) is Assistant Professor for Jewish Studies and Biblical Literature at Utrecht University. His publications cover early Christianity in its relation to Judaism, in particular the Gospel of Matthew, and legal traditions and parables in Rabbinic literature. Currently he leads a project on the comparative study of Jewish and Christian parables, ‘Parables and the Partings of the Ways’ (2014-2020).

Marcel Poorthuis, Ph.D. (1992), teaches interreligious dialogue at the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. His dissertation dealt with the French-Jewish philosopher Immanuel Levinas. He published about Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam. He is co-editor of Jewish and Christian Perspectives.
Introduction: Parables in Changing Contexts: a Preliminary Status Questionis
Eric Ottenheijm and Marcel Poorthuis

Part 1: Parables as Religious Practice

1 On the Rhetoric of “Inheritance” in Synoptic and Rabbinic Parables
Eric Ottenheijm

2 Parables in the Service of Emotional Translation
Ronit Nikolsky

3 From Midrash to Mashal: the Sacrifice of Isaac as Misunderstanding
Marc Bregman

4 The Transformative Creativity of Islamic Storytelling: Jewish and Christian Sources of Parables in the Ḥadīth
Marcel Poorthuis

5 Not Just Stories: Jain and Buddhist Narratives as Epistemic Technology
Tillo Detige

Part 2: Redefining Genre

6 Talking Animals in Parables: a Contradictio in terminis?
Lieve M. Teugels

7 A Fable on Two Mosquitoes from the Babylonian Talmud: Observations on Genre and Gender
Tal Ilan

8 The Redactional Role of Parables in Genesis Rabbah
Tamar Kadari

9 A Note on Parables in the Babylonian Talmud
Geoffrey Herman

Part 3: Plots, Motifs, and Characters

10 The Invasion of the King: the Virtual Mashal as Foundation of Storytelling
Marcel Poorthuis

11 Parables, Fiction, and Midrash: the Ten Maidens and the Bridegroom (Matt 25:1–13)
Peter J. Tomson

12 It Is Like a Woman Who …? Women in Early Rabbinic and Early Christian Parables
Albertina Oegema, Jonathan Pater, and Martijn Stoutjesdijk

13 “If a nefesh sins …” (Lev 4:2): Parables on the Soul in Leviticus Rabbah 4
Lorena Miralles-Maciá

14 From Debtor to Slave: an Explorative Bildfeld Analysis of Debt and Slavery in Early Rabbinic and New Testament Parables
Martijn J. Stoutjesdijk

15 Parables in Changing Contexts: a Retrospect
Eric Ottenheijm and Marcel Poorthuis

Cumulative Bibliography

All interested in parables in the Synoptic Gospels, parables in rabbinic midrash and Babylonian Talmud, fables, Jain Buddhism, and early Islamic literature.
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