“The Fables of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke” seeks to resolve two fundamental mysteries about Jesus and his parables. The first of these is ultimately of a historical nature and pertains to the genre typically called “parable.” Most New Testament scholars view it as axiomatic that the historical Jesus taught in parables. Yet, according to the standard scholarly assessment, Jesus is also the first figure in recorded history to use the parable as his preferred didactic medium. The first fundamental issue discussed is resolve the Synoptic depiction of Jesus as a teller of parables is really as unique as is commonly asserted.
The second mystery is why it is in Luke’s Gospel, and only in Luke’s Gospel, that we find such a disproportionate amount of parables not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Within the L material are about fifteen unique parables, including the most popular of the Jesus tradition, such as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the most peculiar, such as the Crafty Steward. I offer an answer to both mysteries from the contemporary genre fable, which was having its Renaissance around the turn of the Common Era across the Mediterranean world. I set the parables attributed to Jesus in Luke alongside the first-century fable collections, fable tellers, and exercises of ancient education to demonstrate that the Gospel author presented the parables of Jesus as fables, and that Luke and his audience would have understood them as such.
The implications of this thesis are many and far reaching. The ancient fable requires a fundamental reevaluation of the correct way to interpret the most popular parables in the Christian tradition. The fable supplies a new historical and cultural context in which to situate Jesus, and hundreds of new primary texts with which to compare the parables attributed to him in Luke. The fable provides the key for understanding Luke’s methods of composition and redaction of his parable source-material. The fable provides an answer to why Luke can depict a first-century Jewish figure as teaching in parables and it also resolves lighter matters, such as whether the parables attributed to Jesus are intended to make us laugh. This project is not an attempt to turn over a new stone in the already well-furrowed field of parable scholarship but to open a new venue entirely.