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The Power of Parable
How fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus
by John Dominic Crossan
Publisher:SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
John Dominic Crossan is a name to conjure with, and in this book he gives us his typically challenging view of parables, not just the familiar ones from Our Lord's teaching, but also stories we might not have seen in this way before. The Book of Ruth, for instance, is viewed as a prolonged parable intended to upset the reader's prejudices: the Law says that no Moabite may be part of the People of God; a Moabite woman is shown to be the ancestress of David and indeed of the Messiah himself. So much for Israelite (our) exclusivity!
So, in what he calls 'challenge' parables, as opposed to his other categories of 'riddle' and 'example' parables, Crossan stresses that readers are made to radically re-think their too easily-accepted attitudes.
The subtitle of the book is How fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus. After a central interlude about how Caesar crossing the Rubicon moved from history to myth (parable), Crossan moves on to look at events in Jesus' life which, he asserts, are parable rather than historical fact. He may perhaps over-play his hand at times, but there are fascinating and challenging insights to be found here, not least the changing perspective on Rome through the Synoptic Gospels / Acts. In conclusion, Crossan discusses the evidence available for Our Lord's human existence, showing that he was fact rather than himself a figure in a parable.
Crossan writes in an attractive personal style, with comments from his own life experience, and so makes the book an appealing read for open-minded lay Christians.
Reviewer: Joan van Emden (09/02/13)