A Jewish Journey Through the Parables of Jesus
by Rich Robinson
In this series of posts I want to make my way through Amy-Jill Levine’s latest contribution, a book on the parables of Jesus. Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi was published this year (2014) by HarperOne. (Aussie readers can buy it here Short Stories )
For those not familiar, Levine (hereafter AJL) teaches New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is, according to her Website , “a self-described ‘Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.’” She is also an Orthodox Jew who, as she says somewhere else, can be somewhat unorthodox. AJL is known as co-editor of the recent Jewish Annotated New Testament (Aussies buy that here ) and author of The Misunderstood Jew (Aussies: Misunderstood) (that is, Jesus). We interviewed her some time ago for our Havurah magazine and you can find that interview here.
There are many things I like about Levine’s writing, not least that she’s entertaining, even cheeky in a good way, her prose engaging and above all challenging. And she is committed to unearthing wrong-headed interpretations of the New Testament that are anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic—interpretations that can be found in evangelical circles, though born more of ignorance than malice. Sometimes it takes an outside voice to shake things up. Those whose fashion or haircut choices make them resemble Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory can benefit from the honesty of someone who knows clothing and hairstyles—witness the various “Makeover” reality TV shows. AJL, at least in the area of Jesus’ Jewishness, wants to “make over” how Christians read the New Testament. And in many respects, she succeeds.
In this new book she tackles Jesus’ parables. In the days to come I’ll make my way through the book and interact with what AJL has to say on the subject. Could it be that Jesus’ “short stories” are The Misunderstood Parables? Come back here and find out with me!