After Death

Last week, Conciliar Post ran a Round Table discussion what happens to human beings after physical death. Below are my reflections for your consideration.

HellfireJust a couple of weeks ago, someone posed this very question—what happens to people after death?—while I was teaching a Sunday school class on the Apocalypse of John (the book of Revelation). We were reading and talking through Revelation 20:12-13, which reads: Continue reading

What About People Who Died Before the Incarnation?

Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

A while back, a friend wrote me and asked, “How do you justify [and explain] the people who died before Christ came [i.e., Abraham, Moses, David]?” This struck me as an important and insightful question. In our rush to talk about and theologize heaven and hell, we often pay little attention to people who would have lived and died before the time of Christ. So how do we think about those people? One place to being thinking about this topic is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus from Luke 16, which has been used to reflect on questions of salvation and Paradise since at least the time of Ephrem the Syrian (4th century). Continue reading

Thinking About “Q”

Gospel WritersIf you read the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) you’ll notice a few things. First, Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain a lot (a LOT) of the same (or at least similar) stories and parables. In fact, if you sat down and compared similar how similar the Synoptics are, you would find that approximately 76% of Mark is mirrored in 41% of Luke and 45% of Matthew. In other words, a significant part of Mark’s gospel materials (the stories, parables, sayings, narratives, etc) seems to have found it’s way into Luke and Matthew’s gospels. This material is called “Triple Tradition” (or sometimes Synoptic tradition– it’s found in all three synoptic gospels). Examples of Triple Tradition include Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), the Parable of the Sower (Mathew 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8), and the Calming of the Storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). Continue reading

Rethinking Vinegrowers and Violence (Part Two)

Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Collaert

Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Collaert

Having examined Schottroff’s interpretive concerns in yesterday’s post, we now turn to her reinterpretation of the Parable of the Vinegrowers in The Parables of Jesus (Trans. Linda M. Maloney. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.), in which she critiques a traditional allegorical interpretation of the parable, and reconsiders its meaning for today’s context. The crux of her reinterpretation argues that this parable speaks not to the allegorical rejection of the people of Israel, but rather cries out against the multilayered forms of Roman violence suffered by Israel. Continue reading

Rethinking Vinegrowers and Violence (Part One)

The Parables of JesusLuise Schottroff, in her work The Parables of Jesus (Trans. Linda M. Maloney. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.) writes that the parables of Jesus of Nazareth contain a wealth of information concerning the meaning of his proclamation and vision, information that has historically been both influential and misunderstood (1). In as much as there are as many interpretations of the parables of Jesus as there are New Testament and parable scholars, the purpose of this paper is to examine Schottroff’s feminist perspective in her examination and reinterpretation of the Parable of the Vinegrowers found in the Gospel According to Mark 12:1-12. In her interpretation, Schottroff argues that this parable speaks not to an allegorically based rejection of the people of Israel in favor of the Christian Church, but against multilayered forms of violence against the people of Israel that calls those people to endure Roman oppression and seek non-violent forms of effecting demands. Continue reading

The Historical Jesus and the Parable of the Vineyard Laborers

 

Parable of the Vineyard Laborers, Jacob Willemsz de Wet.

Parable of the Vineyard Laborers, Jacob Willemsz de Wet.

In the ongoing search for the Historical Jesus, critically important for many scholars is determining authentic Jesus material in the Gospel accounts. Scholars apply multiform methodology in their interpretations of canonical material, but there are several criteria that the majority employ to determine the historical character of a passage of scripture. Qualities such as the originality or dissimilarity of gospel material from other known sources, multiple independent attestations to a narrative or saying, or the overall thematic coherence are vital to determining authentic Jesus material in the modern historical-critical methodology.[1] Concerning gospel material, even the most skeptical scholars generally agree that Jesus spoke in parables. Thus, proper contextualization and interpretation of parables provide scholars a wealth of information concerning the Historical Jesus. Using material from contextual and New Testament studies, we will examine here the parable of the Vineyard Laborers found in the Gospel according to Matthew 20:1-16 and seek to understand how this parable was received and understood by its original audience, as well as in the gospel and modern contexts.

 

Many scholars believe that the parable of the Vineyard Laborers, while only appearing in the Matthean account does preserve an authentic parables of the Historical Jesus, primarily due to its genuine originality of theme and general coherence of defying cultural expectations.[2] The parable begins as follows: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.”[3] Here, the parable introduces a number of concepts to its audience. First, this narrative concerns itself with defining and perhaps explaining the concept of the Kingdom of God. Next, the hearer learns that the plot concerns a householder, a man of importance, honor, and means. At this point the audience first encounters cultural dissimilarity. This particular householder specializes not in subsistence crops for daily living, but instead owns a vineyard for producing wine, a specialty crop that indicates his elite status in society. However, the Historical Jesus indicates that this householder leaves his house and seeks laborers early in the morning, an action that would undoubtedly cause some level of confusion for the original audience, as elite landowners in the first century Mediterranean context did not hire their own day laborers but instead often relied on brokers or foreman to do so. Continue reading