A Case for Exclusive Interpretation for Jesus’ Parables

October 16, 2019 Rebekah E. Goodall 0 Comments

The first century Jewish rabbi, most known by the name, Jesus famously used symbolic imagery with his teachings. These comparisons are known as parables and were used in support of his message about the kingdom of Heaven. In early twenty-first century western thought there is a strong push to believe that when Jesus spoke in parables he was offering the stories to have multiple interpretations. Postmodern philosophy particularly the idea of relativism, that denies objective truth, may have significantly influenced this idea. The relative interpretations are typically found through ones personal worldview and disregard the idea that Jesus, and a real person, was meaning something specific when he spoke in symbolic terms. Relative interpretation for the parables is unsupported by scripture in a number of ways. This concept is incompatible with the reality of exclusive interpretation, which is the view that when Jesus spoke in parables they held a particular teaching and single intended meaning that was to be understood by his original audience.

There are three main arguments that are used to support the relative interpretation view:
Jesus said “He who has ears, let him hear,” and some illogically see this as a phrase which means ‘anyone may offer an interpretation for this parable and they will be correct’.
The Gospel books record a large number of parables that do not have a clear explanation from Jesus, and some see these as a different type of parable from the ones that were explained; that Jesus always intended them to have multiple interpretations.
Jesus was God, all knowing and all powerful, and he was able to masterfully design parables that would have multiple layers of meaning and for this reason it concluded that he intended all of these interpretations that people would later read into the parables.

This view of Jesus the supernatural story teller, with all interpretations correct and intended, could be said to contend with the Jesus who was a real, educated man and was talking to an audience of other real people in the first century. Rather than support the idea that he had a particular goal with his life and ministry, the relative interpretation view makes Jesus seem like more of a legend with an ambiguous purpose for his interactions with mankind. As well meaning as people are if they support relative interpretation, it does not lend people to understanding the truth about who he said he was, and what he said anyone needs to do if they are to follow him.

This essay will contend with the relative interpretation view by building a case for the exclusive interpretation view. Although additional personal and spiritual revelations revealed to an individual through the study of scripture are valid all of Jesus’ symbolic comparisons were intended for a singular interpretation and any other meaning, however positive and true, is removed from the matters Jesus was addressing in each of his parables. This essay will lay out four arguments against relative interpretation to support exclusive interpretation:

1. The fallacy of equivocation that surrounds the idea of ‘meaning.’
2. The exclusive nature of the explanations that Jesus did give for some of his parables.
3. The exclusive nature of all contemporary use of parable.
4. The single original context that there is to correctly draw from.
These four arguments show there is a single intended meaning for each of Jesus’ parables, and consequently for all other parabolic language in the scriptures.

Argument 1 - Equivocation of the word “meaning.”

The process of bible study is different for many individuals but in modern culture there are generally two different mindsets that most people will consciously or unconsciously approach the text with. These may sometimes be in mind together within a single reading, but usually one dominates over the other. Pastors Matthew Whitman and Tim Makie offer insights into one common modern mindset: the individual focused approach.

Whitman explains that it is easy to want to skip over the content about God and history, God’s ideals, God’s redemptive plan, and God’s kingdom, in order to get the answers to questions such as “Who am I?” And “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” He explains that, what is here called, the individualist approach focuses on gleaning from the text personal instruction and affirmation. Makie charges western church culture as having conditioned people into using the individualist approach to the bible. He explains that people are exposed to small passages of the text, in church gatherings that are limited by time, followed by a message of how the passage applies to the lives of people today. And this has lead to some assumptions about what the bible actually is; a divine behaviour manual, a personal love letter from God to the individual, a theological dictionary or answer book that explains what to believe.

Practically speaking the individualist approach might be achieved by using any modern spiritual reading practice or contemplation practice. One example of this is Lectio Divina. It is a four step process of contemplation and has been modernised into the steps: scripture, observation, application, and prayer- or SOAP. Spiritual reading practices like this cause the reader to slow down and ask questions about the passage, listening to the Holy Spirit for prompting and understanding of a deeper message hidden in the text. This is also known in English studies as ‘reading between the lines’. The reader relates the events in the passage to their own life, experiences, relationships, and journeys and then asks God to assist them in executing the changes they may feel convicted to make in their life. Through gleaning from the text in this way many readers are lead to see meaning in the text from their personal worldview. This meaning is subjective and relevant to the individual. It is a meaningful interpretation on the passage for the individual reader.

Makie and Whitman make the case that while the bible is capable of answering the questions that centre around the reader, this individualist view is not the view of the authors of scriptures and the bible. The individualist approach has weaknesses, mainly that it adds meaning from the world of the reader that the author, who lived in a very different world, would not have understood. The problem this argument means to identify is that there are multiple definitions for the word ‘meaning’. Webster dictionary gives three definitions for the word ‘meaning’:
1. The thing one intends to convey especially by language.
2. Something meant or intended.
3. Significant quality.

The individualist approach of reading the bible is focused on the personal significance that can be found in the text. This is the third definition.
The other mindset or approach to reading the bible could be identified as the immersive approach. One that respects that the events the bible records really happened at a particular time and in a certain culture. The immersive approach holds the expectation that the author had their own intention with what they wrote, and it means to dive into text with the focus to connect with the authors own message. This intention of the author is likely to be foreign to a modern reader. Without prior study of the history, religion, and worldview that the author would have had the reader understands that they may never be able to perfectly comprehend every detail the text, at least not the first time in a passage. This is definition 1 and 2 of the word ‘meaning.’ The immersive approach is mindful that many readers see personal significance and meaning in the text, but it does not allow these things to answer for the intended meaning of the author.

In the matter of understanding the meaning of Jesus’ parables, the postmodern view of relative interpretation sees the personal significance and meaning that a modern person can read into the text as being exactly what Jesus intended to say in the moments he spoke to the crowds of his followers. This idea distorts the reality that Jesus was a real human man who intentionally chose particular words and ideas to communicate his message and that he had his own thoughts and meaning behind what he was saying. The exclusive interpretation view holds this idea that Jesus meant something with his parables, and that the individualist approach of reading scripture will not always uncover what Jesus really meant. The relative interpretation view holds all readers personal meaning and significance for the text in the place of Jesus original intended meaning. This is the fallacy of equivocation as is has traded definition 1. and 2. (Intended meaning), for definition 3. (meaningful and personal significance).

There is a time and a place for both of these things, but the exclusive interpretation view holds that Jesus had a single intended meaning, and while there can be an abundance of relative meaning found by many people, this does not count as having understood Jesus' parables as he intended.

Argument 2 - The exclusive explanations in the text.
A careful examination of the language used in the synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke should show if Jesus meant for each of his parables to have multiple interpretations or a single interpretation. Using the principle in proverbs 26:5, answer a fool according to his folly, it should be first laid out what evidence each interpretive view requires to be supported by the biblical texts.

Things that would be Biblical Evidence for the Relative Interpretation View
Jesus suggesting that his parables may mean many things.
Jesus suggesting multiple interpretations.
Jesus approving multiple interpretations.
Jesus approving of different individuals having different interpretations.
Jesus approving interpretations that differ from his own.

Things that would be Biblical Evidence for the Exclusive Interpretation View
Jesus suggesting that his parables should only have one interpretation.
Jesus suggesting only one interpretation for each parable.
Jesus disapproving of multiple interpretations.
Jesus disapproving of different individuals having different interpretations.
Jesus disapproving of interpretations that differ from his own.

One line of evidence should clearly indicate that Jesus thought his parables may mean many things, or should have only one interpretation depends on a translation issue. It is a particular phrase that Jesus frequently said in relation to the interpretation of his parables and it is recorded in seven places in the gospels. One is Mark 7:16 and in Greek it reads: ‘εἴ τις ἔχει ὦτα ἀκούεινἀκουέτω,’ translated literally into English: ‘if any has ears to be hearing, let him hear.’ The interpretation that some have come up with for this phrase, particularly individuals who support the relative interpretation view, is ‘if anyone can make an attempt to understand, then he will understand.' One problem with this interpretation is that this claim is redundant; the people in his audience would have already been attempting to understand and interpret the parable without being instructed. If Jesus meant to tell them they would all be automatically correct then the Aramaic and Greek vocabularies have other words to communicate so more clearly. This interpretation supports the view of Jesus’ parables as supernatural or magical stories. More scholarly sources propose it is a false interpretation and it was not what Jesus meant to communicate with this phrase.

The real idea behind “he who hears, let him hear” is to say that only some people will understand what Jesus was trying to say, and those who do not catch on to his intended meaning of the parables simply fail to understand. Not everyone will comprehend his massage. William MacDonald explains it like this in the Believer Bible Commentary, “‘Pay heed. Don’t miss the significance of what you are hearing’…He was conveying an important message to the multitude.” The Expositor's Greek Testament, edited by William Robertson Nicoll, says it means, "the truth demanding attentive and intelligent ears." Scholars today believe that the phrase Jesus said following his parables was to specify that there was something that Jesus personally intended to communicate and that it was likely some people would never understand it, while those who do will pick up on a particular idea. This would mean that the parables are not open for interpretation. The intended idea that Jesus wanted to communicate with each parable is singular according to the phrase ‘he who has ears, let him hear.’

The synoptic gospels also record Jesus having frequently helped the disciples understand the parables. These are all examples of Jesus talking about the interpretation, suggesting an interpretation, and others making an attempt to interpret the parables. If the evidence listed above is at all available to examine, the following examination of the parables and the surrounding discussion should highlight it.

The parable of the sower
Jesus said, “Do you not understand this parable?” - The questions indicates Jesus’ expectation that simply hearing the parable did not mean they had a correct interpretation.
Jesus said to the disciples, “You have been given the secrets of the Kingdom of God.” The surrounding discussion indicates that the parable pertains solely to the subject of the Kingdom.

The parable of the mustard seed
Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,” specifically because, “It grows up and becomes larger.” The discussion surrounding the parable clarifies why Jesus chose to say the kingdom is like a mustard seed. This is the only quality of a mustard seed the Jesus said is true of the kingdom.

The parable of the Pharisees’ leaven
Jesus said, “why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand?” This infers that whatever interpretation they were discussing was wrong if it pertained to baked goods.
Jesus said, “The leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy.” He infers that the interpretation is specific to hypocrisy rather than a different matter.
‘Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ This is and example of someone’s interpretation initially being wrong, meaning that it is then possible to interpret one of Jesus’ parables incorrectly.

The parable of the good tree and bad tree
Jesus said, “the good person, out of the good treasure of his heart produces good.” This parable is fully explained by Jesus. This is the only interpretation in the passage.

The parable of the Lamp
Jesus follows the parable with a practical warning, “Take care then how you hear, for the one who has, more will be given…” Jesus did not directly explain the choice of imagery but he does indicate the application that this parable should have in a person’s life. This is the only application in the passage.

The parable of the rich man with much grain
The parable is preceded by Jesus positing, “Take care, and be on gard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” It seems that the parable is an illustration of this very idea.
Jesus follows the parable with the words, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” This strongly indicates that the matter Jesus was addressing with his parable was related solely to covetousness and possessions as it relates to richness toward God. This is the only issue Jesus related the parable to.

The parable of the wedding feast
Jesus summarised the parable with the line, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He identifies that this particular concept that should be understood through hearing the parable.

The parable of the great banquet
Jesus follows his parable with the claim, “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Jesus supports the meaning of the parable with a claim of something that will literally happen, He gives the very reason why the parable matters.This is the only explanation in the passage.

The parable of the lost sheep
After the parable Jesus explained, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” This entirely identifies the meaning he was trying to communicate with the parable. It is the only explanation in the passage.

The parable of the lost coin
After the parable Jesus explains, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy before the angles of God over one sinner who repents.” This entirely identifies the meaning he was trying to communicate with the parable. It is the only explanation in the passage.

The parable of the two masters
Jesus says a servant cannot serve two masters and then claims “You cannot serve God and money.” This followup statement strongly identifies the point of the parable. The bluntness of the language reads like this is the sole intended meaning. It is the only explanation in the passage.

The parable of unworthy servants
Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘we are unworthy servants; we have only done what is our duty.’” The language moves from describing a concept to enforcing a literal application. He makes his point clear and it doesn’t seem like anything else could better explain the parable.

The parable of the persistent widow
Jesus follows the parable with, “And will not God give justice to his elect…he will give justice to them speedily.” This indicated that Jesus was thinking of his own meaning for the parable.

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector
The passage is concluded with “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” This indicates what Jesus’ point was for sharing the parable. It is the only explanation recorded.

The parable of the foolish and wise men
Aside from mentioning the construction of houses Jesus is recorded saying “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise men… And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man.” By removing the imagery it is clear that Jesus actually said what he meant with the parable.

The parable of the two sons
Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Jesus indicates a specific matter that the parable pertains to.

The parable of the ten virgins
Jesus concludes with, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Jesus offers a particular application that he intents to communicate through the parable.

The parable of new and old treasures
Jesus says “Have you understood all these things?” The care Jesus takes in asking this question infers that there was really something he wanted them to understand.

It is obvious from this examination that when Jesus spoke in parables he had a single exclusive interpretation in mind that he wanted to communicate. This conclusion is drawn from the examples of Jesus giving a single explanation in full, the examples of Jesus giving a single explanation in part, the examples of Jesus giving a single concluding application, and the examples of Jesus suggesting that without knowing what he was talking about one would be yet to understand the parable.

Another claim that is used in support of the relative interpretation view is that Jesus only explained two of the parables. As previously shown, by examining the biblical texts, this claim is very weak. This suggestion is derived from the fact that most English bibles provide a subtitle within the pages of the text such as ‘The Parable of the Sower Explained’ and ‘The Parable of the Weeds Explained.’ If the criteria for a parable to have an explanation includes that it must have such a heading over the passage, then it would be correct that only two parables are explained. However this criteria fails to represent the true number of parables that Jesus offers an explanation for. A more accurate criteria for an explanation would be if the parable is actually followed or preceded by Jesus expressing his intended meaning in the imagery. Whitman expounds on this issue of the headings, “remembering that the [verse] numbers aren’t inspired, the notes aren’t inspired, the maps aren’t inspired, the chapter and portion headings are not inspired. The only thing that Christians believe is inspired is the original text, so if you bare that in mind you’re probably going to get a little bit a head of the game in terms of understanding what this actually means.” He reiterates that if someone wants to understand the bible, and Jesus’ parables, they should draw from the text and make their own conclusions rather than rely of the packaging and additional elements of its printing. The 2005 edition of The Holy Bible, New International Version published by International Bible Society states in the preface that explains some issues of the formatting, “As an aid to the reader, italicised sectional headings are inserted in most of the books. They are not to be regarded as part of the NIV text, are not for oral reading, and are not intended to dictate the interpretation of the sections they head.” (p. vii) To then conclude that Jesus’ parables are open for multiple and relative interpretations because our English translators have only included two headings that express a parable is explained is flawed logic and the conclusion does not follow.

As the previous examination of the text revealed, there is more in a passage that subheadings suggest in regards to the parables being explained. Most of them are explained at least in part. The New Testament does not record Jesus explaining every one of his parables in full detail, but that does not mean he did not share his interpretation with his disciples while teaching them to continue to share the message of the kingdom after he would leave them. The large number of Jesus parables left without an explanation is not intended by Jesus to allow for any arbitrary explanation to be given. If somebody comes up with an interpretation that Jesus did not intend then it is he would likely say what he told the disciples: ‘Have you not understood?’

Argument 3 - The exclusive nature of Modern Parables (simile).

The concept of Jesus’ parables being stories with many intended meanings may have come out of misunderstanding what a parable actually is. The Oxford dictionary, which is the source Google draws its dictionary results from, defines parable as: “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels. Similar to a fable”. This definition is inaccurate and misleading. It over spiritualises Jesus as a public speaker, and exaggerates a basic language technique.

The Greek word for fable used in the Biblical text is mythos. It appears in 1 Timothy 1:4 and 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:4, Titus 1:14, and 2 Peter 1:16. Strong’s Concordance shows its use as:
1. a speech, word, saying
2. a narrative, story (true or fable)

If the Greek speaking writers of the gospels wished to describe Jesus’ parables as a fable this word, mythos, would have most likely been used. Instead they used the Greek word parabolē.

Parabolē appears 50 times. It appears only in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and twice in Hebrews. Strong’s Concordance shows its use as:
1. a placing of one thing by the side of another, juxtaposition, as of ships in battle
2. metaph - a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude

Traditionally a parable is a comparative language technique. Today this is known, in English speech and writing, as simile. Denny Prutow, professor of homiletics and pastoral theology, identifies parables as similes. “It’s a story that could be reduced to a simile…the parables may not always state the simile, and extent the simile, but the parables are stories which could happen and they can therefore be reduced to simple comparisons in the form of a simile.” Prutow has analysed a number of the parables and is able to identify that they always involve two subjects that are being placed side by side to see that they share a quality. They will also have differences as suggested in the definition of parabolē in strong concordance.

The following diagram is to demonstrate this in practice:

Subject A. and subject B. are represented by circles, carried over one another like a Venn diagram.
The subjects are brought side by side to show some qualities are held by both subjects while other qualities do not match. “You are to get the main point, or the main comparison Jesus is giving or that the parable is giving. Do not press the details. If you press the details you will go astray,” Prutow says. He identifies that comparison reveals qualities that juxtapose. Smilies do not carry all the qualities of subject B. to describe subject A. An interpretation of a parable basically singles out the one quality that Jesus is referring to with the simile.
Two examples will be offered to show the exclusivity intended with modern parables.

Example 1. Shrek compares Ogres and Onions
In a scene from Shrek, the 2001 film by Dreamworks animation, Shrek uses a parable to compare ogres to onions. In this example Shrek is subject A. and an onion is subject B.

The conversation reveals that after saying, “ogres are like onions,” Shrek reveals that although they stink and can make someone cry, this is not his intended interpretation of his parable. There is exclusively one quality of an onion that he means to be identified as similar to ogres, and that is that they both have layers.

Example 2. Singer compares lover to chocolate
This is a section of Dare to be Human a pop song by the artist Beka Ellen.
In this example the lover is subject A. and chocolate is subject B.

In this song the only intended meaning of “[lover] you’re like chocolate,” is because, as the phrase continues, “I’d get hooked.” The songwriter draws only on the quality of chocolate that it has an affect on hormones and that the lover also has an addictive quality like chocolate does. This is the only intended explanation for this modern parable even though other qualities of chocolate could match with the lover.
These two examples of modern simile show that although many descriptions of subject A. and subject B. may match, this is not the criteria to identify the intended meaning of the comparison. Even though Shrek directly agreed that ogres can stink, his audience Donkey, had not yet understood the parable. Likewise in the song the lover may be sweet, or have a dark complexion, but this is not what the artist is trying to communicate.
When attempting to interpret the comparisons made in Jesus’ parables, it should be kept in mind that modern similes are not intended to carry all the descriptions of subject B. to subject A., as simile was no different in the first century.

Two examples will be offered to show the exclusivity intended with Jesus’ parables.

Example 3. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed.
In this example the Kingdom of Heaven is subject A. and a mustard seed is subject B.

Someone using the relative interpretation view may focus on trying to understand what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of Heaven by including all of the matching descriptions into their interpretation. This ignores that Jesus gave a sufficient explanation for this comparison; “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and put in his own garden. It grew, and became a large tree, and the birds of the sky lodged in its branches.” (Luke 13:18–19)

Example 4. Jesus compares himself to the Lamb of God
In John 1:29 Jesus said ““Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In this example Jesus is subject A. and a Lamb is subject B.
John’s book that records the life and teachings of Jesus does not record any of the traditional parables that are formal comparisons, but focuses on the character of Jesus and presenting him as the human incarnation of the living God. This gospel is the one to account Jesus’ analogies with which claims himself to be the lamb, the bread of life, and the door. These images do not have a new hidden revelation but clarify his role as the messiah in relation to the rest of the people in the world, as these symbols already meant something to the Jewish people. Jesus is not simply saying he shares a particular characteristic with a baby sheep, but he is identifying himself as the literal atoning sacrifice for all sin. Jesus is not just comparing himself to bread, but is identifying himself as the very thing that literally satisfies all spiritual hunger and need. Jesus is not positing that he shares any characteristic with a door, but is literally identifying himself as the only available means to enter heaven and live forever. Jesus' allegorical metaphors aren’t really in the same category as his parabolic metaphors, they are imagery that doesn’t even call for an explanation. The people already knew from their own culture what he meant, however that interpretation was limited to a single quality or funtion that is shared my himself and the thing he is compared to.

The concept of Jesus’ parables being stories with many intended meanings is an over complication of the purpose of the language technique of comparison known as parable or simile.

Argument 4 - There is only one original context.

This argument may at first look like a fallacy of division, in which something true of the whole is being assumed to also describe the parts, as there is only one original context through which one can correctly interpret a parable therefore there is only one interpretation. However this is not the point that is intended with this argument. It is to say that there is only one correct context to draw from and so this at the very least eliminates all other interpretations through any other context.

Micheal Heiser, PhD in MA in Ancient History, MA and PhD in the Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages with a minor in Classical studies said this when he was faced with the decision to accept understanding the bible comes from seeing it as the author intended rather than through the filter of church tradition:

“If we believe this thing we call the bible is inspired, and we believe things like God decided to prompt individuals to produce this thing we call the bible at a certain time, in a certain culture, in a certain place, with a certain worldview that is not ours, then we really aught to not impose our own worldview on the text. We should try to read them the way they wanted to be understood, what was going through their heads, because they're not writing from the perspective of a 21st century white guy. They're not asking the questions or addressing the questions that I have in my culture, in my time-period. They're doing something different. Now, it all applies to us, but we have to realise while the bible was written for us, it was not written to us. It was written to somebody else. And if we rightly understand that then we will know that we're applying things correctly and we will be able to understand more of scripture.”

Heiser says this about the biblical writers and the people who recorded the events of Jesus’ life, but it is important to think about Jesus in this way too. He was really alive as a man and actually grew up and lived in Israel as a carpenter’s son and as a Jewish religious teacher. He was grounded in the cultural, social and political climates of the day and it is wrong to believe that his teaching was not heavily rooted in these things that he encountered in his experiences as a human.

The single cultural context that the parables originally came from, eliminates interpretations of the parables that have not gone through this very cultural lens of first century life in Israel and Judaism. An interpretation that looks through any other cultural lens will be obsolete. All philosophical, social, economical, scientific, political, or moral worldview that developed after the time of Jesus are useless at supporting an interpretation for his parables, because they are not the context that surrounded the imagery Jesus gave. Any other traditions that surround weddings, including that of western twenty-first century, cannot be used to understand the parable of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom, nor the parable of the wedding feast. Any further micro-evolutions in botany cannot be used to understand the size of a mustard seed in comparison with others it may compete with to be the smallest. Any newer methods of farming cannot be used to understand the parable of the lost sheep. Any later developments of agriculture cannot be used to understand the parable of the sower. Any later developments of monarchal government cannot be used to understand the parable of the forgiving king and the unforgiving servant. Any later developments of vineyards and wine making cannot be used to understand the parables that mention the operation and management of such plantations. Any more recent changes in the political situation between Samaria and Judea cannot be used to understand the parable of the good Samaritan. Any later developments of household dynamics affecting children and employees cannot be used to understand the parable of the prodigal son, nor any concerning masters and their relationship to servants.

Jesus was a Jew living from 3 BC - 30 AD and his original audience lived in this time too. Reverend Donna Howell says “You cannot divorce the interpretation of scripture from the culture of the time it was written.” Keeping the changes in mind between the culture of early first century Palestine and other developments of the world will only result in confusion when attempting to interpret Jesus’ parables. If Jesus expected his audience to understand his teachings then we must assert that he not only spoke their language, but drew upon elements of the world that they lived in; not the world we live in today. The billions of people who have lived after the writing of scripture - and their culture, has no effect on the original meaning of scripture. Their Interpretations are entirely useless unless they removed their own culture from their thinking and look at Scripture through the world view of the day it was spoken and recorded.

Thinking that there can be multiple interpretations blinds people from the fact that Jesus had his own interpretation that he actually wanted people to understand. But this kind of thinking may be a reflection of today’s culture that is a result of every high school English class being taught to read between the lines. It is only what everybody does with all stories and imagery, as Steven Crowder protests the modern interpretation of Stockholm syndrome over the sacrifice of Bell in Beauty and the Beast, 1991 or today’s focus on consent over Snow White being kissed back to life in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937. “Not only can you not look at words [with] previous definitions…a lot of people think that fiction is up to interpretation. That’s part of what’s enjoyable about fiction is that you can kind of take from it what you want, I understand that. That being said, not all interpretations are as valid…It’s not fair to look at old Disney films through todays sense and act as though your interpretation is just as valid. No, because you know what; if we were to ask the screenwriter, if you were to ask the author, if you were to say hold on was this meant to be [insert interpretation through today’s presuppositions]? And the guy would say ‘No! it’s what…was the intent of the author! And to try and act as though it wasn’t [is ignorance].’” Crowder articulates this issue being problematic outside of biblical interpretation and this may be why so many unconsciously hold to the relative interpretation view when moving over to analysing scripture.

To conclude, why-ever relative interpretation for Jesus’ parables and teaching is part of modern biblical understanding, it is a misguided path to follow. It is not a correct way to interpret any parables or similes as then are called in English. It is not supported by Jesus himself and he demands a particular point to be understood with correct interpretation his parables. Careful attention show instead be given to understand the exclusive interpretations of Jesus teachings though each may have a number of applications. Reading the bible correctly involves reading the text for what it really is and the interpretation may often be right there in the next line or in those preceding. The interpretation and understanding for each of Jesus’ parables are exclusive to whatever meaning he intended, and this is not relative to a modern reader, nor is there multiple correct interpretations.

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