The renowned biblical scholar, author of The Misunderstood Jew, and general editor for The Jewish Annotated New Testament interweaves history and spiritual analysis to explore Jesus’ most popular teaching parables, exposing their misinterpretations and making them lively and relevant for modern readers.
Jesus was a skilled storyteller and perceptive teacher who used parables from everyday life to effectively convey his message and meaning. Life in first-century Palestine was very different from our world today, and many traditional interpretations of Jesus’ stories ignore this disparity and have often allowed anti-Semitism and misogyny to color their perspectives.
In this wise, entertaining, and educational book, Amy-Jill Levine offers a fresh, timely reinterpretation of Jesus’ narratives. In Short Stories by Jesus, she analyzes these “problems with parables,” taking readers back in time to understand how their original Jewish audience understood them. Levine reveals the parables’ connections to first-century economic and agricultural life, social customs and morality, Jewish scriptures and Roman culture. With this revitalized understanding, she interprets these moving stories for the contemporary reader, showing how the parables are not just about Jesus, but are also about us—and when read rightly, still challenge and provoke us two thousand years later.
Those who view parables as easy nuggets of feel-good sentiment need to think again. Levine (The Misunderstood Jew), professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University and an affiliated professor of Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, shows how despite their brevity, Jesus's tales have disturbed from the very beginning. Readers hoping that Levine's expertise will lead to singular and definitive meanings for the oft-perplexing parables that she discusses will be disappointed. On the contrary, she shows how the biblical stories' defiance of narrow understandings and application is reason for celebration. But not every interpretation is equally credible, however. "Context matters," Levine notes. Lucky for readers, she provides such information in an easy manner, covering topics from ancient Jewish-Samaritan relations to the Hebrew/Jewish background of New Testament literature. Levine also provides correctives to popular, anti-Semitic interpretations. As the text enlightens, it also emboldens critical application of Jesus's ancient stories to modern hearts and minds.