Fortress Press

Puzzling the Parables of Jesus: Methods and Interpretation

Puzzling the Parables of Jesus

Methods and Interpretation

Ruben Zimmermann (Author)


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Modern scholarship on the parables has long been preoccupied with asking what Jesus himself said and what he intended to accomplish with his parables. Ruben Zimmermann moves beyond that agenda to explore the dynamics of parabolic speech in all their rich complexity. Introductory chapters address the history of research and distinguish historical from literary and reader-oriented approaches, then set out a postmodern hermeneutic that analyzes narrative elements and context, maps the sociohistorical background, explores stock metaphors and symbols, and opens up contemporary horizons of interpretation.

Subsequent chapters then focus on one parable from early Christian sources (Q, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and the Gospel of Thomas) to explore how parables function in each literary context. Over all reigns the principle that the meaning or theological “message” of a parable cannot be extracted from the parabolic form; thus the parables continue to invite hearers’ and readers’ involvement to the present day.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800699758
  • eBook ISBN 9781451465327
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 496
  • Publication Date November 1, 2015


"This comprehensive study of parables introduces students to the main methods of interpreting parables and the history of research and breaks new ground with a fresh approach. It should be read by students and scholars alike."

Adela Yarbro Collins | Yale Divinity School

"The interpretation of the parables of Jesus over the last several decades has been remarkably diverse in scholarly works, even bewildering at times. In this book, Ruben Zimmermann takes us on a grand tour through the main streets and curious alleyways of the field with skill and extensive coverage. He shows how bridges can be built between methods in use today. His own interpretations of selected parables are masterful, perceptive, and generous in their wealth of insights."

Arland J. Hultgren | Luther Seminary

"Zimmermann’s Puzzling the Parables of Jesus offers a comprehensive, but eminently readable review of the last century of scholarship on the parables, making sense of its tangled history. His own approach, which negotiates the conversations between historical, literary, reader-oriented and theological approaches, will quickly become a standard reference for the study of the parables of Jesus."

John S. Kloppenborg | University of Toronto

"Ruben Zimmermann is one of the leading researchers on parables today. His new book deserves the attention of anyone working on parables, for it wrestles with the hermeneutical and methodological issues involved in interpreting parables and does so in a way that gives access to recent research, especially from Germany. Zimmermann knows the literature on parables intimately and summarizes much of it along the way. The book raises issues especially with regard to interpretation and application of the parables."

Klyne Snodgrass | North Park Theological Seminary

"Puzzling the Parables of Jesus offers a magisterial account of the ways in which the parables helped the church—and help us all—remember Jesus. It will prove essential for all who wish to dive deeper into these magical, mysterious stories and into the process by which they have come to us and enriched our lives. This is a book to be read, then absorbed."

Richard Lischer | Duke Divinity School