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SCANDALOUS STORIES: A Sort Of Commentary On Parables

SCANDALOUS STORIES: A Sort Of Commentary On Parables

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SCANDALOUS STORIES: A Sort of Commentary on Parables. By Daniel Emery Price and Erick Sorensen. Irvine, CA: 1517 Publishing, 2018. 101 pages. $9.95.

Usually when an author undertakes to say something about the parables of Jesus he spills a lot of ink trying to define what a “parable” is. This is no easy task. The word παραβολή is far too flexible to defy any quick categorization. The result of such exercises is that the reader gets stuck in prolegomena and is exhausted before he gets to the actual parables or commentary of the same. Scandalous Stories does not follow this exhausting format. There is not even a single sentence that attempts to define what makes a parable a parable. What a breath of fresh air! This book dives right in and offers commentary on the parables.

Scandalous Stories is a self-titled “sort of commentary” on the parables. This is a most accurate description of the book. The commentary is not a textual commentary, such as is found in commentaries on the gospels, nor is it overly academic and bogged down with the interaction with other scholars. That doesn’t mean Price and Sorensen are uneducated. They’re not out on the fringe drawing wild conclusions and making otherwise unknown applications. They’re simply offering their (theologically informed) commentary on the parables, much like you would hear in a sermon or a Bible Study from your local pastor.

This book is not written for pastors. Well, it’s not not written for pastors . . . but pastors are not the primary target audience. Price and Sorensen provide a lot of historical-contextual insights that would be should be known by most pastors but are probably not known to the average layman. For example, in the chapter concerning “The Good Samaritan” a fair amount of space is devoted to explaining what a “Samaritan” is and how that label would have been received by contemporary hearers. This approach to their commentary makes it very accessible to all people.

There are eleven chapters in this book which each chapter taking up another parable. The eleven parables[1] undertaken are:

1.      Luke 7:35–50 “The Parable of the Moneylender’s Two Debtors”

2.      Luke 13:18–21 “The Parable of the Mustard Seed”

3.      Matthew 13:24–30 “The Parable of the Wheat and Tares”

4.      Matthew 13:1–9 “The Parable of the Sower”

5.      Luke 18:9–14 “The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector”

6.      Luke 10:25–37 “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”

7.      Luke 15:1–2, 11–32 “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”

8.      Matthew 18:21–34 “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant”

9.      Luke 14:7–24 “The Parables of the Wedding Feast and Great Banquet”

10.  Matthew 25:31–46 “The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”

11.  Matthew 13:44 “The Parable of the Hidden Treasure.”

The commentary on each parable is certainly thought provoking even if you don’t agree with the conclusions. The commentary is written in a very engaging manner and the reader won’t struggle to keep their eyes open. The book is titled Scandalous Stories. What is so “scandalous” about the parables? Price and Sorensen argue that it is grace.

I found some chapters to be very insightful (especially chapters Three and Eight), and I found a few chapters where I was shaking my head in disagreement. My manner of disagreement was always on interpretive moves not doctrinal ones. For example, the parable of the Good Samaritan builds a lot of its argumentation on identifying the road from Jerusalem to Jericho as “The Way of Blood.” The suggestion that this particular road is akin to being found in a “red-light” district is not an argument I find tenable at all.

One of the emphases of this book that I did appreciate was that as readers of the parables, we often identify with more than one character at a time. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, sometimes we identify with the father, sometimes we are guilty like the younger son, sometimes we are guilty like the older son. Attempts to pigeonhole the reader/hearer into identifying with only one of the characters in any given parable is unhelpful.

At roughly eight pages per chapter, this book would be an easy devotional exercise over the course of a couple of weeks. For pastors, though you may not agree with everything written (as is true of any commentary), this short book will probably do more to provide grist for the sermon mill than larger more expensive textual commentaries.

Rev. Timothy A. Koch.  Pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Milbank, SD.

[1] The names of the parables provided here are my own. They are not labeled as such by Price or Sorensen.

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