This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2006 vol. 163 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Preaching the Parables: From Responsible Interpretation to Powerful ProclamationBaker Academic, Grand Rapids July 1, 2004
This volume makes a significant contribution to the rather large body of literature that deals with interpreting and preaching Jesus’ parables. It will be of interest to preachers and to teachers of homiletics especially, as well as other students of the Gospels.
The book includes fifteen sermons on fifteen parables of Jesus. The selected parables, Blomberg believes, include all the major motifs Jesus presented in His parables. These fifteen are particularly helpful in enabling readers to see how Blomberg has applied the presuppositions with which he approaches this form of biblical literature. These presuppositions are seven: their structure identifies them as parables, all relate to the kingdom of God, all are authentically from Jesus, the main characters all represent something, all were originally intended to both reveal and conceal truth, all require some contemporizing, and all require interpretation in their canonical contexts. Blomberg believes that as a rule there is one main point for each main character in each parable. He does not think Jesus gave the parables to teach more than these lessons; the details simply give added information that helps the hearer understand and appreciate His emphases. Therefore one should avoid allegorizing the parables by reading in more significance than was intended in the main points. In the introduction Blomberg explains why he interprets the parables this way, tying his view into the history-of-parables interpretation. He believes each main character or group of characters in each parable is symbolic of people who continue to function similarly today. Thus an important key to correct application is identifying accurately whom these main characters represent in contemporary society.
The writer’s explanation of the six structures he sees in the parables (one, two, or three main points; triangulated; horizontal/vertical axes; etc.) will appeal mainly to homiletics professors and preachers who are particularly interested in the more technical aspects of preaching. But Blomberg does not labor this emphasis to the point of discouraging the average preacher from reading the book.
After his expository sermon on each parable Blomberg explains why he did what he did in preparing the sermon. This material will, of course, interest preachers, but it may not be of much interest to those who purchase this book simply to understand what Jesus meant when He gave these fifteen parables.
Theologically Blomberg believes that only those who persevere in their discipleship will be saved. “Salvation is guaranteed contingent on perseverance (the unforgiving servant, the bridesmaids). ‘Eternal security’ is not the promise of automatic salvation to all who ever make a profession of faith. Rather, as suggested by the Reformation-era nomenclature, the doctrine of ‘the perseverance of the saints’ means that all true believers do persevere. But the way we determine who these people are is to watch and see who, in fact, remains (or in Elizabethan English, ‘abides’)” (p. 219). He also believes Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God with His first coming and will consummate it at His second coming (p. 23).
This is a helpful book with thought-provoking interpretations of fifteen of Jesus’ parables, broad outlines, and technical structures of these parables, examples of how to apply principles of interpretation when studying the parables, and how to make them contemporary and apply them in one’s preaching. The author is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary.
—Thomas L. Constable