Continuing a Gold Medallion Award-winning legacy, this completely revised edition of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary series puts world-class biblical scholarship in your hands. Based on the original twelve-volume set that has become a staple in college and seminary libraries and pastors’ studies worldwide, this new thirteen-volume edition marshals the most current evangelical scholarship and resources. The thoroughly revised features consist of: • Comprehensive introductions • Short and precise bibliographies • Detailed outlines • Insightful expositions of passages and verses • Overviews of sections of Scripture to illuminate the big picture • Occasional reflections to give more detail on important issues • Notes on textual questions and special problems, placed close to the texts in question • Transliterations and translations of Hebrew and Greek words, enabling readers to understand even the more technical notes • A balanced and respectful approach toward marked differences of opinion
About the Author
D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he has taught since 1978. He is co-founder (with Tim Keller) of the Gospel Coalition, and has written or edited nearly 60 books. He has served as a pastor and is an active guest lecturer in church and academic settings around the world.
Tremper Longman III (PhD, Yale University) is a distinguished scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is on the advisory council of the BioLogos Foundation, and is the Old Testament editor for the revised Expositor's Bible Commentary and general editor for the Story of God Bible Commentary Old Testament, and has authored many articles and books on the Psalms and other Old Testament books.
David E. Garland (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is William B. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures and dean for academic affairs at George W. Truett Seminary, Baylor University. He is the New Testament editor for the revised Expositor's Bible Commentary and the author of various books and commentaries, including Mark and Colossians/Philemon in the NIV Application Commentary, and the article on Mark in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. He and his wife, Diana, reside in Waco, Texas.
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MatthewVolume 2: Chapters 13-28
By D.A. Carson
ZondervanCopyright © 1995 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneB. Third Discourse: The Parables of the Kingdom (13:1-53)
1. The setting
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying:
1 Doubtless en te hemera ekeine must be rendered "that same day," but NIV introduces an insurmountable problem by translating palin in Mark 4:1 "on another occasion." Palin does not mean that; indeed, it can often be translated "furthermore" or "thereupon" (BAGD, s.v.). At any rate Matthew links the parabolic discourse in chapter 13 to the preceding controversies (either 12:38-50 or 12:22-37) and ends it with a formulaic conclusion (13:53), which implies that all these parables were given on this occasion. The statement "Jesus went out of the house" implies the same thing by setting a specific scene carried forward by 13:36.
Jesus "sat by the lake," taking the normal position of a teacher (see on 5:1-2). The explanation that Jesus' posture was a symbol drawn from apocalyptic literature representing God sitting in judgment (cf. Rev 7:9-12; Kingsbury, Parables, pp. 23f.) is not only overly subtle and needlessly anachronistic but misunderstands the parables. Although in some parables Jesus portrayed himself as the judge coming at the end of the age (esp. vv.40-43), such a judicial session is future. During his ministry Jesus' chosen role was that of a teacher who taught others about the kingdom so that they might teach others (see on vv.51-52).
2 This is the only one of the five major discourses in Matthew that is addressed, not to the "disciples" (in the broad sense of 5:1-2), but to the crowds. Therefore Matthew includes in it two major digressions (vv. 10-23, 36-43) to explain to his disciples the significance of parables and to interpret two of them. While these digressions doubtless took place after the public discourse, Matthew moves them back as parentheses so that the significance of the parables will not be lost to the reader. Some scholars contend that the crowds, unlike the Jewish leaders, are portrayed favorably, since they are the group Matthew wants immediately to reach. But that is farfetched. In Matthew, Jesus has already criticized "this generation" (11:16-24) and can treat the Jewish leaders as typical of it (12:38-39). Here the crowds are not given "the secrets of the kingdom" (v.11).
Matthew changes Mark's "taught" (4:2) to "told" (v.3a)-a change that has encouraged many to suppose that he is turning the parables into "proclamation narratives" (e.g., W. Wilkens, "Die Redaktion des Gleichniskapitels Mark.4 durch Matth.," Theologische Zeitschrift 20 : 305-27). On the other hand, Kingsbury (Parables, pp. 28-31) holds that the change from "taught" to "told" owes everything to the structure of Matthew's Gospel. After Matthew 12 Jesus never teaches or preaches to the Jews. So Matthew looks on this chapter as a sort of "apology." To base such large theological implications on the change of a single verb is not convincing, because Matthew often shows considerable independence in verbal expression. What he understands Jesus to be doing in the parables must be based on the exegesis of the whole chapter, and especially on that of Matthew 13:10-17, which purports to answer that very question. Kingsbury's view that Jesus does not teach or preach to the crowd after Matthew 12 is in any case manifestly wrong. Little of such teaching occurs before Matthew 12; most references to it are general (e.g., 4:23; 9:35); and after Matthew 12 we find similar remarks (13:54; 15:10; 21:23; cf. 22:16; 26:55; and implicitly 14:13-36; 15:29-31). These and similar reconstructions attempt to see in the antithesis between the "crowds" and the "disciples" a covert disjunction between the church and the synagogue. J. Dupont ("Point de vue," pp. 221-59) analyzes these efforts in detail and shows that the language is simply not specific enough to draw such far-reaching conclusions. In particular he shows that the disciples-crowds contrast relates to what is just or unjust and with either doing or not doing the will of the Father.
3a Jesus told the crowd "many things in parables." Before we examine them, however, three comments are needed.
1. The history of the interpretation of parables is very complex, and the number of new developments in parable scholarship has accelerated in recent years. This has been set forth concisely by J.G. Little ("Parable Research in the Twentieth Century," ExpT 87 [1975-76]: 356-60; 88 [1976-77]: 40-44, 71-75) and comprehensively by W.S. Kissinger (The Parables of Jesus: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography [Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1979]).
Commentators tended to interpret the parables more or less by appeal to allegory (with notable exceptions such as Augustine and, to a lesser extent, Calvin) till Adolph Jülicher's huge study (Die Gleichnisreden Jesu, 2 vols. [Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1910]), which contends that Jesus told not allegories but parables-simple stories with a single point. Traces of allegorical interpretation of parables in the Gospels must therefore be assigned to the postapostolic church. Studies by Dodd (Parables) and Jeremias (Parables) have proceeded along similar lines. Dodd has tried to show that some parables demonstrate the eschatological orientation of Jesus' preaching and the "presentness" of the kingdom, while Jeremias has established "laws" of parable transmission to determine how Jesus' simple stories were progressively changed in the process of oral and written retelling and application. Using these "laws," Jeremias has argued that we can strip off later accretions and discover what the historical Jesus really taught.
Two essays challenge Jeremias's view. Both Matthew Black ("The Parables as Allegory," BJRL 42 [1959-60]: 273-87) and Raymond E. Brown ("Parable and Allegory Reconsidered," NovTest 5 : 36-45) convincingly demonstrate that the allegory-parable distinction is too facile, that Jesus himself occasionally derived more than one or two points from certain of his parables, and that all "allegorizing" of the parables cannot be automatically assigned to the postapostolic church. Two things follow: (1) what Jeremias calls allegorization does not by itself prove secondary accretion; (2) as McNeile (p. 186) observed long ago, a certain unavoidable ambiguity is built into the parables. For it is not always easy to distinguish illustrative details and details that are merely part of the story structure. While there is room for difference of opinion here, the slight loss in certainty of meaning is more than compensated for by the greater flexibility in understanding the parables.
More recent developments in parable scholarship have moved in different directions. Hans Weder (Die Gleichnisse Jesu als Metaphern [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1978], pp. 69-75) distinguishes parabolic (as opposed to allegorical) elements as those tied to the narrative flow and lacking independent existence both in the narrative and its interpretation. His work largely follows the studies of Eta Linnemann (Parables of Jesus [London: SPCK, 1966]), D.O. Via (The Parables [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967]), and J. D. Crossan (In Parables [New York: Harper and Row, 1973]), who say that what distinguishes parable from allegory is not that only the former has one central point but that the former alone ties all its elements to one another within the parable's framework. These interconnections are determined not so much by a one-to-one link with the historical or theological situation to which the parable refers but by the demands of the story-viz., the parable itself. Therefore some parabolic elements may have a historical referent; others none. But where such "outside" connections are made, they are subsidiary to the connections "inside" the parable, the point of which is contained within the story's internal movement.
These are important insights. Yet those who have developed them unfortunately tend to think deeply on the literary level but naively on the historical one. Many recent interpreters tend to be far less conservative than Jeremias in what they ascribe to the historical Jesus. And it is astonishing how often, once they have finished their interpretations, they exhort their readers to choose authentic existence, trust the benevolence of the universe, or the like. Whatever else Jesus was, he was no twentieth-century existentialist! Coupling these literary studies with insights from "the new hermeneutic," Mary Ann Tolbert (Perspectives on the Parables: An Approach to Multiple Interpretations [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979]) tries to establish the legitimacy of interpreting the parables in different ways that depend largely on the stance of the interpreter, and argues that the parables' "dynamic indeterminacy" (p. 115) requires such an approach. Questions raised by such studies and the German works on which many of them are based cannot be handled here. For a responsible treatment of the issues involved, see A.C. Thiselton, The Two Horizons (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980).
Suffice it to say that historical doubts are not always tied as intimately to the genuine literary insights of these writers as they seem to think. Jesus, though he did indeed confront people and demand existential choices, did so within a message that was, and can still be, defined and defended propositionally. Moreover the criteria for distinguishing between Jesus' parables and church accretions to them are becoming less and less justifiable. Although there are many kinds of parables (see below), Thiselton is right in pointing out how many of them are designed to capture the listener and make him a participant, overturning his world view and leading him to call in question his most basic values (cf. esp. pp. 12-15, 344-47). These convictions undergird the following exposition.
2. Some areas of disagreement might be eliminated if more attention were paid to the word "parable" itself. Behind it stands the Hebrew masal (twenty-eight of thirty-three instances in the OT are rendered parabole [parable] in the LXX), a word referring to proverbs, maxims, similes, allegories, fables, comparisons, riddles, taunts, stories embodying some truth (Num 23:7, 18; 1 Sam 10:12; 24:13; Job 27:1; Pss 49:4; 78:2; Prov 1:6; Eccl 12:9; Isa 14:4; Ezek 12:2; 17:2; 24:3; 13; Mic 2:4; Hab 2:6). And the word "parable" in the NT comes close to duplicating this range (cf. esp. DNTT, 2:743-60). Thus a parable can be a proverb (Luke 4:23; something John calls a paroimia ["figure of speech," John 10:6; 16:25, 29; cf. Job 27:1 LXX]); a profound or obscure saying (Matt 13:35); a nonverbal symbol or image (Heb 9:9; 11:19); an illustrative comparison, whether without the form of a story (Matt 15:15; 24:32) or with (in the most familiar kind of "parable"-e.g., 13:3-9); an illustrative story not involving comparison of unlikes (e.g., the rich fool, Luke 12:16-21); and more. So it becomes obvious that much learned discussion actually focuses on only one or two kinds of NT "parables." Most, though not all, parables are extended metaphors or similes. Yet even so broad a definition as this eliminates some of the material listed above that NT writers label "parable." Most generalized conclusions about parables require painful exceptions; and on the whole it is best to deal inductively with parables, while at the same time being aware of the questions posed by recent studies and the scholarly analyses of some parable material.
One of the most responsible of these is Boucher's recent work, some of whose conclusions are adopted later (see on vv.10-17). But even Boucher narrows down parable to "a narrative having two levels of meaning" (p. 23) and confusingly defines allegory as merely "a device of meaning, and not in itself a literary form or genre" (p. 20), while insisting that allegory must extend a metaphor over a whole story, thus tying it inescapably to a form. By this definition some parables are allegories. Yet it is useful, for instance, to be able to distinguish allegories that are types from those that are not. Progress in understanding parables depends, it seems, in greater scholarly agreement over the semantics of the labels and in greater willingness to recognize the diversity of kinds of parables in the NT. (On this point, cf. G.B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible [London: Duckworth, 1980], pp. 161-67; Robert H. Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978], pp. 34-39.)
3. The structure of the third discourse (13:3-52) bears directly on its interpretation. Certain things are obvious. Two of the parables are also found in Mark and Luke: viz., the sower and its interpretation (13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 13-20; Luke 8:5-15) and the mustard seed (13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19). One is paralleled in Luke but not Mark (the yeast [13:33; Luke 13:20-21]), and the other four (or five; see below) are found only in Matthew. Mark 4:26-29 adds still another to this discourse; and both Mark 4:33 and Matthew 13:3 suggest there was a great deal more left unreported.
These are the agreed facts, but the structure of the discourse as it stands is more disputed (cf. Dupont, "Point de vue," pp. 23lf.: Kingsbury, Parables, pp. 12-15). The best analysis has been provided by David Wenham ("Structure," pp. 516-22), who argues, with Lohmeyer and Kingsbury (Parables), that v.52 is a parable (note the form "is like [plus dative]" and the opening words of v.53). The discourse may then be broken down into two parts of four parables each (vv. 3-33, 44-52). The first four are addressed to the crowds, the last four to the disciples. Wenham's distinctive contribution lies in identifying the emergent chiastic structure. Of the first four parables, the first stands apart from the other three, separated by discussion about the purpose of parables (vv. 10-17) and the interpretation of the parable (vv. 18-23).
Excerpted from Matthew by D.A. Carson Copyright © 1995 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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