Think of Jesus' parables as television commercials, biblical scholar Brad Young said.
“It's something that grabs your attention and gets you involved in the story,” said Mr. Young, a prolific author and professor of Judaic-Christian studies at Oral Roberts University.
He will lead a daylong seminar Sept. 12 at Pilgrim Church on the Hebraic roots of Jesus' parables.
Mr. Young said the parables must be studied within the context of 1st century Judaism and the people and customs of Jesus' time.
Jewish teachers told stories to entertain their listeners and at the same time deliver a moral lesson. At the end, the story “forces a decision, it forces people to respond,” he said.
As an example, Mr. Young cited the Bible story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David in 2 Samuel, Chapter 12, after the king covered up his affair with Bathsheba by sending her husband, Uriah, to the front lines where he was killed in battle.
In the Bible, Nathan tells King David a story about a rich man with a large flock of sheep and cattle who took a ewe lamb from a poor man's meager flock, and the rich man had it prepared as a meal for his guest.
When King David heard the story, he “burned with anger” over the rich man's deed, but Nathan told him, “You are the man!”
There are more than 2,000 rabbnical parables in all of Jewish literature, Mr. Young said, and many parables in the Bible are similar to the story-based lessons of Jewish writings.
“We have every reason to believe that Jesus knew the parables taught by rabbis and teachers,” he said. “Jesus was Jewish; he never changed religions. He took the teaching methods that were being used at the time and used them in a powerful, creative, and imaginative way.”
He said approximately a third of the teachings of Jesus are in parables, and while Jesus did not invent the genre, “he really empowered them with the message of the kingdom,” he said.
Mr. Young, 54, who is fluent in Hebrew and Greek, said many Christians have trouble understanding parables because “they tend to take them out of the original life setting in Judaism” and allegorize them.
He said he has been fascinated by the parables ever since he began researching his doctoral dissertation at Hebrew University of Jerusalem more than 25 years ago.
A native of Tulsa, Okla., he received a bachelor's degree at Oral Roberts in 1978 before studying for his master's and doctorate in Jerusalem.
He joined the faculty of Oral Roberts in 1987 and is the author of numerous books, including The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation; Paul the Jewish Theologian; Meet the Rabbis, and Jesus the Jewish Theologian.
Mr. Young is the founder of the Gospel Research Foundation and is finishing a new translation of the Bible that has been 15 years in the making.
Brad Young will lead a seminar on “Hebraic Renewal and Ancient/Fresh Understandings of the Rabbi Yeshua's (Jesus') Teachings using Parables” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 12 at Pilgrim Church, 1375 Sylvania Ave. Registration, $15 for materials and lunch, is required by calling the church at 419-478-6012.
— David Yonke