Book Review: The Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus by William Barclay

This has previously been published under another title: And Jesus Said

Barclay’s writing style, at least in this book, is very informal and casual. It lends for easy reading and clear expression of his thoughts. He shows himself to be very knowledgable about ancient culture, and the culture of his time, pulling in relevant parables of Rabbis, celebrity figures, poets both modern and ancient, and stories. These tidbits are very enlightening and encouraging. However, he has a number of pitfalls. The tidbits, for us, would be the meat of the book! His perception of the Kingdom is incredibly wishy-washy, allowing any definition he wishes to use at the time of exegesis. This results in going against his own warning against allegory in exegeting the parables! In many cases his understanding of the parable is based on turning characters or elements of the parable into God, Jesus, and the Kingdom. For that reason, this book is not helpful.

We can be quite certain that Jesus never thought of the Kingdom of God in terms of worldly empire. Yet He did use this phrase and He did call Himself Son of Man, thereby showing that He did regard Himself as God’s chosen instrument in the bringing of His Kingdom…. It [the Kingdom] does not mean an area of land as we speak of the Kingdom of Britain, or Belgium or Holland. In means not the domain but the dominion of God. We can see then that the Kingdom of God does not mean a territory in which God is king; it means a condition of heart and mind and will where God is Lord of all… When they [Jewish people] spoke of the Kingdom they were still thinking of the old nationalistic dreams of world power and they would have liked to make Him a king like that. But He was thinking of doing the will of God and it was in their hearts and not on their earthly thrones He wished to reign pg 29, 30, 31

Sadly, we see Barclay has taken the liberal understanding of the Kingdom of God. Even sadder is the fact that he thoroughly explains the Jewish apocalyptic mindset and longing for God to act directly in this world to restore Israel just before he writes the above section! Pure denial of the Kingdom. Worse yet, he deviates from the Kingdom being just Jesus ruling in the heart of individuals as he defines above, to the corporate Church, and further to the affect of Christianity on the world. There seem to be no limits to which this allegory extends

As a result of this understanding he views many parables to share mere “rules of life”, or “universal principles” that help man live “better” (whatever that means). Along these lines, Jesus is ultimately trivialized to a wise teacher who wants to help man live their life. Rather than the controversial character who preaches judgment, challenges the authority of the religious establishment, teaches subversive wisdom, ultimately killed because of his claim to authentic Jewish Messiahship.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Does he give any Scriptural support for his claims in the quote you cited above? So often it seems that people will take the view quoting only the kingdom in your heart verses and ignoring others.

    Reply

  2. Posted by JohnO on May 31, 2007 at 9:38 am

    No his book is light on Scripture throughout.

    Reply

  3. wtf? who reads this stuff?

    Reply

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