Re: Bultmann on parables. I'm wondering...

From: Jeffrey Gibson (
Date: Wed Jun 18 1997 - 14:36:56 EDT

On Wed, 18 Jun 1997, kdlitwak wrote:

> ... so much has been written in critique of his [Bultmann's] work, and
> the view that Jesus' parables have no allegorical elements so
> nonsensical, that I'm wondering why anyone would want to bother with
> anything Bultmannhad to say about parables today.

> I can't think of a good reason at this point to
> consult Herr Bultmann on anything. I wold hope we are well past his
> existentialist-driven hermeneutic, and his hermeneutic was interesting
> in light of his assertion that we can't do presuppositionless exegesis.
> I think he missed his own point! I think there's an unassailable case
> against his view of creative Christianprophets generating saying of the
> Lord and there is so much problematic about his view of form criticism
> that I can't see a way personally to redeem it (even if you could
> accurately determine a form, and know exactly how it came to its current
> place in the narrative that would still not tell you anything about the
> facticity of the account in light of its form). SO maybe I'm missing
> something. Why should we read Bultmann?
I would like to take heed of Carlton's plea to drop this thread, as it
really does not deal with the Grrek text, but I feel two things need to
be said before doing so.

First, it is questionable whether Bultmann is wrong with respect to
saying that the authentic parables of Jesus are not allegorical. The
explanation of the parable of the Seeds/Sower in Mk and par. - which is
the place that people who want to see Jesus using allegory go - seems to be
derived from Mark. But even if it be admitted that Bultmann was wrong on
this matter, and that there is sometimes allegory used in Jesus'
parables, we may not conclude (as the statement above seems dangerously
inclined to do, if I read it correctly), that there is
allegory in *all* of Jesus' parables or that parables are allegories.

Second, it is also questionable that Bultmann's taxonomy of parables
(which, by the way, even Dom Crossan and B. Scott employ, if only
sometimes as a foil), let alone of any other of the sayings and narrative
material in the Gospels or early Christian literature, is hermeneutically
driven. It arises from comparitive literary analysis and theories of
transmission of oral tradition based in researches of folk literature, not
existentialist philosophy. It seems to me that it is a failure to make the
distinction between Bultmann as source and literary critic and Bultmann as
exegete and theologian, which leads to such "throwing out the baby with
the bathwater" questions as posed above.

A critique of the adequacy of Bultmann's literary classifications needs
to procede on comparative literary grounds, not on poisoning of the well

Jeffrey Gibson

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