Re: Luke 16:1-7 The clever agent

From: Maurice A. O'Sullivan (
Date: Fri Feb 12 1999 - 07:52:26 EST

At 22:17 11/02/99 EST, wrote:
>Let me clarify a point in my earlier post. I would see the use in 16:1 as
>being an actual problem or "just" charge against the steward, not simply
>slander in the sense of a charge that might not have been justified. The
>reason for taking that option on the usage of the term is due to the link I
>see with the context in Luke 15.

Checking with Fitzmyer [Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Luke.
Anchor Bible , 28A. New York: Doubleday, 1983.]
I find that while he does recognise the link between the parables of chap.
15 and 16, he also stresses the shift in theme:
Whereas the theme in chap. 15 was joy over the finding of what was lost, in
 this chapter it has to do mainly with the proper attitude toward and use
of naterial possessions.

In analysing the use of DIABALLW, he draws on the examples of both usages
cited in BAGD, and concludes that " as the story develops here " there is
no negative connotation.

That is a fascinating phrase of Fitzmyer's : " as the story develops here ".
It is a part of the story-telling aspect of a parable which we are in
danger of losing when we go chasing too much precision, particularly in the
opening part of a parable.
We should relish the ambiguity involved in the passing thought: " in what
sense is DIABALLW being used here?", and in the true tradition of the
audience for oral story-telling we shoudl be willing to wait for the final

You will often hear discussions on the remoteness, for a contemporary
audience, of the pastoral imagery of much of the parables.
But much harder to penetrate, for the same audience, is the deliberate,
teasing, conundrum-like nature of the parables. Don't forget the Hebrew
_mashal_ ( which underlies the LXX PARABOLH ) covers a lot more than
straightforward comarison; metaphor, riddling phrases, etc.

In my country, the oral story-teller flourished until a couple of
generations ago; he can still be heard, albeit in a more polished form as
performed by professional actors, but the bones of the form are still

I should think there are many on this list with missionary experience in
the third world who could draw on that experience in reflecting on the
technique employed in the parables.


Maurice A. O'Sullivan
[Bray, Ireland]

'Mythology is what never was but always is.'
--- Stephen of Byzantium.

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