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Posted March 22, 2006

Book: A Rabbi Looks At Jesus’ Parables
Author: Frank Stern
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Lanham, MD, 2006, pp.292

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Intended to appeal to both Christians and Jews, A Rabbi Looks at Jesus’ Parables is an introduction to the teachings of Jesus, and compares the similarities and differences in Jesus’ thinking to other Jewish sources from first-century Palestine. Each chapter uncovers hidden messages within each of Jesus’ parables, and discusses each parable within its first-century religious and historical context. The book attempts to build bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews by exploring the notion that we share a common history.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Parable of the Tower Builder

Farmers built stone towers in their fields to store equipment and produce, for lodging, and as lookout posts to guard their crops from animals and thieves. Jesus told a parable about a farmer who never finished his tower.

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who week it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

Not every farmer built a tower on his property. It was a daunting and expensive task. In small agricultural communities, everyone in town must have noticed the tower under construction. After some time, they noted no further work on the structure. Only the foundation stood, rooted in the soil. The townspeople began to talk among themselves and mock the builder for wasting his time and money to build a foundation and no tower.

What Secrets Did the Parable Convey?

What was Jesus teaching?

Luke set this parable in a series of addresses to Jesus’ disciples. If the disciples were his audience, Jesus informed them, they had begun an arduous task – like building a tower. They ought to be sure from the outset that they had calculated the costs and understood the resources necessary to complete their mission. If not, they would suffer scorn and mockery.

According to Jeremias, Jesus was telling potentially new supporters not to commit at all rather than to fall short and fail.

Hultgren suggests a different message. The parable was intended not to drive away potential disciples but to get those already involved to remember that their task was far from finished. The tower was only partially built. They needed to “continue and complete” that which they had already begun.

Echoes of the Book of Proverbs

Those among his followers who knew the Hebrew Bible may have heard echoes of the book of Proverbs:

A house is built by wisdom, and is established by understanding; by knowledge are its rooms filled with all precious and beautiful things. A wise man [understands] strength, and a knowledgeable man exerts power; for by stratagems you wage war, and victory comes with much planning.

The question at the beginning of the parable was rhetorical. There was a plan, though most people couldn’t perceive it, because only the foundations had been established. But the rest of the tower would be completed soon. God would finish what He started. God’s kingdom would be established on earth. The construction had already commenced, and those who mocked would perish. “A house is built by wisdom, and is established by understanding.” Jesus’ followers possessed that understanding. They would enjoy “precious and beautiful things” as residents of God’s house. In due time, after much work and planning, they would celebrate the “victory.”

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction
2. The search for paradise
3. Jesus teaches in his hometown synagogue
4. The parable of the sower
5. The parable of the wheat and the weeds
6. Other parables about the Kingdom of God
7. More parables about the Kingdom of God
8. Parables about servants and workers
9. Parables about lamps, light, salt and cities
10. Parables about vineyards, orchards, and fields
11. Parables dealing with sheep and money
12. The parable of a rich man who decided to enjoy himself
13. Parables about dinners and banquets
14. Parables about fathers and sons
15. Special people
16. The parable of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan
17. The rich man, the beggar, and the unclean spirit
18. Two parables in John
19. Two last parables
20. Conclusions
21. The secrets Jesus taught