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Re-Imagine the World: An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus

Polebridge Press
RRP $28.95

Scott, Professor of New Testament and member of the Jesus Seminar argues in this book that Jesus’ parables re-imagined the world.

He attempts to interpret Jesus parables in the context in which they would first have been heard. The result is a radically different reading of the parables, one that would have shocked and outraged their original audience.

Re-Imagine the World asks the questions: just what was Jesus trying to say; do the parables cohere or fit together; and do they present a consistent picture of Jesus. In attempting to answer these questions, Scott uses a surveying model, establishing points on a map, then surveying the territory between those points.

Scott takes the parables of the leaven, the empty jar and the good Samaritan as his three coordinates. The Empire of God is at the core of this re-imagining that Jesus does. The re-imagining includes a redefinition of family, of God in a non-patriarchal world and of social relations.

In God’s Empire, the community which is part of this community of re-imagining can experience healing, the hospitality of the unclean and the presence of God in God’s non-empirical activity. This is also envisaged as a social community in which peasants accept each other, reject the perspective that they are in competition with each other, and reach out to enemies. Clearly such talk would have been a real threat to the Roman Empire and its interwoven system of patronage.

Interestingly, Scott draws parables not only from the four canonized Gospels, but also from the Gospel of Thomas. He also suggests that the parables have been diminished and distorted, even by the gospel writers, with the effect that they diminish the scandal of his original telling.

Re-Imagine the World is an easy to read, yet challenging study of the parables.

Reviewed by Karyl Davison Rural Ministry Consultant based in Central Queensland