Subversive Parables

talents-page1.inddYesterday I was privileged to be with a great group of people who work for or are linked with Together For Peace in Leeds. We looked at an on-the-ground attempt at peacemaking in communities, and reflected a little on some of the thinking that has helped us on our individual and collective journeys.

One guy who came in for a very honourable mention was William Herzog, who’s book ‘Parables As Subversive Speech’ is a really helpful piece of work.

The discussion reminded me of a comic project that the mighty Steve Beckett and I collaborated on a few years ago for a magazine called ‘A Pinch Of Salt’. It was a Herzog inspired version of ‘The Parable of the Talents’. Download and enjoy.

talents-page1 and talents-page2

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9 thoughts on “Subversive Parables

  1. Hi Simon! Thanks for this. You may see I posted a comment on Keith Hebden’s facebook link to your parable interpretation. I’d be interested to know your view on Andrew Parker’s interpretation. You’ll find it here http://bibleincartoons.co.uk/books/searinglight.pdf#page=3 . It’s parable 33 on p.64. Andrew’s suggestion isn’t that those who live in solidarity with the marginalised can expect to get kicked but that such people must be daring and prepared to take risks. I’d say it’s a more hopeful interpretation.

  2. A nice try but the thrust of the story is clearly that the third servant was wrong to think he could get away by burrying his master’s money (and so his own head!) in the dirt. So your interpretation can’t be right! The parable is about taking risks.

    1. In brief, I would say its all a question of hermeneutic – and personally I’m not averse to either interpretation, I’m not sure I can see why you think that the main thrust is that the third guy thought he could get away with burying the money, I would say that depends upon the lens you use to read the story. However, most people say its to do with risks, and I’m not totally anti that idea, I just think that Herzog proposes a very interesting and challenging alternative.

      1. I definitely think that there’s something that doesn’t quite mesh with the ‘normal’ understanding of the parable and the servants response. His actions don’t seem to match up to what he says he knows about the master unless he is deliberately doing so in protest.

        Luke 19 is also interesting, coming immediately after the story of Zaccheus and with the extra comments about ‘killing my enemies in front of me’.

        Matthew 25 is immediately before a parable about how important helping the poor will have been on judgement day.

        I don’t think it’s conclusive, but it’s a parable that as far as I know is not explained in the text itself, and there are some interesting tensions with the normal understanding.

  3. Parable is a speech-form designed to make something evident by presenting a parallel – in this case a story about a capitalist and his underlings. This parable claims it’s evident you can’t be such an underling if you refuse to take risks since risk-taking is what the master is all about. If you can’t see that then you are trying to avoid something since there is no doubt about the matter. What Jesus was using this story to clarify has been lost but we can be absolutely certain it had nothing to do with capitalism so Herzog is up the creek!

  4. Yes I know it goes against the grain but the thing about a parable story is that every word is carefully chosen in order to make a particular point. This means it is possible to see when a parable is being abused – as is often the case in the New Testament since the reason why Jesus’ parables were told had, quite naturally, been forgotten. So I stand by what I said. There is NO DOUBT as to the point this story was designed to make and every doubt as to how it was originally used!

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