Wednesday, 23 March 2016
The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation,
Brad H Young, Hendricksen, 1998
Chapter 11, "The Find" (pp. 199-221), page 200-202
Young points out that the Christian interpretation of these parables is often strongly christological and allegorical, with the treasure being Christ. Irenaeus said,
For Christ is the treasure which was hidden in the field, that is, in this world (for the field is the world); but the treasure hidden in the Scriptures is Christ.
Young disagrees with this approach, rebuking interpreters from imposing later theological ideas on the parables.
Everything that is known about Jesus and the technique he used to teach the people about his special mission opposes this type of christological interpretation. To imagine that the historical Jesus told a parable in which he himself appears as the great treasure accidentally discovered, or the diligently sought pearl of great price, is nonsense ... the Jesus of history did not ordinarily speak about his person in such a way, although he certainly had an acute self-awareness of his purpose and unique calling.
Origen too took a highly allegorical approach. With Yeshua as the treasure, Origen puts the Scriptures as the field, originally owned by the Jews but now passed on the Christians. Young rejects this too, arguing that:
The context ties the parable to the kingdom teachings of Jesus, not Christ himself. Jesus never intended his parable to teach that the Jewish people had been disinherited.
David Flusser understands "selling everything" as an allusion to "seeking furst the kingdom", so that in a kingdom context, willingness to give everything to join the kingdom of heaven is worth the risk. Brad Young comments that:
Origen's approach undermines the force of the kingdom's challenge. The allegorical features of his interpretation totally obscures the powerful call to discipleship. The parable is not about Jewish failure and Christian success but the essence of G-d's rule as a challenge to hear and obey!