Sunday, 3 April 2016
The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation,
Brad H Young, Hendricksen, 1998
Chapter 11, "The Find" (pp. 199-221), page 213-214
Brad Young presents another charming parallel to the Gospel parables in the story of Abba Judan, told in Vayikra Rabbah 5:4.
Abba Judan loved to support those studying Torah, often giving more than he could afford. One day he sold half his remaining tract of land in order to give, then went out to plough what remained. His cow broke a log down a hole in the ground and G-d showed Abba Judan a buried treasure making him wealthier than ever before and able to support even more Torah scholars.
In another rabbinic story, a saintly man eventually (!) discovered a huge pearl in the belly of a large fish he had bought to honour Shabbat, so was recompensed many times over for his dedication to honouring Shabbat (b.Shabbat 119a). Young comments:
Finding a costly pearl in the belly of a fish may seem somewhat far-fetched, but finding buried treasure in the Middle East was probably not unusual. In fact, the procedure was discussed by Josephus in his description of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, who knew that the Jews buried many valuables before the city fell.
Of the vast wealth of the city no small portion was still being discovered among the ruins. Much of this the Romans dug up, but the greater part they became possessed of through the information of of the prisoners, gold and silver and other most precious articles, which the owners in view of the uncertain fortunes of war had stored underground. (Josephus, War 7.113-115)
Summarising that this was a common occurence in the turbulent history of the Middle East, with perhaps the Dead Sea Scrolls being the largest example of such action, Young concludes:
When a parable of Jesus speaks about buried treasure, the historical situation made the exciting story of discovery much more plausible than it would be for our culture.