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February 1, 2012
Jesus the Raconteur
The backbone of the Jesus tradition is best preserved in certain of his brief quips, and most particularly in the stories he told. Virtually all of the stories attributed to Jesus in early Christian tradition are thought by even the most critical scholars to have originated with Jesus. There is more disagreement among scholars over which quips originated with Jesus.
Remember that Jesus died somewhere in the early 30s, and the earliest gospel was not written until 70 or a little later. His stories circulated in oral form for at least a generation, being repeated by unknown persons until they were finally written down by the gospel writers around the middle of the first century, at least a half century after Jesus first told them. The gospel writers edited them to fit their narratives and also provided them with conclusions and interpretations.
Here is one of his stories with the later literary context provided by the gospel writer stripped away:
A certain wealthy man employed a manager, and the manager was reported to him as frittering away the employer’s property. And having summoned him, he said to him: “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your managerial activities, for you are no longer able to manage my property.”
(Translation by CWH)
Something to ponder:
Imagine yourself in the early part of the first century somewhere in Galilee hearing this story from an itinerant Jewish story-teller for the first time. What would you make of it then? What do you make of it now? What is it about? What title would give it? Do you find it relevant to your own life in any way?
Charles W. Hedrick
Posted by Charles Hedrick at 1:46pm