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The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  299 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
The world’s foremost Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan shows us how the parables present throughout the New Testament not only reveal what Jesus wanted to teach but also provide the key for explaining how the Gospels’ writers sought to explain the Prophet of Nazareth to the world. In this meaningful exploration of the metaphorical stories told by Jesus and the Gospel ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by HarperOne (first published January 22nd 2012)
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May 02, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it
The more I read from modern scholars about the historical Jesus, the more I realize I don't know very much about Jesus. This book from leading historian John Dominic Crossan is slow starting and there's a bunch of metadiscourse throughout ("first, I will say... then I will say"), but by the end of part one and throughout part two it was all groundbreaking to me.

Crossan's basic assertion is that the gospel writers each had an agenda that deeply colored their interpretation of Jesus's parables an
Jan 17, 2016 Rod rated it did not like it
Let's get our priorities straight: John MacArthur has a book called "The Parables of Jesus". Please read THAT instead of anything Crossan has to desperately imply.

Now on to the liberal progressive Ungodly Crap of the Jesus Seminar...

Quote (pg. 251)
"I conclude that Jesus really existed, that we can know the significant sequence of his life...but that he comes to us trailing clouds of fiction, parables by him and about him, particular incidents as miniparables and whole gospels as megaparables."

Sep 10, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing
The writings of John Dominic Crossan (Professor Emeritus at DePaul University) have sometimes been seen as controversial, but his scholarship is solid and his logic compelling. And there is a danger in reading his many books – the danger that your assumptions about the Biblical text will be challenged. You will hear the text differently and learn about the cultural environment that shaped it; you will encounter questions you never could have imagined before.

Crossan’s latest offering, The Power o
Rory Cooney
Feb 21, 2015 Rory Cooney rated it really liked it
I just finished The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. So many wonder insights... Highly recommended. Crossan ends thus: "The power of Jesus’s parables challenged and enabled his followers to co-create with God a world of justice and love, peace and nonviolence. The power of Jesus’s historical life challenged his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all? “Ashes denote,” wrote ...more
David Crumm
Mar 18, 2012 David Crumm rated it it was amazing
Bible Scholar Expands the Importance of Jesus’s Teaching Style

Famous Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan, a popular guide in TV documentaries about the ancient world, hopes his newest book will free more people from the trap of trying to believe that everything in the Bible is literally true. As we follow him in this new tour through the Gospels, Crossan promises a bonus: If we free up our expectations about how the New Testament teaches God’s truth, we may discover fresh inspiration in these tim
Lee Harmon
Apr 16, 2012 Lee Harmon rated it it was amazing
Crossan ponders, “I had observed that the parabolic stories by Jesus seemed remarkably similar to the resurrection stories about Jesus. Were the latter intended as parables just as much as the former? Had we been reading parable, presuming history, and misunderstanding both?”

In other words, are the stories of Jesus really book-length parables? Crossan presents three such parables in the Old Testament: Job, Ruth and Jonah. Ruth challenges a part of the Bible, Jonah challenges the whole of the Bib
Joe Cummings
Apr 26, 2013 Joe Cummings rated it really liked it
For people who enjoy John Dominic Crossan at his most thoughtful and scholarly best this will be a delight to read. The importance of parables in the four gospels of the New Testament has been a reoccurring theme in his works since “In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus” which was first published in 1973. In “The Power of the Parable,” he concludes that gospels according to Matthew, Mark , Luke and John are mega-parables about the historical Jesus who himself used parables as a ...more
Mar 28, 2014 Cici rated it it was ok
This book has a deplorably bad writing style. Perhaps a direct transcript from a lecture but does not lend it well in book form. I can't get pass the smug "I will tell you -- I am telling you -- Just as I told you earlier" professorial tone of condescension. The parables are intriguing by themselves, but I do not have enough trust in the author to be led gently into their mysteries. I need a more generous author to understand the parables in Bible instead spending much time cringing from the ...more
Diana Deming
Feb 27, 2015 Diana Deming rated it it was amazing
To those not familiar with John Dominic Crossan's books , the beginning may be a rough start. For those who adhere to the bible literally then you will not find yourself comfortable in his books. As a student at a seminary that welcomes my opinions and my challenges, I have found I am not alone in the classroom. Oh, how wonderful to read and discuss Crossan's work without being the first to address the problematic justification of Jesus' words. If you feel guilty deconstructing Jesus in this ...more
Alan Crowley
Nov 24, 2016 Alan Crowley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finest Scholarship Made Accessible

Crosson models the very nonviolent pedagogy he works to explain. Though he writes in the genre of academic scholarship, he does so with a generosity and humility that welcomes all readers. He makes his methodology so transparent that he invites participation rather than exclude with intimidating virtuosity. This book is theology at its best, a shared journey of deep questioning and inspiring discovery.
Nov 14, 2013 Charlotte rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual-ethics
The Power of Parable was my Tuesday morning book discussion groups most recently finished selection, and one that the whole group found extremely interesting. John Dominic Crossan is a Jesus scholar and his work is controversial, particularly those who do not want their long held beliefs challenged!

In the first half of the book, Crossan focuses on the parables Jesus told in the new testament (though for each of the three types of parables he talks about, he refers to old testament stories that f
Oct 25, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it
With the tagline, "How fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus" you know this is going to be another wild ride from Crossan.

Crossan is a big name in the Historical Jesus circle. His scholarly work explores what was actually going on in the First Century Israel and what was embellished in our Bible.

This book does not shy away from Crossan's belief that many of the stories found in the four Gospels are not factual. Crossan uses this book to explain that the Gospels are in fact parables about J
Jun 10, 2012 Naum rated it really liked it
Been immersed in the Parables of Jesus for the last year or so, leading a group Bible study on the subject, and it has been a profound experience, revisiting and re-examining the parables.

Here, Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan takes a different route, exploring not just the meaning of *parable* itself, but develops a typology of parables - breaking them down into "riddle" parables, "example" parables, and "challenge" parables. Also, the arc of violence is alluded to, that it starts rhetoricall
Rick Edwards
This is an important book. Crossan makes a strong case for the parabolic character of the gospels. At the same time, he does not finally persuade me that "parable" is a satisfactory category for these powerful and persuasive christological narrattives. What the author does accomplish most effectively, I think, is to highlight the distinctive concerns brought to the four canonical gospels by their authors. He seems to find it helpful to use the categories of "challenge" and "attack" parables to ...more
Robert Rosenthal
Jan 26, 2014 Robert Rosenthal rated it really liked it
This is a well-argued, tightly organized, scholarly disquisition. It classifies parables into three distinct types: riddles, examples, and challenges. Crossan gives examples of each and shows how each functions across a variety of texts including the Hebrew Bible and the parables told by Jesus. He places these in context, explaining how they would be heard and interpreted by a 1st Century Jewish listener (for whom they were after all intended). This turns out to yield a very different ...more
B.J. Richardson
Dec 22, 2014 B.J. Richardson rated it liked it
Always readable, I absolutely love Crossan's history. When he is dealing in historic fact, he is spot on and he has an amazing ability to pull in facts and facets of the history just before, or during the time of Christ to illustrate points I would not have considered.

However, when Crossan is dealing with his interpretation of those facts or talking about his views on scripture or Jesus, I can usually say that I cannot disagree more. In Power of Parable, Crossan defines three types of parable:
Jan 09, 2013 Julie rated it it was amazing
In Seminary I was encouraged to think about what the themes, or general storyline of the four Gospels was, as part of the exegetical process. This Crossan does very neatly in this book. Starting with the Old Testament a books of Ruth, Jonah and Job, continuing to the parables that Jesus told, and finally to the stories that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John told about him, Crossan suggests ways to understand these works that I fund fresh and worth thinking about. I wish I'd had this book when I was ...more
Oct 17, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A look at the different spins on the events in Jesus' life in the four gospels. His discussion of the different types of parables in the Old Testament was interesting, but it wasn't until he drew parallels with Roman history that I got the connection with Jesus. For example: Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, thereby precipitating the Civil Wars which led to Augustus Caesar and later emperors. Different Roman writers saw this as a good thing or a bad thing and gave Caesar different motivations. ...more
Ed Wojniak
Crossan offered me three (at least) good nuggets of thought: 1) Each of the Gospels are often framed by the words "The Gospel according to ..." Fascinating idea that reminded me that the authors were human, each of whom presented what they saw, experienced and learned through the lens of their own perception. Human words divinely inspired. 2) Jesus spoke in parables and not through direct, objective, 1-2-3 "telling-us-what-to-do-and-think" steps in order to engage us - our minds and sentiments - ...more
Sep 04, 2012 Gary rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for anyone wanting a deeper and more thorough grasp of the Christian Bible. Crossan has spent his prodigious career studying the 'historic' Jesus and does a wonderful job of contexting the Christian Biblical writings to their time and place in Roman and earlier history.

If you are a fundamentalist 'the Bible is the inerrant, literal word' type, then this book is not for you. But if you want to understand the thrust of the philosophy and message in a way that does not req
Fred Kohn
Mar 25, 2014 Fred Kohn rated it really liked it
This book was a small letdown after The Greatest Prayer: A Revolutionary Manifesto and Hymn of Hope, only because of the supreme excellence of the latter book. The current book is a bit less scholarly and a bit more: "This is what I think". Nevertheless Crossan's status as one of the foremost thinkers in Christianity today, if not the foremost, is not challenged significantly by this book. I still found plenty of material to add to my notes, and plenty of interesting ideas to ponder.
Nov 02, 2015 Harley rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed Crossan's comparison of "types" of parables to the individual writer's style and intended purpose. While I had a lot of fun first reading a portion of the book, and then reading the numerous Biblical references eluded to, it got rather laborious for me at times.
Most often I found myself reading and contemplating then re-reading and then contemplating a little it required some dedicated attention and devoted research time for me to thoroughly digest the content (which is a wo
Jun 10, 2012 Sally rated it liked it
As usual, Crossan is very clear about the evidence he uses to form his conclusions, which is one of the things I like best about his writing - he lays it all out for you so you are able to draw your own conclusions, which may differ from his. He examines individual parables from the old and new testaments; looks at entire books of the Hebrew bible as parables; and finally approaches each of the gospels as a parable challenging its readers. I got several new insights that made the book well worth ...more
Maurynne  Maxwell
Jul 12, 2012 Maurynne Maxwell rated it really liked it
Good points, wish he had cut much of it. Not liking the "here's what I'm going to tell you, here's how I'm going to tell you, here it is, I'm telling you, here's what I told you style. Just the points and the backup, please. But he's an older, academic writer. I like how he thinks John is the ultimate outsider. I like how he builds the case that Jesus was a pacifist, and builds the case that all the anti-Semitism in the New Testament is man-based, not God-based. He leaves Jesus the radical, ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing
As someone proud not to call herself a Christian, I have never wanted to read any parts of the Bible. Until I read this book. Crossan presents an interesting study of the literary parables that created the Bible and how they were created and the goals behind them, using both the fictional parables and the stories about Jesus himself. Powerful and recommended for Christians and non-believers alike.
Len Knighton
Jun 12, 2015 Len Knighton rated it liked it
I highlighted quite a bit of this book for future sermons but found it very difficult readings in spots. I often felt like I was reading the transcript of a series of classes taught by Crossan. He found it necessary to spend considerable time and space telling us what he was going to cover in his chapters and how he was going to do so. He also reviews the material.
I have attended lectures by Crossan and find him more interesting as a speaker than a writer.
Bryant Anderson
Aug 08, 2012 Bryant Anderson rated it liked it

Crossan asks the genre of parable to accomplish too much in this book, to the point that it loses is distinctive meaning and the reader is left wondering exactly what a parable is rather than having a firmer idea. That being said, Crossan really elucidates the parables within the textual settings of the gospels, which helps clarify the various perspectives and intentions--laudable and otherwise--of the evangelists.
Ryan Miller
Dec 20, 2012 Ryan Miller rated it it was amazing
Brilliant way of re-examining the stories told by Jesus and told about Jesus. Believers who need every letter of the Bible to be literally true will not appreciate Crossan's book, which examines how the different gospel writers shaped their descriptions of Jesus based on the messages they wanted to send to specific groups, from specific viewpoints. Crossan's descriptions and ideas are both challenging and inspiring, pushing me to read the New Testament in a new way.
Aden Dohn
May 31, 2013 Aden Dohn rated it really liked it
'sgood. excellent analysis of parables in the ancient Mediterranean greco-roman and judean traditions(i'm dumb as shit i don't know an fuckin rat turd thing about this). especially enjoyed the comparisons of parabolic traditions about julius caesar crossing the rubicon and the parabolic traditions of jesus's life and how history and fiction intermingle vis a vis the POWR of PARBLES. Garglrefarhff. I also recommend John Dominic Crossan's Jesus: A revolutionary Biography. good read.
Mary Gail O'Dea
Jan 22, 2013 Mary Gail O'Dea rated it it was amazing
Crossan is scholarly, clear, and very funny. The book looks at various parables BY Jesus in different Gospels, identifying the particular sociopolitical perspectives of the Gospel writers. He then looks at the parables ABOUT Jesus that are contained in the New Testament. Enlightening and enjoyable.
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John Dominic Crossan is generally regarded as the leading historical Jesus scholar in the world. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Birth of Christianity, and Who Killed Jesus? He lives in Clermont, Florida.

John Dominic Crossan was born in Nenagh County in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1934. He was educated in Ireland and
More about John Dominic Crossan...

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“If an audience kept complete silence during a challenge parable from Jesus and if an audience filed past him afterward saying, 'Lovely parable, this morning, Rabbi,' Jesus would have failed utterly.” 3 likes
“The Greek is importantly different: “Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” 0 likes
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