Jesus the Storyteller
London: SPCK, 2014.
Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2015.
Available at Amazon.com.
By Chris Porter
The area of parables research has been an ongoing area of interest for many scholars seeking to see the thought world behind the Synoptics, and also highlight some more of the picture of Jesus as portrayed in these gospels. After a lengthy prolegomena and substantive literature review, Stephen Wright picks up on much of this prior research, but seeks to reframe this within modern discussions of sociological studies, incorporating narrative theory, orality memory theory and reception history (46-57). Situated within this frame Wright builds a picture of Jesus as a consummate storyteller, whose stories are deeply embedded and relatable to the community and society within which they were taught.
This analysis is helpfully subdivided into three primary sections: corpus analysis of each of the Synoptic gospels, individual story analysis divided by the probable location that they were first told, and a final summative chapter on Jesus as the story teller. Each of the analysis sections provides reasonable insight into the parables as couched within the sociological analysis, and should assist in furthering the ongoing research on the parables. In this way, Wright succeeds in his aim of illuminating ‘new and deeper insight through the “hearings” … traced in the book’ (187). Although at the same time those interested in how these ‘hearings’ may illuminate the man behind the stories may be left disappointed, as Wright himself acknowledges: ‘ some of the most accurate renderings of Jesus’ stories and of Jesus as a storyteller… come from [existing] recent scholarship. Nevertheless, this book provides useful insight into the world of the parables as refracted (a la Anthony LeDonne) socially embedded memories.
Chris Porter is a PhD student at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia.