Jesus was a great storyteller, and his most effective teachings were communicated in parables. Whether explaining how faith can grow from the size of a tiny mustard seed, showing us the true meaning of generosity with the widow who contributed her last "mite" or penny, demonstrating forgiveness with the welcomed return of the prodigal son, or sharing the good Samaritan's example of social responsibility, Jesus' beloved stories have resonated and inspired us for over two millennia. In this book, another great storyteller, biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine, provides the Technicolor background of Jesus's time and culture to reveal the deeper meaning of these classic teaching stories.
Jesus' parables were so effective because they were taken from everyday life. But everyday life in first-century Palestine was very different from today, and this has led to some unfortunate misunderstandings -- anti-Semitism, misogyny, or just plain boredom. After exposing these "problems with parables," Levine takes the reader back in time to understand how the first (Jewish) hearers of the parables understood them: their connection to first-century economy and agriculture, to their social customs and morality, to Jewish scriptures and Roman culture. With this revitalized understanding, Levine then interprets these moving stories for the contemporary reader, showing how the parables are not just about Jesus, but are also about us.