Monday, January 25, 2016

Authentic Sayings of Jesus: Parable of the Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard

In the subject parable found in Mark 12:1-9, Jesus speaks of the owner of a vineyard sending his servants to the tenants of the vineyard to gather its fruit.  The tenants beat and reject all of the servants sent, so in the end the owner decides to send is only beloved son to accomplish the task.  The tenants, recognizing the son as the heir to the vineyard, end up murdering him to take possession of the vineyard.

This parable is multiply attested in the skeptical eyes of the Jesus Seminar as it is found in the Gospel of Thomas.   The parable also shows Semitisms (traces in the narrative of Aramaic or Hebraic linguistic forms1) as it fits with a Jewish milieu with its images and themes such as Israel as the vineyard, the owner as God, rebellious tenants, and the figure of a son-all of which are found in rabbinic parables.  Further, interpretative nuances rooted in the Aramaic targums of Isaiah 5 are found in this parable.  Finally, we see the dissimilarity criterion, as it is unlikely the Christian church added meaning into the parable later as concern over the ownership of the vineyard after it is taken from the rebellious tenants and the resurrection of the slain son are not present.2

For these reasons, this saying of Jesus is deemed authentic.  Craig writes that this parable also tells us about Jesus’ self-understanding.  It tells us that Jesus “thought of himself as God’s only Son, distinct from all the prophets, God’s final messenger, and even the heir of Israel itself.”3

This series identifying authentic sayings of, or events surrounding, Jesus will continue again next week.

Stand firm in Christ,

1.  Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith:  Christian Truth and Apologetics; Third Edition. Page 298.
2.  The multiple attestation and dissimilarity criteria are defined earlier in the series.

3.  Ibid. Page 311.

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