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Reviewed by:
  • The Parables in Q by Dieter T. Roth
  • Gertrud Tönsing
Roth, Dieter T. 2018. The Parables in Q. The Library of New Testament Studies 582. London and New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Hardback. ISBN 978-0567678720. Pp. 471. $110.

This book presents a study of the parables in Q, which is a large and complex subject. To make it manageable, the author has taken several decisions.

Firstly, the book covers all texts that are contained in the double tradition, sometimes also those that have a Markan version if the version in Matthew and/or Luke is significantly different. It includes all the parabolic texts, whether they are longer narratives or short sayings, which are often called "similes" or "metaphors" rather than parables. The book makes no attempt to classify parables in different subgenres.

Secondly, the author does not try to give a final answer as to whether the text discussed comes from a written document Q or a common oral tradition. Some of the texts discussed show very high verbal agreement, while others show very low verbal agreement. The possible reasons are not discussed, and "Q" becomes a shorthand for "double tradition," but is not used in the sense of a particular document of which the content can be reconstructed, as in the Critical Edition of Q. The author does make the decision to exclude texts where the similarities are "too dispersed for a narrative structure to be discerned" (e.g., Luke 13:25–27 // Matt 25:1–12).

Thirdly, the author makes no attempt to reconstruct the original version of Q. He discusses extensively the difficulties with the project of reconstructing the Q document and warns against the pretence at certainty about original Q wording. There is no discussion about whether the version in Matthew or the one in Luke should be seen as more original. The question of what may or may not go back to the historical Jesus is left completely open.

There are both definite advantages and disadvantages to this mode of operation. The positive side is that texts are not artificially pressed into classifications, and that the text of Luke and the text of Matthew stand side by side, speaking for themselves rather than discussing a hypothetical reconstructed text. The author refutes the position that one can only start to analyse a parable once one has come to a conclusion as to the original version. He argues that there is a great deal one can say about a parable in its structure, narrative and metaphor without having to make definite decisions about the likely original version. He sees Q as an "intertext" [End Page 596] between Matthew and Luke. There are advantages to focusing on the story and its images and not the details of the wording, and the book contains a wealth of information on the images and characters in the various stories and sayings. It carries together a lot of scholarship on the parables and should make a useful resource for anyone working with these texts.

There are also disadvantages to the chosen method. While it is good to look at all the different types of texts, trying to analyse them all with the same method—e.g., using the concepts of plot and character—can get quite tedious and forced for parables that consist of only one or two sentences. It is also repetitive, as many images are found in different parables, but are fully discussed under each section. The section under each set of texts that discusses the "parable in Q" also draws conclusions, which seem to imply a position in a written document for all of these texts, even though making a decision on this was expressly excluded. Trying to remain simply with the generic common storyline in this discussion makes it in some places so general as to be almost meaningless. Very interesting differences between Matthew and Luke are simply ignored for the sake of focusing on the commonalities. All of the double tradition parables are used to sketch a contour of Q. It is not always clear what the difference for the author is if Q is not seen as a "text" with a...


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