How Jesus’ Parables Help Disprove the ‘Legend’ Theory

How Jesus’ Parables Help Disprove the ‘Legend’ Theory By ERIK MANNING for The Stream

Skeptics frequently argue that the Gospels are not based on eyewitness accounts. They were composed decades after Jesus’ death by people not familiar with first-century Israel. And they wrote after hearing stories passed down to them. And those stories came from others who heard these stories. It’s one long game of telephone. How can we know if we have the actual words of Jesus?

One piece of evidence that goes against the telephone game theory is the parables of Jesus. The gospels present Jesus as a formal teacher or rabbi, with disciples. New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams notes that the Gospels use the word disciple or disciples 195 times. They also describe Jesus as a teacher or a rabbi 62 times. If Jesus was a rabbi in the traditional sense, his students would probably memorize his teaching.

Now think about parables for a moment. They are simple and easy to remember. They have a quality that sticks with you even after hearing them only once. A gifted communicator like Jesus understood this. And if he taught for three years, he’d likely repeat the same parables. The disciples could then pass them on to others without effort.

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Now let’s dig in and look at parables, again with the help of Peter J. Williams. I’ll be drawing from his book Can We Trust the Gospels? Before we jump in, we should note that there is no consensus on how many parables are in the Gospels. There are at least 40 in the Synoptics, and John contains few if any.

The Parables in the Synoptics ((Matthew, Mark, and Luke) occur in material unique to each writer. They’re also in the material found in all three Gospels. And they’re in material shared between Matthew and Luke. Jesus tells more parables than any ancient rabbi we have a record of.

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