Q & R: God in the parables

Here’s the Q:

Brian following your reading recommendation I have just finished Michael Hardins The Jesus driven life.
This I think has further guided me along a path of Jesus defining my understanding of scripture. I particularly liked his ‘true human’ picture of Jesus and his ‘Janus faced’ criticism of some biblical interpretations . I am very much inclined to think that much of what I have read of mimetic theory related theology makes sense. I am however concerned that some interpretations of Jesus parables seem unreasonable from yourself and others who support mimetic theory related theology. In Jesus parables of the banquet and of the talents the figures of the king and the master which have traditionally been interpreted as God are in a new interpretation being seen as the Roman emporer. To me this interpretation seems unlikely since Jesus seems to on the whole choose God as the main authoritarian figure in his parables. He seems to use parables for teaching aboat our relationship with God, not to describe the political behaviour of the day. My own thoughts are that there may be other reasons for these passages of retributive violence which means they aren’t alluding to eternity but the interpretation of the authority figure being the Roman emperor and not God isn’t a believable explanation for me. Do you have other explanations for what these parables are getting at?

Here’s the R:
First, I’m glad you read Michael Hardin’s book. I recommend it so often because I keep hearing from people how much it helps them read the gospels and understand Jesus in a fresh and liberating light.
On the parables, there are problems with certain parables however you interpret them. Like you, I assumed that the authority figure in a parable was ALWAYS a stand-in for God. But then, as an experiment, I tried another hypothesis: when someone is banished or executed in a parable, that might represent Jesus who will soon be banished and executed. It didn’t solve all problems, but it did solve many.
When you become sensitive to the socio-economic context for the parables, other problems arise. For example, vineyards were a luxury crop. Poor peasants were often made landless and reduced to day-laborers when rich investors acquired their farms and combined them to make large vineyards. That casts a dark shadow over some of the parables and leads one to look for fresh interpretations.
If Jesus’ purpose in the parables was not simply to convey a coded truth, but to make us “think and think again” (i.e. repent), then the fact that we can’t reduce them to simple allegories where this ALWAYS means that is a sign that he succeeded in his purpose in composing them.