Charles W. Hedrick, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, has recently published a book on the parables of Jesus. The title is Parabolic Figures or Narrative Fictions. Seminal Essays on the Stories of Jesus (Cascade, 2016).
Hedrick contends that parables do not teach moral and religious lessons; they are not, in whole or part, theological figures for the church. Rather parables are realistic narrative fictions that like all effective fiction literature are designed to draw readers into their story worlds where they make discoveries about themselves by finding their ideas challenged and subverted—or affirmed.
The parables have endings but not final resolutions, because the endings raise new complications for careful readers, which require further resolution. The narrative contexts and interpretations supplied by the evangelists constitute an attempt by the early church to bring the secular narratives of Jesus under the control of the church’s later religious perspectives. Each narrative represents a fragment of Jesus’ secular vision of reality.
Finding himself outside the mainstream of parables scholarship, both ecclesiastical and critical, Hedrick explored a literary approach to the parables in a series of essays that, among other things, set out the basic rationale for a literary approach to the parables of Jesus. These early essays form the central section of the book, published in edited form along with previously unpublished critiques of a strictly literary approach to the parables and his response.
Dr. Hedrick will be at Barnes and Noble Springfield, Missouri on October 22 for the public to meet the author and book signing.