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The authors of fable books are never far from their readers. They are gentle teachers and rebellious upstarts, patriotic poets and subversive gadflies, itinerant sophists and restless captives, lettered elites and destitute day laborers. Through their prefaces and prologues, the author crafts his persona, paints the fable background, establishes his relationship to “you” his reader, and lays out the framework through which to read his work. I feel that I donned more of these mantels in the production of these books than I care to admit—certainly not always the illustrious ones I would aspire to wear.

These books were written together as my doctoral dissertation at the University of Notre Dame between the Autumn of 2017 and the Spring of 2019. After more than a year of going almost untouched, they were heavily revised and expanded into the present shape at the end of 2020 in Mainz. Though I could not work on them in the period between for reasons of health, disaster, and plague, they were not gathering dust. Since the dissertation, I have carried this manuscript, shuffled together with my immigration papers, on several harrowing trans-continental moves—some voluntary, others not. It spent many lock-down months with me in a London basement, was worked over in a Berlin hotel, on a Mediterranean island, in a Midwestern home, atop a statue in an empty Trafalgar Square, and in a comfortable office from which I now write. I am grateful to finally deposit the manuscript now in publication after such a delay.

The research was done in one of the best library facilities in the world for theology and biblical studies at the University of Notre Dame. It was also done in fits and starts during the year afterward with almost no library access. The benefits of both appear on these pages. Had I not been so limited at one stage, I would not have been forced to read works in the public domain, where I discovered some of my forerunners in Gottlob Christian Storr and Hugo Grotius. Between them and Adolf Jülicher, I have not a bad cloud of witnesses for advancing a thesis provocative in the author’s century.

In the course of my discussions, I engage with many earlier interpreters of the “parables,” though perhaps not as many as one might expect. Though I know their work and hold it in high regard, I have carved a different path. When I do address parable scholarship, it is often because I find it an obstacle rather than an aid. Although I contend with parable scholars, I hope that I have done so without contentiousness. Those parable books that I cite the most often, I do so not because I disagree with them any more than others, but because they are my favorites. While my bags hemorrhaged many items along the way, of the few possessions I did not sell when writing these pages, their books were there to carve into my shoulder as I carried them over many months.

Times like these remind one of what they are grateful for, and what I wish to express the most are my feelings of gratitude. I am grateful to the inspiring and enriching Notre Dame community, to my fellow students, to the support staff of the theology department, the graduate school, and the Hesburgh Library, and to the faculty. For agreeing to pass me, thanks are due to my dissertation committee, comprised of John T. Fitzgerald, Cilliers Breytenbach, Mary Rose D’Angelo, Blake Leyerle, and John P. Meier. I am grateful to Jim and Mary VanderKam, for their mentorship both spiritual and professional, for helping me make it through the flood, and for meeting the flood of requests for letters of support thereafter. I am especially grateful for the support of my supervisor, John Fitzgerald, who shepherded me through not only the dissertation phase but the five years of my doctoral program. I am grateful for his continued support even now as I find my way.

The 2019–2020 academic year was a challenging time to be a visiting professor, but the Stippvisite at Durham University afforded me the opportunity to indebt myself to scholars off of the American continent. Many have gone out of their way to support me, including John Barclay and Francis Watson at Durham, George van Kooten at Cambridge University, Kasper Bro Larson at Aarhus University, Peter Tomson at KU Leuven, Ernest van Eck at the University of Pretoria, and Annette Potgieter at Hugenote Kollege. Words fail to express my gratitude to Carys Williams, who has kept me on my feet, pressing through this past year from across an ocean. To my family for their love and support, I am especially grateful in this most liminal stage of my life, career, and the world. To the editors and reviewers for the Studies in Cultural Contexts of the Bible series, I am grateful for the invitation to publish this manuscript and for permission to publish the contents of both books together.

During the final phase of revision, I benefited from the warm welcome by the community at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. I am especially grateful to Ruben Zimmermann for the immense effort to get me to Mainz in the first place during a global pandemic and for his steadfast support of my research during these months. The fabulous conversations with him as I completed my manuscript have helped to sharpen many arguments on these pages.

I am grateful for the invitations to lecture on the content of this book at a number of venues during its preparation, including the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature, both national and international, the European Association of Biblical Studies, the conference: “What’s So Funny? Discovering and Interpreting Humor in the Ancient World” at The Ohio State University, from Cilliers Breytenbach to the New Testament colloquium at the Humboldt University of Berlin, from the members of the Parables and the Partings of the Ways project to the conference: “The Power of Parables: Narrating Religion in Late Antiquity” at the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology, from Jacob P.B. Mortensen to the conference: “The Gospel of Mark and Genre: Micro and Macro” at the University of Aarhus, from George van Kooten to the New Testament Seminar of the University of Cambridge, from Esther Kobel to the Neutestamentliche Sozietät of the University of Mainz, and from my former colleagues to the New Testament seminar at the University of Durham.

Lastly, fable books record the inclinations of many readers to respond to the author—scrawled in the gaps of the manuscripts. Should the muse inspire, don’t hesitate to write.

The Author

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The Fables of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke

A New Foundation for the Study of Parables

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