Between Philadelphia and Philoxenia: Finding Space in Scriptural Reasoning for “Hospitable” Readings in Biblical Studies

Daniel A. Smith,
Huron University College

Though some may not like it, scholars of the Scriptures have never been able to escape the fact that their interpretations are often connected with public discourse about communal identity. For example, Jesus’ debates with others on topics such as dining partners and Sabbath observance (Mark 2:15-17; 3:1-5) were, in their religious culture, part of a lively (and necessary) larger conversation about how sacred texts [1] exert their defining influence on questions about behaviour and boundaries. Within the religious community, these questions are posed in terms such as “What does life faithful to God look like?” or, put differently, and more pointedly, “Who belongs to God as a faithful member of God’s people?” These are questions about communal religious identity, and they are often answered in ways which legitimate membership, belief, and practice by means of boundary-drawing and exclusion. While such debates can be necessary to the internal life of the religious community, in the last two or three generations Christian biblical scholars have become increasingly conscious of how readings within a religious community can affect, for the most part adversely, those outside the community. Naturally this awareness has coincided with the increasing ethnic and religious diversity of the Western developed nations in which academic biblical studies was born, but it also arose in the wake of the horrors of the Second World War. As Nicholas Adams remarks, “Scriptural reasoning is a practice of ‘publicising’ deep reasonings, so that others may learn to understand them and discover why particular trains of reasoning, and not just particular assumptions, are attractive or problematic.” [2] By “deep reasonings” Adams indicates the patterns of reasoning, argumentation, and conclusion by which religious traditions express and instill convictions about identity derived from Scripture. Because such deep reasonings are often second-nature to those who read the Tanakh, the New Testament, and the Qur’an as their Scriptures, SR provides an ideal context for illuminating and critiquing traditional modes of reading, even within the guild of biblical studies.

In order to help frame my discussion of how Scriptural Reasoning can contribute to this critical reflection, I examine briefly the work of Luise Schottroff on the parables of Jesus. Schottroff is a New Testament scholar who reads biblical texts with an awareness of the role of ideology within biblical interpretation. Her work displays a sensitivity to how practitioners of biblical studies can learn to avoid complicity in such ideological work when it either introduces into the reading of the text ethically or socially undesirable dynamics or leads to ethically or socially undesirable ends. Concerns such as these must be registered and addressed in diverse societies. Using SR’s defining metaphor of “hospitality,” we may call readings which are sensitive to such concerns “hospitable.” Then, in conversation with Hebrews 13:1-2, a text which grounds hospitality to strangers in mutual love within the community and connects it with the reception of divine messengers, I discuss ways that the practice of Scriptural Reasoning can contribute to the (Christian) biblical scholar’s awareness of the ethical contours of biblical interpretation, particularly in relation to public discourse about religious identity. I also examine how the interchange between “hospitable” readers and “inhospitable” texts (and among such readers over such texts) can introduce a creative tension in the practice of Scriptural Reasoning and lead to critical and helpful reflection on what forms or has formed readers as readers. Finally, by way of concluding example, I offer a brief but inclusive reading of a saying of John the Baptizer: “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8).

Luise Schottroff: “Hospitable” Readings Based on Historical Description

I would situate the recent work of Luise Schottroff both within biblical studies traditionally understood (as undertaken with reference to the historical-critical methods), and within the range of what might be broadly called “engaged” biblical interpretation. In her book The Parables of Jesus (2005; ET 2006), Schottroff reads parables in three ways. [3] First, she begins with a “social-historical” interpretation, one which describes the historical and cultural dynamics within the parable (as embedded in the historically conditioned texts of the gospels). Schottroff uses this description, second, as a way of reading against the “dualistic” assumptions which have become traditional in “ecclesiological” interpretations. By “dualism” Schottroff means the “condescending” interpretive paradigm which opposes “we, the good” with “others, the bad.” [4] As a basic feature of religious and political discourse, Schottroff says, this dualism “justifies violence against nations and individuals. Christianity has contributed to this kind of violent dualism by its interpretation of New Testament parables.” [5] Third, she then reads the parable “eschatologically,” that is, in a way which attends to how the parable invites the listening community into the activity of God: “The listening community sees itself in relation to God, the coming God who will judge and create justice. God’s judgment and God’s reign are the future the hearers hope for[…] Now is the time to listen and understand, which means to turn back, to repent, and to build God’s reign.” [6]

In the Parable of the Vineyard Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46), for instance, Schottroff sees first of all a story which “speaks of the hatred that arose from economic exploitation at the hands of foreign property owners, of the counterviolence of the victims, and of Roman dominance.” [7] This is the primary sense of the parable in its historical and literary contexts; it is not to be read first of all as an allegory Jesus spoke against the leaders of the Jewish people, a story in which the “wicked tenants” equal the Jewish religious authorities, the absentee landlord God, the slaves the prophets, the son Jesus, the replacement tenants Christian Gentiles. That reading is a secondary and ecclesiological invention, one which validates “Christianity” as the replacement of “Judaism” on the basis of the saying, “For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation which will produce (Greek: “do”) its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). [8] However, by introducing the language of “doing” the kingdom’s fruits (as in “doing God’s will,” Matthew 7:21), Matthew’s performance of the parable invites the hearers to ask what would happen if the tenants or the owner of the vineyard had acted in accordance with Torah. If the story is to be taken allegorically as being “about” Israel, as the intertext with Isaiah 5:1-2 (Matthew 21:33) suggests, then the story is an allegory of how Israel was in the ownership of foreigners (the Romans) and how the exploitation which ensued would give rise to violent reaction and counter-reaction (the First Jewish War of 66-73 CE). The eschatological reading Schottroff offers is one which grapples with the anti-Judaism of past Christian readings of the parable and with Christian complicity in the Holocaust, and one which in the end focuses on the “catastrophe” against which the text originally spoke, that of “debt and enrichment at the expense of others,” a present reality being played out on a global scale. [9]

This approach to the parables is to be commended for a number of reasons. First, it attends carefully to how “meaning” is constructed through the approach the reader takes to the text. The text is not viewed as something mined for meaning, but on the other hand it is not assumed that all readings are equal with respect to either their warrant in the text itself or their moral consequence. Second, therefore, it reads the parables against received or traditional readings, some of which have proven problematic (Schottroff sees the problem mainly in the importation of “dualism” which seeks to legitimate the group over against “others”). [10] Third, it attempts to read the parables in the direction of God’s justice by inviting the hearers to participate in it. Finally, and importantly from my perspective, Schottroff’s approach does not fail to appreciate the contribution which historical-critical research, undertaken with an attentiveness to the way a text can be contextualized in the present, can make to the interpretive enterprise. She writes, “I think there must be a connection between the content in the first context (the time of Jesus or of the Gospels) and the second context (the present time of the interpreters).” [11] The ecclesiological approach renders invisible the suffering of the parable’s characters (first century tenant farmers and slaves of an absentee landlord), and precludes the engagement of the listening community in the activity of God in the present by eclipsing the social dynamics which would have been heard in the historical settings of the parable’s various deployments (in Jesus’ original utterance, in Mark, in Matthew and Luke, and in Thomas). Authentic engagement with the text on its own terms must take these dynamics into account.

The Practice of Scriptural Reasoning as a Context for “Hospitable” Readings

Perhaps this lengthy introduction will be forgiven if it has provided a concrete illustration of how contemporary New Testament scholars who are interested in a theological reading of the text attempt to engage in historical exegesis while remaining fully conscious of the impact which their line of inquiry (including question- and problem-formulation, methodologies, interpretive categories, etc.) and its results can have. [12] Schottroff seeks to integrate her social-historical exegesis within the framework of a contextual theology. She believes that presuppositions long unspoken in both church and guild must be named and critiqued, not least by the biblical texts themselves. [13] Such presuppositions as the “the presupposition that the Christian religion is superior to all others” can be critiqued by the Scriptures because the Scriptures themselves can show them to be alien influences and thus stand over them and judge them. For Schottroff, this is possible because of a historical consideration: in her view, none of the texts bear witness to a separation from Judaism (and thus to the rhetoric of superiority or supersession) because this separation only happened after the end of the Second Jewish War (135 CE). [14] Thus the hermeneutical presupposition is one of innocence for the text but guilt for the Christian interpretive tradition. I see these moves in some respects as attempts to rescue the text from complicity in the sins of its interpreters, particularly where the interest has been in validating one religious (or cultural, or ethnic) group by invalidating others. I will return to this point below in the discussion of “hospitable readers and inhospitable texts,” but for now it is enough simply to observe that readers like Schottroff are acutely aware of the tensions involved in critiquing problematic modes of interpretation while at the same time valuing the text within its own historical context. In her view, ethically responsible readings are warranted by the text itself, and in particular by nuanced historical readings of the text – when carried out with an eye to the text’s Wirkungsgeschichte, or reception history. Scriptural Reasoning is an excellent forum in which biblical scholars can explore the interpretive impact their readings can have, particularly because of the differentiated stances SR participants are required to take in relation to their own and others’ scriptural texts.

Recently, I participated in a short conversation about intra-scriptural warrants for the practice of Scriptural Reasoning. One of the texts we discussed was Hebrews 13:1-2, which reads as follows:

Let mutual care [Greek: philadelphia] continue; and do not neglect the care of strangers [Greek: philoxenia], for by doing so, some extended hospitality to angels without knowing.

My present interest in this text is not related to how it could justify or provide a warrant for SR, but in how it implies an interesting – positively troubling – dynamic between the internal life of the religious community and the acceptance and care of outsiders. Besides the allusion to the story in Genesis 18 of Abraham showing hospitality to the three strangers, a number of things in this passage deserve comment in relation to the practice of SR.

First, philadelphia (“love of siblings”), the care of fictive kin within the community, is presented as something of a given, and yet its continued observance does not go without saying. The readers must be instructed to continue to love one another within the community. Thus philadelphia is a persistent paraenetic topos in the early Christian writings. Second, the text warns that philoxenia must not be overlooked (possibly, through over-attention to those within the community); moreover, this philoxenia is not limited to the welcoming of itinerant or displaced or travelling adelphoi– in fact, it is not limited or defined at all as to scope. This leads to the third observation: the care of strangers receives two warrants in this piece of instruction. Implicitly, the lexical proximity of philoxenia to philadelphia suggests that the care of strangers – although etymologically, “love of strangers” is probably better – can be grounded in the extension of the intra-communal fictive kinship of philadelphia to those outside the community, to “aliens” or “strangers” (xenoi). This extension does not make the other a brother or sister, but it treats her or him as one. Explicitly, the warrant is found in the identity of the strangers, for the text alludes to stories of those who, like Abraham, discovered in the end that the hospitality they extended to strangers was in fact extended to divine messengers (see also Genesis 19; Judges 6; Tobit 5–12; and throughout ancient folklore). The language of “angels,” of course, invokes several ideas at once: divine presence, divine communication, divine will, and divine help. Thus the allusion to Abraham here focuses not on his example as one worthy of following, but on those who benefited from his hospitality, and (assuming knowledge of the story) on the message and promise they brought to him (Genesis 18:9-15). This warrant for hospitality not exactly a promise, but it suggests that welcoming the other opens one to at least the possibility of divine presence, communication, and help being mediated by those who benefit from one’s hospitality. Hebrews elsewhere speaks of Abraham as one who “dwelt in the land of promise in tents, like a foreigner” (11:9), and this image of Abraham welcoming the passing strangers gives opportunity to reflect on the practice of SR.

The applicability of this text to SR is obvious. When the “tent” of SR becomes the site of community, as Scriptures, goals, and desire for divine blessing are shared, philadelphia – normally reserved for intramural kin – is extended to those normally considered “others.” As Daniel Hardy observes, the particular interaction of SR creates a space for hospitality that is not based on a “predefined ownership” of the space. [15] As a temporary but lively community is forged around shared Scriptures and goals, the boundary between those “inside” and those “outside” becomes blurred, as does the boundary between “host” and “guest,” at least as long as participants are in the tent participating in SR. [16] Philoxenia becomes philadelphia even while the particularity of each reader is retained. When SR invites Christian readers to open “their” texts to Jews and Muslims (and so around the table), and to hear their texts through the texts and interpretive practices of Jews and Muslims, Christian readers are not only host over the reading of their own text, but also allow themselves to be guests in that reading as well. Thus the New Testament writings can, in the practice of SR, become strange and alien even to the Christian biblical scholar, although this pattern of reading requires careful listening, through the ears and texts of others. This is a good thing, since it can heighten one’s critical awareness of problem formulation, reading assumptions, heuristic models, and other interpretive categories that can often ground assertions about how the text reinforces Christian identity at the expense of others. [17] This displacement of the Christian biblical scholar from the role of host to guest in the reading of the New Testament writings can be a positive and constructive opportunity for self-criticism about the roots and implications of traditional but inhospitable readings.

Although I am a relative newcomer to SR, I can see opportunities for this unfolding in a number of ways as SR moves its participants into this dual role of host/guest. In the practice of Scriptural Reasoning, the biblical studies practitioner is no longer the expert positioned to rule authoritatively on a reading of a text (“host”), but is one participant among many (as mutually welcomed and welcoming “guests”). The process of reading within SR does not find all methodologies pertinent, but mainly those that illuminate the “plain sense” of the text. SR has more in common with pre-critical modes of exegesis than with the historical-critical methods, and is rightly resistant to absolute determinations about “meaning.” More important than questions about meaning is the conversation and what that discloses – and this allows the biblical studies practitioner to think about not only the meaning of the text but the meaning-making of biblical studies (in her research and writing as well as in her teaching). [18] Thus what might be a well-developed interpretive instinct for the biblical studies practitioner may be irrelevant to the conversation. As one who has read widely and carefully within her canon, she may be in a position from time to time to add a clarifying comment about an intertext lurking beneath the surface, or about the place of a particular tradition or trope within the broader canonical story, or about some nuance of the original language not apparent to those reading translations (philadelphia and philoxenia, for instance). Other SR readers can do this with their own texts as well, of course. However, in some instances some aspect of the biblical scholar’s specialized knowledge may provide further clarification, as Schottroff’s knowledge of the economics of Roman-era Galilee illuminated the original social-historical dynamics in the parable about the vineyard tenants. As seen, this information allowed her to discern a way of reading the parable that went behind the text’s Christian interpretive tradition. This can be important in opening one text up to the insights provided by the others.

By participating in SR, the biblical studies practitioner allows members of other faiths to read the text which otherwise is the focus of his academic specialization. This also happens, of course, quite regularly in professional biblical studies societies and in the university, but in SR the goals and outcomes are different. Within the context of the SR reading group, the dual posture of host/guest allows space for him to listen to the insights of others, but to engage in self-censorship and self-critique. Hearing others read the text can provide insight into their hermeneutical frameworks and can promote greater understanding among participants. Listening carefully to others engaging with one’s familiar texts can provide an opportunity to “censor” one’s own interpretive predilections, as noted above. Additionally, others’ texts are also invited to be read alongside and into the biblical studies practitioner’s familiar texts. Questions which are commonplace in biblical studies as practiced and taught in the university (about the historical origin of texts, or their authorship, or the relationship between narrative texts and the “events” they describe) may not be engaged with the same vigour by all readers of all texts. This exposes the SR participant to multiple interpretive strategies and assumptions as the highly differentiated group (including members of different faiths, academic backgrounds, etc.) sits down to explore how these different texts may be revelatory.

The SR group therefore provides a new “live” context in which dialogue can occur, in which friendship and cooperation can be fostered, and in which readings which promote cooperation and solidarity (for Schottroff, the “eschatological” readings) can be sought. These ideals of cooperation and solidarity can also be situated, in a best-case scenario, in a collegial environment such as a religion department at a university or a community service group, but in SR they may be engaged in direct conversation about and over sacred texts – texts which through the history of their interpretation have served to define boundaries between groups. In SR it is recognized that who we are as practicing Muslims, Christians, and Jews is oriented significantly (if not primarily) to our Scriptures and to their reception and use in community. Within SR, however, there is room for a practicing Christian to leave to the side readings that emphasize difference and distinctiveness, or readings that reinforce boundaries and the identity-maintaining work they perform, and to seek with others readings that make for mutual understanding and common cause.

In the context of the practice of SR, the tension between seeking engaged readings that are both “hospitable” and warranted by a historical approach to the text can be a creative tension with exciting possibilities. As a participant in SR, the biblical scholar can become more attuned to the broader cultural implications of the readings he is accustomed to seek or to give, and to the implications of this not only for his own work but also for the ways in which he contributes to the formation of interpreters in teaching biblical interpretation. Within a new, broadened community of interpreters, with a broadened array of Scriptural texts to consider, and with a broadened range of interpretive assumptions to reckon with, biblical studies practitioners can continue the effort to discern the impact their use of the biblical texts can have in public discourse, in particular in the way “we” use “our” texts to talk about “ourselves” (and always, whether implicitly or explicitly, about “others”). This is especially important because those who study also teach: those involved in academic biblical studies also are involved in the formation of interpreters, whether clergy, lay, or academic. Thus the impact of SR on biblical studies can be felt not only in the (sometimes rarefied) realm of research and publication, but also in the wider public sphere as those who learn to read the biblical texts are likewise educated to assess their interpretive suppositions critically. Beyond the practice of SR, other approaches – for example, the investigation of a text’s Wirkungsgeschichte – can help the biblical scholar understand what kinds of interpretive traditions have formed them (and their intramural ancestors, colleagues, students, parishioners, et al.) as readers of Scripture. This is important when biblical studies enters the public sphere, as it often does.

“Hospitable” Readers but “Inhospitable” Texts?

A particular concern arises at this point: What happens in SR when readers who are accustomed to reading hospitably encounter texts which are resistant to such hospitable readings? To spell this out in relation to Schottroff’s category of “dualism,” what happens when it is not only that the interpretive tradition strives to legitimate “us” and “our” practices, teachings, founder figures, etc., but also that the text itself is invested in drawing lines and reinforcing identity? At this point I think that reading “around” such intra-textual dynamics involves a failure to take the text at face value. Within the New Testament, scholars have found such dynamics already at work in the Gospels of Matthew and John, and particularly in apocalyptic materials such as the Book of Revelation. As for Matthew and John, what is perceived as incipient anti-Judaism may in fact be attempts to legitimate the group within Judaism, as Schottroff’s reading of the vineyard tenants parable assumed. There, as she posed it, the issue being negotiated was primarily one of economic justice in relation to Torah, not Christian identity in relation to Judaism. It is, however, open to dispute whether texts such as these are not already anti-Jewish. [19] Apocalypticism, as a theological characteristic of early Christian and Jewish texts such as Revelation, can be contextualized historically as a literary response to religious oppression, and employs a destabilizing rhetoric against the status quo by predicting a future or otherworldly vindication of “the elect” – but it remains a characteristic of the text read as Scripture. This rhetoric is profoundly dualistic. [20] This dualistic influence is pervasive and can be seen even in texts which resist the apocalyptic paradigm (for instance, the Fourth Gospel).

Such texts might be avoided as topics of conversation in SR, but this might be a well-intentioned mistake. What could happen when such texts are encountered in Scriptural Reasoning? In some instances, one could read carefully such “inhospitable” texts in the context of SR in order to find some shared value beneath, or alongside, the rhetoric of identity negotiation. At the same time as it reinforces communal identity, the Book of Revelation, for instance, also addresses issues of power and economic justice. At the same time as it calls for its readers to “come out from” the culture at large, it pronounces divine judgment on that culture’s values and systems (as in Revelation 18). The SR group could read “past” or “alongside” the separationist dualism “for” the scriptural ethics of economic and social justice. This can be difficult particularly because the rhetoric of identity formation is so strong, but also because other, more “hospitable” texts can be opened in order to form in the SR group common cause around social concerns. Yet this evasion might not be necessary, first of all because “hospitable” readings of “inhospitable” texts can occur given SR’s basic assumption that all scriptural texts can be read as mediating revelation. Secondly, however, there may be a positive benefit to confronting such texts in SR, for this could lead to a greater understanding of how the texts themselves have contributed to patterns of reading and of the formation of religious identity within the traditions of the three faiths. Hospitable readings of inhospitable texts would require for all participants a wirkungsgeschichtliche wariness about the relationship between text and interpretive tradition. Such can only happen when it is acknowledged that concerns about behaviour and boundaries, about inclusion and exclusion, are not only issues imported into the discussion by interpretive paradigms, but embedded characteristics of the texts themselves.

Conclusion: Finding “the Children of Abraham” between Philadelphia and Philoxenia

A saying of interest to participants in SR may be found in Luke 3:7-9 (also Matthew 3:7-10), the beginning of the proclamation of John the Baptizer. On first glance, this material strikes the reader as decidedly inhospitable:

So John was saying to the crowds who were coming out to be baptized by him: “Offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to take place? Produce (Greek: “do”) therefore fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say among yourselves: ‘We have Abraham as father.’ For I tell you: God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Already the axe lies at the root of the trees, so that every tree not producing good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7-9)

This text is redolent with the apocalyptic rhetoric of separation and judgment, which is engaged using the imagery of chopping down non-yielding trees and burning them. This imagery recurs later in the passage (Luke 3:17). Little wonder that this material has often been read by Christian interpreters as John’s threat against the shallow piety of his fellow Jews, about to be replaced by Gentiles receptive to the message of Jesus about the reign of God. The response John imputes to his hearers, “We have Abraham as father,” is in this way often read as indicating an empty reliance on religious ancestry, which will do one little good in the end. Luke himself may have intended John’s talk to be heard in this way. [21] Yet Luke also offers a challenge to hear these words as “good news,” for this is how the narrator characterizes John’s exhortations (Luke 3:18).

This part of John’s proclamation invites the hearers of the text – not only the hearers in the text – to ask, “So what should we do?” (Luke 3:10, 12, 14). The agricultural imagery of trees yielding appropriate fruit provides the answer: make like a tree, and yield fruit “in keeping with repentance,” that is, in keeping with a life oriented to God’s purposes, and in keeping with one’s own lot in life. For John’s advice is tailored to the contexts of his hearers, whether they were “the crowds,” or “tax gatherers,” or even “soldiers.” In this instruction, the living, fruitful tree is contrasted with the fruitless one, which contextually may be compared with “these stones.” Whether the tree is by its genetic makeup and horticultural origin a fig tree or an olive tree scarcely matters when it comes to the question of fruitfulness. Thus being “children of Abraham,” contextually, is less a matter of one’s ethnic or religious heritage and more about whether one “does the fruit” of Abraham, so to speak. God can raise up even from stones “children for Abraham” who can bring forth the fruit of his deeds. [22]

John’s saying about “children from Abraham from stones” is an allusion to Isaiah, who used the imagery of rocks hewn from a quarry to describe the heritage of Abraham and Sarah (Isaiah 51:1-2). With this intertext in view it becomes difficult to maintain an inhospitable reading: the stones are people who seek the Lord, those who pursue righteousness (Isaiah 51:1). Nevertheless, the language of “doing the fruit” of Abraham recalls Genesis 18, the dynamic between philadelphia and philoxenia, and the openness to perceiving in the recipient of one’s hospitality the bearer of God’s help and communication. Thus John’s reference to the “children of Abraham” becomes rather straightforwardly a call to a common commitment to hospitality – to being at once both host and guest – over the Scriptures. Individual participants might be more at home in the houses of their religious traditions, and within the tent of SR these “stones” do not cease to be components of their “houses.” Yet are we not all hewn from the quarry of Abraham? Thus participants in SR may hear John’s exhortation as one to put aside, for the moment at least, being a stone in the wall of their religious tradition, in order to seek mutual understanding and common cause in the sacred texts of others, and in their own, as they learn to read and listen together.


[1] Jesus and his dialogue partners, I assume, were conversant with the biblical and traditional prescriptions on such issues; these are in the background of these conversations, even though often they remain subtexts.
[2] Nicholas Adams, Habermas and Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 242.
[3] Luise Schottroff, The Parables of Jesus (trans. Linda Maloney; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006). Schottroff identifies her hermeneutic as feminist and liberationist (Parables, 1-2), yet begins with a reading of the text oriented to its original social-historical context.
[4] Ibid., 9.
[5] Ibid. In the examples given above (Mark 2:15-17; 3:1-5), Jesus and his interlocutors were negotiating these issues on a sizeable amount of shared ground (common assumptions about God, covenant, Scripture, etc.), and yet Christian texts such as Mark introduce by their narrative presentation and redactional augmentation of these discussions a “dualistic” dynamic (Jesus and his followers against them, Jesus’ program against theirs) which may not have been part of the original conversations. See for instance the saying about new wine in old wineskins and new patches on old garments (Mark 2:21-22) appended to the controversy over fasting (Mark 2:18-20).
[6] Schottroff, Parables, 11.
[7] Ibid., 21. The parable is also found in Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-19, and Thomas 65–66.
[8] Translations of biblical texts are my own.
[9] Schottroff, Parables, 27-8.
[10] As I suggest above (n. 4), I am more inclined than Schottroff to see such dualisms not as alien but in the text already: the narrator of Mark claims that Jesus’ interlocutors “perceived that he had spoken the parable against them” (Mark 12:12).
[11] Schottroff, Parables, 27; emphasis added.
[12] See also Daniel Patte, Ethics of Biblical Interpretation: A Reevaluation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995); Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999).
[13] These include (1) an ideology of Christian superiority; (2) theological dualisms, whether anthropological or eschatological or whatever; (3) assumptions about the relationship between guilt/sin and human suffering; (4) a predilection to maintain the status quo and its power structures (Schottroff, Parables, 81; explained, 81-8).
[14] Schottroff, Parables, 82; this is spelled out in detail in Schottroff, Lydia’s Impatient Sisters: A Feminist Social History of Early Christianity (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995).
[15] Daniel W. Hardy, “The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning,” in David F. Ford and C. C. Pecknold, eds., The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 185-207; citation from 187.
[16] See Adams, Habermas and Theology, 243: “When members of three traditions meet together to study shared Scripture, who is the guest and who is the host? In a way that is difficult to be clear about, the participants in scriptural reasoning all find themselves invited, not by each other, but by an agency that is not theirs to command or shape.”
[17] See Schüssler Fiorenza, Rhetoric and Ethic, 196-7 on the foci of the task of “critically research[ing] the process of how interpretation is produced, authorized, communicated, and used.”
[18] The language is that of Schüssler Fiorenza, Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation (London; New York: Continuum, 2000), ix.
[19] See, for instance, Ulrich Luz, “Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of Matthew as a Historical and Theological Problem: An Outline,” in idem, Studies in Matthew (trans. Rosemary Selle; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 243-61, esp. 246. “Anti-Judaism” can diminish as an issue when one attempts to read such parables as parables of the historical Jesus, leaving aside redactional additions and adaptations which derive from the author’s context. Then the difficulty becomes one of not reading the text of, for instance, canonical Matthew, but interpreting instead a reconstructed “authentic” parable, whose reconstruction will always be a matter of dispute.
[20] For a discussion of the ideological work of “apocalypticism” or “eschatology” (as hermeneutical categories) in historical Jesus research, see John S. Kloppenborg, “As One Unknown, Without a Name? Co-opting the Apocalyptic Jesus,” in John S. Kloppenborg and John W. Marshall (eds.), Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism, and the Historical Jesus (London; New York: T & T Clark International, 2005), 1-23.
[21] For a recent example of such a reading, see Francois Bovon, Luke 1: A Commentary on Luke 1:1–9:50 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 122: “John’s words have become, by Luke’s time, a sentence passed: the ‘wrath’ is now inevitable, and others, the Gentiles, are taking the place of the children of Abraham.” Yet the parallel in Matthew, which directs the threat against the “Pharisees and Sadducees,” is the more difficult text to read hospitably.
[22] See Melanie Johnson-Debaufre, Jesus Among Her Children: Q, Eschatology, and the Construction of Christian Origins (Harvard Theological Studies 55; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 81-113, for a similar reading of this saying, in its original textual deployment in the Sayings Gospel Q. Johnson-Debaufre concludes that John’s proclamation in Q is best understood as an expression of a “religious imagination which places superlative value on ‘justice and righteousness’ rather than on group identity” (ibid., 112).