Book Review – Jesus the Storyteller

Jesus the Storyteller: Hearing the Parables Afresh Today

By Lim Kar Yong
215 pages, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia and Armour Publishing
ISBN 973983428197

When we were kids, were heard of Aesop and his fables, which were stories of anthropomorphic animals used to teach children virtues like patience, kindness and humility. In the Bible, we have a somewhat similar genre in the parables. Instead of greedy foxes and racing tortoises and hares, Jesus told parables with background of everyday life of the common Palestinian – wedding banquets, sowing and reaping crops, family life, etc. Similarly to Aesop’s fables, parables are good to teach children, but the gospel writers had more than children in mind.

Every Christian, new or experienced, young or old, has heard the parables. They are an integral part of the gospels, hence a fundamental part of God’s word. We hear them in sermons frequently, and many of us often draw parallels to our everyday lives. This book seeks to draw the readers into a deeper understanding of these deceptively simple stories. Jesus used them extensively in his ministry on earth, and the first three gospels capture no less than 50 examples. So, with something so integral to his earthly ministry, there has to something more than just being simple anecdotes or analogies to life. In some few instances, Jesus explained the deeper meaning of parables to his disciples, e.g. the Parable of the Sower in Luke. But unfortunately, for most the others, we are left to interpret them ourselves. This book gives the tools to do so in a systematic and exegetical way that is consistent to the other areas of biblical study.

This book addresses an area of the gospels that is often overlooked and underestimated. Consistent to the subtitle of ‘Hearing the Parables Afresh Today’, the writer includes a chapter at the end that relates parables to the context of the church in Malaysia. Sometimes we tend to view the Scripture in a worldview context, we seldom apply hermeneutics to it and therefore miss opportunities to see the application of God’s word in the here and the now. However, there were a few burning questions that I had that were not addressed in this book. Chief among them was about the parable of the Great Banquet. The author wrote solely from the perspective of Luke, but did not comment on the strange epilogue in Matthew. Also, the author did not explain why John chose not to include any parables in his narrative. However, the author has indicated that a sequel to this book is in the works.

The book is written in an approachable style that young Christians can understand. Despite that, the teachings are quite in-depth and incorporate some views from church history, including the author’s own experience.

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