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The People of the Parables

Galilee in the Time of Jesus

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Westminster John Knox Press
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Drawing from Greco-Roman history, Second-Temple Jewish studies, archaeology, the social world of the New Testament, parable studies, and the burgeoning literature on Galilee, The People of the Parables describes life in first-century Galilee as it was experienced by the characters in Jesus' parables.

R. Alan Culpepper assesses both primary literature and recent research on Galilee--including important archaeological discoveries--and fashions a new and insightful social history of Galilee, the people of the parables, and the historical context of Jesus' ministry.

Culpepper builds this history by elucidating the lives of first-century Galileans featured in Jesus' parables: children, women, daughters, mothers, widows, fathers, sons, landowners, tenants, day laborers, debtors, farmers, fishermen, shepherds, merchants, travelers, innkeepers, masters, slaves, tax collectors, judges, Pharisees, priests, Levites, Samaritans, bandits, and, finally, Jesus. Who these people were--their place in Galilean society, how they lived, socialized, worshiped, and conducted business; how they were educated--is described in straightforward, nontechnical language. Culpepper brings new meanings to the parables for today's readers by shedding light on the people of Galilee in the time of Jesus.

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R. Alan Culpepper is Dean Emeritus and Professor of New Testament Emeritus at the McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, and Research Fellow at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Previously he was Professor of Religion at Baylor University. He has published numerous articles and books, including Matthew in the New Testament Library, also published by Westminster John Knox Press.

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"It is difficult to take a fresh approach either to the parables of Jesus or to the people of the Synoptic Gospels. Alan Culpepper has done so. One can find books about groups known from the New Testament, Josephus, Philo, and other contemporaries, to which few Galileans belonged (Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Essenes, and the like). By contrast, Culpepper spends the bulk of his words on common people. Yes, in his parables, Jesus talked about minority elites but also about children, parents, brides, widows, tenants, laborers, farmers, fishermen, shepherds, and merchants. Such ordinary Galileans are the majority in the pages of The People of the Parables. As a result, Culpepper gives us a comprehensive view not only of the Galilean populace but also of the culture and social structures by which Galileans guided human interactions and organized their institutions and systems. Familiarity with such things is a strong foundation on which to build interpretations of Jesus’ parables. Culpepper’s crystal-clear exposition will make a fine textbook for university and seminary classes on the social world of Jesus, particularly for teachers who want to show students how scholars build arguments. But it is also for anyone, from pastor to layperson to nonspecialist in the gospels, who aims to understand the world in which Jesus ministered and in which his teachings take on meaning." —James R. Strange, Charles Jackson Granade and Elizabeth Donald Granade Professor in New Testament, Howard College of Arts and Sciences, Samford University

"With The People of the Parables, the reader is transported into the world of first-century Galilee to encounter the people and objects that populate the parables of Jesus—shepherds, estate managers, farmers, tax collectors, vineyards, day laborers, and many more. Culpepper's characterizations are comprehensive and meticulously researched, allowing the reader fully to enter into the dynamics of the parables. The People of the Parables fills a critical lacuna in the study of the parable of Jesus. Essential reading." —John S. Kloppenborg, Professor of Religion, University of Toronto

“Professor Culpepper's latest opus is a one-volume encyclopedia of the social history underlying the people of the parables: well-organized, scrupulously documented, grounded in research both venerable and up-to-date, judicious, and lucid. It illuminates the obvious and probes the unnoticeable. For its insight, concision, and convenience, I shall keep this book at hand in all future study of Jesus' parables. Others are urged to do likewise." —C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Alan Culpepper's The People of the Parables is brilliant and fascinating, both in conception and execution. This book enables readers to become richly acquainted with the day laborers, merchants, fishermen, tax collectors, bandits, and others who populate the parables, along with their social circumstances in ancient Galilee, which allows Jesus' parables not only to speak anew but also to resound with the fresh power they held for their first hearers. Culpepper is an insightful interpreter, and this is a highly original and profoundly useful book for any reader of Jesus' parables." —Thomas G. Long, author of Proclaiming the Parables: Preaching and Teaching the Kingdom of God

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