The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus by John Dominic Crossan, HarperOne, NY, 2012; 259 pages, ISBN 978-0061875694, hardback $29.99.
What kinds of parables did Jesus use, are there precedents for this type of parable and for book-length parables in the Hebrew bible, and did the Gospel writers transmit his parables as Jesus intended? Crossan presents the case that Jesus used parables to challenge the current order, rather than simply as moral lessons or riddles to hide the truth from the uninitiated. As is his practice, he lays out his arguments and the evidence for them very clearly so that readers are able to form their own opinions on each point. He comes out strongly for a historical Jesus, and maintains that each Gospel is an extended parable featuring historical characters and settings used to make the evangelists' overall points, which differ from Gospel to Gospel. In this respect, the Gospels are fiction, not biography or factual reports of people's words and acts.
I found the analysis of the three Old Testament books which the author uses as examples of biblical book-length parables – Ruth, Job and Jonah – particularly intriguing. Whether or not you are convinced by all the author's arguments, the book is thought provoking and worth reading. – Sarah Belle Dougherty