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Introduction to Modern Parables

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A New Kind of Study

Modern Parables is a new kind of Bible study. From one perspective, it’s a study that uses short films of the parables to teach the Bible. But from another perspective, it’s something unique. Modern Parables employs a new method of understanding the Bible through films that explain the biblical text. It uses modern stories that recreate in the viewer the same responses that the original audiences of Jesus’ parables might have experienced. In other words, just watching the films begins to explain the historical, grammatical, contextual and interpretive elements of Jesus’ parables. The films help people grasp the parables at an immediate, gut level. This emotional immediacy enables them to engage the Bible in a powerful and compelling new way.

At its heart, Modern Parables uses film to drive people deeper into Scripture. To borrow a phrase from the poet Horace, it seeks “to please and instruct.” The films are intended to be both entertaining and educational at the same time.

Most people – churchgoing people, at least – would agree that Jesus’ parables are important. Yet, if asked further, most would say that His parables are nice stories intended to teach universal moral lessons. If you understand the moral of the story, you’ve gotten the parable.

There’s a problem with that explanation: it doesn’t square with what Jesus Himself said about His parables. Rather than trying to create a set of nice stories for the world, Jesus bluntly said that He taught in parables so that His hearers wouldn’t immediately understand His teaching (Matt 13:13).

But the problem goes beyond that. When you start looking at His parables, a lot of them aren’t nice stories at all: a king destroys an entire city for speaking out against him; a manager cheats his master out of money and is praised by Jesus for it; a fig tree is cursed for not bearing fruit.

When taken at face value, the parables can be confusing and hard to understand. In fact, to get a nice moral out of some of them requires a good bit of twisting. Parables are not simple moral stories that teach a lesson.

So what are parables?

The Bible explains that Jesus had specific purposes for teaching in parables. Matthew tells us that in at least one instance He spoke to the crowd only in parables and said nothing without a parable (Matt 13:34). Why is this?

As Jesus said in Mark, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?” (Mk 4:30) It is important to understand that the parables cannot be separated from Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God. If detached from His larger teaching ministry, they don’t make sense. Rather, the parables are like different lenses used to view different aspects of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Himself often started His parables with, “The Kingdom of God is like…”

To Jesus, parables are comparisons between the natural and spiritual realms that teach His followers different aspects of the Kingdom of God. In this sense, parables are keys to understanding the things Jesus wanted His followers to know about His Kingdom. On the one hand, they are like little instruction manuals explaining what God is like and how He acts, as well as how people in His Kingdom ought to live. On the other hand, they describe how people inside or outside the Kingdom actually do live.

The reason Jesus spoke in parables was that He knew they were the best method for teaching about the Kingdom He was inaugurating with His life, death, and resurrection.

How the Study Works

Modern Parables, Vol 1 explores six different parables. In this study, Hidden Treasure is covered in two lessons. The first lesson is called “Understanding the Parable.” In this lesson you’ll be watching the film, then doing some basic study on the parable itself. The second lesson is called “Living the Parable.” In this lesson you’ll be watching an application video taught by Dr. Daniel Doriani, then discussing how to apply the teaching of the parable in your day-to-day life.

Modern Parables seeks to recreate the immediacy of the gut-level reaction of the first century audience hearing Jesus’ parables. The parable films are simply teaching tools that, after being used, will fall away to leave the Biblical text for people to understand and apply. In the long run, the only thing that matters is the Bible, so it is important to keep the parable please purchase films in their proper context as tools and not the purpose of the study.

There are three levels that the study moves through:

Level 1 – The Dramatic Story

A parable is a story. The reader (or viewer) must understand a parable at the level of plot and character before he or she can understand anything else about it. This first level refers to the essential story line of a parable.

Level 2 – The Biblical Parallel

Once you understands the story, you will be able to step back and look at the parable lm side-by-side with the original parable of Jesus. We designed each lm to parallel the original parable as closely as possible in a modern re-telling of the story. The hope is that the parallels make it much easier for a modern person to bridge the 2,000-year gap from when the parables were originally told.

Level 3 – The Practical Application

The part of the study known as “Living the Parable” is dedicated to the practical application of the parables. In general, it is necessary to understand a Biblical text before applying it. Going back to the days of the Apostles, pastors have had a responsibility to teach and apply the Bible to the church. Modern Parables recognizes pastors’ foundational role in guiding people into the truth, and has incorporated their teaching into a key aspect of the study: the Application Video. The parable lm has a related Application Video that explains what it means to live out the parable in daily life.

Bonus Lesson: Cinematic theology

For those who are interested, we have provided an additional lesson that explores the world of cinema and theology in greater detail. The lesson consists of watching the Director’s Commentary for the lm, then talking through the questions provided in the Leader’s Guide.

In closing, thank you for purchasing Modern Parables. We hope that this study is a helpful tool for expanding your understanding of these parables as they relate to the broader Kingdom of God.

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