A Word Fitly Spoken

Context, Transmission, and Adoption of the Parables of Jesus

By Philip L. Culbertson

Subjects: Comparative Religion
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791423127, 390 pages, February 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423110, 390 pages, February 1995

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Table of contents


1. Contextuality (Matthew 7:29)

2. The Hermeneutical Location of Paradise

3. Halakhic Midrash as Parable (Deuteronomy 23:19)

4. The Impact of Cumulative Parables: Strings of Pearls(Matthew 13:3–53)

5. Pancultural Adaptations: He Who Never Lifts His Gaze Will Never Know the Truth (Matthew 25:1–12)

6. Unexpected Literary Forms: The Fish Who Paid Taxes (Matthew 17:24–27 and 22:15–21)

7. Shifts in Transmission: Mites, Motes, and Mistakes(Matthew 7:1–5)

8. Parables with a Foreign Nimshal: A Skeleton in the King's Closet (Matthew 21:42–44)

9. Listener Response: Wedding Feasts and Wineskins(Matthew 9:14–17)


Appendix I: Proverbs 25:11: A Word Fitly Spoken

Appendix II: Selections from H aim bar Bezalel's Iggeret ha-Tiyyul

Appendix III: The Half-Sheqel Offering in the Second Temple



Name Index

Subject Index

Biblical and Apocryphal Citations

Classical and Early Christian References

Rabbinic References


This book compares New Testament and Rabbinical texts in order to recover the oral tradition accompanying the written Biblical text. Although New Testament Greek is a hellenistic idiom, it reflects a Semitic rather than a hellenistic culture. Therefore, Culbertson looks to Jewish sources in order to understand the Greek text, rather than to the philosophical, methodological, and literary sources of hellenistic culture.

The author uses specific examples to illustrate various literary theories and to prove the value of a Listener Response Analysis of Gospel texts. A dozen parables are discussed in detail.

Philip L. Culbertson is Lecturer in Pastoral Theology and Director of Pastoral Studies at St. John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand.


"The book is extremely readable. It further clarifies the complexities of first century religious life in ancient Palestine and the Judaic matrix of early Christianity. The author demonstrates familiarity with and appreciation of the Jewish sources and scholarship on all of the issues."-- Rabbi Howard Joseph, Concordia University

"I very much like the author's bold reading of the texts. The book is always interesting and indeed hard to put down. If one reads it first to be entertained, a number of unexpected insights are discovered that might have been obscured by the usual critical reading of an argument." -- Lloyd Gaston, Vancouver School of Theology