Biblical Parables and Their Modern Re-creations

From "Apples of Gold in Silver Settings" to "Imperial Messages"

By Gila Safran Naveh

Subjects: Religion
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780791443989, 294 pages, November 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443972, 294 pages, November 1999

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Table of contents

List of Tables
List of Figures

PART I. In Pursuit of Wisdom

1. The Nature and Structure of Parables

PART II. Apples of Gold

2. Biblical Parables: The Parable of the Poor Man's Ewe Lamb

3. Synoptic Gospel Parables: The Parable of the Marriage Feast

4. Rabbinic Parables: The Parable of the King's Banquet

5. Chassidic Parables: Two Kinds of Faith

PART III. Imperial Messages

6. Wisdom Lost: Modern Parables

7. Franz Kafka: An Imperial Message

8. Jorge Luis Borges: The Parable of Cervantes and The Quixote

9. Italo Calvino: Cities and Signs

10. S. Y. Agnon: Before the Kaddish

Toward a Conclusion: "Some Fabulous Yonder"


Offers a penetrating cross-cultural analysis of the enduring genre of parables, revealing a dramatic social, cultural, and political shift in the way we view the divine.


In Biblical Parables and Their Modern Re-creations, Gila Safran Naveh carefully charts the historical transformation of these deceptively simple narratives to reveal fundamental shifts in their form, function, and most significantly, their readers' cognitive processes. Bringing together for the first time parables from the Scriptures, the synoptic Gospels, Chassidic tales, and medieval philosophy with the mashal, the rabbinic parables commonly used to interpret Scripture, this book brilliantly contrasts the rhetorical strategies of ancient parables with more recent examples of the genre by Kafka, Borges, Calvino, and Agnon. By using an interdisciplinary approach and insights from current semiotic, linguistic, psychoanalytic, and gender theories, Naveh reveals a dramatic social, cultural, and political shift in the way we view the divine.

Gila Safran Naveh is Professor of Judaic Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati.


"Elegantly written, impressively and persuasively argued, and flawlessly executed, this is a major book in the field of high-level Judaica and a first-class study in the field of literary semiotics. " — Thomas A. Sebeok, author of Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics

"One of the most important aspects of this book is its reference to a tremendous amount of information about this area—the bibliography is extensive. The book is original and contributes new ideas and insights to a field that has been examined for literally thousands of years. My greatest concern is that those who read it will rush through it without realizing how delightful some of the insights really are. " — Ita Sheres, author of Dinah's Rebellion: A Biblical Parable for Our Time

"I am most enthralled with the historic movement of this genre of the parable and its contextualization in various temporal, spatial, cultural, and sociological conditions. To some extent, the medium is the message, as there is a hint of the parabolic in the text itself. The epiphanies for the reader come with every page. It is a thoroughly engaging and edifying book. " — Myrdene Anderson, Purdue University