Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Parables as Overtures, pages 25-53

A few years ago, I remember having a conversation with some friends about the book The Da Vinci Code.   Our conversation was about whether or not it had been good for Christianity.  For some people, the idea that Jesus might have been married had been a deal-breaker.  For them, it nullified the work that he did.  For others, it humanized him in a way that made the gospels a more interesting read, and the church a more relevant place.  Ether way, people felt strongly about it.  I was reminded of this while reading Chapter 2.

We, as Borg and Crossan mention, fall into this dualism of Fact or Fable. They are talking about the Birth Narratives but it applies to so much of the conversation about the Bible.  The text is either historically factual or it is completely fictitious.  This binary post-enlightenment thinking does not leave very much space for creativity or interpretation, and I would agree, leaves us missing much of the point of the text.

Personally, I love the idea of the Birth Narratives as Parables.  I had not heard that way of exploring them before.  I like that Borg and Crossan say that “for those who have ears to hear, they are full of truth” (34).  This has helped me to settle some of the turmoil I had around these stories.  If I read them as parables, I look for the subversive messages, for the contextual essences, to create meaning, rather than the meaning being the factuality of the stories.

And, the idea of an Overture was also really enlightening for me.  I really dug into the idea that these two stories are the overtures for the Gospels they start.  I love that the themes of these Gospels are woven through the Birth stories in a way that points us to the author’s contexts and messages.  I think that will enhance my future reading of Matthew and Luke on the whole.

This chapter gave me a lot to think about, and pointed me in the direction I needed to focus my pondering about Advent and Christmas.

Question for Reflections:

What is your response to the idea of the Birth Stories as Parable and Overture?

Does this concept help or complicate your reading of these stories?

2 thoughts on “Chapter 2

  1. I guess I have been thinking of the Christmas story as parable for many years now. In Indigenous (and other) traditions, these kinds of foundational stories are called creation stories and they are not meant so much to be seen as historical facts as to provide a basis for understanding the people and their world. I long ago abandoned any sense of the story of the birth of Christ as actually factually true ( I mean, come on) but have only found that my appreciation of the meaning and significance of this time has deepened. I also think the timing of the story (as the days start to lengthen after winter solstice)and the role of the birthing feminine (with goddess overtones) to be important elements of this parable that hold deep meaning for me.


  2. It took a while to wrap my head around how to apply a music concept to writing, but I eventually got there with the overture idea. I’m not sure I see that as being important?
    I don’t think of these passages as parables in quite the same way as the stories Jesus told. Those parables arose in circumstances where people were gathered around to listen to him and he set the stories up as tools to help people to think about something. In those circumstances the audience is on board from the beginning as not thinking of the stories as fact.
    These birth narratives are not set up in quite the same way. I don’t think of them as fact, but they are reported that way. We are not set up from the beginning to think of them as teaching tools. We have to choose to see them that way. That has probably created some problems over the years . . .


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