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Jewish Journal

‘First Drafts of the Parables of Jesus’

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 28, 2008 | 7:37 pm

At the LA Times Festival of Books Saturday, I stopped by the McSweeney‘s booth. I’ve never read the magazine but I did indulge in Dave Eggers in college, and though I may be no hipster, I am arguably a writer. One plus one, minus one, plus one, minus another ... it seemed like I should at least take a look.

In current issue of the quarterly journal, I found this article titled “First Drafts of the Parables of Jesus.” It assumes that the Bible, or at least the Gospels, was not simply a great piece of literature but, in fact, fiction. The red-letter text is same, but the “first drafts” include extraneous details that any good editor would remove. The first from Luke 11 and the second referenced in Matthew 21 and Luke 15. This is clearly satire, not suggestion.

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. Then the one inside answers, ‘OK, just gimme a minute,’ and he goes to one of his friends, and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of a friend of mine on a journey has come to the friend who’s my friend, and that friend has nothing to set before his friend.’”

One of the disciples said, “Wait, doesn’t the original person’s friend need three loaves of bread because a friend of his friend who’s on a journey has come to the friend of the original person’s friend, and that friend has nothing to set before his first friend? Or is that what you just said?”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Jesus. “The point is that God can get you free bread.”

- - - -

“But what do you think about this?” asked Jesus. “A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. Which of the two was obeying his father?”

“The first!” cried some of the disciples.

“The second!” cried the rest of the disciples.

And Jesus said, “Wait, I messed this one up. Did I mention that when the first son went to work in the vineyard he killed somebody? Because that’s important. So, yeah, which of the two was obeying his father?”

“Uh ... the first?” said some of the disciples.

“The second! The second!” cried the rest of the disciples.

And Jesus said, “Oh, cripes, also the father only has one arm. And he is riding a horse the whole time. Was that clear?”

One of the disciples said, “Are you sure that’s not ‘The Parable of the One-Armed Father Who Rode on a Horse’?”

And Jesus said, “Maybe you’re right. OK, let’s change the question: Which of the two sons was the tallest?”

The disciples were silent.

Jesus shook his head in dismay. “Have I taught you nothing?”

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