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THE FANTASTIC IN THE PARABOLIC LANGUAGE OF JESUS

GEORGE AICHELE, JR
Neotestamentica
Vol. 24, No. 1 (1990), pp. 93-105
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43047940
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
THE FANTASTIC IN THE PARABOLIC LANGUAGE OF JESUS
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Abstract

This essay presents analysis of selected parables and other short enigmatic sayings attributed to Jesus and recorded in the canonical Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas, in the light of contemporary theories of the literary fantastic developed by T Todorov and E Rabkin. These theories describe the fantastic as a narrative structure within which the implied reader hesitates between the genres of the marvelous and the uncanny. This fundamental indeterminacy of reference reverses or subverts the groundrules of narrative realism. The fantastic structure plays an important role both in the parabolic sayings and in the interpretations of those sayings by biblical scholars. This is most clear at he levels of the sayings tradition represented by the Gospels of Mark and Thomas. In contrast, the Q material displays very little of the fantastic. Matthew and Luke also tend to determine the reference of sayings material, either to the marvelous or the uncanny; this eliminates the element of the fantastic in favour of theological coherence. The larger narrative becomes increasingly certain of who Jesus is. John reverses this tendency and 're-fantasises' the sayings material, but John also moves the fantastic hesitation to a different stratum of the narrative, thereby disarming this aspect of the narrative. The paper concludes with a few general observations on the relation between the fantastic and the credibility of narrative, and the consequences of this relation for understanding these texts.

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