Continuing the series of parables of Jesus proclaimed as the Sunday Gospel, and following on from two weeks of parables about planting and harvesting, this week -as the Gospel reading we hear a series of shorter parables.
Scholars suggest that one of the ways in which the teaching of Jesus was circulated following his death and resurrection was in a collection of sayings. This hypothetical text is known ‘Q’ – an abbreviation of the German Quelle meaning ‘source’ – and included sayings, parables, and controversies, gathered into a series of discourses, such as we find in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. What it did not include were stories of Jesus life – of his birth, even of his death and resurrection.
No surviving example of Q has been found. It remains a scholarly hypothesis – but the (non-Canonical) ‘Gospel’ of Thomas discovered in 1945 at Nag Haamadi in Egypt shows that a document comprised of sayings was known to the early church.
Scholars see Mark’s Gospel as the earliest known account of Jesus’ life and its meaning – including miracle stories, and some parables. They suggest that Matthew and Luke knew Mark’s Gospel and in preparing their own books incorporated the sayings tradition into Mark’s narrative acount, adding to it also additional traditions known to them from other sources.
Be that as it may, this week our Gospel reading is redolent of this early sayings tradition, as preserved in Matthew’s Gospel.
Gospel of the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
The Parable of the Net
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
New and Old Treasures
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: St Matthew. Carving of 1500s. Collection of the Courtauld Gallery, London (c) 2017, Allen Morris.