Despite its importance, the parable of the wicked tenants has been an enigma to modern interpretation. The approaches to the parable have been quite varied. Some interpreters place this parable at the apex of the ministry of Jesus, while others assign little importance to it or virtually ignore it. In some cases the conclusions drawn have been unsatisfactory either because of presuppositions that are too rigid or that have been shown to be erroneous by recent developments. Any discussion of the parable is necessarily a complex one in that it involves the relation of the three Synoptic accounts, an assessment of the account in the Gospel of Thomas, the religious and economic background in Palestine, the self-designation of Jesus, and the theological shaping of the parable by the tradition and by evangelists. Because of the importance of this parable as a possible key to understanding the ministry of Jesus, particularly since its relevance has often been minimized, this parable deserves closer analysis.
Klyne Snodgrass is Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.