John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus at DePaul University, is widely regarded as the foremost historical Jesus scholar of our time. He currently serves as the president of the Society of Biblical Literature. You can visit him online at

In his last book, Crossan dealt with the Lord's Prayer and its oddities. Here the focus is on the parables — both the ones told by Jesus and the "megaparables" told about Jesus in the four gospels. Crossan defines a parable as "a metaphorical story." He contends that they were used in the pre-Jesus tradition. Although the man from Nazareth used the tried-and-true riddle and example parables, he added to this typology a third type which Crossan calls "challenge parables." What do they do?

"Challenge parables humble our prejudicial absolutes, but without proposing counterabsolutes in their place. They are tiny pins dangerously close to big balloons. They push or pull us into pondering whatever is taken totally for granted in our world — in its cultural customs, social relations, traditional politics, and religious traditions."

Jesus uses challenge parables to shake the foundations in the lives of those who listened to him. Crossan also interprets Jesus' teaching tools as participatory and nonviolent, opening up a path to justice, mercy, and peace. The author, as usual, reframes the ways in which we have seen and experienced the Bible, Jesus, parables, the gospels, and the kingdom of God.