(This is a summary of my longer paper titled: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Context: Jesus’ Interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7 in Light of Second Temple Jewish Parallels. The current version of my paper is available here.)

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mk. 12:1-9/Mt. 21:33-46/Lk. 20:9-19; also GThom 65-66) is one of the most important and most variedly interpreted parables in the New Testament. Many commentators suggest that the only plausibly historical way of interpreting this parable is to strip it from its synoptic context (in the midst of Jesus’ Temple controversy) and to remove from it its reference to Isa. 5:1-7 which forces an allegorical interpretation of it. I suggest, however, that if we are looking for an historically plausible Jesus, then we are looking for one who both fits plausibly within the Judaism of his day, and yet is controversial enough within that Judaism to have been crucified and founded a community which later broke with that Judaism. By looking at several other Second Temple Jewish interpretations of Isa. 5:1-7 we can see that Jesus’ interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7 in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants fits these criteria perfectly. (more…)