Are parables a reality? Theorizing Verses in the Midrash from a Cognitive-Cultural Perspective

Nikolsky, R., 2020, (Accepted/In press) The Power of Parables. Ottenheijm, E., Poorthuis, M. & Merz, A. (eds.). Leiden-Boston: Brill, (Jewish and Christian Perspectives series).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

This short contribution, celebrating the final stages of the project “Parables and the Parting of the Ways” which was conducted from 2014-2019, directed by Marcel Poorthuis, Eric Ottenheijm, and Annette Merz. The project provided a platform for deep and comprehensive research into the Late Antique parables in their various aspects and from various perspectives.
My contribution to the final volume of the project focuses on a phenomenon in the poetics of parables which is banal for any reader of midrash. However, while midrash and parables have been theorized many times by scholars in the field, from a literary, historical, philosophical and cultural-critique approaches, it was never theorized from a cultural-cognitive perspective, a perspective which, I argue, is the one best to explain the it.
The phenomenon is the following: there are no verses in parables.
One finds verses as the basis of the parable, or at the end of it, also the nimshal and possibly the midrash in which a parable is embedded might be swarming with verses in various function and statuses, but the parable itself does not quote any verse, ever. How do we theorize this?
The intuitive reaction to this recognition is that of course this is the case, as the narrative of the parable comes from real life situations, or at least motifs that are considered in the literary sphere as realistic, and the biblical texts are an unchangeable cultural memory that has to be explained. However, as far as I know, no study was ever dedicated to this phenomenon per se, the absence of verses in the parable.
My study of this phenomenon will concentrate not on the artefact as such, i.e. the midrashic text, but on the phenomenon as a cognitive process. I will show that the absence of quoted verses in the parable mimic a general human cognitive process in creating culture. This process is described by van Heusden in his Decoupling Theory, which I will detail below.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Power of Parables
EditorsEric Ottenheijm, Marcel Poorthuis , Annette Merz
Place of PublicationLeiden-Boston
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Publication series

NameJewish and Christian Perspectives series

ID: 123224870