Doing justice to the Unjust Steward: An exegetical examination of Luke 16:1-13 and its context
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This dissertation ascertains the meaning of the Unjust Steward parable (Luke 16:1-13) by examining its language, historical background, and literary context. Chapter 1 introduces the parable's interpretive problems, acknowledges that it is perhaps the most difficult of Jesus' parables to understand, and offers a method for deciphering the meaning. Chapter 2 offers a detailed history-of-interpretation with special attention given to the work of Dennis J. Ireland ( Stewardship and the Kingdom , 1992) and the interpreters who have come after him, especially those who depart from the traditional interpretation. Chapter 3 first examines the text-critical concerns for the parable and then analyzes the language of 16:1-13 at the lexical, grammatical, and syntactical levels. Chapter 4 examines four historical background matters that some scholars have offered as interpretative keys for understanding the parable and determines that most of these background features have been overemphasized and are of limited help. Chapter 5 examines the literary concerns of the parable. This chapter first examines the nature of the "parable" genre, Luke's use of parables, and the history of parable interpretation in general. The chapter then examines the literary context of the parable, giving special attention to the relationship between the Unjust Steward and all of the major units in Luke 15 and 16. Finally, the chapter examines a few literary conventions that some scholars have proposed as interpretive keys. The conclusion is that some are of more value than others. Chapter 6 synthesizes the information and conclusions from Chapters 3, 4, and 5 to answer the nine most pressing questions that the parable presents to the reader. The dissertation concludes that the traditional interpretation, which perceives the parable to be about a dishonest transaction that serves as an exhortation about both the proper use of monetary possession and preparing for the kingdom of God, is still the most plausible.