Week 3: New Testament Parables

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The Tenants of the Vineyard (Mark)

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

You have already seen this parable of the vineyard owner and his son in Thomas, and the story is also found in Mark and Luke. In this version in Mark, the frame is much more complex, because Jesus is not in a dialogue this time with a disciple or a student. Instead, he engaged in a verbal confrontation with a hostile audience, the priests and scribes of the temple. What do you about the relationship between the frame (Jesus speaking with the priests and scribes) and the story contained within the frame (the parable of the owner and the tenants)? Why exactly does Jesus choose to tell this particular story on this particular occasion to this particular audience?

King James version:

And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

And he began to speak unto them by parables.

A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.


World English Bible version:

They came again to Jerusalem, and as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders came to him, and they began saying to him, “By what authority do you do these things? Or who gave you this authority to do these things?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John—was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.” They reasoned with themselves, saying, “If we should say, ‘From heaven;’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ If we should say, ‘From men’”—they feared the people, for all held John to really be a prophet. They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said to them, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

He began to speak to them in parables.

“A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a pit for the winepress, built a tower, rented it out to a farmer, and went into another country. When it was time, he sent a servant to the farmer to get from the farmer his share of the fruit of the vineyard. They took him, beat him, and sent him away empty. Again, he sent another servant to them; and they threw stones at him, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. Again he sent another; and they killed him; and many others, beating some, and killing some. Therefore still having one, his beloved son, he sent him last to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those farmers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ They took him, killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the farmers, and will give the vineyard to others.

Haven’t you even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner. This was from the Lord, it is marvelous in our eyes’?” They tried to seize him, but they feared the multitude; for they perceived that he spoke the parable against them. They left him, and went away.


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what attitude did the priests and scribes have about John the Baptist?
  • why did the tenants kill the servants of the owner of the vineyard? what about the owner's son?
  • how did the priests and scribes react to the story?

Source: Mark, Chapter 11-12, King James version. Website: Hypertext King James Bible. World English Bible version. Website: WEB World English Bible.


Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM