For John Bytheway, the New Testament parables are like unto a Sudoku puzzle waiting to be solved.
“Who doesn’t love the parables? You know there’s a solution, but you have to do some work to find it,” said the author, speaker and part-time BYU religion instructor.
Going into 2010, Bytheway considered writing a scriptural commentary on the Book of Revelation. But a trip to the Holy Land with his wife, Kim, last January changed his mind. “As we beheld in high definition the backdrop for the life and teachings of the Savior,” Bytheway noted in the book’s introduction, “aha experiences came by the dozen.”
Bytheway couldn’t wait to return home, study the parables more in depth and record the insights he gained from his trip. By the end of the year, “Of Pigs, Pearls and Prodigals: A Fresh Look at the Parables of Jesus,” was on the shelves at Deseret Book.
For Bytheway, producing “Pigs, Pearls and Prodigals” was a pleasurable process of enlightenment.
“When you write something like this, you don’t know if it is going to get published or not. But the point, when you are done, is who cares — you learned so much in the process you are glad you took the trip,” he said. “If it gets published, great. If not, you wouldn’t regret it for a minute because you learned so much doing the research.”
In an interview with Mormon Times, Bytheway described why the road to Jericho, a prominent residence of priests and Levites, provided the perfect setting for the Savior’s parable of “The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).” While touring a museum, the BYU religion instructor observed coins sewn into ancient clothing and better understood the parable of “Lost Coin” (Luke 15:8-10).
“If you just read the verses, you might not know these insights,” Bytheway said, adding that it isn’t required to travel to the Holy Land to learn them either.
Bytheway, a regular on the Deseret Book best-seller list, organized the book’s content in a clean, concise and conversational manner. Each chapter begins with a “who,” “where” and “why” section so the reader can better digest the setting and context of all 30 parables discussed. The scriptural verses of each parable are included in each chapter. The end of each chapter contains a “Therefore, what do I do?” section to suggest ways to apply the scripture to the reader’s life. There is also a “Coming up” note to segue into the next chapter.
Solving the scriptural Sudoku for the “Therefore, what” section was both the most challenging and most edifying part of the writing process, the author said.
“OK, I get the story. I get the doctrine. Now how does that change who I am today? What do I do with that?” Bytheway said, “I had the same challenge when I wrote ‘Isaiah for Airheads.’ But finding the application was the most rewarding part. This is how this parable can change my life.”
Bytheway’s favorite parable to explore has been the prodigal son. “There is so much to think about in there. It’s a great, compelling, tough story in some ways. I love it,” said the father of six children ages 12 and under.
Bytheway suggested the title, “Of Sowers, Seeds and Samaritans,” but the staff at Deseret Book liked “Of Pigs, Pearls and Prodigals.” Bytheway was thrilled to see James C. Christensen’s “Parables” painting on the cover.
Bytheway, recently called as an LDS bishop, cited 60 different sources in his book. Ultimately, Bytheway hopes his book motivates readers to embark on a journey of their own. “Of course, the goal is to get people back in the scriptures, feeling the spirit of the Lord and discovering applications for themselves so they can write their own book on the parables,” he said.