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Avoin raamattu kuvattuna kirkkotilassa.

Doctoral defence of Antti Kyytsönen, MTh, 22 March 2024: The Parables of Jesus evoke emotions and guide listeners in the desired direction

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Biblical Studies will be examined at the Philosophical Faculty at Joensuu campus. The public examination will be streamed online.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

The topic of my research is the parables of Jesus examined through narrative persuasion and affective rhetoric. More precisely, I investigate how the parable narratives strive to affect their audience within the gospel narrative and how the parables, in their context, aim to affect the readers of the gospel. It is important to research this topic because the parables of Jesus are widely known and try to influence their audiences. Overall, the parables affect the lives of numerous millions of Christians around the world. Furthermore, they have influenced and continue to influence the theology of Christian churches. Emotions in the parables are important in many parables and even central to some. Parables, as narratives, tend to bypass resistance to other views that are often faced by argumentation that is based on reason. This is because the narrative draws the audience in the story world.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

The parables of Jesus strive to persuade in many ways, including through emotional persuasion. I have developed a novel method how to transparently identify emotions and their persuasive function in the parables or more broadly in narratives overall. I utilise findings from modern psychology and social psychology. One of the areas where these theories have been applied is transportation, or how well the narrative engages the audience. Another tool utilised is identification, or how the narrative guides the audience to identify with certain characters. I have discovered that contemporary psychological theories can be applied to analysis of the parables of Jesus surprisingly well. In more general terms, the parables of Jesus effectively utilise surprise in various ways. The aim is to capture the audience’s attention and maintain it throughout the story. This enhances the memorability of the narrative. Fear is another central emotion in many parables. The narrative describes a good fate and a bad fate. If the protagonists of the parable do not do what they are supposed to do they receive a bad fate. This evokes fear in the audience leading to contemplation about how to avoid the bad fate. Furthermore, individual parables contain different emotions that affect the audience.

How can the results of your doctoral research be utilised in practice?

The findings of my dissertation can be used to analyse how narratives or communication strive to influence their audience. For example, does a politician aim to evoke fear in the audience? Or does a movie attempt to guide the values of the audience through identification and progression of the narrative. Examining the different layers of emotional persuasion helps to reveal the goal of the persuader. With the tools from my research, it is easier to identify, for example, emotional manipulation. Additionally, the research gives tools for everyone to influence others in everyday life through narratives and emotions. Furthermore, in biblical studies, it is possible to find new angles of approaching parables, enriching our understanding of the narratives and their meaning.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

My dissertation is a part of “Parables as Persuasive Narratives” research project, funded by Academy of Finland. Our research group analyses parables form different angles. The other group members analyse parables as argumentation or when they began to receive divine authority which has dimmed their original message. In my own research process, I studied psychological research related to basic emotions in particular. The basic emotions are considered to be relatively universal in nature. There are six of them: anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise, and fear. I have complemented the sextet with compassion and shame, which are prominent in the parables or in the world that the gospels describe. The theory about how narratives try to persuade their audiences comes from the field of social psychology. The method is built bit by bit in the dissertation, and whenever a new piece of the method is added, I utilise it to analyse example parables.

Is there something else about your doctoral dissertation you would like to share in the press release?

At the core of my research is the development of an analytical tool that makes it possible to identify emotions and their effects in parables and other narratives. By utilising this tool, it becomes relatively easy and transparent to evaluate what emotions narratives contain and how they strive to persuade the audiences.

Doctoral defence 


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