The Parables of Jesus: Overview and Summary

I. Definition Of "Parable"

A. Two different Greek words are translated "Parable" (Vine)

1. gr: parable

a) Literally "a placing beside"

b) Close to paraballo (gr:"to throw or lay beside, to compare. It signifies a placing of one thing beside another with a view OT comparison."

2. gr: paroimia (denotes a wayside saying, a byword, maxim; Jn 10:6; 16:25,29

B. A parable is not a...

1. FABLE: R.C. Trench in The Parables of the Lord says, "The parable is constructed to set forth a spiritual truth; while the fable is essentially of the earth, and never lifts itself above the earth. The fable just reaches that pitch of morality which the world will understand an approve...The parable differs from the fable, by moving in the spiritual world, and never transgressing the actual order of natural things." Fables teach human wisdom through fairy-tale like stories with speaking trees and animal. Parables teach divine wisdom through realistic, true to life stories. See Judges 9:8-15; 2 Chronicles 25:17-19. In the story of the Rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31 is viewed by Jehovah's witnesses as Parable, actually they view is as a fable. Why would Jesus use Jewish false doctrine and Pagan fables in the core of His teaching? Such is condemned in: (The word is used of Gnostic errors and of Jewish and profane fables and genealogies, in (example for use of fable in Greek):1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Tit. 1:14; of fiction, in 2 Pet. 1:16)

2. MYTH: Trench, "The mythical narrative presents itself not merely as the vehicle of the truth, but as being itself the truth: while in the parable we see the perfect distinction between form and essence, shell and kernel" The myth unconsciously mixes the symbol with the deeper meaning, the parable keeps the two separate. A myth claims to be the truth itself, not a vehicle for truth like parables do. Myths confuse fantasy and reality. Modernists view the creation story, miracles and the resurrection of Christ as mythical fantasy stories.

3. PROVERB: Although sometimes used interchangeably with the Greek word "parable", (Jn 10:6; 16:25,29) the parable is a comparison extended beyond the short use of the "wayside saying" of the proverb. See 2 Pe 2:22 for example of use

4. ALLEGORY: Trent, "In the allegory, there is a blending, and interpretation of the thing signifying and the thing signified." An allegory transfers the properties of one thing to another rather than comparing one thing to another. See Gal 4:21-31 esp. v24 & Mt 12:40 for 2 examples

Summary Chart Of What Makes Parables Distinct

Fable Vs Parable

Fables are knowingly untrue, unrealistic fantasy stories that illustrate previously discovered human wisdom.

Parables are true or realistic stories that illustrate a deep spiritual truth not previously understood by man.

Myth Vs Parable

Myths are fantasy/untrue stories that are accepted as reality/truth themselves.

Parables clearly divide between the story part and the spiritual lesson being taught.

Proverb Vs Parable

A short saying to be taken literally itself to teach some obvious human wisdom.

Parables are longer, more illustrative and teach a hidden truth.

Allegory Vs Parable

An allegory transfers the properties of one thing to another.

Parables compare two separate things to one another.

II. Purpose Of Parables

A. To sort the audience into righteous and wicked: Mt 13:10-17; Mk 4:10-12; Lk 8:9-10

1. Parables either attracted, interested provoked inquiry, and thus sowed seed for future development; or left the self-righteous and stubborn self-condemned in spiritual blindness. Thus parables sifted the audience and found out the willing hearers. (H. Monsor, Topical index and Digest of the Bible)

B. To reveal truth to the righteous and conceal it from the wicked: Mt 13:11

C. To teach new truth to the righteous: Mt 13:17; 1 Pe 1:12

D. To fulfill prophecy: Mt 13:34-35; Mk 4:33-34 (Isa 6:9-10; Ps 78:2)

III. Classification Of Parables

A. God's expectations for Israel

1. Big Dinner: Lk 14:16-24

2. Marriage Feast: Mt 22:1-14

3. Wicked Vine-growers: Mt 21:33-46; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19

4. Fruitless Fig Tree: Lk 13:6-9

5. Old & New Treasures: Mt 13:52

B. Advice to Soul-Winners on Evangelism

1. Sower: Mt 13:3-8; Mk 4:4-8; Lk 8:5-8

2. Tares: Mt 13:24-30

3. Mustard Seed: Mt 13:31-32; Mk 4:3-32; Lk 13:18-19

4. Leaven: Mt 13:33; Lk 13:20-21

5. Mystery of the Growing Seed : Mk 4:26-29

6. Hidden Treasure: Mt 13:44

7. Pearl of Great Price: Mt 13:44

8. Fish Net: Mt 13:47

9. (Fruitless Fig Tree: Lk 13:6-9 repeated from section A)

10. Lost Sheep: Lk 15:3-7

11. Lost Coin: Lk 15:8-10

12. Lost Son (prodigal): Lk 15:11-32

C. Serving God

1. Two Foundations: Mt 7:24-27; Lk 6:47-49

2. Pounds: Lk 19:11-27

3. Talents: Mt 25:14-30

4. Labourers in the Vineyard: Mt 20:1-16

5. Two Sons: Mt 21:28-32

6. Counting the Cost: (Tower & King) Lk 14:25-33

7. Dishonest Steward: Lk 16:1-14

8. Unworthy Servant: Lk 17:7-10

9. Blind Leading Blind: Lk 6:39; Mt 15:14

10. Good Shepherd: Jn 10:1-18

11. Defiled Man: Mk 7:14-23; Mt 15:10-20

12. Narrow Door: Lk 13:22-30

D. Living as a Christian

1. Love for neighbor: Good Samaritan: Lk 10:25-37

2. Wealth: Rich Fool: Lk 12:13-21

3. Prayer: Friend's Request at Midnight: Lk 11:5-8; Widow and Unjust Judge: Lk 18:1-8

4. Humility: Pharisee and Publican: Lk 18:8-14

5. Forgiveness: Unmerciful Servant: Mt 18:23-25; Two Debtors: Lk 7:40-47

6. Alertness: Fig Tree: Mt 24:32-33; Watchful servants & Thief: Lk 12:35-48; Mk 13:32-37; Mt 24:42-51

7. Steadfastness: Ten Virgins: Mt 25:13

8. Proper Timing: New/old Garments & Wineskins: Mt 9:14-17; Mk 2:18-22; Lk 5:33-39

IV. These Are Not Parables:

A. Instructions for actual conduct:

1. Take low seat: Lk 14:7-11

2. Feast for the poor: Lk 14:12-14

B. Foretelling of future events:

1. Sheep & Goats: Mt 25:31-46

2. Rich man and Lazarus: Lk 16:19-31

Steve Rudd


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