Introduction to the Parables

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Introduction to the Parables

  1. Basic definitions
  2. Parable and Allegory
  3. Life-like quality of the parable
  4. Purpose of the parables
  5. Guidelines for understanding parables

A. Definitions of a parable

B. Meaning

C. A parable is an expansion of a simile

  1. Expanded into a more complex picture, e.g. then the similitude of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7)
  2. Expanded further into a story-parable, e.g. the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32).

II. Parable and Allegory

  1. Allegory has many points of correspondence between the story and the intended meaning.
  2. The parable hinges on certain crucial points, with enough detail to make the story realistic.
  3. The parable is life-like.

III. Life-like quality of the Parable

  1. Jesus drew his materials from the real world around him.
  2. Many of them originated in conflict situations, in which Jesus vindicates his actions or teaching.

IV. Purpose of the parables.

  1. Positive: Every parable was meant to evoke a response and strike for a verdict. Its design was to make people think.
  2. Negative: to obscure truth.

V. Guidelines for understanding parables

  1. The gospel parables have to do with the kingdom of God
  2. A form of story-telling
  3. Need to know history, culture and agriculture of NT times
  4. Pay attention to the context of a parable
  5. Focus on the main points
  6. Learn from Jesus’ own interpretation

A. The gospel parables have to do with the kingdom of God

  1. The kingdom has come: Matt 21:31; Luke 17:20–21:
    1. Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them,
      “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,
    2. nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’
      for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
  2. The kingdom is yet to come: Matt 13:47-50; Matt 25:
    1. “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom…”

A. cont’d The gospel parables are:

  1. Revelations of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, Matt 13:11, 34-35
    And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matt 13:11)
  2. Within the framework of “already” and “not yet”

Literature and Culture

  1. It pays to observe the techniques of story-telling, e.g.
    • repetition in the build-up of a story
    • the rule of contrast
    • the rule of stress
  2. Need to know as much as possible about the history, culture and agriculture of NT times

D. Pay attention to the context

E. Focus on the main points

F. Jesus interpreted his own parables

  1. the intervention of God into human affairs
  2. the corresponding activity of Satan
  3. the necessity of the appropriate human response