What is a…

Greek: παραβολή —transliteration: parabole —meaning: a placing beside; a comparison; an allegory or analogy used as a teaching aid, presented along with a truth being taught

Hebrew: מָשָׁל —transliteration: mashal —meaning: a proverb, parable

In the Old Testament, this word is used to denote…

  1. a proverb (1 Samuel 10:12; 24:13; 2 Chronicles 7:20)
  2. a prophetic utterance (Numbers 23:7; Ezek. 20:49)
  3. an enigmatic saying (Psalm 78:2; Proverbs 1:6)

In the New Testament

  1. a proverb (Mark 7:17; Luke 4:23)
  2. a typical emblem (Hebrews 9:9; 11:19)
  3. a similitude or Allegory (Matthew 15:15; 24:32; Mark 3:23; Luke 5:36; 14:7)
  4. ordinarily, in a more restricted sense, a comparison of Earthly with Heavenly things—an Earthly story with a Heavenly meaning, as in our Lord’s parables

Instruction by parables has been in use from the earliest times. A large portion of our Lord's public teaching consisted of parables. He himself explained his reasons for this in His answer to the inquiry of the disciples (Matthew 13:13-15 NKJV; Mark 4:11-12 NKJV; Luke 8:9-10 NKJV).

And the disciples came and said to Him,

“Why do You speak to them in parables?”

He answered and said to them,

“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” —Matthew 13:10-17 NKJV

Article Version: October 2, 2019