Parables of Jesus

The parables of Jesus, found in the synoptic gospels, embody much of Jesus' teaching.Jesus' parables are quite simple, memorable stories, often with humble imagery, each with a single message. Jesus, for example, likened the Kingdom of God to leaven (an image usually meant as corruption) or a mustard seed. Like his aphorisms, Jesus' parables were often surprising and paradoxical. The parable of the good Samaritan, for example, turned expectations on their head with the despised Samaritan proving to be the wounded man's neighbor. The parables were simple and memorable enough to survive in an oral tradition before being written down years after Jesus' death and resurrection.

His parables are sometimes interpreted as allegories in Christian tradition and, rarely, in the gospels themselves. In such an allegory, each element corresponds metaphorically to a class of people (e.g., false Christians), a heavenly reward, or some other topic. The Gospel of John includes allegories but no parables.

In Western civilization, they are the best known examples of stories referred to as parables, and so form the prototype for the term "parable".


Of the four canonical gospels the parables are almost all in the three synoptic gospels. The Gospel of Luke contains both the largest total number of parables (24) and the largest number of unique parables found nowhere else (10); the Gospel of Matthew contains 23 parables of which six are unique; and the Gospel of Mark contains eight parables of which only one (the Parable of the Growing Seed) is unique. repeat that Jesus would only speak to the "crowds" in parables, while secretly, in private, explaining everything to his disciples.

Stephen L Harris has, on the other hand, surmised that Jesus used parables because they provoked thought and coaxed the listeners into participating more actively as they considered the parables' ambiguous content. According to him, the belief that Jesus taught secret meanings to his disciples is a product of the Early Christian tradition and does not originate with Jesus himself. [Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.]

The Jewish Encyclopedia states::"The simple meaning of these parables, however, was lost later on, and they were taken to be allegories and mysteries, especially when they alluded to the Messianic expectations, about which it was not safe to speak in public, as they assumed the end of the kingdom of Satan (Rome; comp. and , ]

# "Drawing in the Net," bibleref|Matthew|13:47–50|TNIV
# "Laborers in the Vineyard," bibleref|Matthew|20:1–16|TNIV
# "Lost Money," bibleref|Luke|15:8–10|TNIV
# "The Faithful Servant," bibleref|Luke|12:35–48|TNIV
# "The Good Samaritan," bibleref|Luke|10:30–37|TNIV
# "The Seed Growing Secretly," bibleref|Mark|4:26–29|TNIV
# "The Lost Sheep," bibleref|Matthew|18:12–14|TNIV, bibleref|Luke|15:1–7|TNIV
# "The Mustard Seed," bibleref|Matthew|13:31–32|TNIV bibleref|Mark|4:30–32|TNIV bibleref|Luke|13:18–19|TNIV
# "The Pearl," bibleref|Matthew|13:45–46|TNIV
# "The Prodigal Son," bibleref|Luke|15:11–32|TNIV
# "The Sower (The Four Soils)," bibleref|Matthew|13:3–23|TNIV bibleref|Mark|4:1–20|TNIV bibleref|Luke|8:5–15|TNIV
# "The Wedding Feast," bibleref|Matthew|22:1–14|TNIV, bibleref|Luke|14:16–24|TNIV
# "Pharisee and the Publican," bibleref|Luke|18:9–14|TNIV
# "Ten Talents," bibleref|Matthew|25:14–30|TNIV, bibleref|Luke|19:11–27|TNIV
# "The Budding Fig Tree," bibleref|Matt|24:32–36, bibleref|Mark|13:28–32, bibleref|Luke|21:29–33
# "The Friend at Night," bibleref|Luke|11:5–8|TNIV
# "The Hidden Treasure," bibleref|Matthew|13:44|TNIV
# "The Importunate Widow," bibleref|Luke|18:1–8|TNIV
# "The Leaven," bibleref|Matthew|13:33|TNIV, bibleref|Luke|13:20–21|TNIV
# "The Master and Servant," bibleref|Luke|17:7–10
# "The Rich Fool," bibleref|Luke|12:16–21|TNIV
# "The Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus," bibleref|Luke|16:19–31|TNIV
# "The Tares," bibleref|Matthew|13:24–30|TNIV
# "The Ten Virgins," bibleref|Matthew|25:1–13|TNIV
# "The Two Debtors," bibleref|Luke|7:41–47|TNIV
# "The Two Sons," bibleref|Matthew|21:28–32|TNIV
# "The Unjust Steward," bibleref|Luke|16:1–9|TNIV
# "The Wicked Husbandmen," bibleref|Matthew|21:33–46|TNIV, bibleref|Mark|12:1–12|TNIV, bibleref|Luke|20:9–19|TNIV
# "The Wise and the Foolish Builders," bibleref|Matthew|7:24–27|TNIV
# "Unmerciful Servant," bibleref|Matthew|18:23–35|TNIV
# "Building a tower and waging war," bibleref|Luke|14:28–33
# "The Barren Fig Tree," bibleref|Luke|13:6–9
# "The Guests," bibleref|Luke|14:7–15

In art

Of the thirty or so parables in the canonical Gospels, four were shown in medieval art almost to the exclusion of the others, but not mixed in with the narrative scenes of the "Life of Christ". These were: the Wise and Foolish Virgins, Dives and Lazarus, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. [Emile Mâle, The Gothic Image , Religious Art in France of the Thirteen Century, p 195, English trans of 3rd edn, 1913, Collins, London (and many other editions)] The Labourers in the Vineyard also appears in Early Medieval works. From the Renaissance the numbers shown widened slightly, and the various scenes of the Prodigal Son became the clear favourite, with the Good Samaritan also popular. Albrecht Dürer made a famous engraving of the Prodigal Son amongst the pigs (1496), a popular subject in the Northern Renaissance, and Rembrandt depicted the story several times, although at least one of his works, "The Prodigal Son in the Tavern", a portrait of himself "as" the Son, revelling with his wife, is like many artists' depictions, a way of dignifying a genre tavern scene. His late "Return of the Prodigal Son" (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) is one of his most popular works.

ee also

* Parable
* List of parables told by Jesus
* Miracles of Jesus


External links

* [ List of biblical parables]
* [ Another list] , slightly different and only of the synoptic Gospels
* [ Analysis of biblical parables]
* [ Listing of video portrayals of many parables of Jesus]
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia: Parable]
* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Parable]
* [ LDS Bible Dictionary: Parables]
* [ PBS: Frontline: From Jesus to Christ: The Parables]
* [ Parables of Jesus at WikiChristian]

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