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Parable Links - Parables Bibliography


The Parable

"At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought." - C.H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom.

"A parable is a mashal that employs a short narrative fiction to reference a transcendent symbol." - B. Brandon Scott, Hear Then the Parable.

"A Parable is a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between God's kingdom, actions, or expectations and something in this world, real or imagined." - Arland J. Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus.



The Distinctive Elements in the Parables of Jesus


One of the most striking things about the parables of Jesus is their directness of address to the audience--a feature that is attested in various traditions and thus has the ring of authenticity.


The parables of Jesus are not simply building blocks within a larger, longer argument that is to be concluded outside of the parable itself.  The parables are themselves front and center bearers of the message of Jesus.


The fact that the parables of Jesus are not used for argumentation in the sense of the "parables" of ancient philosophers, popular rhetoricians, or rabbinic masters is significant for the content of Jesus' parables.  There is very little previous learning that Jesus' hearers need to bring to the occasion beyond what is gained through life experience.


Perhaps most striking about the parables of Jesus is their ways of portraying God.  The parables are thoroughly theological.  But they do not get involved in descriptions of God's attributes or in theoretical discussions about God.  What is characteristic rather is the sense of God's intimacy and familiarity through the use of striking but common metaphors--father, king, a shepherd, the owner of a vineyard, or a woman who sweeps her house.


Characteristic of many of the parables of Jesus, not all, is the element of surprise in the way they end.


Finally, the parables of Jesus capture, combine, and make use of two major Jewish traditions: wisdom and eschatology.

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Created by Eugene Hensell, OSB
Saint Meinrad School of Theology
Saint Meinrad, IN 47577
Last Updated May 09, 2005