Is Love Mentioned More In The Old Or New Testament The Parables of Jesus – 6 Rules of Interpretation

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The Parables of Jesus – 6 Rules of Interpretation

In his teachings, Jesus often used a variety of illustrations. The various listeners were awakened by images drawn from the environment of their daily lives. For example, the parables contain some of the most profound and moving lessons given by him. In Jesus’ world, people grew up with stories.

The most common definition for parable would be illustration. A parable, from the Greek word “paraballo” (formed from the preposition “para,” near; and the verb “ballo,” to throw, throw), signifying a story in which a comparison is made between some moral, spiritual, or literal truth and some human events or everyday things. In other words, parables are extended parables.

Parables are found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). There are, at least, thirty-nine parables in the Gospels. The parables are usually about the kingdom. We can follow some rules that govern the interpretation of parables:

1. Distinguish two things: the illustration, or image, and the main point, or idea illustrated. Parables have two levels of meaning. Illustration is one thing, and the truth illustrated by the parable is quite another. Do not treat parables as allegories. An allegory is completely filled with symbolic meaning, where every detail means something.

2. Understand the purpose of the parable. Jesus’ use of parables is central to his teaching. Note that sometimes Jesus himself gives the meaning.

3. Note the occasion when it was uttered and why and the cultural and historical background of the parable. In other words, look at the parable in its proper context.

4. Understand the need that prompted the parable.

5. Analyze the structure and language of the parable. Beginning and ending are very important. Who are the characters? What is spoken in direct discourse in the parable? What terms are repeated in the parable? Notice the stock images in the parable. Repeated images are paralleled in the Old Testament.

6. The interpretation of the parable must be coherent with the global plane of the book and with the general teaching of Scripture. For example, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31), Jesus uses a popular belief to illustrate that true riches are spiritual. The details of the parable are not important in themselves. It is a mistake to use parables as a source of doctrine.

Parabolic narratives have an appeal to ancient as well as modern readers. We all love stories, and Jesus, the great teacher, used them to teach us about the riches of the kingdom.

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