Types of Parables


The parabolic story differs from the pure parable only in that its picture, which is a fictional story, is
recounted as if it had once happened.

The illustrative story is a freely invented story that gives an example, a model case, which has to be
generalized by the hearer.

The allegorical parable is a freely invented story, which says something other than it appears to say on
the surface by heaping metaphor on metaphor. Allegory seeks to present truth to our minds in a more
expressive form by painting it in a series of pictures, which indicate but at the same time conceal
intended truth. It is only intelligible when the metaphors are known, for they have to be interpreted
step-by-step, and only then is the matter that they depict can be known.

The controversy parable is among the sayings of Jesus.

We find controversy stories, parables, aphorisms, and other looser discourses. Controversy stories
(e.g., Mark 2:15-3:6; 7:1-23; 10:2-9; 12:13-17, 18-27, 28-34; pars.) have a regular sequence of
elements: (1) an action by Jesus or his disciples (2) stimulates a challenge from opponents,
leading to (3) a pronouncement by Jesus. The pronouncement is often a well-formed statement of
more general application than the particular situation that generated the controversy. In his
parables, Jesus compares some readily observable natural or human phenomenon to the kingdom
of God he is proclaiming. Some parable are used for attack (Mark 3:23-27), others for defense
(Luke 15:4-10); some attempt to make clearer (Matthew 13:24-30), other to mystify (Mark 4:3-8).
They range from simple analogies (Matthew 13:44-46) to extended allegories (Mark 12:1-11), but
all of them give a narrative form to metaphor (The Writings of the New Testament, p. 133).


There are at least fourteen fundamental principles of parable exegesis:

1. Identifying Its Hearers
2. Recognizing Its Readers
3. Seeing Its Setting
4. Determining Its Immediate and Larger Context
5. Uncovering Its Structure
6. Finding Its Points of Reference
7. Assimilating Its Details
8. Studying Its Cultural Background
9. Translating Its Words into English
10. Decoding Its Interpretations
11. Understanding Its Theology
12. Grasping Its Secret of the Kingdom of God
13. Getting Its Punch Line
14. Making Its Applications

These fourteen fundamental principles supply the exegete with the foursquare dimension of the parable:
historical setting, literary features, hermeneutical exegesis and theological application.


“Context” throws light upon either a subject through near or remote passages bearing upon the same
theme. Every sentence or verse in the Bible has something that precedes it and something that follows
it—except Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21. There is a circle of context: (1) cultural background; (2)
the Bible itself; (3) specific books; and (4) material that immediately precedes and follows. It has been
said, “Context is the key to the meaning” and “too much importance cannot be laid upon a close study
of the context.”

Of the fifty parables of Jesus, twenty-one appear in two or more gospels. The reasons why each gospel
writer chose to record a parable may differ from the others. However, there are no contradictions in
Scripture. The truthfulness and faithfulness of God guarantee that He will not set forth any passage in
His Word that contradicts another passage. If a writer uniquely selects a parable or employs it for a
different reason, it contains truths that he wants to communicate to his audience. Hence, the circle of
context must be understood in order to probe a parable for its meanings and applications.

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