Parables – Purpose of

Parables – Purpose of


Parables are a major part of Jesus teachings. Although they were recorded from the oral tradition, no one would doubt the genuine of the writings.


There have been different views of interpretation to the Parables. Allegorical interpretation was used in the early church. The interpretation of the Good Samaritan by Augustine is one good illustration. We may still be able to see this type of Sermon today. Jesus himself interpreted the parable of the Sower and the Tares and the Dragnet in the same allegorical way.


(Some historical Biblical literatures have argued that Jesus did not actually interpret these two parables allegorically. Jesus’ interpretation of the parable of the Sower in Mk. 4:11-20 is more of Paul’s teaching being mistakenly placed here. Further, the words “seed” and “crop” are in consistent and confusing. “Seed” is a Greek idea while “Sow” is a Jewish idea.)


We can also see a number of Parables that are the same throughout the Gospel. Their applications are traditional or connected to the parables itself such as the parable of the two houses and the parable of the children in the market place.


On the other hand, there are parables which applications were added later by the evangelists. For example, there is no application of the parables of the Lamp in Mk. and Lk. But we see an injunction in Mt. which says, “In the same way your light must shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.”


The difference between Parables and Allegories is that the later is merely a teaching to be accepted while the former takes one step further in challenging the hearer to make a decision. The story of the poor man’s ewe told by Nathan to David is a good example.


Today, we still see parables teaching allegorically often. This is especially true for the Parables of the Good Samaritan and The lost Son. It would, in fact, inappropriate to interpret all Parables allegorically. We should avoid viewing Parables in details or conceiving them in abstraction. Rather, we should look for one single teaching true to nature and life.


We should understand the theme teaching of the Parables, apply them to our circumstances today, and challenge for a life change. This is what Jesus did when He shared the parables to His disciples.