Exploring Jesus' Use of Parables

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The parables of the New Testament have been a subject of question since Jesus told them. How should they be interpreted? What do they mean? Jesus had a specific intent when he used parables to speak to the people. The understanding of his intent influences what meaning a person gains from reading his parables. In order to properly understand, one must reach past any pre-conceived notions or understandings of the parables and examine three major functions of influence on interpretation: the nature and context of the parables, whether the parables were meant to have simple or complex meanings, and whether Jesus meant for the meanings to be hidden or revealed. To neglect any of these criteria would be to reject full understanding. Different theories of understanding the parables have risen based upon the different criteria mentioned.
Nature of Parables
In order to even begin to understand the theories of explaining Jesus’ use of parables, one must first understand the definition and function of a parable. One important trait of parables is this: parables are “not merely poetic structures” (Snodgrass, 2012, p. 176). Poetry and paintings may have many interpretations. They contain interpretations solely for an individual, which means that each individual will have a different interpretation (Snodgrass, 2012, p. 176). This is not so with parables (Snodgrass, 2012, p. 176). They do in fact have some sort of meaning or intended interpretation, and this trait is agreed upon no matter what theory of interpretation is held. Jesus had specific intentions and purposes for using parables “in relation to his proclamation of the Kingdom of God” (Snodgrass, 2012, p. 177). This much is agreed upon across all theories for interpretation of the par...

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