I'm curious as to know how parables can communicate the inspired word of God. Other literary forms in the bible such as myths and psalms are able to somehow communicate it but I want to know how parables can communicate it as well. I'd like to know specifically how the parable of the sower can communicate the inspired word of God.

  • Sorry, I don't really understand the point of your question. Parables are like metaphors, one picture symbolising something else. Why couldn't the inspired word of God use metaphors and parables? – curiousdannii Feb 29 at 6:17
  • I've suggested an edit that attempts to bring this further away from a truth question, and make it a bit clearer what I think is being asked. I've phrased the question "Does the Bible explain why Jesus chooses to use so many parables, rather than using another literary method?". If that wasn't the intention of the question, you can change it back. – Korosia Feb 29 at 7:53
  • @Korosia I think that would be better to ask as a separate question. Though it's probably already been asked by now. – curiousdannii Feb 29 at 9:15

The parables of Jesus do not 'communicate the inspired word of God'. They, themselves are the inspired word of God. For God - that is to say the Son of God - actually spoke them on earth from his own lips.

If when one hears (or reads) the parable, if one does not perceive and hear God speaking to one's own soul then there is an explanation :

Jesus said :

Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Mark 4: 11 and 12 [KJV]

Some (who are within) will understand, and believe and will obey the concept of the parable.

Some (who are without) will see, yet not perceive ; hear and not understand.

Jesus also said :

And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Mark 4:13 [KJV]

The parable he speaks of is the parable of the sower sowing seed. Some fell in fruitful ground and flourished. Some fell on the wayside, in stony ground, among thorns - and bore no fruit.

If one does not perceive the meaning of this, first parable, one will not appreciate any other parable.

This first parable is about receiving the word of God into the heart in such a way that it flourishes there.

But if the word of God does not penetrate, and flourish within the heart, then there will be no perception or understanding of any of the parables which Jesus spoke.

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The disciples ask Jesus a similar question:

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” [Matthew 13:10 (NIV)]

Jesus' answer is that it clearly divides the listeners into two groups: those who are willing to listen, and those who are not.

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. [Matthew 13:10 (NIV)]

Which he then expands in more detail, by quoting the prophet Isaiah:

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ [Mathhew 10:14-15 (NIV)]

The interpretation of these verses that I've heard (from an Evangelical perspective) is that talking in parables reveals something about the listener's attitude towards God. Those whose "hearts have become calloused" will dismiss Jesus words because they don't immediately understand them, or really care too. But those to whom "the kingdom of God has been given" will follow the disciples example, and approach the parables with humility, seeking to understand them through the Spirit.

Jesus then goes on to explain the meaning of this parable in detail, but only to the few disciples from the "large crowd" (v2) that actually came to him in verse 10. It's quite a common pattern in the gospels for Jesus to explain the meaning behind a parable or miracle, but only to the smaller crowd who genuinely desire the answer.

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How do parables communicate the inspired word of God?

The parables of Our Lord Jesus Christ are definitely to be viewed as the inspired word of God; otherwise they would not be part of Sacred Scriptures as viewed by all of Christendom. They are definitely inspired. If Our Lord spoke them, there is a reason for it!

As for those of us who acknowledge St. Thomas Aquinas as a great theologian, he answers the question through a different phrasing of the subject at hand.

Whether Christ should have taught all things openly?

Anyone's doctrine may be hidden in three ways. First, on the part of the intention of the teacher, who does not wish to make his doctrine known to many, but rather to hide it. And this may happen in two ways—sometimes through envy on the part of the teacher, who desires to excel in his knowledge, wherefore he is unwilling to communicate it to others. But this was not the case with Christ, in whose person the following words are spoken (Wisdom 7:13): "Which I have learned without guile, and communicate without envy, and her riches I hide not." But sometimes this happens through the vileness of the things taught; thus Augustine says on John 16:12: "There are some things so bad that no sort of human modesty can bear them." Wherefore of heretical doctrine it is written (Proverbs 9:17): "Stolen waters are sweeter." Now, Christ's doctrine is "not of error nor of uncleanness" (1 Thessalonians 2:3). Wherefore our Lord says (Mark 4:21): "Doth a candle," i.e. true and pure doctrine, "come in to be put under a bushel?"

Secondly, doctrine is hidden because it is put before few. And thus, again, did Christ teach nothing in secret: for He propounded His entire doctrine either to the whole crowd or to His disciples gathered together. Hence Augustine says on John 18:20: "How can it be said that He speaks in secret when He speaks before so many men? . . . especially if what He says to few He wishes through them to be made known to many?"

Thirdly, doctrine is hidden, as to the manner in which it is propounded. And thus Christ spoke certain things in secret to the crowds, by employing parables in teaching them spiritual mysteries which they were either unable or unworthy to grasp: and yet it was better for them to be instructed in the knowledge of spiritual things, albeit hidden under the garb of parables, than to be deprived of it altogether. Nevertheless our Lord expounded the open and unveiled truth of these parables to His disciples, so that they might hand it down to others worthy of it; according to 2 Timothy 2:2: "The things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same command to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others." This is foreshadowed, Numbers 4, where the sons of Aaron are commanded to wrap up the sacred vessels that were to be carried by the Levites.

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Other fine answers tackle questions like "Do parables communicate...?" and "Why do parables conceal...?" I think the "How" question is just as important.

  1. Memorable. Parables are memorable. They stick with you. They are hard to forget. This is an aid to meditation. The believer who needs guidance in times of trouble can readily recall them and benefit from them because of this.

  2. Transferrable.. Parables are easy stories to tell to others. This is one way that God communicates His word, our storytelling. He makes it easy to tell our friends and neighbors.

  3. Anchored. Parables are anchored to reality. They are summaries, principles that are often distilled from longer stories in the Bible. They connect common experiences in the natural world to Bible history. They integrate natural revelation (God's revelation though His creation) with special revelation (God's spoken word) in a way that makes each clearer. (In the Book of Job, Job's friends misunderstood what nature was supposed to teach us, until God set them straight.)

  4. Personal. Different parables speak to different people in different ways. The Holy Spirit is able - because of the contextual ambiguity in parables - to apply the same words to different situations in the lives of diverse believers.

  5. Layered. A person can read a parable many times, yet see deeper truths each time. Parables connect with multiple parts of the Old and New Testament, and to different events in the life a maturing person, who is first a child, then adult, then married, then a parent, etc. This inspires a lifelong devotion to reading them.

These are just a few examples of "How" parables communicate the inspired word of God to us and through us.

Concerning the Parable of the sower. Jesus gave us an object lesson in the meaning of this parable in the story of his temptation in the desert.

  • His fasting was the suffering that corresponds to plowing.
  • The bird snatching the seed is Satan trying to deceive a person by lying. It represents the need for our minds to be transformed by truth, as in Romans 12. Satan tried to make Jesus hunger for bread, when he was already the bread of life. Bread does not get hungry. Bread feeds others.
  • The rocky soil of persecution is Satan trying to scare Jesus into using his power to avoid suffering and death by calling on the angels. It represents the need for our hearts to be transformed to resist fear, anxiety and other negative emotions. Only the water of the Holy Spirit can protect us from spiritual drought under the sun's rays.
  • The thorny soil is Satan trying to distrct Jesus by adopting a wrong focus, wrong priorities and values, such as materialism and power. We need to worship the Father to have our priorities set straight.
  • Finally, the harvest was Jesus being attended by angels. This is our spiritual harvest that comes after a season of testing.

So this parable helps us understand Jesus and the resources he had to overcome the trials of life. A similar connection can be made to the life of Job.

  • Job's trials began with the theft of his oxen, while they were plowing the fields. Again, plowing symbolizes suffering.
  • Job's friends attacked him, but Job responded with moments of hope amid his general despair. This was God speaking to Job during his suffering, enlightening his mind with the Word of God, true knowledge of the savior.
  • Elihu came next and spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This prophet addressed Job's emotional crisis: he reassured Job that God was speaking to him, did not despise him, would purify him, had a ransom for him, would restore his health and forgive his sins, and finally announced that God had arrived.
  • Next, God as Father and creator redirected Job's priority away from justice and judgment for his enemies and towards forgiveness.
  • Finally, Job enjoyed a harvest: restored health, relationships, more children, increased wealth, and long life.

Thus this parable, once connected to relevant stories in the Bible, explains and summarizes them and their principles, and helps us form a strategy for spiritual battle and growth.

One more thing it does: it induces us to fear God by making us ask these questions:

  • What kind of soil am I today?
  • Is it too late for me to change?

And that is how this parable communicates God's word to us.

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God openly admits to using delusion and deception which is easier to dissemble in the form of parables, metaphors and otherwise made up stories.

2 Thessalonians 2:11 (KJV) “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”

Jeremiah 20:7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived

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  • You are suggesting that God sends strong delusions by way of scripture. – Nigel J Feb 29 at 17:07

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