The Parables of Jesus

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How many parables did Jesus teach? What are they about? Where can I find them? Jesus taught many times using parables, which are simple, earthly stories that explain a more complex, spiritual truth.

What is a Parable?

The English word parable comes from the Greek word parabole. Its primary meaning is ‘to place one thing alongside another.’ That’s a visual expression that suggests comparison: when you put two things side by side, it’s easy to see the similarities and differences. We find parables in all kinds of literature, including the Old Testament and New Testament. Jesus regularly taught using parables because they’re powerful, useful tools for teaching.

This side-by-side comparison can be readily seen, for example, in Jesus’ teaching on the wise and foolish builders. One built his house on sand, the other on rock. When a storm came, the first house was destroyed… but the second stood firm. The two builders are put side by side, and contrasted. Then Jesus used this simple example to say that people who do what He taught are like the wise builder, able to withstand difficult situations in life.

Titles of Parables

While the text of the Bible has been inspired by God, the chapters, chapter headings, and verse numbers have not. They were added later, to make it easier to find specific passages. The titles of Jesus’ parables are suggestions made by commentators and translators, and do not necessarily represent the full message conveyed in each parable. At the same time, each title may be instructive. If we consider them commentary, forged over many centuries, we may consider them useful in understanding the main point of the parable.

How to understand a Parable

A parable is usually a fairly simple story, told using analogies. That is, one thing is said to be like another thing. Too often, we tend to stretch an analogy too far, looking for more than the analogy can support. It’s important to keep in mind that most parables have a single main point. We should avoid making Jesus’ words mean more than He did. That’s not to say that examining His words closely is a bad idea, of course. It’s a good idea… but we should be careful to make the point that Jesus Himself made, rather than using His words to make a point of our own. The Scriptures are enough.

How many Parables did Jesus use?

Nobody knows exactly how many parables Jesus used in His teaching. There are several reasons:

A list of Jesus’ Parables

If you think I’ve missed a parable, feel free to contact me.

Two BuildersMatthew 7:24–27
Luke 6:46–49
Children in the MarketplaceMatthew 11:16–19
Luke 7:31–32
An Impure SpiritMatthew 12:43–45
Luke 11:24–26
A Tree and Its FruitMatthew 12:33–37
Luke 6:43–45
A Strongman’s HouseMatthew 12:29–30
Luke 11:21–23
The Sower and the SeedMatthew 13:3–9
Mark 4:1–9
Luke 8:4–8
The Wheat and the TaresMatthew 13:24–30
The Mustard SeedMatthew 13:31–32
Mark 4:30–32
Luke 13:18–20
Leaven in the DoughMatthew 13:33
Luke 13:20–21
Hidden TreasureMatthew 13:44
A Pearl of Great PriceMatthew 13:45–46
The DragnetMatthew 13:47–50
Treasures New and OldMatthew 13:52
The Lost SheepMatthew 18:12–14
Luke 15:3–7
The Unmerciful ServantMatthew 18:23–34
Laborers in a VineyardMatthew 20:1–16
The Wicked Vine DressersMatthew 21:33–46
Mark 12:1–12
Luke 20:9–19
The Two SonsMatthew 21:28–31
The Wedding BanquetMatthew 22:1–14
Faithful and Wicked ServantsMatthew 24:45–51
Mark 13:32–37
Luke 12:41–48
Wise and Foolish VirginsMatthew 25:1–13
Three Servants and the TalentsMatthew 25:14–30
The Sheep and the GoatsMatthew 25:31–46
The SowerMark 4:26–29
The MoneylenderLuke 7:41–43
The Good SamaritanLuke 10:25–42
The Friend in NeedLuke 11:5–8
The Rich FoolLuke 12:15–21
The Master’s ReturnLuke 12:35–40
The Unfruitful Fig TreeLuke 13:6–9
The Great BanquetLuke 14:15–24
The Lost CoinLuke 15:8–10
The Prodigal SonLuke 15:11–32
The Shrewd ManagerLuke 16:1–8
The Master and His ServantLuke 17:7–10
The Widow and the Unjust JudgeLuke 18:1–8
The Ten MinasLuke 19:12–27

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