Interpreting Jesus' Parables

Posted on Jan 18, 2014 at 9:00 PM by Charles King

Interpreting Jesus' Parables

By nature, a parable invites the reader or listener to supply the interpretation, and some of Jesus' parables have been interpreted in more than one way. Jesus, Himself, supplied the interpretation for some of His parables. But in other cases, it is left to us to determine the meaning and lesson.

Below are some points to consider as we interpret Jesus' Parables.

I. What is the context of the Parable?

II. What is the situation/need that promped the Parable?

III. To whom was Jesus speaking?

IV. Analyze structure
1. Context
2. Content/flow
3. Characters/Events
4. Contrast
5. Conclusion of parable
6. Consequences/Challenges of parable

V. What is Jesus' main point/central truth? Find the main point by asking:

1. Who are the main characters?
2. Examine to see if there is a specific question, problem, need, or situation that is the basis for the parable.
3. What terms are repeated in the parable? Which are not?
4. Upon what does the parable dwell, i.e., to what or to whom does the parable devote the most space?
5. What occurs in quotation marks?
6. Who/What is the focus of the story?
7. What occurs at the end?
8. What is the main contrast found in the parable?
9. What was Jesus' desired results?
10. What was: Jesus response, Peoples response, Desired response?
11. How would you have told the parable? If Jesus told it differently, does this reveal anything? (in other Gospels)

VI. Determine how much of the parable is explained in the text.Note striking or unexpected details.

VII. Seek to place the teaching of the parable in the overall ministry of Jesus and his teaching as a whole.

Parable often follow the Rule of Two. There were usually two people, two things, or two events that experience tension between them and usually represent righteousness and sin, good and evil. When you look for these two elements you will find an important part of the development of the parable.

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