That Jesus "said many things in parables" might remind the reader of Solomon, who was compared with Jesus as recently as Mt 12:42, who spoke "three thousand proverbs (LXX parabolai
)" (1Ki 4:32). We have already seen a number of parables in Jesus' teaching in Matthew (Mt 5:25-26; 9:12, 15-17; 11:16-19; 12:29, 43-45), but this is Matthew's first use of the term parabolḗ
, whereas Mark also uses it earlier to describe the form of Jesus' response to the Beelzebul charge (Mk 3:23). It occurs throughout this chapter [Matthew 13], where the reference is to story-parables of the type normally associated with the English word "parable," and this is the predominant use elsewhere in Matthew (Mt 21:33, 45; 22:1), though it is also used for a simple comparison (Mt 24:32) and for a striking aphorism
which involves no comparative element (Mt 15:15). That use indicates that for Matthew, as for Mark (cf. also Mark's inclusion of a series of aphorisms in his "parable" chapter, Mk 4:21-25), [the meaning of] parabolḗ
is wider than the English "parable," and also includes cryptic sayings or epigrams, so that it is closer to the Hebrew māšāl
(which it regularly translates in LXX), which covers proverbs (like those of Solomon), fables, prophetic utterances, and even riddles, as well as allegorical parables like those in Ezekiel. So understood, a parabolḗ
is an utterance which does not carry its meaning on the surface, and which thus demands thought and perception if the hearer is to benefit from it. Learning from and responding to a parabolḗ
is not a matter of simply reading off the meaning from the words, but of entering into an interactive process to which the hearer must contribute if true understanding is to result. That is why the same parable which enlightens one may puzzle or even repel another. A parable is not an easy option for understanding, but a challenge to which not everyone will be able to rise. Parables without interpretation, which is all that are offered to the crowds in this discourse [Matthew 13], will thus result in a divided response, depending on what degree of understanding and of openness each hearer brings to them. See further on Mt 13:11-13 for this understanding of parable.