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In a technical sense, very short stories with a double meaning. In the biblical tradition, however, the term is used broadly to designate a variety of literary forms that convey metaphorical or figurative meaning, not only stories but aphorisms, proverbs, riddles, dialogues, and discourses. The OT abounds in figurative language of many sorts, but contains only a few parables in the narrower sense of a short story with a double meaning. The “Song of the Vineyard,” found in (Isa 5:1-2), is one such example. Another is the story Nathan tells David about the theft of a prized lamb (2Sam 12:1-4). It is with the parables of Jesus in the NT that the parable as a literary art form reaches its high point. His parables are, again, of all sorts, including metaphorical aphorism (Mark 3:24-33) as well as narrative (Luke 15:11-22).

Some NT parables of Jesus

Mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32; Matt 13:31; Matt 13:32; Luke 13:18-19)

Sower (Mark 4:3-8; Matt 13:3-8; Luke 8:5-8)

Evil tenants (Mark 12:1-11; Matt 21:33-42; Luke 20:9-18)

Harvest time (Mark 4:26-29)

Leaven (Matt 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)

Great banquet (Matt 22:1-4; Luke 14:16-24)

Lost sheep (Matt 18:12-13; Luke 15:4-6)

Talents (Matt 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27)

Wheat and weeds (Matt 13:24-30)

Treasure (Matt 13:44)

Pearl (Matt 13:45-46)

Net (Matt 13:47-48)

Rich fool (Luke 12:16-20)

Unmerciful servant (Matt 18:23-24)

Laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-15)

Ten bridesmaids (Matt 25:1-12)

Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35)

Barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9)

Tower builder (Luke 14:28-30)

King at war (Luke 14:31-32)

Lost coin (Luke 15:8-9)

Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)

Unjust steward (Luke 16:1-7)

Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:9-31)

Unjust judge (Luke 18:2-5)

Pharisee and publican (Luke 18:10-13)

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.