Original Research

Why Jesus spoke in parables

Francois P. Viljoen
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 1 | a2523 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i1.2523 | © 2019 Francois P. Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 July 2019 | Published: 26 November 2019

About the author(s)

Francois P. Viljoen, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the SA Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


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Abstract

n the Synoptic Gospels, listeners ask Jesus about the purpose of his parables. These Gospels provide two parallel accounts of this discussion (Mt 13:10–17 // Mk 4:10–12 // Lk 8:9–10 and Mt 13:34–35 // Mk 4:33). The version in Mark 4:10–12 particularly raises problems related to a sharp distinction between the ‘mystery’ that the ‘insiders’ understand, and ‘parables’, which are intended ‘so that’ the ‘outsiders’ would not understand, repent and be forgiven. Mark’s reference to Isaiah 6:9–10 differs from the Masoretic Text (MT) and Septuagint (LXX) versions, but corresponds with the Aramaic Targum, which reads ‘they may be forgiven’ instead of ‘and I would heal them’. It seems that the Markan Jesus deliberately uses parables to prevent ‘those on the outside’ from understanding, repentance and forgiveness. Luke retains the ‘so that’, but does not distinguish between the two groups that sharply, as he refers to ‘others’ and not ‘those on the outside’. He omits Mark’s apparent offensive phrase about the prevention of repentance and forgiveness. Matthew smooths out some of these difficulties by changing the ‘so that’ to ‘because’. According to Matthew, Jesus speaks in parables because the people do not see, hear and understand. The reason for their inability to comprehend, is their rejection of Jesus. This article investigates these parallel passages to decipher the meaning within their textual context. The argument of this article is that these parallel statements should be read within the context of the parable of the sower to grasp their meaning.

Keywords

Parable; Mystery; Insider; Outsider; Teacher; Jesus; Parable of the sower.

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