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the term translates the Hebrew word "mashal"—a term denoting a metaphor, or an enigmatic saying or an analogy. In the Greco-Roman rhetorical tradition, however, "parables" were illustrative narrative examples. Jewish teachers of the 1st cent. A.D. made use of comparisons in narrative form to clarify scripture. As used in the Gospels, the "parable" not only denotes metaphors, analogies, and enigmatic statements, but also short illustrative narratives. In Jesus' parables, the speaker compares an observable, natural, or human phenomenon to the Kingdom (i.e. the rule) of God. Some of these challenge and mystify or even attack the hearer. Other parables are allegories. The major themes of the parables of Jesus include the contrast between the old and new age now dawning in the ministry of Jesus; the necessity of radical decisions; the gradual but sure growth of the Kingdom of God on earth; God's way of relating to people; and God's invitation for people to enter his Kingdom.


See W. S. Kissinger, The Parables of Jesus (1979); R. W. Funk, Parables and Presence (1982); J. Marcus, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God (1986).



a didactic and allegorical literary genre closely resembling the fable and differing from it in the following ways: the parable form arises only within a certain context; the parable does not require a developed plot and may be a simple comparison, although the comparison retains its own abundant symbolism; the parable tends to convey profound religious or moralistic wisdom.

Different types of parables are encountered throughout folklore and literature. However, in epochs with a tendency toward didacticism and allegory the parable was a model for other genres, such as Near Eastern instructive prose, for example the Old Testament and the Syrian Wisdom of Ahikar. The parable was also a model for early Christian and medieval literature: examples are such gospel parables as the parable of the Prodigal Son. In these epochs, when readers perceived any story as a parable, the genre’s poetics predominated. The parable lacked the descriptiveness of ancient or of modern European prose fiction: nature and objects are mentioned only when necessary, and the action takes place as if on a bare stage. As a rule, the personae of parables lack both external features and a personality in the sense of a totality of inner traits; they appear as products not of literary observation but of ethical choice.

In the late 19th century and in the 20th century, a number of writers saw in the economy and pithiness of the parable a model for their own literary work. L. N. Tolstoy attempted to subordinate prose to the laws of the parable. Kafka was influenced by the centuries-old parable tradition, as were the intellectuals Sartre, Camus, Anouilh, and G. Marcel; here characters and settings as traditionally understood were excluded. The parable continues to attract writers seeking ethical bases for human existence; an example is the role of parable devices in the works of B. Brecht.


Dobrotvorskii, S. “Pritcha v drevne-russkoi dukhovnoi pis’mennosti.” Pravoslavnyi sobesednik, April, 1864.
Likhachev, D. S. Poetika drevnerusskoi literatury, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
Jeremias, J. Die Gleichnisse Jesu, 5th ed. Gottingen, 1958.
Lambert, W. Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford, 1960.



1. a short story that uses familiar events to illustrate a religious or ethical point
2. any of the stories of this kind told by Jesus Christ
References in periodicals archive ?
Il faut faire attention ici a la force de la prep[osition] para, elle signifie quelquefois contre, au-dela-, mais quelquefois il faut remarquer, pour sentir la force des mots dans la composition desquels elle entre, qu'elle prend le sens d'a cote, le long; [par exemple] quand on veut comparer deux choses, on les place a cote l'une de l'autre; d'apres cela, l'expression de paraballein a ete bien choisie pour exprimer, comparer, paraballo, je compare; parabole, comparaison, similitude, je ne parle pas de la chose elle-meme, mais je place, je jette a cote d'elle une chose qui lui ressemble, et moyennant celle-ci je vous fais penser a l'autre.
Les <<ingredients epices>> (Domon, 1999) de cette <<farce grotesque>> (Domon, 1999) ne pouvaient cependant etre pris a l'epoque autrement que comme une <<sarcastique parabole de notre societe de consommation>> (Domon 1999).
Selon la parabole du Vanneur: un homme seme dans son champ le bon grain, l'ennemi vient et seme l'ivraie (<< zizania >> en grec) parmi les bons grains.
The Greek origins of the word parable are found in parabole, to compare.
Il magistero della Chiesa quando parla della vita consacrata secolare accenna sovente alle parabole evangeliche del lievito nella massa, del sale e della luce.
napafSoAri, parabole, y este de napa, para, 'cerca, junto' y ([TEXTO IRREPRODUCIBLE EN ASCII], ballo, 'arrojar'; lugar geometrico de los puntos del plano equidistantes de una recta y de un punto fijos.
1) This article is a free, updated, and largely revised adaptation of part of my introductory "Notice" to Parabole, published in Faulkner: OEuvres romanesques IV (1310-58).
La pratique del'image, de la parabole, disparait peu a peu du creole quotidien.
En la version de los LXX, el termino parabole traduce regularmente la palabra hebrea mashal, que en el AT tiene sentidos muy diversos.
Hay que recordar que los terminos <<allegoria, parabole, symbolon>> y otros, son sinonimos en el pensamiento de Clemente.
Sono simboli e parole della natura: intoccate, silenziose parabole, dove la pietra contiene ogni aspetto di una esistenza indifferenziata: ognuna come una persona che vada cercando la propria espressione per uscire fuori dalla caotica identita, e sia rimasta pietrificata nel corso di questo sforzo, contenendo in se mescolate tutte le immagini possibili [.
3]le de la tE[umlaut]lE[umlaut]vision et de la parabole de nos jours.