Parables and Truth


Was there really a prodigal son who went away to a far country and spent his inheritance?

Was there really a servant who owed his master ten talents?

Was there really a woman who swept her whole house looking for a coin then called her friends round to celebrate when she found it?

Was there really a king who dug a vineyard and leased it to tenants who beat and killed his servants instead of paying rent?

If the words of the Word of God Himself say these things, does it make them ‘real’ and ‘true’?

If not, what does that mean for the words of the institution of the Sacrament? I’m not doubting it, I’m just trying to work out how God’s Word makes it true when He says “this is my body” but not so when He says those other things?


The key lies in the intent of the speaker or author. One has to ask some questions: " Did Jesus mean these words to be taken as historical fact or not?" “If the Church teaches how the words are to be understood, is my opinion in line with the Church?”

The parables in my opinion are in many ways like fables. They teach a true lesson, but the story line itself may be complete fiction. Who is to say about any particular parable. Some could be plausibly quite factual. Others might be a stretch. The one about building one’s house on sand for example has no doubt been something that people have really done, but the lesson goes far deeper than building a house on a poor foundation.

Further, how would a person of the time understand the words? Then, what is actually being said here? What lesson /meaning is in these words for me? Does that require that I make changes or do something specific in my life?

It is important to recognize that elements of time, place, history, or circumstance may not always be dead on accurate, but the theological or spiritual lesson being taught is.


I believe the Gospel writers openly say when Jesus is giving a parable. Parables, by definition in our day, and in Jesus’ day, are fictional stories used to illustrate religious truths. Here is a good example from Matthew 13:3-15.

And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’

Notice that he usually explains his parables to the disciples in private when they don’t understand.

When Jesus talks about the Eucharist in John 6 and in the last supper narratives in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is no indication that he is speaking to them in parables. In fact, had he been speaking in a parable for John 6, the people would not have left him because they would have known he was only speaking metaphorically. He would also have clarified his point to the disciples in private, had he been speaking metaphorically, but he does not.

Hope this helps.



Mat 13:9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Mat 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Mat 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Mat 13:12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Mat 13:13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
Mat 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
Mat 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Mat 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
Mat 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

I’m not sure but i think that the only Parable that might be true is the one about the rich man and Lazarus, I don’t think any other Parable mentions another persons name, but I might be wrong.
In Him and Him Only


Lazarus is the only name given in any parable, where there is talk of returning from the dead to warn others. Lazarus, of course, was also raised from the dead by Jesus. Mighty coincidental, you might say.


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