Why did Jesus teach using parables?


This might be a topic already covered here at CAF, but are there theories about why Jesus taught using parables? I have to admit, sometimes I have to read them more than once to figure out what he means.
I don’t think there are many parables in the Jewish scriptures (correct me if I am
wrong), and there were approximately 400 years between the prophets and Jesus, so would this have been a cultural thing during Jesus’ day to use parables?
As you can imagine I have been reading the Gospels, specifically Matthew and Luke.
Just wondering if anyone has any background on this.


One idea was because that generation had ears and did not hear, eyes and did not see. They could not recognise the Kingdom of God was among them.

Remember when Jesus walked into a Synagogue in Nazereth and read from the Torah. He said

Today in our hearing the prophecies have been fulfilled.

The community responded by attempting to stone Him.


Cause he was a great teacher.

Visual Storytelling en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picture_superiority_effect


Do you equate parables with pictures?


Parables are word pictures, easy to understand.

I am not certain on this next possibility, but it just came to me:

Maybe speaking in parables avoided bringing the pharisees down on Jesus with direct charges of blasphemy or whatever they would have called it. There was enough “subject to interpretation” for Jesus to continue his teachings without undo scrutiny by the powers that be. This isn’t a solid belief of mine, just a thought. If it’s wrong, someone please point it out!

Our monsignor has pointed out the parables are about how God feels about us, not what we should be doing for God. So there is room for interpretaion here.


Because a parable, just like a fable, is an excellent way to illustrate a point. Can anyone think of a better illustration than the one used in the Prodigal Son?


To fulfill the prophesy of the Old Testament.

Isa 6:9-10: He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.

Psa 78:2: I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—


Several reasons:

  1. That is the rabbinic style. Unlike people today who want a simple, direct, straightforward answer, the rabbis taught using stories to make people actually think about things.

  2. It’s a universal format for teaching. All cultures have their stories. It’s always more interesting to listen to a story than a lecture. All cultures have their own myths and legends and fables. It’s very “human” to tell stories.

  3. We learn better that way. Compare reading a history textbook to watching a historically accurate movie. Which one helps you remember more? I’ll bet most people visualize the movie “The 10 Commandments” when we read about the Exodus because stories help us remember.

  4. While the Old Testament doesn’t have many parables as such, most of it is still in narrative (ie storytelling) format.


When in doubt, go to Saint Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, III, q. 42, a. 3.


Thanks for the scripture references. :thumbsup:


Your theory about charges of blasphemy could be true.


Okay. Those are good points, but I am not sure my brain works that way. I think I
am one of those people who wants a simple, direct straightforward answer.
I like storytelling, but not so much in puzzles.
Maybe because I am over 65 now and my brain just doesn’t work as well as it did
when I was younger.


Unfortunately, I don’t own the Summa Theologica.


Me neither, but fortunately, the Internet provides it, free.



Hmmm, I could be totally off base with this but think about 1 Corinthians 3:2 “I gave you milk, not solid food for you were not ready for it, you still are not ready for it.”

Perhaps it was because the people of His time could not hear it any other way???


Here is the direct link from thar site since not everyone is aware how to navigate Aquinas.

Summa Theologica, III, q. 42, a. 3.

Here is a condensed version of his answer:

quote=St Thomas Aquinas says Himself (John 18:20): “In secret I have spoken nothing.”

Thirdly, doctrine is hidden, as to the manner in which it is propounded. And thus Christ spoke certain things in secret to the crowds, by employing parables in teaching them spiritual mysteries which they were either unable or unworthy to grasp: and yet it was better for them to be instructed in the knowledge of spiritual things, albeit hidden under the garb of parables, than to be deprived of it altogether.

So Aquinas says that Christ reveals spiritual truths through the parable so that those who are unworthy or unable to understand are not completely deprived of the teaching. I would expand this to say that by giving them a taste that those who are open will work to understand rather that giving pearls to swine (e.g words of life to those who would ignore or trample them in the muck.)


He taught in parables so that the multitudes would go to the Church (the apostles and disciples) for explanation.


How else do you teach principle? How else do you accuse those present without accusing them directly? A few came to know this, but the rest remained oblivious. All had the opportunity to be taught; to repent. “He who has ears, let him hear.”


I responded to this post earlier, and I don’t know where it went.

Thanks for the link. I figured it was online, but I was too lazy to check earlier!

I have never read the Summa and have never seen the format. Is it more than one
volume? It looks like it would be worth owning. I have heard it mentioned a lot
since I became Catholic so I know it is a very important work.


Thank you all for your helpful replies.

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