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Parables in the Gospels

It is easy to identify parables in the Gospels by looking for these five characteristics:

1. It is a story with a plot.

2. The story is not historical.

3. The story is true-to-life in the author’s day.

4. The story is given to teach a truth, not to entertain.

5. It is a series of comparisons.

There are six rules of interpretation that apply to parables:

1. Study the story as a story until you get the full impact of its meaning in that day.

2. Study the story with strict regard to the author’s interpretation and application. (He will tell you what it means.)

3. Study with strict regard to the setting of the context and the theme of the passage.

4. List the points of comparison between the truth and the story.

5. Some points have no meaning. Don’t try to tack a meaning on to every element.

6. Find the one central teaching of the parable. Don’t get sidetracked in the fine details.

Hans Finzel, Opening the Book, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), p. 336