notes on Parables

I did a sermon on the Good Samaritan this weekend and so took the opportunity to do some reading of my copy of Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Eerdmans, 2008).   I’ll share some of the notes I took and shared with those present in our service this morning.

What are parables? 

Parables are expanded analogies used to convince and persuade.

Parables tend to be imaginary worlds that reflect reality and are fictional descriptions taken from everyday life – with the main purpose being to prompt a response.

They rarely reflect real situations but instead reflect what should be.

They help us to see things in a fresh way – and allow us to see things we might not otherwise see.  They enable us to see truth.

Parables are most often a form of indirect communication.

Parables are stories with intent.

Purpose of parables:

Parables are meant to convince and persuade – to prompt a response; move to action

Parables ultimate intent aim is to awaken insight, stimulate the conscience, and move to action.

Parables are prophetic instruments with a message from God intended to get God’s people to stop, reconsider their ways, and change their behavior (how they act and how they live).

Jesus told parables to prompt thinking and stimulate response in relation to God.

Parables engage listeners, create reflection, and promote action.

Parables are not metaphors rather they often point negatively or positively to something else: the life God intends.

What’s the point?

Usually the crucial matter of the parable comes at the end – not unlike the punch line of a joke – with a joke you sort of have to know when to laugh and if you miss the punch line, you’ll miss the joke – it’s the same with parables – if you miss the key statement you’ll miss the point of the parable – and typically they come at the end (though not always).

Without knowing the key statement of the parable – you won’t know how to interpret it or understand how you are to respond.

Specific notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

 The parable is molded on 2 Chronicles 28:8-15 when Samaritans helped the Jews in a desperate situation.

Jew believed the Samaritans to be of doubtful descent and inadequate theology – they accepted only the Torah and then had their own form (Samaritan Pentateuch) – they also argued that the true site of the Temple was Mt. Gerizim instead of Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.

Sirach 50:25-26: “Two nations my soul detests, and the third is not even a people: Those who live in Seir, and the Philistines, and the foolish people that live in Shechem.”

Some called Shechem the “City of the Senseless.”

Due to these issues – Jews and Samaritans had notoriously bad relations.

Two Denarii lasted about two weeks.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is an example story in the form of single indirect narrative in that it is providing an example of what one should do or how one should do whatever is being emphasized (in this case, who is one’s neighbor and how should he or she be treated?).   “Go and do likewise” is the main point.


This is a really great work on parables and I found it to be greatly helpful.