Parable

(Gr. parabole), a placing beside; a comparison; equivalent to
the Heb. mashal, a similitude. In the Old Testament this is used
to denote (1) a proverb (1 Sam. 10:12; 24:13; 2 Chr. 7:20), (2)
a prophetic utterance (Num. 23:7; Ezek. 20:49), (3) an enigmatic
saying (Ps. 78:2; Prov. 1:6). In the New Testament, (1) a
proverb (Mark 7:17; Luke 4:23), (2) a typical emblem (Heb. 9:9;
11:19), (3) a similitude or allegory (Matt. 15:15; 24:32; Mark
3:23; Luke 5:36; 14:7); (4) ordinarily, in a more restricted
sense, a comparison of earthly with heavenly things, "an earthly
story with a heavenly meaning," as in the parables of our Lord.

Instruction by parables has been in use from the earliest
times. A large portion of our Lord's public teaching consisted
of parables. He himself explains his reasons for this in his
answer to the inquiry of the disciples, "Why speakest thou to
them in parables?" (Matt. 13:13-15; Mark 4:11, 12; Luke 8:9,
10). He followed in so doing the rule of the divine procedures,
as recorded in Matt. 13:13.

The parables uttered by our Lord are all recorded in the
synoptical (i.e., the first three) Gospels. The fourth Gospel
contains no parable properly so called, although the
illustration of the good shepherd (John 10:1-16) has all the
essential features of a parable. (See List of Parables in
Appendix.)