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Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament

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Matthew 13:3

Many things in parables (polla en parabolaiv).
It was not the first time that Jesus had used parables, but the first time that he had spoken so many and some of such length. He will use a great many in the future as in Luke 12 to 18 and Matt. 24 and 25. The parables already mentioned in Matthew include the salt and the light (5:13-16), the birds and the lilies (6:26-30), the splinter and the beam in the eye (7:3-5), the two gates (7:13f.), the wolves in sheep's clothing (7:15), the good and bad trees (7:17-19), the wise and foolish builders (7:24-27), the garment and the wineskins (9:16f.), the children in the market places (11:16f.). It is not certain how many he spoke on this occasion. Matthew mentions eight in this chapter (the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the Hid Treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Net, the Householder). Mark adds the Parable of the Lamp (Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16), the Parable of the Seed Growing of Itself (Mark 4:26-29), making ten of which we know. But both Mark (Mark 4:33) and Matthew (13:34) imply that there were many others. "Without a parable spake he nothing unto them" (Matthew 13:34), on this occasion, we may suppose. The word parable (parabolh from paraballw, to place alongside for measurement or comparison like a yardstick) is an objective illustration for spiritual or moral truth. The word is employed in a variety of ways (a) as for sententious sayings or proverbs (Matthew 15:15; Mark 3:23; Luke 4:23; 5:36-39; 6:39), for a figure or type (Hebrews 9:9; 11:19); (b) a comparison in the form of a narrative, the common use in the Synoptic Gospels like the Sower; (c) "A narrative illustration not involving a comparison" (Broadus), like the Rich Fool, the Good Samaritan, etc. "The oriental genius for picturesque speech found expression in a multitude of such utterances" (McNeile). There are parables in the Old Testament, in the Talmud, in sermons in all ages. But no one has spoken such parables as these of Jesus. They hold the mirror up to nature and, as all illustrations should do, throw light on the truth presented. The fable puts things as they are not in nature, Aesop's Fables, for instance. The parable may not be actual fact, but it could be so. It is harmony with the nature of the case. The allegory (allhgoria) is a speaking parable that is self-explanatory all along like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. All allegories are parables, but not all parables are allegories. The Prodigal Son is an allegory, as is the story of the Vine and Branches (John 15:1). John does not use the word parable, but only paroimia, a saying by the way (John 10:6; 16:25,29). As a rule the parables of Jesus illustrate one main point and the details are more or less incidental, though sometimes Jesus himself explains these. When he does not do so, we should be slow to interpret the minor details. Much heresy has come from fantastic interpretations of the parables. In the case of the Parable of the Sower (13:3-8) we have also the careful exposition of the story by Jesus (18-23) as well as the reason for the use of parables on this occasion by Jesus (9-17).
Behold, the sower went forth (idou hlten o speirwn).
Matthew is very fond of this exclamation idou. It is "the sower," not "a sower." Jesus expects one to see the man as he stepped forth to begin scattering with his hand. The parables of Jesus are vivid word pictures. To understand them one must see them, with the eyes of Jesus if he can. Christ drew his parables from familiar objects.

 


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 13:3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/rwp/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=013&verse=003>. Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960.

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