What do Jesus and the Scriptures say about parables?

In the New Testament

Matthew 13.34-53
Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. {35} This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world." (quoting Psalm 78:2) 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." 37 He answered, ...
51 "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." 52 And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old." 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

Matthew 13.10-16
Then the disciples came and asked him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" 

11 He answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets£ of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’

16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.


Mark 4.10-13
When Jesus was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 

12 in order that 'they may indeed 
look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; 

so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'" 



13 And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables?"

Luke 8.9-10
9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 

10 He said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others 
I speak in parables,

so that 
looking they may not perceive,
and listening they may not understand.’


Mark 4:2 He began to teach them many things in parables

Mark 4.33-34
With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to the people, as they were able to hear it; {34} he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

In the Hebrew Bible and the Apocrypha

1 Kings 4:32 Solomon composed three thousand parables [proverbs], and his songs numbered a thousand and five.

Psalm 78:2-4 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 78:3 things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. 78:4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

Proverbs 1:5-6 Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a parable [proverb] and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.

Ecclesiastes 1:17 (LXX) And I applied my heart to know wisdom and knowledge, parables and understanding. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

Ezekiel 17:1-2 The word of the LORD came to me: O mortal, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel.

Sirach 1.25 In the treasuries of wisdom are parables [proverbs] of knowledge.

Sirach 3.29 The mind of an intelligent person will ponder a parable [proverb], and an attentive ear is the wise person’s desire.

Sirach 13:26 The mark of a happy heart is a cheerful face, but to devise parables [proverbs] requires painful thinking.

Sirach 20:20 A parable [proverb] from a fool's lips will be rejected, for he does not tell it at its proper time.

Sirach 39:1-3 The one who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be concerned with prophecies; 39:2 he will preserve the discourse of notable men and penetrate the subtleties of parables; 39:3 he will seek out the hidden meanings of proverbs and be at home with the obscurities of parables. RSV

Sirach 47.17 For your [Solomon’s] songs and proverbs and parables, and for your interpretations, the countries marveled at you.