Why the Lord Taught in Parables
Psalm 78:2, 13
I will open my mouth in a parable1;
I will utter enigmas from ancient times....
He split open the sea, and caused them to cross through;
And He made the waters to stand up as a heap....
Matthew 13:10–17, 34–35
And the disciples coming said to Him, Why dost Thou speak to them in parables? And He answering said to them, Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens; but to them it is not given. For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whoever has not, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
On this account I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, who says,
By hearing you shall hear and shall not understand,
And looking you shall look and shall not see.
For the heart of this people has become gross,
And with their ears they hear heavily,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest at any time they should see with the eyes,
And hear with the ears,
And understand with the heart,
And be converted, and I should heal them.2
But happy are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. For amen I say to you, that many prophets and just men have longed to see what you look upon, and have not seen, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard.
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled what was declared by the prophet, saying,
I will open my mouth in parables;
I will pour forth things which have been hidden from the founding of the world.3
John 16:12–13, 25
I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when it shall come—the spirit of Truth—it will guide you into all truth; for it shall not speak from itself, but whatever it shall hear, it shall speak; and it shall announce to you things to come....
These things I have spoken to you in parables; but an hour comes when I will no more speak to you in parables4, but will announce to you openly concerning the Father.
AC 3898:2. The reason why the Lord spoke in this manner was in order that the people might not understand the Word, lest they should profane it. For when the church has been vastated, as it then was with the Jews, if men understood it, they would profane it. Therefore, for the same reason the Lord also spoke by parables, as He Himself teaches.... For the Word cannot be profaned by those who do not know its mysteries, but by those who do... and more by those who appear to themselves learned than by those who seem to themselves unlearned.
AC 3898:3. But the reason why the interiors of the Word are now being opened, is that the church at this day has been so far vastated (that is, it is so devoid of faith and love) that although men know and understand, still they do not acknowledge, and much less believe... except a few who are in the life of good and are called the “elect,” who can now be instructed, and with whom a New Church is to be instituted. But where these are, the Lord alone knows. There will be few within the church. It has been among the Gentiles that previous new churches have been set up....
1 Literally “prophetic··enunciation” (see SS 103), but this Hebrew word in Isa. 14:4 and elsewhere is translated parabola in the Doctrine; e.g., AC 1326, 3901.
2 Isaiah 6:9–10
3 Psalm 78:2, as above
4 Not the common word for parable, but paroimia, used only in John & 2 Peter.
Questions and Comments
- In Psalm 78, the stories of the plagues in Egypt and the wandering in the wilderness, beginning with the crossing of the Red Sea, are told; and they are called “parables.” All the stories of the Word are parables, even those that are also historically true.
- Jesus quoted the prophecy from Isaiah. Why was it a good thing that they would not understand and be healed? See AC 3898:2–3.
- In the Heavenly Doctrine the spirit of Truth has come
to guide us into all truth. The Lord no longer speaks to us
in parables, but announces to us openly concerning the
Father—which signifies His Divine Love. “Since therefore
man lives after death, and then lives to eternity, and a life
awaits him according to his love and faith, it follows that
the Divine, out of love towards the human race, has
revealed such things as may lead to that life, and be
conducive to man’s salvation. What the Divine has
revealed, is with us the Word.” (NJHD 251)
What are some things the Lord now teaches us openly?