Parables Of The Kingdom ~ H. B. Swete


THE word ‘parable’ has come to us from the Greek παραβολή through the Latin versions of the Gospels which usually had parabola, though occasionally they translated the word by similitudo. According to the etymology of the word παραβολή is the act of laying one thing by the side of another for the purpose of comparing them together. Thence, by an easy transition, it comes to mean a comparison, a similitude. In the Greek of the Old Testament παραβολή frequently represents mashal, a word which is used to cover many kinds of literary composition from the proverb to the prophecy or poem. Balaam and Job are both said in the Lxx to have taken up their ‘parable,’ when a prophetic or didactic poem is attributed to them. The Proverbs of Solomon are in Aquila’s literal translation of the Old Testament Παραβολή. Even in the Gospels ‘parable’ is now and again used for a proverbial saying: Ye will surely say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself; [1] or for short *(Foot notes enclosed in ‘[ ]’ )  [1) Lk. iv. 23.] 

figurative utterances such as, If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand;[1] or, The things that proceed out of the man are those that defile the man: [2] or, Can the blind lead the blind [3] But by far the most usual acceptance of “parable’ in the Gospels is that in which it stands for the longer comparisons which our Lord draws between the facts of Nature or of our outer life and the things which concern our spiritual life and the dealings of God with men. The parables of Christ possess a character which is peculiar to themselves. Myths, fables, allegories are common in literature ancient and modern ; but there is no other collection of ‘parables’ that can be placed in comparison with those which we find in the Gospels. Their extraordinary beauty is recognized by all; the intimate knowledge which they shew of Nature and of man is not less unique than their beauty. Yet it is not either their literary beauty or their exact correspondence with the facts of life which gives to the parables their supreme interest. That interest lies in the knowledge that they constitute a very considerable part of the recorded teaching of our Lord. Both the method of teaching which they illustrate, and the actual instruction of which they are the vehicle, are heirlooms which cannot be prized too much, especially by those who are themselves to be teachers of Christian truth. [ 1.) Mk. iii. 24; 2.) Mk. vii. 15; 3.) Lk. vi. 39.]

The use of this method began, as far as we can judge, at a particular juncture in our Lord’s life. His earlier teaching had excited strong opposition on the part of Pharisees and Scribes, and was evidently but little understood by the crowds who followed Him. He could not cease from teaching, but He could change His manner of imparting truth; and this He did. Again, St. Mark iv. 1 says, he began to teach by the sea : and a very great multitude came together to him . . . and he proceeded to teach them many things in parables. So it began; and the in exhaustible supply continued to the end of His life. If we ask the purpose of this method, the question is answered by our Lord Himself in St. Mark iv. 2 . To you, He said to the Twelve, has been given the mystery—the Divine Secret—of the kingdom of God : but to those—pointing to the crowds—to the men who are without, the whole is done in parables, that beholding they may behold, and not see, and hearing they may hear, and not understand. This is, as you are aware, not the explanation which is ordinarily given. Our Lord is commonly represented as having spoken these exquisite similitudes with the view of helping the common people to understand His spiritual teaching; whereas His own account of the matter is that He

meant by them to conceal rather than reveal the truth He taught. The German scholar, Jülicher, finds this so impossible to believe that he supposes these words attributed to Christ to be in truth a late inter pretation of Christ’s purpose, and a false one.” But there is no substantial ground for this hypothesis; the very unexpectedness of the saying proclaims it original; and I think that we can see that it is also true. The parables must in fact have veiled the truth from those who were not ready to receive it in its naked simplicity, while at the same time they pre served it in the memory, in readiness for the time, if it ever came, when men would be prepared for it. For us, to whom the Divine Secret has been given, the parables throw ever growing light upon it, and are an inexhaustible store of spiritual teaching. It is to the teaching of the parables that I wish to direct your thoughts this term * or rather to the teaching of a single group of parables; for the field as a whole is too large. We shall select what I have called the ‘Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven’; and by this for our present purpose I mean those in which the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is distinctly placed in comparison with the subject of the parable. They usually begin with the formula The Kingdom of Heaven is likened to, or, So is the [ 1.) A. Jülicher, Gleichnisreden Jesu, 1er Teil, 146-7; 2.) Lent Term, 1908.]

Kingdom of God, or, How shall we liken the Kingdom of God? or, To what is the Kingdom of God like? [1] Most of them, that is, are preceded by words which leave no doubt that our Lord intended them to have reference to the Kingdom. But this is not uni versally the case: the very first and one of the greatest of this series, the Parable of the Sower, does not begin thus, and yet we can have no doubt that it belongs to them. I propose to read and con sider these parables first, and then to collect their teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. Our examination must be rapid, and I must assume that the Greek text is fairly familiar to you, and almost limit myself to the interpretation.
The Kingdom of Heaven or of God
But first something must be said about the conception of ‘the Kingdom of Heaven” or ‘of God,” which underlies all these parables. The whole teaching of Jesus Christ, at least the Galilean teaching, centres round three or four leading ideas, and the foremost of these is that of the Kingdom of God. It was by no means what we should call an ‘original conception; the corresponding Aramaic [ 1.) the passage in Greek is not included here. ]

phrase is frequent in later Jewish writers, and the idea of a Divine Sovereignty over the world, but especially over Israel, is scarcely less prominent in the Old Testament than in the New. We recognize this when we speak of the Jewish polity as a theo cracy; but in fact it was never more firmly held than in days when the Jews were under foreign government. And it was by no means dead when Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent ye ; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.[1] To those who heard Him He must have seemed to foretell the downfall of the Roman rule in Palestine, and the return of the old theocracy. That, as we now know, was not his meaning; but if not, what was it? Kingdom in this phrase means Sovereignty rather than the sphere in which the Sovereign reigns; the Kingdom of God is the imperium of God and not the area or the people over which it is exercised. In the first Gospel the sovereignty of the heavens is usually substituted for the sovereignty of God. There is little difference of meaning between the two expressions; the later Jews used heaven for God, as in Dan iv. 26, The heavens do rule; but whilstof God, του θεου, calls attention to the Person of the Sovereign, of Heaven,Των ουρανων, directs it to the quarter from which the sovereignty would come : it would be heavenly, spiritual, not earthly. It may well have been that  [1.) Mt. iv.17; the Aramaic in the original is left off.]

our Lord usually preferred this phrase, since it struck the keynote of His conception of the Divine Kingdom. For this is the distinctive character of the new theocracy which Christ preaches. It is purely spiritual and ethical, a sovereignty exerted over men’s hearts and lives by the Divine Spirit swaying the human spirit and co-operating with it. This sovereignty is a kingdom of heaven, βασιλεια των ουρανων from above, of the eternal order, and yet it has its seat in man. The kingdom of God, our Lord teaches, is within you,εντοσ υμων εστιν. [1] This is the leading thought which the parables illustrate. I will not anticipate what they will teach us about it. We shall see that simple and easy of comprehension as the idea may seem to be, it is really complex in the highest degree, entering into all the departments of human life, and reaching forth into the most remote future.  [1.) Lk. xvii.21]

~ “Am I A Man Dreaming He Is A Butterfly?” ~

“am i a man dreaming he is a butterfly,
or am i a butterfly dreaming i’m a man?”

-chuang tzu
circa 500 BC

In the East the fundamental idea about reality is Maya. That is, that which can be seen is an illusion. In the West the Judaeo-Christian view of God and natural law lend credence to our basic awareness of ourselves, others and the world around us. According to Robert Oppenheimer that is the reason why modern science could never have developed in the East.

Consciousness is a subject that on the surface seems to be a “no-brainer.” Everybody knows what consciousness is. If you are reading this text you must be conscious. But how does one prove that they are conscious? That sounds pretty silly right? You wouldn’t think that philosophy has been preoccupied with that very question for thousands of years, but it has.

Since the Enlightenment of the 1600’s questions about what man is took a more analytical turn and postulations like “I think, therefore I am” gained popularity for the apparent simplicity of statement. But what is not generally recognized is that it presumed that man can start with himself and prove by reason basic realities of existence. But when you get right down to it, just being able to give a statement that satisfies reason for one’s existence does nothing to “prove” it objectively. That is, your existence is not proved to anyone else by the recitation of Descartes famous “I think, therefore I am”.

But why does anyone need to prove their existence to either themselves or anyone else for that matter? Obviously, they do not. One goes about their everyday existence without needing to have an objective proof of ones existence. Everyone you’ve ever met has presumed the truthfulness of their own perceptions of themselves, the world and even you.

The Bible affirms that this synchronicity with the world and others is from God’s own hand. “He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works. (Psa 33:15 KJV). And not only are we fashioned for communication with our peers, but we were fashioned to be able to receive and communicate back to God.

In Romans shows the universality of the knowledge of God in part because we have a moral sense that is another endowment of personality in being made in the Image and Likeness of God.

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Rom 2:14-16 KJV)

Paul expounds upon the notion that our inmate moral sense of right and wrong in itself it self is a witness that we all will give an account of our lives. It will be the testimony of our own conscience which will determine how Good deals with us. That commends an urgency for us to find out all we can about the Kingdom of God now. And know that He has revealed the method that He has declared is the only means of forgiveness. And that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.