Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables… Mark 4:1-2a
Archaeological Note: There are areas on the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, one called Sower’s Cove, where the surrounding terrain creates an incredible acoustic effect where one can sit on a boat and speak with a normal voice and be heard by many onshore. Once again, a large crowd pressed against Jesus, so he gets in a boat and sits offshore teaching from there. At that event, Jesus utilizes one of his cadre of oratory techniques; the parable.
So what exactly is a parable? We often think of it as a comparison, proverb, adage, or metaphor of ordinary life to teach or reveal a truth. But the literal definition of the word is “to expose oneself to danger.”
Let’s dig deeper. In Greek, it is “παραβολαῖς,” and when you break it down to its components, you get παρα (para) which means “close beside,” and βολαῖς (bolais), which means “to cast.” One of the oldest printed uses of this word dates to around 150bc from my old friend, Polybius! This Greek historian, writing about the Roman Republic (Google it if you don’t know the difference between Republic and Empire), describes a military maneuver where two ships are placed in juxtaposition (side by side, often facing opposite directions) during a battle at sea. This is a dangerous maneuver that leaves the vessels and crews exposed.
The word παραβολαῖς would eventually evolve into a figure of speech casting a side by side comparison in order to expose a truth. And as a good rabbi (teacher), Jesus would use this technique, for the Son of Man came side by side with humanity with a message of Truth seen as dangerous when juxtaposed with the world’s view.
Thank you for sharing how fun it can be to reflect on your word once again. You empowered and inspired writers like Mark to craft gems that teach and expose truths even in our time.
I pray this in the name of the exposed Way, TRUTH, and Life. Amen!