Meanings of the Word ‘Parable’, Mark Turner and the Suda

From Mark Turner, The Literary Mind (1996, 7)

“Parable…has seemed to literary critics to belong not merely to expression and not exclusively to literature, but rather…to mind in general. If we want to study the everyday mind, we can begin by turning to the literary mind exactly because the everyday mind is essentially literary.

Parable is today understood as a certain kind of exotic and inventive literary story, a subcategory within the special words of fiction. The original Greek word—παραβολή (parabole) from the verb παραβάλλειν (paraballein)—had a much wider, schematic reading: the tossing or projecting of one thing alongside another…

I will use parable more narrowly than its Greek root but much more widely than the common English term: Parable is the projection of story.”


From the Suda:

“Parabolê: A story similar to a riddle, obscure; meant to bring benefit.

Παραβολή: λόγος αἰνιγματώδης καὶ κεκρυμμένος, πρὸς ὠφέλειαν φέρων.

“Parabolê: A narrative. ‘I will open my mouth in parables’.  This is used of ancient stories instead of the word narrative. It can also refer to a simile or speech. Or, a specific example [as in the Psalms] “You set us as an example for the Gentiles.”

Παραβολή: διήγημα. ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐν διηγήσει ἀρχαίων λόγων. καὶ ἡ ὁμοίωσις. καὶ τὸ λάλημα, καὶ ὑπόδειγμα. ἔθου ἡμᾶς εἰς παραβολὴν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι.

“Parabolê: A comparison of things.”*

Παραβολή: πραγμάτων ὁμοίωσις.

*The same definition is offered by Hesychius and Photius

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