TWH: The word παραβολή occurs eighteen times in the Gospel of Luke compared to the seventeen occurrences in the Gospel of Matthew and thirteen in the Gospel of Mark. Outside of the Gospels, the word only occurs twice in the NT, both being found in Hebrews (9:9; 11:19). There are no occurrences in Acts, nor do the apostles say or write anything resembling parabolic discourse as found in the Gospels. Given the many parallels between the Gospel of Luke and Acts, especially the life of Christ and the life of Paul, if the apostles did speak in parables, Luke almost certainly would have included such accounts to solidify the parallelism between the two works. The use of παραβολή in Matthew and Mark is somewhat different than in Luke. In Matthew, all uses are subsequent to the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel (Matt 12:22ff.). It is on the same day (ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ) as his rejection that Jesus begins to speak in parables to those around him, including the Twelve. Mark, likewise, connects the use of parables to the rejection day (Mark 4:35). It is on this day that Jesus withdraws, the first of four times recorded in the Gospel of Mark (4:35; 6:30–31; 7:24; and 8:13). As Mark mentions, from this point forward Jesus exclusively spoke publicly in parables (4:33–34). His use, however, in 3:23 (pl. παραβολαῖς) follows with Jesus giving (1) a rhetorical question, (2) three quick conditional statements, and (3) an answer to his own question. Given the use of the plural and what follows, it is the only Markan occurrence that differs from Matthean usage. The remaining parables given on that day (Mark 4) are parallel to those found in Matthew 13.
In all the occurrences in Matthew and Mark (with the exception of Mark 3:23) Jesus’s teachings incorporate stories with characters, action (often plot), objects, etc. They are more narrative than deductive. Ruth Ann Foster and William D. Shiell refer to these as “pure parables . . . as opposed to illustrative stories or similitudes” (Foster and Shiell, “The Parable of the Sower and the Seed in Luke 8:1–10,” 259). For example, in Matthew 13 Jesus gives eight parables:
1. The Parable of the Sower (13:3–9)
2. The Parable of the Tares (13:24–30)
3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31–32)
4. The Parable of the Leaven (13:33–35)
5. The Parable of the Treasure Hidden in the Field (13:44)
6. The Parable of the Merchant Seeking Fine Pearls (13:45–46)
7. The Parable of the Dragnet (13:47–50)
8. The Parable of the Head of a Household (13:52)That last parable in the list above does not liken the kingdom to someone or something else. Instead, it is a parable that likens every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom to a head of household, a use of παραβολή similar to Luke 6:46–49.
Jesus’s parables are often introduced formulaically. Maximilian Zerwick writes:
"Parables are often introduced by the formula ὁμοιωθήσεται, ὡμοιώθη, ὅμοιός ἐστιν with a following dative which however does not correspond, or corresponds only inexactly, to the term of the comparison. Thus ‘the kingdom of God’ is not in reality ‘like unto a merchant’, but is likened to the pearl of great price (Mt 13,45); nor is it ‘like unto ten virgins’, but to the wedding (Mt 25,1), nor is it like the sower, but like the harvest (Mt 13:24)." (Zerwick, Biblical Greek, 22)All but the first parable in Matthew 13 begins with one of these three formulaic introductions. They are not mandatory markers of parables. See also Matt 15:11, 15ff. From Jesus’s answer to Peter’s question, it is clear that the parable is not what is found in 15:14 dealing with “blind guides” (content similar to Luke 6:39). Jesus explains v. 11 only. In fact, the only such introductions found in the Gospel of Luke are in chapter 13, in the form of two questions and answers (13:18 19, 20–21).
The parables also served a distinct purpose. Once the nation rejects Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus issues a scathing condemnation found in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matt 13:11–15; Mark 4:11–12; Luke 8:10) involving the use of Isa 6:9–10. From these verses it is evident that the parables were a divine-pedagogical choice that allowed Jesus to simultaneously reveal and conceal information pertaining to the kingdom. Those who understand the meaning of Jesus’s teaching can only do so because it has been granted by God (Matt 13:11, ὅτι ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι) for them to understand the secrets of the kingdom. Those who do not understand cannot because a divine hardening has taken place (Matt 13:14ff.). See Mark’s use of ἵνα in 4:12. Frank Stagg writes, “From these words, we can infer that parables are intentionally obscuring, used by the speaker to withhold understanding from ‘those outside,’ lest they repent and be forgiven. Mark’s hina cannot be dismissed as other than intending purpose” (“Luke’s Theological Use of Parables,” 217–18). It is important to note that this “intending purpose” does not occur prior to the day detailed in Matthew 12–13.