Parable is a Nautical Term
Speaking (or writing as the case may be) without a ton of fresh Greek saviness, I nevertheless venture to point out that the word “parable” can be broken into two roots in the Greek: “para” and “boli”. The former is a very common Greek preposition with a number of possible renderings like “from, by, with, beside, against, etc.” The latter, (“boli”), according to my lexicon is a throw or a cast (e.g. “a stone’s throw”, etc.) “Bolis”, a near relative of the word, may refer to an object thrown, perhaps a “javelin” or “spear”, but often enough it is a nautical term for the sounding lead, the device sailors used to measure the depth of water. Of course the root is also closely related to “ballo” the verb for throwing or casting, but there is also “balizo” which is the word for casting the sounding device. Witness the only other use of the verb “parabalo” in Acts 20:15 (the other is in Mk. 4:30) where the word describes a few of Paul’s maritime adventures.
Given Jesus’ previous description of what he is training his disciples for (“I will make you fishers of men”, 1:17) and the fact that he’s dealing with at least a significant minority of former fishermen (James, John, Peter and Andrew) AND the fact that Jesus is doing all of this teaching in chapter 4 from a boat (4:1, 36), I find it difficult to shake the conclusion that the parables are meant in this nautical sense. They are meant as measuring devices, measuring the hearts of Israel (cf. 4:24), measuring their depth of soil (cf. 4:5).
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