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How To Tell if A Story in The Bible is a Parable or a Real Historical Event

Sometimes we can struggle to understand the bible because we are not sure how to tell if what we are reading is an actual historical story, a parable, or perhaps an allegory. So this brings about the question of how do you know if the bible story is a parable or an actual story that happened?

Jesus would be your best reference point to this question, because He told us parables and He even let us know when He was telling one. For example He would set up a scenario as He told the story by opening with phrases such as “there was a man” or “there once was a woman” and as we hear the message from Jesus we find there is always a moral to the story. On the other hand as we see real events in the bible like when Jesus refereed to Jonah being swallowed by a whale He does speak of that as a parable with the idea that we are supposed to walk away with a lesson to be learned by it.

Jesus Telling a ParablePrior to Jesus we look at all stories in the old testament, no matter how sci-fi they seem, as actual history and not as parables. We see real names of people and cities in these stories which would lead us to safely assume they are actual events that occurred in the history of the bible.

If you want the most simple and direct way to tell if a bible story is true or if it’s a parable then it’s best to look to see if a name was referenced. Jesus never spoke in parables using peoples names. So when Jesus talked about Moses or Abraham He was telling a true story of real people. When no name was mentioned it was a parable. There was a lesson to be learned.

Here are a few examples of how Jesus opened his Parables:

The Parable of The Rich Man – Luke 12:13-21:The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”

The Parable of The Lost Sheep – Luke 15:1-7: ““Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11:There was a man who had two sons12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager – Luke 16:1-5:There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

The Parable of the Persistent Widow – Luke 18:1-6In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

Author: Mike Cynar

Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.