What Is a Parabolic Image?

A Parabolic Image Is a Mental Image the Prophets Used

A parabolic image is the first of the two constituent parts of a parable, with the second constituent part being a Hebrew idiom. A parabolic image is a mental image that Moses and the Prophets of Israel used in their prophecies to speak concerning God’s purpose in the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, the Prophets of Israel state many things parabolically concerning Jesus Christ in terms of “The House” of Israel and “The House” of David.

This particular parabolic image—the parabolic image of “The House”—is used extensively in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. For instance, Jesus alludes to the parabolic image of “The House” in His parable about the wise man who “built his house” on the rock and the fool who “built his house” on the sand:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and {yet} it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”
(Matthew 7:24–27) —NASB

(Note: “The rock,” “the rain,” “the floods,” “the winds,” and “the sand” in this parable are also parabolic images whose meaning and significance are explained in the prophecies of Moses and the other Prophets of Israel.)

The Apostle Peter also uses the parabolic image of “The House” to parabolically depict True Believers as “living stones” who are being “built” into a spiritual “house”:

And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:4–5) —NASB

The Apostle Paul refers to the same parabolic image when he says this in his first epistle to the Corinthians:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is {to be} revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
(1 Corinthians 3:10–15) —NASB

The meaning and significance of the parabolic image of “The House” in the writings of Moses and the Prophets of Israel, as well as in the parabolic statements of Jesus and the Apostles, derive from the meaning and significance of the Hebrew idiom “build a house.” That’s because every parabolic image used by Moses and the other Prophets of Israel has at least one corresponding Hebrew idiom that both reveals and conceals the meaning and significance of that particular parabolic image.


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