Parables represent a difficult genre to classify. Broadly speaking, it is possible to talk about two basic types of parables: proverbial parables and narrative parables. The former of these constitute aphorisms and similies—figurative statements with some sort of insight or clever witticism. The Greek word that is translated as “parable” is often used for these. However, since proverbial parables are usually better described simply as proverbs, the focus on this dataset is the latter type: narrative parables. These are effectively stories that are purposefully presented by their speaker to teach, promise, rebuke, or even warn their intended audience. This is a narrower use of the term parable, but it also fits better with the more conventional understanding of term.
Parables distinguish themselves from other narratives and stories in that they always have an ulterior motive in their telling. They are not merely told for simple entertainment. Instead, parables have a performative or rhetorical function that goes beyond the story itself to communicate something about the relationship between the speaker and the audience. In the case of teaching, the speaker sees a gap in the knowledge or understanding of the audience that needs to be field. Othertimes the speaker might have a negative view of the audience and use story as a means of passing judgment, either as a rebuke or as a warning. Whatever the situation, the function of the parable takes the audience beyond the story itself and functions as a commentary by the speaker about or for the benefit of the audience.