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parables of Matthew, of Jesus


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The story telling of Matthew of Jesus telling these stories has a fourfold structure that the parable of the sower of Jesus has.


καὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς

24 Ἄλλην παραβολὴν παρέθηκεν αὐτοῖς 


31 Ἄλλην παραβολὴν παρέθηκεν αὐτοῖς


33 Ἄλλην παραβολὴν ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς

That mirrors this:

καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ἃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν


ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη ὅπου οὐκ εἶχεν γῆν πολλήν


 ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὰς ἀκάνθας


ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν


The explanation of this fourfold initial parable by Jesus for the disciples at their insistence allows Matthew to give special attention to this fourfold instructive story.


It also allows Matthew to give further attention to the fact that all Jesus taught this way he taught using parables. And that highlights this fourfold structure in Matthew's telling also. This is deeper than we can easily explicate. My own conjecturing is that Matthew considers it plowed ground literary ground that readers shouldn't quickly pass through or pass over without thinking about the ground of the parables and their/our own hearts for considering it/them profoundly as rather significant and generative.



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Gorgias of Leontini used a fourfold structure when offering his "encomium" of Helen of Troy. It reads more like his "apology" for her treason and her adultery. Writing clearly playful stuff like that (and his last line is explicitly "play") is what got Plato's Socrates forcing him to call himself a practitioner of mere "rhetoric" (and with this Plato coins the term "rhetoric") and what got Plato's student Aristotle refuting Gorgias as a "sophist."


To have such compelling structure in one's Greek may be accidental. Or it may raise eyebrows. I think a problem we contemporary readers of Matthew's and of Mark's versions of the fourfold sower/seed/ground parable of Jesus have had with it is the explanation that follows it. The comparison of the comparison as the explanation of the parable doesn't quite match the parable itself. In other words, the explanation reads into it less than a plain meaning, for some. At any rate there's the double fourfoldness. There's that parable. There's the explanation Jesus gives at the insistence of his disciples. And in Matthew there's a fourfold telling of parables in this context with those ἄλλ* markers. This all may be mysterious intentionally. But there's something compelling to the facts that Greeks played with the fourfold structure (at some risk to their message) and that Matthew has clearly encoded his Greek gospel at this point with at least three fourfolds in this very short context. How to read?

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