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The Parable as Spoken or Acted Riddle.

The Parable as Spoken or Acted Riddle.

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Published by glennpease
BY ALFRED BARRY, D.D., D
BY ALFRED BARRY, D.D., D

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 01, 2013
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THE PARABLE AS SPOKE OR ACTED RIDDLE.BY ALFRED BARRY, D.D., DI. Tlie Song of Lamech.— II. The riddle of Samson. — III.The allegory of the Book of Ecclesiastes. — IV. The actedriddlc:i of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea,THE parable of fable or allegory leads, by anatural transition, to the "parable in theform of enigma or riddle,^' conveyed either inword or in significant action.The object of the enigma, like the primary objectof the true parable, is to arrest attention and tostimulate inquiry. Of its use for the attainment of this object we have a well-known example in theew Testament, where our Lord's enigmatical saying — " A little while and ye shall not see me ; and againa little while and ye shall see me ; because I go tothe Father" — stirred in the disciples a half-bewilderedquestioning, which He himself was pleased to anti-cipate by explanation (John xvi. 16-24). Of another form of the same enigmatical teachingHe was pleased to make use in the question, "If David called Christ Lord, how is He his Son?(Matt. xxii. 41-46) — a question which, if it had theI30 THE PARABLES OFeffect, perhaps the intention, of silencing the insidiousquestions of His enemies, yet must have had also apositive suggestiveness to those who were ready to
 
learn.But the machinery in the case of the riddle is lesssubtle and beautiful than in the true parable ; it ap-peals wholly to the curious understanding, not to theheart. It is fit rather to arrest the thoughtless, thanto discriminate between the thoughtless and thethoughtful hearer ; it has more in it of wit than of wisdom. Moreover, the analogy on which it playsis not, as in the parable proper, a true analogy : itis the very characteristic of the riddle to give a sem-blance of congruity to ideas or things really incon-gruous ; and upon this, indeed, turns the wit orhumour of which the riddle is mostly intended to bethe vehicle. It fails, therefore, altogether to reachthe deeper meaning of the parable ; it does not accordwith the highest tone of teaching ; it is appropriateonly to the superficial, slighter, and more fancifulaspects of truth. Hence it occupies only a secondaryplace in Holy Scripture (though in early Easternhterature it plays a considerable part), as being betteiadapted to the minds of children, and those like chil-dren, than to the full-grown seriousness of manhood.In the Old Testament we find a few specimens, andonly a few, of this form of parable, in no case occu-pying a prominent or important place.It is, indeed, true that the word "riddle" (renTHE OLD TESTAMET. 131dcrcd in i Kings x. i by the phrase 'Miard question "i)is not identical with the word ''parable." But it isparalleled closely with it in Ezckiel xvii. 2 (" Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable to thehouse of Israel"), and v/e find a corresponding con-nexion in Psalms xlix. 4 ; Ixxviii. 2, between theparable and the "dark saying." or does it seem
 
doubtful that the taunt levelled against Ezckiel (xx.42) — *'Doth he not speak parables?" — refers gene-rally to the " dark sayings" of symbolical and mys-tical utterance of which his prophecy is full. Henceit seems reasonable to consider the riddle, especiallyas it is apt to wear a metaphorical shape, as con-nected \\ith the general category of parabolicteaching.Of the spoken riddle it will be sufficient to talcethree specimens — the parable of Lamech in theearliest history (Gen. iv. 23, 24), the riddle of Samsonin the half-civilised time of the Judges (Judges xii. 18),and a remarkable passage from Ecclesiastes (xii. 1-6),belonging to a far later age of Biblical literature.I. The parable of Lamech has a strange andmysterious interest — coming to us as the sole frag-ment of the literature of that antediluvian world, of which, since it belongs not to our own dispensation,it has been judged sufficient to give us only the^ The Rabbinical literature delighted itself in inventing these*'hard questions" of the Queen of Sheba, most of them quaintand puerile enough.K 7.I ^2THE PARABLES OFscantiest glimpses in Holy Scripture. It assumesthe antithetical form of Hebrew poetry ; and, while

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