Christianity - Stories and Parables

This GCSE RE Christianity quiz takes a look at stories and parables. In common with many faiths, Christianity has a rich collection of inspiring stories about its founder and early leaders, plus the excellent little stories that Jesus built into his teachings ~ the Parables, which were like little thumbnail illustrations in words. In this quiz we'll explore a selection of these to give you a 'flavour of the faith'.

Back in New Testament times there were few, if any, schools of a kind we would recognise, nor large disposable quantities of writing materials; and printing as we now know it was still virtually 1,500 years away, let alone any form of screen-based or electronic media. The pace of life was slower; many of the people Jesus met and dealt with would have been functionally illiterate, but perfectly intelligent in most cases and well used to living ‘closer to the land’.

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Rather than risk putting off the majority who were not trained religious specialists, He couched his teaching about God in terms of everyday analogies: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like …’ followed by a little story about life on a farm or estate, for instance. Many of these are well-known still, even to people with no particular religious affiliation: often by their familiar titles such as ‘the Sower’ and ‘the Good Samaritan’.

The stories are miniature models of, and for, human behaviour ~ in some ways, not unlike Aesop’s Fables, which you may also have come across (e.g. of the Hare and the Tortoise) ~ and, also as with Aesop, there is usually a point or ‘moral’ to be drawn from the tale. Sometimes Jesus spells this out; in other cases it may be too obvious to need that.

Since Jesus’ ministry was bound up with the local landscape and its characters in other ways, we have also added a couple of questions touching on His miracles.

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  1. In His Parable of the Talents (as it's usually known), the 'master' gives amounts of money to three of his underlings before he goes away for a while. The ones who were given 10 and 5 coins respectively, put their money to work and doubled its value before the master returned. What did the man do who had only been given 1 coin?
    So the story goes, he did this since he knew the master was a harsh man with high expectations. In this he was right ~ the other two men were rewarded for their initiative, but he ended up being punished!
  2. Jesus told a set of three parables about items that people had lost, and went to great lengths to search for: the first was about one from among a flock of 100 sheep, the second was about a woman who mislaid a coin and hunted high and low through her house for it. What was the focus of the third, and most developed, version of the Loss story?
    This iconic story is usually known by its traditional title of 'the Prodigal Son'. It illustrates how God (the 'father') will wait beyond the limits of normal human patience for a selfish, wastrel 'child' to come to their senses and return humbly to Him, admitting they have made bad life-choices.
  3. Jesus was involved in several incidents where people challenged Him over His attitude to money. He seems to have accepted that money was a necessary part of life, but was critical of people who were selfish and took &/or hoarded money to which they had no moral right ~ though he was fully understanding, for instance, of the problems faced by tax-collectors.

    On one occasion He remarked that people who clung to their worldly riches would find it hard to enter His heavenly kingdom: indeed, it would be about as easy for such a person to achieve this as for ... (?) ...
    Various commentators have suggested down the years that there was a particularly narrow pedestrian 'snicket' gateway onto a street in Jerusalem which most of Jesus' listeners would have recognised (indeed, they might have been within sight of it when He made this very point), and that the packs would need taking off the back and sides of the camel before it were to try and pass through ~ in parable terms, this would mean un-hitching a person's 'worldly wealth' and leaving it behind on the original side before moving on.

    There have now been doubts about this, but the point is too neat to miss!
  4. Another of Jesus' stories was about two men who built houses: what was the main difference between these?
    When the rough weather came, so the story goes, the house on sand quickly collapsed. The 'moral' (or spiritual point) is clearly that one should build one's life on something firm (such as God and His values) rather than on things that can swiftly give way (such as wealth &/or fame).
  5. Jesus could pluck material from a parable even from the most everyday, and apparently unglamorous, items around him. Which of these pairs did he use to point out how much God cares for each of us?
    'Wild flowers', He said (this is a paraphrase!), 'never go out to do a day's work, yet they look more glorious than the greatest king in history; while God is aware even when a little sparrow falls to the ground. How much more will He care for each and every one of His people!'
  6. In His famous 'parable of the Good Samaritan', who are the first two passers-by, who (rather against our expectation) go out of their own way NOT to help the victim of an assault?
    Most of these good Biblical callings crop up elsewhere, but the point about the correct answers is that the priest ~ instead of being caring, public-spirited etc. ~ is more concerned that if he touches blood &/or a dead body, he will be barred from his own duties at work for a specified while; and the lawyer has similar selfish reasons for not mucking-in.
  7. In a similar vein to question 6: in the Parable of the Banquet, a wealthy man invites his friends to come and help celebrate his good fortune at an extravagant meal he is hosting. One by one they offer their excuses for not coming. Which one of the following contains two of the original excuses Jesus quotes?
    In the end the host is so disappointed that his friends cannot make the time for him, that he gets his staff to invite absolutely anyone else in (from 'the highways and byways' as an older translation rather charmingly puts it), so that the meal does not go to waste. The Parable represents the excuses that some comfortable people make for rejecting God's offer of love and salvation, and that He is just as ready to offer His goodness to others who may seem accidental or less deserving.
  8. Definitely among the 'top ten' parables should be the one about the Sower ~ a familiar image to Jesus' listeners in rural surroundings 2,000-odd years ago, in which a man scatters seed-corn onto his land in order to start the next crop cycle. Before he hits his stride, he throws seed onto three bad patches of ground: which of the following is NOT one of them, according to the original story?
    Each of the genuine duff patches has a symbolic meaning, in terms of how God's Word may not be accepted into people's lives for various reasons. This Parable is one of only half-a-dozen that appear in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew chapter 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8).
  9. Of course, it wasn't just what Jesus said, but also what He did (setting aside, for present purposes, such huge over-arching matters as His virgin-birth and return from the dead): there were a number of miracles ~ where He appeared to reverse or overturn the established forces of nature, such as weather and disease.

    One memorable 'nested pair' of miracle accounts tells how Jesus is on his way to heal a sick girl, when He is interrupted by an older woman who has suffered from internal bleeding for the same length of time as the age (in years) of the girl. How long is this?
    Both these people are then healed, and each in particularly remarkable ways: see Luke 8:40 and onwards.
  10. Across the four Gospels there are various stories of miracles done by Jesus on and around the Sea of Galilee. Which of these is NOT one of them?
    If ever there were such a case, this one is not recorded in the Gospels!

Author: Ian Miles

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