Natural Basis Of Our Spiritual Language -- By: W. M. Thomson
BSac 33:131 (July 1876) p. 401
Natural Basis Of Our Spiritual Language
No. V.—Parables And Similitudes
It has been said, wisely and well, that the character of a people is revealed by their proverbs. By them are reflected, as in a mirror, their manners and customs; and in them we find garnered up and preserved the results of their common experience, reduced to verbal formulas the most compact and available. Universally true, this is eminently applicable to Oriental tribes, both ancient and modern. A careful analysis of Arab proverbs, for example, will conduct the student into the very heart of their national life. They transport us, as by enchantment, into the open and boundless desert, where we see and hear and dwell amongst the people in their sackcloth tents, with all their belongings and surroundings, — flocks and herds, asses and camels, the latter omnipresent, in numbers numberless. Everything in fact about the camp smells of the camel, or resounds with it. The very language, in its harsh gutturals, is an echo of the camel’s prodigious growl. From their proverbial maxims we know also what virtues they admired, what vices they tolerated and practised. In a word, from this one source we learn with absolute certainty that Bedouin Arabs are, and always have
BSac 33:131 (July 1876) p. 402
been, a more than semi-barbarous race of roaming robbers, intolerable in any civilized country, and utterly wild and incorrigible everywhere.
In like manner the Proverbs of Solomon disclose the condition, moral, social, and religious, of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as it was when the wise king reigned there, with far greater minuteness than do all the pages of contemporaneous history; and their report is perfectly reliable, for proverbs neither flatter, conceal, nor exaggerate.
It is scarcely necessary to remark that many of the so-called proverbs of Solomon are in reality parables, while some of them are expanded into allegories. On the other hand, some of the New Testament parables are merely brief proverbs. In fact, both in Hebrew and Arabic, all such similitudes — be they brief or extended — bear the common name of emthal (proverbs), and what by one writer is called a parable, by another is said to be a proverb. We need not hesitate, therefore, to include them all in a single group, whether found in the Old or the New Testament; and our present study of them must be restricted to biblical “proverbs,” not merely because they contribute most largely to the special theme of these Essays, but also because the general subject is much too extensive for our limited space.
That a large part of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven has been revealed to man by means of parables and sugg...
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