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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Fable

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It represents man's relations to his fellow man; but the PARABLE rises higher, it represents the relations between man and God. The parable's framework is drawn from the dealings of men with one another; or if from the natural world, not a grotesque parody of it, but real analogies. The fable rests on what man has in common with the lower creatures; the parable on the fact that man is made in the image of God, and that the natural world reflects outwardly the unseen realities of the spiritual world. The MYTH is distinct from both in being the spontaneous symbolic expression of some religious notion of the apostate natural mind. In the fable qualities of men are attributed to brutes. In the parable the lower sphere is kept distinct from the higher which it illustrates; the lower beings follow the law of their nature, but herein represent the acts of the higher beings; the relations of brutes to each other are not used, as these would be inappropriate to represent man's relation to God.

Two fables occur in Scripture: (1) Jotham's sarcastic fable to the men of Shechem, the trees choosing their king (Judges 9:8-15). (2) Joash's sarcastic answer to Amaziah's challenge, by a fable, the sarcasm being the sharper for the covert form it assumes, namely, the cedar of Lebanon and the thistle (2 Kings 14:9). Ezekiel 17:1-10 differs from the fable in not attributing human attributes to lower creatures, and in symbolizing allegorically prophetical truths concerning the world monarchies; it is called chidah , "a riddle," from chaadad "to be sharp", as requiring acumen to solve the continued enigmatical allegory.

The fable of Jotham (1209 B.C.) is the oldest in existence; the Hebrew mind had a special power of perceiving analogies to man in the lower world; this power is a relic of the primeval intuition given to Adam by God who "brought every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, unto Adam to see what he would call them." Other nations were much later in this style of thought, the earliest prose fables in Greece being those of the legendary Aesop, about 550 B.C. Many of the proverbs are "condensed fables" (Proverbs 26:11; Proverbs 30:15; Proverbs 30:25; Proverbs 30:28).

The analogies in the lower creatures are to man's lower virtues or defects, his worldly prudence, or his pride, indolence, cunning (compare Matthew 10:16). "Fables" mean falsehoods in 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7, "old wives' fables"; Titus 1:14, "Jewish fables," the transition stage to gnosticism; 2 Peter 1:16, "cunningly devised (Greek text: sophisticated) fables," devised by man's wisdom, not what the Holy Spirit teacheth (1 Corinthians 2:13); incipient gnostic legends about the genealogies, origin, and propagation of angels (Colossians 2:18-23).


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Fable'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/f/fable.html. 1949.

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