In for example Matthew 13, Jesus says parables (e.g. of the sower), says that he, Jesus, does not want to tell the masses their meaning, then tells the disciples the parables' hidden (disciple only) meaning which, we though we are the masses are allowed to read in (ostensibly at least) disciple-penned Gospels.

If the disciples believed Jesus when he says that it is inappropriate to share the meaning behind parables with the masses, then why did they tell us, the masses, in the gospels? If so, is there anything to suggest that the parables' (disciple only) meaning is either obfuscation or not the whole meaning?

I ask especially because having read the non canonical Gospel of Thomas, I see that Thomas claims there is at least one meaning ("three words") that he can't even share with the other disciples, let alone us the masses, and the mention of "stones" therein reminds me both of the stones that would minister to the disciples in the Gospel of Thomas, and the stones in the parable of the sower.

The Gospel of Thomas Addendum from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas/index.html Using the Blatz translation Saying 19: Five Trees in Paradise

Jesus said: Blessed is he who was before he came into being. If you become disciples to me (and) listen to my words, these stones will minister to you. For you have five trees in Paradise which do not change, either in summer or in winter, and their leaves do not fall. He who knows them shall not taste of death.

Saying 13 (Thomas says that he can't tell even the other disciples what Jesus had told him. He happens to mention stones again, coincidentally perhaps.) [snip] And he took him, withdrew, (and) spoke to him three words. Now when Thomas came (back) to his companions, they asked him: What did Jesus say to you? Thomas said to them: If I tell you one of the words which he said to me, you will take up stones (and) throw them at me; and a fire will come out of the stones (and) burn you up.

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    You have me at a disadvantage because I do not have access to the Gospel of Thomas or to the words he wrote about this parable. Can you copy and paste the relevant verses from the Gospel of Thomas?
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 17:19
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    We're the disciples. Of course we are not part of the 12, but we're the disciples Christ told the first ones to go and make in all the world when he gave the great commission. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 20:50
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    @Lesley I have added the verses (or parts thereof) from the G of T. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 20:19
  • We who are living 2000 years later, who have never met the Man, nor heard His words from His mouth, can see, hear and understand better than those non-disciples who went to hear, and did hear, his words? I get the feeling that those there on the shoreline at the time, while Jesus was talking about a sower, and seeds, and a mustard seed, and a net, from his boat, are likely to have heard far better than I do. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 11:43
  • @Timothy Takémoto - [Thomas 19] refers to The-Torah (הַ-תּוֹרָ֣ה) or the Five scrolls of Moshe (משֶׁה֘) : "Indeed, you have Five trees in paradise, which do not move in summer or winter, and whose leaves do not fall. Whoever is acquainted with them will not taste death." - Yeshua's ministry was always focused on understanding Torah, in order that you may live (לְמַ֣עַן תִּֽחְי֗וּ) in unity / "paradise" with Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֔ים) by keeping His-Commandments (מִצְו‍ֹתָ֗יו) on earth as it is in heaven Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he taught by using analogies that would be readily understood by everyone – salt, bread, sheep – and the meaning would be clear within the context of his teaching. Later on, he employed parables and the parable about the sower and the seed that fell onto four different types of soil was the first. His audience was a large crowd of ordinary people.

The disciples asked Jesus “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” Jesus answered by quoting from Isaiah 6:9-10:

Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:10-15)

What does this mean? It means that Jesus spoke in parables because of the spiritual dullness of the people who had come to listen to Jesus. The hidden meanings challenged the sincerely interested to delve deeper in order to understand the spiritual truths. Also, Jesus was careful to ensure his enemies would be unable to find any direct statements to use against him.

Before Jesus explained the meaning of this parable to his disciples, he blessed them because they were open and receptive to the spiritual lessons Jesus was teaching. They had been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

From this point on in Jesus’ ministry, when He spoke in parables, He explained them only to His disciples. But those who had continually rejected His message were left in their spiritual blindness to wonder as to His meaning. He made a clear distinction between those who had been given “ears to hear” and those who persisted in unbelief—ever hearing, but never actually perceiving and “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The disciples had been given the gift of spiritual discernment by which things of the spirit were made clear to them. Because they accepted truth from Jesus, they were given more and more truth.

A person’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. The Spirit of God searches the heart and to those who seek the truth, they will be granted understanding. There is no contradiction or secret knowledge here.

With regard to the Gospel of Thomas, I understand it was not written by Jesus' disciple Thomas and there are some very good reasons why it was excluded from the Bible canon. https://www.gotquestions.org/gospel-of-Thomas.html

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    Very Good answer - the people who could understand vs those who could not understand the parables are two mutually exclusive but self-selecting groups depending on their attitude to Jesus. +1
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 20:21
  • I am not sure why you say that the common people of those times, and ours are different. Why do you think we are not spiritually dull? Why do you think we are, unlike them, open and receptive to the spiritual lessons that Jesus was teaching? They thronged to hear his teaching. When Jesus says that I have 5 trees in paradise I am not sure what he means nor why anyone would stone Thomas for whatever three words he learnt. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 11:23
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    Neither I nor Dottard are saying the common people who listened to Jesus are different to people today. It has to do with our reception to God's Word - many people dismiss Jesus and reject the Bible. The parable is aimed at all who do not genuinely seek God's truth, who are secular, who live only for earthly pleasures and material wealth. It's more than just being "dull"- it's about the rejection of the gospel message and disobedience to God. Such people today are no different to people who lived 2,000 years ago. It is the Spirit of God who grants understanding to those who genuinely seek God.
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 12:18
  • Wonderful response, Lesley! Your answer "A person’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart" is an excellent point. * However - why would you discredit the Gospel of Thomas (based on a website)? After conducting a textual analysis to the teachings of Matthew & Luke - Thomas appears to share more similarities than John. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 14:31

he [Jesus] says that it is inappropriate to share the meaning behind parables with the masses

Jesus didn't say or imply that.

If anyone asked a disciple what Jesus told him about the hidden meaning of the parable, he would readily repeat what Jesus had told him. It was not a secret. Jesus didn't give any instruction to his disciples not to reveal the hidden meaning.

Matthew 7:24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Jesus used parables to separate those who wanted to hear more and those who didn't.

Near the end of the chapter, Jesus talks about the scribes being disciples:

51 Have you understood all these things?”
“Yes,” they answered.
52Then He told them, “For this reason, every scribe who has been discipled in the kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

Three chapters later, Jesus made it clear not to keep this a secret in Matthew 10:27

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

After Jesus was arrested, he told how openly he taught in

John 18:19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching.

20“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus answered. “I always taught in the synagogues and at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21Why are you asking Me? Ask those who heard My message. Surely they know what I said.”

The hidden meaning of the Kingdom of heaven wasn't meant to be kept as a tight secret to be known only to the 12 disciples. You only need to ask them.

  • How do you know that each disciple "would readily repeat what Jesus had told him"? Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 16:25
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    "Jesus didn't say or imply that [it is inappropriate to share the meaning behind parables with the masses]". Perhaps not explicitly, but he did give a reason why he didn't explain: "And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' He answered and said to them, 'Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.'" — Matthew 13:10,11. He talked about himself cryptically so that people would remember what he said, and then understand it later, after his resurrection. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 16:29
  • Fair questions. I added.
    – user35953
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 16:43

We read in Mark 4:10-12 the reason for keeping wisdom hidden : "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that," Yeshayahu 6:9-10 will be fulfilled.

Isaiah / Yeshayahu 6:9-10 [MT]

[9] And He said, "Go and say to this people, 'Indeed you hear, but you do not understand; indeed you see, but you do not know.' ( וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לֵ֥ךְ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֖ לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה שִׁמְע֚וּ שָׁמ֙וֹעַ֙ וְאַל־תָּבִ֔ינוּ וּרְא֥וּ רָא֖וֹ וְאַל־תֵּדָֽעוּ )
[10] This people's heart is becoming fat, and **his ears are becoming heavy, and his eyes are becoming sealed, lest he see with his eyes, and hear with his ears, and his heart understand, and he repent and be healed**." ( הַשְׁמֵן֙ לֵֽב־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְאָזְנָ֥יו הַכְבֵּ֖ד וְעֵינָ֣יו הָשַׁ֑ע פֶּן־יִרְאֶ֨ה בְעֵינָ֜יו וּבְאָזְנָ֣יו יִשְׁמָ֗ע וּלְבָב֥וֹ יָבִ֛ין וָשָׁ֖ב וְרָ֥פָא לֽוֹ )


  • The Voice of Adonai (ק֚וֹל אֲדֹנָי֙) speaking to the prophet Yeshayahu in Isaiah 6:9-10 is repeated in Mark 4:12 [KJV] That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

At what point do the disciples get to share the hidden Meaning of the Gospels with the nations? * We are told in Isaiah / Yeshayahu 6:13 that all will understand God's Word when "a holy seed is its trunk" (זֶ֥רַע קֹ֖דֶשׁ מַצַּבְתָּֽהּ).

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