I understand that the definition of παροιμία (paroimia) in John 16:25 is: “a by-word, proverb, adage, 2 Pet. 2:22; in NT an obscure saying, enigma, Jn. 16:25, 29; a parable, similitude, figurative discourse, Jn. 10:6”. Source: https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/paroimia

The definition of proverb is: “a profound saying, maxim, or oracular utterance requiring interpretation.“

The definition of a parable is: “a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.“

The definition of figures of speech is: “any expressive use of language, as a metaphor, simile, personification, or antithesis, in which words are used in other than their literal sense, or in other than their ordinary locutions, in order to suggest a picture or image or for other special effect.”

So 3 translations in English give 3 slight derivations of the Greek Word, and if we assume the Greek word in this context doesn’t mean all 3; what is the most accurate English translation?

These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. John 16:25 -KJV

These things I have spoken to you in parables. The time will come when I will speak no more to you in figures, but I will show you plainly from my Father. John 16:25 -NMB

“These things I have spoken to you in figures of speech; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father. John 16:25 -NASB

Q: Is the Greek word “paroimia“ too broad so that it doesn’t matter which translation is most accurate?

Q2: Which is the most accurate translation in English given the context & the Greek word used in John 16:25 for paroimia?

2 Answers 2


According to BDAG, the operative word, παροιμία (paroimia) has the following meaning:

  1. a pithy saying, proverb, maxim, eg, 2 Peter 2:22
  2. a brief communication containing truths designed for initiates, veiled saying, figure of speech, in which especially lofty ideas are concealed; in Johannine usage, John 10:6, 16:25.

Thus, "parable" is not appropriate here (most are too long for this idea). Thus, according to BDAG, "veiled saying", or "figure of speech" would be closer to the Greek meaning.


John 16:25 paroimia Etymology οἶμος (oimos) a way, road, path, course of a song. Paroimia should be


  • The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.
  • A story, picture, or play employing such representation. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick are allegories.
  • A symbolic representation.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

As Berean Interlinear Bible uses:

Ταῦτα These things ἐν in παροιμίαις allegories λελάληκα I have spoken ὑμῖν· to you; ἔρχεται is coming ὥρα an hour ὅτε when οὐκέτι no more ἐν in παροιμίαις allegories λαλήσω I will speak ὑμῖν, to you, ἀλλὰ but παρρησίᾳ plainly περὶ concerning τοῦ the Πατρὸς Father ἀπαγγελῶ I will report ὑμῖν. to you.

It is not broad but only in modern languages we have an enhanced vocabulary, so we have more options. The word meaning includes proverbs, parables, figures. The verse talk about his revelation about his father, so parable shouldn't be used, since that was used to teach about the kingdom of heaven; and his teachings were not all parables. We have a separate word for parable G3850 παραβολή. So paroimia may be a broader branch of parable. I think paroimia has no parallel in Hebrew, as מָשַׁל mashal (misaal in Arabic) is used for both the Greek words. Mashal or misal is closer to parable- illustration, simile.

The word is better translated as allegory, figure of speech or obscure language, as the new versions use, as opposed to parable or proverb. Proverb as you noted is a wise, known saying. The sense is vagueness of figures or allegory, since the contrast is plain παρρησίᾳ used in the verse. NET uses obscure figures of speech, with translation note:

tn Or “in parables”; or “in metaphors.” There is some difficulty in defining παροιμίαις (paroimiais) precisely: A translation like “parables” does not convey accurately the meaning. BDAG 779-80 s.v. παροιμία suggests in general “proverb, saw, maxim,” but for Johannine usage “veiled saying, figure of speech, in which esp. lofty ideas are concealed.” In the preceding context of the Farewell Discourse, Jesus has certainly used obscure language and imagery at times: John 13:8-11; 13:16; 15:1-17; and 16:21 could all be given as examples. In the LXX this word is used to translate the Hebrew mashal which covers a wide range of figurative speech, often containing obscure or enigmatic elements.

Also see lexicons like Abbott-Smith Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament

παροιμία , -ας , ἡ

(< πάροιμος , by the way),

[in LXX. Pr title Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 25:1, (H4911) subscr., Sirach 6:35; Sirach 8:8; Sirach 18:29; Sirach 39:3; Sirach 47:17*;]

  1. a wayside saying (Hesych.; v. LS, s.v.), a byword, maxim, proverb: 2 Peter 2:22.

  2. In NT, of figurative discourse (as H4911, Isaiah 14:4, al.), a parable, allegory: John 10:6; John 16:25; John 16:29 (v. Abbott, Essays, 82 ff.).†

SYN.: παραβολή G3850, q.v.


παροιμία, παροιμίας, ἡ (παρά by, aside from (cf. παρά, IV. 2), and οἶμος way), properly, a saying out of the usual course or deviating from the usual manner of speaking (cf. Suidas 654, 15; but Hesychius under the word, et al., 'a saying heard by the wayside' (παρά, IV. 1), i.e. a current or trite saying, proverb;

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