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Article Info:
published: 10/8/13

The Parable of the Net



What is the parable of the net?

The parable of the net was spoken by Jesus Christ and is recorded in Matthew 13:47-50. The draw net completes the sevenfold teaching in the first Gospel. The order was chosen by St. Matthew; and if we accept the mystic signification of the number "seven", i.e., "perfection", we shall perceive in this parable not a repetition, as Maldonatus held, of the tares, but its crown. In the tares separation of good and bad is put off here it is accomplished.

St. Augustine composed a kind of ballad for the people against the Donatist schismatics which expresses the doctrine clearly, "seculi finis est littus, tunc est tempus separare" (see Enarr. in Ps., lxiv, 6). The net is a sweeping net, Lat. verriculum, or a seine, which of necessity captures all sorts, and requires to be hauled on shore and the division made. For the Jews, in particular, the clean must be taken and the unclean cast away.

Since it is distinctly stated that within the net are both good and bad, this implies a visible and a mixed congregation until the Lord comes with His angels to judgment (Matthew 13:41; Apocalypse 14:18). The Evangelist, Loisy observes, has understood this parable, like the others quoted, allegorically, and Christ is the Fisher of men. Clement of Alexandria perhaps wrote the well-known Orphic hymn which contains a similar appellation.


Scripture

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:

48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.

49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,

50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The "fiery furnace", the "tears and the gnashing of teeth", going beyond the figures in the story, belong to its meaning and to Christian dogma. In the conclusion "every scribe" (13:52) points to the duty which Our Lord's Apostles will hand on to the Church of bringing forth to believers the hidden spiritual sense of tradition, "the new and the old".

Specifically, this does not serve as a distinction of the Testaments; but we may compare, "I came not to destroy but to fulfil", and "not one jot, or one tittle" (Matthew 5:17-18).

Modernist critics attribute the whole idea of a Christian "scribe" to St. Matthew and not to our Lord.

The expression "instructed" is literally, "having been made a disciple", matheteutheis and is of rare occurrence (Matt in loco; xxvii, 57- xxviii, 19; Acts 14:21). It answers to the Hebrew "Sons of the prophets" and is thoroughly Oriental (IV Kings 2:3, etc.)

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Source:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).