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Parable of the Sower

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Parable of the Sower

An icon depicting the Sower (Biserica Ortodoxă din Deal, Cluj-Napoca), Romania.

The Parable of the Sower (sometimes called the Parable of the Soils) is the parables of Jesus found in three (often called the Synoptic Gospels)[1] out of the four Canonical gospels and in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.[2] In this story, a sower dropped seed on the path, on rocky ground and among thorns, and the seed was lost; but when seed fell on good earth it grew, yielding thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.

Parable Text from the Gospel of Mark (KJV)

The explanation given by Jesus:

Comparisons Between Gospel of Thomas and Synoptic Gospels

Thomas, as usual, provides no narrative context whatsoever, nor any explanation, but the synoptics frame this parable as one of a group that were told by Jesus while he was standing on a boat in a lake. The parable tells of seeds that were erratically scattered, some falling on the road and consequently eaten by birds, some falling on rock and consequently unable to take root, and some falling on thorns which choked the seed and the birds ate them. It was, according to the parable, only the seeds that fell on good soil and were able to germinate, producing a crop thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold, of what had been sown.

Though Thomas doesn't explain the parable at all, the synoptics state that the disciples failed to understand, and questioned Jesus why he was teaching by parables, but the synoptics state that Jesus waited until much later, until the crowds had left, before explaining the parables, stating to his disciples:

The Parable of the Sower as illustrated in Hortus deliciarum compiled by Herrad of Landsberg at the Hohenburg Abbey in Alsace (12th century).

The synoptics go on to state that Jesus quoted the Book of Isaiah, stating that by hearing you shall hear but not understand, by seeing you shall see and not perceive, and that the people were hard of hearing, with closed eyes Isaiah 6:9-10. After this, the synoptics provide an explanation of the parable:

  • The sower sows the word
  • The seeds falling on the road represent those who hear the word but dismiss it straight away - the synoptics state that the wicked one (Matthew's wording)/Satan (Mark's wording) is what takes the word away
  • The seeds falling on the rocks represent those who hear the word, but only accept it shallowly - the synoptics state that these sorts of people reject the word as soon as it causes them affliction or persecution
  • The seeds falling on thorns represent those who hear the word, and take it to heart, but allow worldly concerns, such as money, to choke it.
  • The seeds falling on good soil represents those who hear the word, and truly understand it, causing it to bear fruit.

Interpretations

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, 1557.

Most scholars think the parable was originally optimistic in outlook, in that despite failures eventually the "seed" will be successful, take root and produce a large "crop".[3] It is the first parable to occur in Mark, which according to the Q hypothesis was the first book it occurred in. Mark uses it to highlight the reaction Christ's previous teachings have had on people as well as the reaction the Christian message has had on the world over the three decades between Christ's ministry and the writing of the Gospel.[4]

Jesus says he is teaching in parables because he does not want everyone to understand him, only those who are his followers. Those outside the group are not meant to understand them. Thus one must already be committed to following Jesus to fully understand his message and that without that commitment one will never fully understand him or be helped by his message. If one does not correctly understand the parables, this is a sign that one is not a true disciple of Jesus.[5] He teaches in this way so that their sins will then not be forgiven. He quotes [4] Some debate whether this was Jesus' original meaning or whether Mark added this interpretation himself.[5] The full explanation of the meaning of the parable stresses that there will be difficulty in Jesus' message taking hold, perhaps an attempt by Mark to bolster his readers' faith, perhaps in the face of a persecution.[6] This parable seems to be essential for understanding all the rest of Jesus' parables, as it makes clear what is necessary to understand Jesus is a prior faith in him, and that Jesus will not enlighten those who refuse to believe, he will only confuse them.[7]

The parable has sometimes been taken to mean that there are (at least) three 'levels' of divine progress and salvation.[8]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ see Mark 4:1-20, Matthew 13:1-23, and Luke 8:1-15
  2. ^ Thomas 9
  3. ^ Kilgallen p.82
  4. ^ a b Kilgallen p.83
  5. ^ a b Kilgallen p.84
  6. ^ Kilgallen p.85
  7. ^ Kilgallen p.86
  8. ^ For example, Irenaeus writes, 'there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that was on this account the Lord declared, "In My Father's house are many mansions." Book V:36:1 (Against Heresies)

References

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