Date: Wed Jan 29 2003 - 13:31:37 EST
Yes, indeed, the choice of the mustard plant is very appropriate as a
parable for growth of the Kingdom. There are a large number of weedy
species in the Mustard family, plants that have been associated with
disturbed (human inhabited areas) going way back in time. Jesus' hearers
would have appreciated his meaning very clearly.
I am in total agreement that requiring Jesus' parables to be scientifically
accurate is absurd. Obviously, he is co-Creator of the universe and
omniscent; however, I get the impression that, as man on earth, he was not
practically omniscent; the extent of his knowledge, even about his own
purpose and mission, seems to have been directly dependent on his communion
with the Father (through prayer). In this way, he demonstrates to us how
we can know and be directed in God's will: remain in communion with the
Father in prayer.
Even if I am wrong about Jesus' Father-dependent omniscence while on earth
and he was actually all-knowing at the time, I do not think it means that
he was somehow lying to speak in parables that were not scientifically
accurate. Any form of communication--whether Jesus' teaching and parables,
president Bush's State of the Union address, this e-mail posting, or a
scientific article--uses a mode of description and language that is meant
to be understood and interpreted within that context and purpose only.
With regard to the wheat seed dying, that is scientifically inaccurate. The
seed contains a living embryo (a fairly well developed plant "fetus", if
you will). It does not die in order to sprout. It is more accurate to say
that it "hatches" like a chicken from an egg.
I have a real problem with people who attempt to stretch the analogies made
by Jesus in his parables by fleshing them out with more scientific detail.
I was recently asked to give my expertise on soil types, nutrients, and
plant growth in order to help understand and appreciate the parable of the
sower. I politely declined.
Schneider" To: <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
uth.net> Subject: Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback
> However, I see the expectation of strict scientific or social fact in the
details of parables as unreasonable.
> Likewise, I do not think that the parable of the mustard seed tells us
anything about whether Jesus held the common knowledge of His time on the
subject of seeds. In fact, as far as scientific issues go, I suspect that
He did not think about such things and thus cannot be said to accept nor
reject common views on things like seed size, the age and shape of the
earth, etc. At any rate, we are not told about His thoughts on such
I agree. The meaning of the parable is what the focus should be on, not
irrevelant question of whether Jesus gave attention to the science of
Now in this parable the mustard seed is compared to the kingdom of God.
has Jesus chosen the mustard seed?
In his analysis of the parable J. D. Crossan quotes Pliny the Elder on
the mustard plant: it grows wild and it will take over if you don't
it. Even the garden variety, if not carefully controlled, will run ragged
through the garden. I know that from the experience of clearing mustard
(and thistle) plants out of my Kentucky field; they spring up, as Pliny
said, rapidly, and will quickly take over a field. So, one could interpret
Jesus' use of the mustard seed growing into a great bush to mean that the
Kingdom of God is like that, a reign that takes over, is very hard to
control, and goes where God wants it to go.
Now in another context, John 12:24, Jesus says, "Unless a grain of
falls into the earth and dies, it remains but a single grain; but if it
it bears much fruit." Are we going to get scientific on Jesus for that? I
hope not; he's using a short parable to speak of death as a means of
life. The intent is theological and nothing more. Paul uses a similar
analogy in 1 Cor. 15.
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