The Parable Itself

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The Servant of Jehovah continued His work of instructing the mass of the people in the things of righteousness, and is again found by the sea doing this work. Previously we read, “And he went forth again by the seaside; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them” (2:13). Now again a very great crowd from the neighboring towns assembled by the sea, and He whose voice was “as the voice of many waters” ministered to them the precious truths of God. But that they might hear, and that He might speak the more conveniently, He boarded a boat, as He had done before (3:9), and sitting thus on the margin of Lake Tiberias, He addressed the standing multitude gathered upon the strand, teaching them many things in parables. From this circumstance the series of them is sometimes called the “boat-parables.”
The Lord spake many, and most probably only a selection of them are recorded in the Gospels. Matthew gives the greatest number, and the seven constitute a panoramic sketch of the kingdom of the heavens in “mystery.”
As proof that a selection of these parables was made by the Holy Spirit to conform to the purpose of each of the three Gospels it is sufficient to note that Mark inserts one not occurring elsewhere, i.e., that of the secret growth of the sown seed, while Matthew only records three spoken in the house to the disciples. This is evidence of differentiated design, not of effort after a dead level of uniformity in the Synoptic narratives.
It will be observed that the first—that of the sower—is one of the three common to all. This is the longest of the parables, and its interpretation is given with great particularity. Unlike the others, it is not exactly a similitude of the kingdom, the prominent feature being the One who sows the word of the kingdom, although it is true that the varied results of the sowing are expressed.
It is interesting to observe the tripartite character of the parable. Its subjects are threefold—
1. The sower
2. The seed
3. The soils
There are three varieties of unfruitful soil—
1. The wayside
2. The stony ground
3. The thorny patch
There is a threefold gradation in the results of seed-sowing on the unsuitable soils—
1. The seed was devoured before germination
2. The seed sprang up, but quickly withered away
3. The seed grew up, but was choked by the thorns
There is also a threefold degree of fruitfulness in the seed which fell on good ground—
1. Some produced thirty-fold
2. Some produced sixty-fold
3. Some produced a hundred-fold
This is the order of the degrees of fruitfulness given by Mark, but Matthew reverses this order, and Luke only mentions the last— “a hundredfold.”
In comparing the three versions of the parable by the Synoptic Evangelists a close correspondence is observed between those presented by Matthew and Mark, but of the two that of the latter is the fuller. The principal variations in the second Gospel from the first are as follows—
1. The addition of “it came to pass (ἐγένετο)” before “as he sowed,” ver. 4.
2. The “birds” are called “birds of the air (heaven),” ver. 4.
3. The choking action of the thorns described in Matthew by ἀποπνίγω, is expressed in Mark by συμπνιγω, the latter term denoting the suffocation caused by the greater number of the thorns, ver. 7.
4. “And it yielded no fruit” is an addition peculiar to Mark, ver. 7.
1. Of the seed falling by the wayside, it is added that “it was trodden under foot.”
2. Of the seed falling on stony ground, it is said that as soon as it germinated it withered through lack of moisture; and the fact of the shallowness of the soil, the heat of the sun, and the absence of root is not mentioned.
3. The thorns are said to grow up along with (συμφύω) the good seed.
4. Luke says that the seed which fell on good ground sprouted (φύω).
5. He is also peculiar in using the compound form of the adjective, “hundred-fold” (ἐκατονταπλασίων). Though not occurring in Matt. 13, this term is found in Matt. 19:2929And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matthew 19:29). [W. J. H. A