Parables, blah blah, yada yada.

Thought I'd heard The Parable of the Sower too many times before. Got bored with hearing it. Then today, kerpow, found something new for the first time in many years. Must be the lockdown effect or something.

For the first time ever, I heard the words: "But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown", and realised that we don't actually have to be perfect - a yield of thirty times is as satisfactory as a yield of 100 times. (And, taking the analogy wider, that would apply in all areas of life, not just in Christian achievement.) That realisation comes as quite a relief to anyone who tends to be a perfectionist and thinks that their best isn't good enough.

I challenge you, also, to find something new in these parables of Matthew 13 - arguably some of the best known pieces of Scripture, done to death by sermons since AD32.

Comments

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I have always taken the Parable of the Sower as a mission parable. We are to cast out the Word and let the Word do its thing. Some people will not understand it. Some people will initially be very positive to it, but then fall away, but others will hear it and be very fruitful.

    You can see that in Jesus' ministry. There were quite a few people who did not understand what he was saying. Others initially liked what they were hearing, but then fell away. Sill others were quite receptive to Jesus. Should we expect anything better>

    The next parable follows suit. Sometime later in the season, the labors note there is a lot of weed coming up. They want to pull the weeds out, but the farmer says no because if you pull the weeds out, you can end up pulling some of the grain out too. It does help to understand the farming methods of the time. to understand this especially since in modern farming there are many ways to avoid weeds or control them without damaging the crop. Even then weeds do appear in the crop. I am thinking of the American Christian Identity Movement, the Christian Reconstrionest Movement, all the emphasis on the Rapture (not in the Bible, btw), or people that seem to have a charismatic gift for telling people what they want to hear, but not what the gospel really says.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    51-52
    ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

    Possibly Matthew is using this concluding parable in what some call the parabolic discourse (the third of the "Pentateuch" of discourses) to provide a link between the new teachings of Jesus and the old teachings of "The Torah and The Prophets" which Jesus says that He is fulfilling.

    I once used the new/old saying about a study for my church on how to read the Bible, though I added the context of the new scholarly insights into the Bible writings.
  • I know the OP asked about Matthew 13. But, the parallel section in Mark includes a parable Matthew doesn't include, Mark 4:26-29, the growing seed which fits in with the various seed parables. The farmer sows the seed, and then does nothing at all as it grows without his help. A contrast to our tendency to feeling we always need to be doing something.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I have always taken the Parable of the Sower as a mission parable.

    And I might have as well, until very recently.

    But there are problems with that, and with many of our interpretations.

    I would highly recommend that people go check out what The Bible Project has to say about reading parables. They have a short video (which I haven't actually watched), but also a much longer series of episodes on their podcast (which I have listened to).

    And one of their key points is that we are so eager to turn parables into theological lessons, with universal timeless application, and therefore into stories about us, that we tend to miss the information we are given about when and why Jesus told the parables in the first place.

    And so, to take this example, Jesus' explanation of the Parable of the Sower is not directly about what happens when we preach, it is about what happens when he preaches. It's about how his disciples are going to understand him when other people are not.

    This doesn't mean it has no application to us at all. And I don't mean to pick on you particularly, but the point is that an awful lot of the parables have a context that show Jesus is first and foremost talking about his own mission, and his own interactions with people, and the audience is the actual people hearing him then and there. The parables were put in the Gospels because the Gospel authors thought we could learn something from them, but the lesson was not necessarily "this is a story about you, future reader".

  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    Love that, @Zappa, thanks.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I watched the video. Good one. But it does not contradict what I have said.

    Note, I did mention that the parable reflects the people's reactions to Jesus when he preached, but at the end of Matthew, Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry the mission forward. We continue to preach and teach what he said.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I watched the video. Good one. But it does not contradict what I have said.

    Note, I did mention that the parable reflects the people's reactions to Jesus when he preached, but at the end of Matthew, Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry the mission forward. We continue to preach and teach what he said.

    Acknowledged. And I do think the issue is less of a problem with that parable than with some others. In the set of podcast episodes they went into quite a few parables in detail and certainly there were some where there's a completely different sense if you put the focus back on what Jesus was doing at the time.
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    The parable of the buried treasure and pearl, are both about the kingdom of God and feature something of such value that someone would give up everything for it.
    However the first sentence completely changes the meaning of the two parables (and I don't think I've seen it commented on and don't know if it's a translation artifact, barcley treats them as being the same. And in mildly surprising circumstances heard the literal reading of the second (god gives up everything for us) as a "midrash"/unjustified comment on the first (we should give everything up for God), missing the fact that the next parable has it in the text.
  • jay_emm wrote: »
    The parable of the buried treasure and pearl, are both about the kingdom of God and feature something of such value that someone would give up everything for it.
    However the first sentence completely changes the meaning of the two parables
    Do you mean that in the first the kingdom is the thing that's found ("The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field"), and in the second the person searching ("The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls")? I've always seen them taken as somewhat similar to the parallelism often seen in Psalms; two paired phrases that repeat the same thing in different ways. Both parables agree that heaven is finding something of great worth which demands everything we have to possess. In one case it's an accidental find, in the other something someone had spent their life looking for.
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    Do you mean that in the first the kingdom is the thing that's found... , and in the second the person searching (...
    ...
    I've always seen them taken as somewhat similar to the parallelism often seen in Psalms; two paired phrases that repeat the same thing in different ways.

    Both parables agree that heaven is finding something of great worth which demands everything we have to possess. In one case it's an accidental find, in the other something someone had spent their life looking for.

    That's the difference (I think I have bought it up before).
    And that's how id traditionaly read it.
    However the difference, assuming it means something, makes your conclusion doesn't immediately follow. (And the parallelism changes, to one of the different types)

    (it could be that we should translate it as "the kingdom of heaven is like this. (Parable)", although in that case we have more freedom to decide who is what).
    If the kingdom is the merchant, and the merchant is the one who gives up everything and the pearl does nothing. Then (from this parable) it doesn't follow that we should give everything to be found.
  • Sorry, I really can't see that reading in the text. Surely "what" the Kingdom of heaven is like neither the man nor even the pearl/treasure, but the act selling/abandoning of all these men had in order to purchase something of infinite worth?
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Years ago we had a thread on the parables, and someone said that a parable is no an allegory but a story to make you think.

    Different people get different things from the parables, and that's the way it should be.
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    edited July 15
    Sorry, I really can't see that reading in the text. Surely "what" the Kingdom of heaven is like neither the man nor even the pearl/treasure, but the act selling/abandoning of all these men had in order to purchase something of infinite worth?
    Ugh re-reading my text on the big screen is horrible, I changed at least one sentence half way through.

    The full interaction is obviously important to the parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that no one discovered" would be a different message.
    To say that the "kingdom" is like selling everything, seems to mix a noun and a verb. I think that would be a third interpretation. I can't quite picture it yet, could we have more?

    The parallelism is striking, and I think it's perfectly logical to assume that somewhere between Jesus's thoughts and the KJV, a translation artifact has occurred (the full stop isn't original, and it's an easy slip to make).

    However to go from
    The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who was looking for pearls.
    to
    It is suggestive to find the kingdom of heaven compared to a pearl.
    To me needs some justification (at that level, and if you are writing that much about it).
    Examining the case if we do take the kingdom to be the merchant in the parable, seems at least interesting (even if we've now done it). Parallelism doesn't just mean they have to be identical, you can also have opposites or superlatives. Of course then deciding that the two parables are clearly intended to be exactly parallel, on the basis that it makes much more sense, is a sensible conclusion. This is especially the case if the first bit is acting like a title, "The Kingdom of Heaven Parable: A merchant", or if there is some other textual justification.

    The next parable is of course the Net. Which is definitely different, but still a Kingdom parable. Shades of the sheep and goats.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    I suppose I might be blowing my own trumpet, but some years ago I tried putting the Kingdom parables in my local surfing context.

    The unknown Gospel of Latchkey has a series of surf parables of the Kingdom.

    What is the Kingdom of God?
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfectly designed and made surfboard that a surfer found in a surfing shop. When he found it he went and sold all his other boards so that he could buy it.

    Again:
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfect wave the surfer waited all his life to catch.

    And again:
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfect surf-day the surfer waited for. When she woke up and saw that day had arrived she cancelled all her business appointments, left her family to fend for themselves and went and surfed all day.


    Text note: We can see the writer has situated the parables in a coastal community setting, probably to the south of the barrier reef behind which surf is not very significant. The writer is also aware of the social impacts of surfing, and may well have experienced times when tradesmen failed to turn up because they had 'gone surfing'.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfect wave the surfer waited all his life to catch.

    Must be off Portugal. (I forget the town).
  • Could be Nazaré, Peniche or Ericeira … or pretty well anywhere on the Atlantic Coast, I guess.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 16
    jay_emm wrote: »
    To say that the "kingdom" is like selling everything, seems to mix a noun and a verb.
    Yes, I realise that. I was thinking that, in these parables, we are not being told what the Kingdom of heaven is like in definitive terms, rather that it is so precious that sacrificing everything we have to gain it is worthwhile. It is that action which is like the Kingdom, not the pearl or treasure itself..

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    I suppose I might be blowing my own trumpet, but some years ago I tried putting the Kingdom parables in my local surfing context.

    The unknown Gospel of Latchkey has a series of surf parables of the Kingdom.

    What is the Kingdom of God?
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfectly designed and made surfboard that a surfer found in a surfing shop. When he found it he went and sold all his other boards so that he could buy it.

    Again:
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfect wave the surfer waited all his life to catch.

    And again:
    The Kingdom of God is like the perfect surf-day the surfer waited for. When she woke up and saw that day had arrived she cancelled all her business appointments, left her family to fend for themselves and went and surfed all day.


    Text note: We can see the writer has situated the parables in a coastal community setting, probably to the south of the barrier reef behind which surf is not very significant. The writer is also aware of the social impacts of surfing, and may well have experienced times when tradesmen failed to turn up because they had 'gone surfing'.

    This reminds me of the 1970s surfer term 'soul arch' that describes the moment a surfer 'gets it' and is able to stand with head up and back arched, riding the wave and having utter faith in what is happening as a meeting between mind, body, wave and board. Some call this soul arch a 'body epiphany' that is pure faith in action.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    jay_emm wrote: »
    To say that the "kingdom" is like selling everything, seems to mix a noun and a verb.

    Or it would, if we didn't know of the existence of gerunds.
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    edited July 17
    Ok. Putting a collective noun in correspondence with the gerund of the verb in the text.
    Which it turns out was exactly the case.
    Cheers, I knew BT had something to say from the first post, and think I got it from the reply, but with that I think I'm starting to be able to put it in context (which I've begun to muse in the spoiler, as it's getting tangetical).
    And that leads to another half thought, this time about the Treasure parable.
    In these parables you have the man, the valuer*, the valuing, the valued, jewel. And the compared thing.
    * finder/finding/found seeker/seeking/sought desirer/desiring/desired

    It could be that correspondence in the parable is that the compared is a like a surfer because of his surfer-ness and everything flows from there. This, with one caveat, I don't think is held. I don't think the point is that surfboards are special and Switzeland is god-forsaken (indeed, one of these I think is false).

    It could be that the correspondence is like a finder (in this case it is the surfer). While the fact that the relationship (surfer-surfboard) match is important you could substitute any other suitable pair. In one of the parables, I think that this is arguably a natural reading (in the other parable I think it is not).

    [I wasn't sure whether B.T was assigning me the first, and emphasising the verb to highlight the second/forth]

    It could be that the correspondence is to the finding. Where there is love there the kingdom is, kind of thing? This is I could express it properly would be BT's interpretation. It's very pretty, not sure if there's another parable/text that gets there better. Definitely resonates with "The kingdom of god is justice and joy", "God is love" and similar. But I don't think there's an obvious use of the gerund.

    Then it could correspond to found. The traditional interpretation lies here (and in the case of the treasure this interpretation is natural, and makes perfect sense.
    "Does Jesus think the kingdom worth us giving everything away for, um yes"). It struck me that there is a distinction between say desired/desirable, though that I'd also missed before.

    Finally you have jewel type aspects. I don't think there is anything to say here.

    Interestingly in both parables the found thing is both valuable and valued. If the parable were about me, far too often the treasure/pearl would need to be given away for a bowl of pottage. Here though Jesus seems to assume that we would value the kingdom, which is reassuring.
  • MarthaMartha Shipmate
    A few months ago I taught the parable of the leaven in dough at Sunday School. Mixing a lump of dough that was just flour and water, then another lump which was flour, water and yeast, made me realise as I never had before, that there was no way of telling which lump had yeast in. Not until you waited, and saw which one grew...
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Martha wrote: »
    A few months ago I taught the parable of the leaven in dough at Sunday School. Mixing a lump of dough that was just flour and water, then another lump which was flour, water and yeast, made me realise as I never had before, that there was no way of telling which lump had yeast in. Not until you waited, and saw which one grew...

    Which is why rabbinical law requires that matzah must be prepared in something like 18 minutes, from first mixing to final cooking. In Hebrew, the plural of matzah, matzot, is spelled exactly the same as the plural of mitzvah, mitzvot (the Hebrew language used in the synagogue Torah does not have vowels.) Rabbis explain the identity by saying that, when you see a good deed that needs doing, you must do it right away.
  • Regarding parables, generally, I had an aperçu this morning as I was live streaming the service from St Columba's (Church of Scotland) Pont Street, London. Rev C Angus MacLeod delivered the sermon, in which Matthew 13 was the point of departure. I have always taken parables as similes or metaphors of daily phenomena to move us toward an understanding of things inexpressible in language. I think that that is the common understanding. This morning I had my Aha! moment when I realised that parables can be read in such away that in addition to being similes of the divine, they are also examples of the divine presence in the mundane, or if you want to avoid any panentheistic implications, at or with the mundane. Regardless of the choice of preposition, this realisation made the parables much more vital to me.
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