Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mark 4:1-9, The Parable of the Sower (The Study of Mark)

     1 And he began to teach again along side of the sea1. And an extremely large crowd gathered towards him, so that he got into a boat to sit in the sea, and the whole crowd was by the sea on the shore2. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables3, and in his teaching, he said4 to them, 3 “Listen!5 Behold, the sower6 went out to sow seed. 4 And it came to pass7 as he was sowing, one seed, on the one hand8, fell along side of the road, and birds came and ate it up. 5 And another seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil9, and it immediately sprang up because it didn’t have soil depth, 6 and when the sun rose, it was scorched and withered10 because it didn’t have a root. 7 And another seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce11 a crop12. 8 And other seeds fell on good ground, and while growing up and increasing, the plants were producing crops13; one was bearing thirty times, one sixty times, and one a hundred times. 9 And he was saying14 , “The one who has ears to hear, listen!"  Mark 4:1-9


This is the start of some of the teaching that Jesus did.  Up until now, Mark has not indicated to the reader much of Jesus' teaching, but Chapter 4 will pretty much be dedicated to the teachings.  The translation was difficult in certain places, but I believe that I've produced the intent of the author in the original Greek.  Of course, I may have to revisit this in the future. :)

1 The Sea of Galilee

2 ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς (on the shore) 

Greek: “on the ground” or “on the earth”.

3 ἐν παραβολαῖς (in parables)

Parables can mean “figures of speech”, but they can also be “proverbs” or “riddles”. When it comes to the parables that Jesus taught, my thoughts are that they were “figures of speech” and “riddles” in that he had to explain to his disciples what they really meant. The Parable of the Sower is a great example of both.

4 ἔλεγεν (said)

Greek: “was saying”. ἔλεγεν is in the imperfect which carries a continual action aspect. In this case, the translation of a simple Aorist (undefined aspect) is in order here.

5 Ἀκούετε (Listen!) 

Greek: “You (plural) hear!”  This is also found at the end of verse 9.

6 ὁ σπείρων (the sower)

Greek: “the one who sows”. In this case, the article ὁ becomes very important. It indicates “the sower” and not “a sower”. In other words, “the sower” in this text is to be taken as a “special” or “one of a kind” person. This is like “the mightier one” in 1:7. See my blog on Mark 1:13.  In this case, the sower is “the one who sows the Word of God”.

7 καὶ ἐγένετο (and it came to pass) 

Greek: “and it became”.

8 ὃ μὲν (one seed, on the one hand)

Some translations render this as “some”, but that really doesn’t fit here as this text is referring to one seed. ὃ μὲν is really used to introduce a series of events. In this case, ‘one seed’ is introduced in verse 4, and then in verses 5 and 7, “another seed” is introduced. Verse 8 concludes the series as “other seeds”.

9 γῆν (soil) 

Greek: “earth”.

10ἐξηράνθη (withered) 

Greek: “was dried up”.

11 οὐκ ἔδωκεν (didn’t produce) 

Greek: “didn’t give”.

12 καρπὸν (a crop) 

or “fruit”.

13 ἐδίδου καρπὸν (were producing crops) 

Greek: “were giving fruit”. The verb indicates a continual aspect. In 
other words, the plants were continually producing crops.

14 καὶ ἔλεγεν (and he was saying)

I’m breaking with the scholars on this one. Many scholars believe that this should be translated as a simple aorist, “and he said”, but I believe Jesus would have continually said the phrase “The one who has ears to hear, listen!” as he was teaching to reinforce the idea that everyone should be listening to the teaching.

The Greek

Μάρκον 4·1 Καὶ πάλιν ἤρξατο διδάσκειν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν· καὶ συνάγεται πρὸς αὐτὸν ὄχλος πλεῖστος, ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς πλοῖον ἐμβάντα καθῆσθαι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἦσαν. 2 καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλὰ καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ·
Μάρκον 4·3 Ἀκούετε. ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων σπεῖραι. 4 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ σπείρειν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, καὶ ἦλθεν τὰ πετεινὰ καὶ κατέφαγεν αὐτό. 5 καὶ ἄλλο ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸ πετρῶδες ὅπου οὐκ εἶχεν γῆν πολλήν, καὶ εὐθὺς ἐξανέτειλεν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν βάθος γῆς· 6 καὶ ὅτε ἀνέτειλεν ὁ ἥλιος ἐκαυματίσθη καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν ἐξηράνθη. 7 καὶ ἄλλο ἔπεσεν εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας, καὶ ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι καὶ συνέπνιξαν αὐτό, καὶ καρπὸν οὐκ ἔδωκεν. 8 καὶ ἄλλα ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν καὶ ἐδίδου καρπὸν ἀναβαίνοντα καὶ αὐξανόμενα καὶ ἔφερεν ἓν τριάκοντα καὶ ἓν ἑξήκοντα καὶ ἓν ἑκατόν. 9 καὶ ἔλεγεν· ὃς ἔχει ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.


  1. ὁ σπείρων (the sower)

    Greek: “the one who sows”. In this case, the article ὁ becomes very important. It indicates “the sower” and not “a sower”. In other words, “the sower” in this text is to be taken as a “special” or “one of a kind” person.

    This is an incorrect understanding of participles.
    When the participle is in the attributive position (has the article), it is to be given a relative translation: "the one who," "he who," or "she who."
    When the participle is in the predicate position (does not have the article), it is to be given a temporal translation - "while" or "as."

    So, if the article was absent (σπείρων), it would translate as "while sowing" or "sowing"

    1. Yes, you're correct. This was done early on in my studying. Thanks.