Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mark 4:26-29, The Parable of the Growing Seed (The Study of Mark)

     26 And he was saying, “So, the Kingdom of God is like a man who throws the seed1 on the ground. 27 And he sleeps and gets up night and day2, and the seed sprouts and grows3, but he doesn’t know how this happens4. 28 The ground produces a crop5 on its own6; first a blade, then a head of grain, then a full-grown7 grain in the head of grain. 29 And when the crop is ripe8, immediately, he begins to harvest the crop9, because the harvest has come10.” Mark 4:26-29

This parable gives us a look at the true nature of the Kingdom of God and how it is planted, grows, becomes ripe, and harvested. Interesting enough, according to this parable, God only needs people to “plant” the “seed”.

1 τὸν σπόρον (the seed)

Mark uses the singular here. Interestingly enough, the article τὸν is used in this instance. Since this is a parable, Mark is drawing attention to this seed as the article may indicate that this is a “special, one of a kind” seed. This idea fits within this context perfectly. This parable is about “the seed” and not about the “planter (man)”.

2 καὶ καθεύδῃ καὶ ἐγείρηται νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν (And he sleeps and gets up night and day)

This is not typically what a farmer does after planting a crop. A farmer would hoe, plow, water, and nurture his crop. Since that is not happening here in this parable, this may indicate that the farmer can’t really have an impact on what the seed does once it is sow. As indicated, this is not an ordinary seed and the imagery here is about the Kingdom of God!

3 μηκύνηται (grows) 

Greek: “lengthens”.

4 ὡς οὐκ οἶδεν αὐτός (but he doesn’t know how this happens

This phrase adds to the idea that this farmer is not doing anything to 
promote the growth of the seed and plant.

5 καρποφορεῖ (produces a crop) 

Greek: “bears fruit”.

6 αὐτομάτη (on its own)

The BDAG Lexicon states this as: of something “that happens without visible cause”. This adds to the imagery that human intervention has no effect on the Kingdom of God and its growth. All the farmer did in this case was “plant the seed”.

7 πλήρη[ς] (full-grown)

Greek: “full”. The [ς] is placed in brackets as this is a variant reading. The word normally is πλήρη. The adding of the [ς] has not affect on the meaning.

8 παραδοῖ (is ripe) 

Greek: “to allow” or “to permit”. It could be rendered when the crop 

9 ἀποστέλλει τὸ δρέπανον (begins to harvest the crop)

Greek: “sends the sickle”. The imagery here presents the idea of the “reaping” of the harvest. In modern times, we would know this as “harvesting the crop”. It could also be rendered “prepares to harvest the crop” as the farmer has actually not started harvesting yet, but only has “sent the sickle”.

10 παρέστηκεν (has come)

This verb can also mean “has been presented”. This is very appropriate if one considers the eschatological meaning of this parable. The kingdom of God is about people and those people are “harvested” to be with God once they are ripe (ready).  All in God’s time.

The Greek

Μάρκον 4·26 Καὶ ἔλεγεν· οὕτως ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς ἄνθρωπος βάλῃ τὸν σπόρον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς 27 καὶ καθεύδῃ καὶ ἐγείρηται νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, καὶ ὁ σπόρος βλαστᾷ καὶ μηκύνηται ὡς οὐκ οἶδεν αὐτός. 28 αὐτομάτη ἡ γῆ καρποφορεῖ, πρῶτον χόρτον εἶτα στάχυν εἶτα πλήρη[ς] σῖτον ἐν τῷ στάχυϊ. 29 ὅταν δὲ παραδοῖ ὁ καρπός, εὐθὺς ἀποστέλλει τὸ δρέπανον, ὅτι παρέστηκεν ὁ θερισμός.

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