Barry Newman's Blog

November 4, 2012

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (part III)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The parable of the Mustard Seed — barrynewman @ 9:20 pm

The Interpretation of the Parable – Difficulties

Given that Matthew and Mark record Jesus explaining his parables to his disciples and others (see especially Mark 4: 34), Jesus may have explained this parable to them but no explanation is offered to us.  Apparently, given that we have each of the Gospels before us, we are supposed to be able to correctly interpret the parable ourselves. By way of proceeding cautiously however we should endeavour to understand what is precisely being said in the parable itself before proceeding to understand how it illustrates something of the kingdom of God.  This may not be as easy as it might first appear. Looking at the contexts, understanding the specific words used, recognising any allusions to Old Testament texts and examining the differences among the Gospel texts might help us. Additionally knowledge of the nature of mustard plants and birds in connection with them, in Israel at the time of Jesus, might not go astray. Medema and Musselman deal with some of the botanical issues raised by the parable and comment on some of the interpretations that have been on offer.[1]  Their paper was one of the main sources for the botanical information provided below.

[1] Medema, H.P. and Musselman, L.J., Plant S.I.T.E – Bible Plants – Mustard, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VI,


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