Parable of the Seed/Soils - Feb 10

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Of all the parables, the one that opens the series of kingdom parables is the parable of the Seed, better called the parable of the soils. The major point I want to make about this passage is that it lists the obstacles to responding to the Word that ought to be avoided. So attachment to this world or persecution can become an obstacle to receiving the Word. Those are the major obstacles. Beyond this, it takes a patient and persevering heart to make "good" soil. The other thing to observe about this parable is that only one soil is viewed positively. All the others are tragic in that the seed does not reach its intended goal when planted. I tell my students to first work with the imagery and then do the theological analysis. In this case, this means that only one soil is in a commended position. The faith of the other soils in all likelihood should be seen as inadequate. A final observation is that the parable is not about where we are at a particular moment. Rather it is a resume or career parable, covering a person's spiritual life as a whole. Jesus is describing what happens to the word here, but there is an implied exhortation to be the fourth soil. Receive the Word with a patient, believing, persevering heart and growth and fruit (the goal of planting seed) will come.


I don't know why, but I have always thought of this parable in terms of salvation. In other words, the word is specifically the gospel message which is either accepted (good soil) or rejected (other soils). It's probably a reflection of my modernist heritage. But is the theology of the parable broader? You mention that it's not about a "particular moment" but "covering a person's spiritual life as a whole. I assume I'm trying to make this an "in" or "out" issue. You've got to help me, doc!

To take your good summary a step further, I find it interesting that Jesus is here placing emphasis on the experience of the individual (all-inclusive, as you mentioned). This appears to be a postmodern move with one particular twist: he follows the many different *storylines* to their end, something that many in today's world (believers or not) abandon for the sake of validating the individual's experience.

Blomberg regards this parable as centering on the question, 'How do you hear?' (cf. "Preaching the Parables," Baker, 2004). This further draws together Jesus' theme here which strongly implies that many roads are possible, but only two destinations remain.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

This is a common understanding that the parable is about salvation, but this is because we tend to limit the gospel to only getting saved or getting in when the good news is about a reestablished realtionship with God in all its dimensions (See Rom 5-8 as a part of the gospel message of Paul). Thus the interpretation deals with a "career of response" not just the moment. Does this help?

Dr. B-

One follow-up question regarding the "in or out" question asked before - hopefully this isn't too redundant, but since Jesus questions if we don't understand this parable then how will we understand the others (Mark 4:13) I figure I should probe a bit further! Assuming this parable does have a broader response than a moment - more of a "career of response" as you said... Would you understand this parable's focus to be the condition of the soil which shows potential for growth (maybe indicating that soil #3 or even #2 might be redeemed if growth is a metaphor for new-life) OR would you say this parable has more of a perseverance-type emphasis indicating only soil #4 was redeemed (which might be more in keeping with the concept that only #4 is viewed positively). I guess I'm saying should we see any "degrees" here OR should we see the point as "career of response" = perseverance? Or something else? Thanks in advance!

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