Four Soils Parable

& LOY Commentary 18 Comments

By not revealing what the Four Soils parable was about until its dramatic conclusion Jesus drew in his audience and held their attention, making them the very thing the parable urged them to be: good listeners.

Matt. 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8
(Huck, 90; Aland, 122; Crook, 144)[1]

Revised: 12 November 2021

וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיֵּאָסְפוּ אֻכְלוּסִים גְּדוֹלִים וַיֵּלְכוּ אֵלָיו וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם מָשָׁל לֵאמֹר יָצָא הַזּוֹרֵעַ לִזְרוֹעַ אֶת זַרְעוֹ וּבִזְרִיעָתוֹ זֶה נָפַל עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ וְנִדְרַךְ וְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם אָכְלוּ אוֹתוֹ וְאַחֵר נָפַל עַל הַסֶּלַע וְעָלָה וְיָבֵשׁ מֵאֵין לֵחָה וְאַחֵר נָפַל בֵּין הַחוֹחִים וְעָלָה וְהַחוֹחִים חָנְקוּ אוֹתוֹ וְאַחֵר נָפַל בָּאֲדָמָה הַטּוֹבָה וְעָלָה וְעָשָׂה פְּרִי וּמָצָא מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ אָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמוֹעַ יִשְׁמַע

Later that day large crowds of people gathered and came to Yeshua, and he told them this parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on a footpath. First it was trampled, then the birds of the sky ate it. Some fell on rock. At first it sprouted, but then it dried out from want of moisture. Some fell among thistles. At first it sprouted, but then the thistles choked it. And some fell on good soil. It not only sprouted, it even produced grain, so that the sower saw a hundredfold return!

“Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!”[2]


.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of the Four Soils parable click on the link below:

Download (PDF, 196KB)

In addition to the reconstruction provided above, we note that David Flusser and Robert Lindsey collaborated on a reconstruction of the Four Soils parable,[3] which reads as follows:

יצא הזורע לזרוע את זרעו ובזרעו זה נפל בדרך ויבוא עוף השמים ואכלוהו ואחר נפל בסלע ונבט ונבל ואחר נפל בקוצים והקוצים עלו וחנקוהו ואחר נפל באדמה הטובה ועלה ועשה פרי מאה שערים אשר אזניים לו ישמע

The sower went out to sow his seed, and during his sowing this one fell in the path and birds of the heaven came and ate it. And another fell in the rock, and it sprouted and withered. And another fell in the thorns, and the thorns grew up and strangled it. And another fell in good soil, and it grew up and produced fruit: a hundred measures! Whoever has ears, let him hear![4]

“Four Types of Hearers” complex
Four Soils parable

Four Soils interpretation

Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers

Story Placement

In each of the Synoptic Gospels the Four Soils parable occurs at the beginning of a new section. In Luke that section is relatively modest, but in it the author of Luke supplies his readers with a rationale for Jesus’ use of parables in his public preaching. This Luke accomplished by inserting the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying into the Four Soils interpretation.[5] In its new context Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven seemed to imply that Jesus intentionally coded his message in parables so that the true meaning of his teaching would only be understood by his disciples. The rationale the author of Luke ascribed to Jesus gave the block of materials containing the Four Soils parable significant theological weight. It is no wonder, therefore, that the authors of Mark and Matthew successively added additional sayings and parables to the original cluster, which in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua and even in the Anthology (Anth.) probably consisted merely of the Four Soils parable, the Four Soils interpretation, and Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers, which formed an epilogue to Jesus’ teaching on the importance not merely of hearing, but also of doing what the Scriptures say.

Click here for an overview of the original literary unit we have entitled “Four Types of Hearers.”

Click here to view the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

.

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

There are two reasons why we suspect that the author of Luke copied his version of the Four Soils parable from the First Reconstruction (FR). First, it appears that the author of Luke lifted all of Luke 8:4-21—with the exception of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying (Luke 8:10)—from a single source.[6] Since that source contained a series of loosely-related sayings (Luke 8:16-18) that have Hebraic doublets in other parts of Luke’s Gospel, it is likely that Luke 8:4-9, 11-18 was copied from FR, a source characterized by polished Greek and known for containing collections of loosely-related sayings strung together like a string of pearls.[7] This conclusion, based on the Lukan context of the Four Soils parable, is confirmed by the internal evidence of the parable itself—our second reason for suspecting that the author of Luke copied Four Soils from FR. There are numerous places in Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable that resist retroversion to Hebrew (see the Comment section below). It therefore appears that Luke’s version of Four Soils has undergone a certain amount of Greek polishing, which is characteristic of pericopae copied from FR. Thus, internal and external considerations both point to FR as the source from which the author of Luke copied the Four Soils parable.

Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable is basically a colorful paraphrase of Luke’s version. There may be a few points, however, where the author of Mark preserved echoes of Anth.’s wording (on which, see the Comment section below). Matthew’s version of Four Soils is primarily based on Mark’s, to which he made several improvements of Greek style. The several Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark suggest that the author of Matthew occasionally corrected Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable on the basis of Anth. These “minor agreements” confirm readings in Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable that, via FR, preserve the wording of Anth.

Versions of the Four Soils parable are also found in the Gospel of Thomas[8] and in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho.[9]

Crucial Issues

  1. Is the Four Soils parable semi-autobiographical, in other words, Jesus’ personal reflection on the failures and successes of his career?
  2. Was the Four Soils parable intended to be an exhortation to preachers of the Gospel, encouraging them to continue despite apparent failures?
  3. Does the Four Soils parable depict the sower as a careless or unskillful farmer?
  4. Ought we to conclude that as much as three-quarters of the seed was wasted?

Comment

L1 ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (Matt. 13:1). With the chronological marker “in that day” the author of Matthew linked the gathering of the crowds by the lakeside and the delivery of the third major discourse of his Gospel (Matt. 13:1-53) to the events of the preceding chapter, which included Lord of Shabbat (Matt. 12:1-8), Healing a Man’s Withered Hand (Matt. 12:9-14), Yeshua Heals the Crowds (Matt. 12:15-21), The Finger of God (Matt. 12:22-30), Generations that Repented Long Ago (Matt. 12:38-42) and Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (Matt. 12:46-50). Since, according to Matthew’s timeline, all of these incidents are supposed to have happened on the same Sabbath, the delivery of the parables discourse, in which the Four Soils parable occurs, is portrayed as a Sabbath-day homily. Although Matthew’s timeline is artificial, the phrase ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (en tē hēmera ekeinē, “in that day”) is Hebraic, occurring regularly in LXX as the translation of בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (bayōm hahū’, “in that day”),[10] and it is possible that the author of Matthew picked it up from Anth.

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (GR). We suspect that in combining the wording of Anth. and Mark the author of Matthew dropped καὶ ἐγένετο (kai egeneto, “and it happened”). The phrase καὶ ἐγένετο appears further on in Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable (Mark 4:4; L26), where, however, there is a Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s καὶ ἐγένετο. Perhaps the author of Mark shifted καὶ ἐγένετο from its original position in the narrative setting of the parable to within the body of the parable itself. Such relocation of words and phrases is typical of Markan redaction.

The καὶ ἐγένετο + time phrase + καί + aorist construction which we have adopted for GR (L1, L6) is typical of translation Greek.[11]

וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (HR). Compare our reconstruction to the following examples of the translation of וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (vayehi bayōm hahū’, “and it was in that day”) in LXX:

וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיָּבֹאוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק וַיַּגִּדוּ לוֹ עַל אֹדוֹת הַבְּאֵר

And it was in that day, and the servants of Isaac came and they told him about the well…. (Gen. 26:32)

ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ καὶ παραγενόμενοι οἱ παῖδες Ισαακ ἀπήγγειλαν αὐτῷ περὶ τοῦ φρέατος

But it was in that day, and coming, the servants of Isaac reported to him concerning the well…. (Gen. 26:32)

וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וְעֵלִי שֹׁכֵב בִּמְקֹמוֹ

And it was in that day, and Eli was sleeping in his place…. (1 Sam. 3:2)

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ καὶ Ηλι ἐκάθευδεν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ αὐτοῦ

And it happened in that day, and Eli was sleeping in his place…. (1 Kgdms. 3:2)

On reconstructing ἡμέρα (hēmera, “day”) as יוֹם (yōm, “day”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L5. On reconstructing ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (en tē hēmera ekeinē, “in that day”) with בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (bayōm hahū’, “in that day”), cf. Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L119-120.

L2 ἐξελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῆς οἰκίας (Matt. 13:1). References to “ownerless” houses are an editorial device the author of Matthew picked up from the Gospel of Mark.[12] He not only accepted many of the Markan references to “ownerless” houses, he also added such references, as here in Matt. 13:1. It is possible that the author of Matthew selected the verb ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”) because this verb is used with respect to the sower in the Four Soils parable (L23). If the wording of the parable influenced the author of Matthew’s decision, then perhaps he wished to create an identity between Jesus and the sower.[13] The christological identification of the parable’s sower, however, is a secondary development.

L3 ἐκάθητο (Matt. 13:1). According to Matthew, it was while Jesus was sitting by the sea that the crowds gathered. Matthew’s phrase ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν (“he was sitting beside the sea”; L3-5) is roughly parallel to Mark’s καθῆσθαι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ (“to sit in the sea”; L13-14). It is likely that the author of Matthew transferred Mark’s idea to an earlier point in the narrative introduction to the Four Soils parable, where it sounded less jarring than Mark’s description of Jesus’ sitting “in the sea.”[14]

L4-5, 11-17 Many scholars are agreed that the introduction to Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable in Mark 4:1-2 is redactional.[15] Lindsey suggested that the author of Mark constructed the portrayal of Jesus’ teaching the crowds from a boat out of Luke’s version of Yeshua Calls His First Disciples (Luke 5:1-11).[16] Mark’s version of that pericope is very different from Luke’s, and Lindsey believed the author of Mark recycled in Mark 4:1-2 some of the material he had omitted from Luke’s version of Yeshua Calls His First Disciples.[17] Below we have presented Luke 5:2-3 and Mark 4:1-2 in parallel columns so that the similarities between the two passages can be easily observed:

Luke 5:2-3 Mark 4:1-2
καὶ εἶδεν δύο πλοῖα ἑστῶτα παρὰ τὴν λίμνην οἱ δὲ ἁλιεῖς ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἀποβάντες ἔπλυνον τὰ δίκτυα ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων, ὃ ἦν Σίμωνος, ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπαναγαγεῖν ὀλίγον καθίσας δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου ἐδίδασκεν τοὺς ὄχλους 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 καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλὰ….
And he saw two boats standing beside the lake, but the fishermen having got out were washing the nets. So getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And sitting he taught the crowd from the boat. And again he began to teach beside the sea and the biggest crowd gathers to him, so that he gets into a boat to sit in the sea, and all the crowd was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things in parables….

As we shall see in the comments below, whereas in L4-5 and L11-17 the author of Mark seems to have paraphrased Luke 5:2-3, in L6-8 Mark seems to preserve echoes of Anth. Thus, it appears that the author of Mark was combining two sources in his creation of his narrative introduction to the Four Soils parable.

L4 καὶ πάλιν ἤρξατο διδάσκειν (Mark 4:1). Lindsey classified πάλιν (palin, “again”) as a “Markan stereotype,” indicative of Markan redaction.[18] Above, in Comment to L4-5, 11-17, we noted that the author of Mark picked up the description of Jesus’ teaching from a boat from Luke 5:2-3. According to Lindsey, however, the author of Mark likely picked up the phrase ἤρξατο διδάσκειν (ērxato didaskein, “he began to teach”) from the book of Acts. Lindsey noted that whereas ἤρξατο διδάσκειν occurs 4xx in Mark (Mark 4:1; 6:2, 34; 8:31), this phrase never occurs in the Gospels of Luke or Matthew. We do encounter ἤρξατο διδάσκειν once in the book of Acts, however, where the author of Luke-Acts refers to ὧν ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς ποιεῖν τε καὶ διδάσκειν (“that which Jesus began to do and to teach”; Acts 1:1). Lindsey suggested that it was to this statement in Acts that the author of Mark alluded in his introduction to the Four Soils parable.[19]

L5 παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν (Mark 4:1). Above, in Comment to L4-5, 11-17, we discussed how the author of Mark borrowed the seaside setting from Luke 5:2-3. The author of Mark was in any case fond of setting stories at the “sea” (θάλασσα [thalassa]). On the Markan tendency to locate stories at the seaside, see Call of Levi, Comment to L3.

Notley has drawn attention to the fact that whereas Mark and Matthew refer to the body of water in the Galilee’s rift valley as a “sea” (θάλασσα), Luke consistently refers to the same body of water as a “lake” (λίμνη [limnē]).[20] Did the author of Luke alter the wording of his source(s) in order to reflect his personal observation that the Sea of Galilee is, in fact, a freshwater lake? Or was the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua fastidious with respect to Galilean geography, resulting in a non-Septuagintal rendering of יָם (yām, “sea,” “lake”) as λίμνη (limnē, “freshwater lake”) whenever the former referred to the “Sea of Galilee”?

L6-10, 18-19 Although we have accepted Luke 8:4 as the basis for our Greek and Hebrew reconstructions, it is quite clear that this verse has been touched up by a Greek editor, most probably the First Reconstructor.[21] Our main reason for supposing that something resembling Luke 8:4 can ultimately be traced back to Anth. is the Lukan-Matthean agreement in L8 to use the adjective πολύς (polūs, “much”) against Mark’s use of the superlative πλεῖστος (pleistos, “most”). This “minor agreement” was probably achieved by Matthew’s interweaving the wording of Mark and Anth., and Luke’s preservation of Anth.’s wording via FR.

L6 συνιόντος δὲ (Luke 8:4). Since the verb συνεῖναι (sūneinai, “to be present with,” “to come together”) is elevated vocabulary,[22] occurring elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels only in Luke 9:18, and as it appears in Luke 8:4 as part of a genitive absolute construction, we suspect that its presence in L6 is due to the editorial activity of the First Reconstructor.

καὶ συνάγεται (Mark 4:1). Since συνάγειν (sūnagein, “to gather”) does not occur in Luke 5:2-3, from which the author of Mark drew so much of the vocabulary for his narrative introduction to the Four Soils parable (see above, Comment to L4-5, 11-17), it is possible that the author of Mark picked up this verb from Anth.’s introduction to the Four Soils parable. Matthew’s καὶ συνήχθησαν (kai sūnēchthēsan, “and they were gathered”) is even more Hebraic than Mark’s καὶ συνάγεται (kai sūnagetai, “and it is gathered”), since it avoids the historical present, which is so typical of Markan redaction.[23] The author of Matthew was probably able to achieve a more Hebraic construction by correcting Mark’s “and it is gathered” to “and they were gathered” on the basis of Anth. Thus, despite changing the verb’s tense, we believe that in L6 the author of Mark preserves an echo of the wording of Anth.’s introduction to the Four Soils parable.

καὶ συνήχθησαν (GR). As we noted in the previous paragraph, we believe the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s καὶ συνάγεται to καὶ συνήχθησαν on the basis of Anth. In LXX we encounter the phrase καὶ συνήχθησαν as the translation of וַיֵּאָסְפוּ (vayē’āse, “and they were gathered”)[24] or, somewhat less frequently, of וַיִּקָּבְצוּ (vayiqāvetzū, “and they were gathered”).[25]

וַיֵּאָסְפוּ (HR). Elsewhere in LOY we have reconstructed the verb συνάγειν (sūnagein, “to bring together”) with הִכְנִיס (hichnis, “cause to enter,” “bring in”).[26] In those instances the reference was to storing grain in storehouses. Here the context is quite different, demanding a different verb for HR. In the previous paragraph we noted that Matthew’s phrase καὶ συνήχθησαν was often translated as וַיֵּאָסְפוּ in LXX. Indeed, we find that verbs based on the root א-ס-פ were translated in LXX more often with συνάγειν than with any other verb.[27] Likewise, a high proportion of instances of συνάγειν in LXX represent א-ס-פ in its various stems.[28] Since we prefer to reconstruct narrative in a style resembling BH, וַיֵּאָסְפוּ (“and they were gathered”) is a straightforward choice. Other options include וַיִּקָּבְצוּ (“and they were gathered”) or וַיִּתְקַבְּצוּ (“and they gathered themselves”).

Compare our reconstruction to the following biblical verses:

וַיֵּאָסְפוּ כָּל בַּעֲלֵי שְׁכֶם וְכָל בֵּית מִלּוֹא וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיַּמְלִיכוּ אֶת אֲבִימֶלֶךְ

And all the leaders of Shechem and the whole house of Milo were gathered, and they went and made Avimelech king…. (Judg. 9:6)

καὶ συνήχθησαν πάντες οἱ ἄνδρες Σικιμων καὶ πᾶς ὁ οἶκος Μααλλων καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν καὶ ἐβασίλευσαν τὸν Αβιμελεχ

And all the men of Sikima and the whole house of Maallon were gathered, and they came and made Abimelech king…. (Judg. 9:6)

וַיֵּאָסְפוּ בְנֵי בִנְיָמִן מִן הֶעָרִים הַגִּבְעָתָה

And the sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities toward Gibeah…. (Judg. 20:14)

καὶ συνήχθησαν οἱ υἱοὶ Βενιαμιν ἐκ τῶν πόλεων αὐτῶν εἰς Γαβαα

And the sons of Benjamin were gathered out of their cities to Gabaa…. (Judg. 20:14)

L7 πρὸς αὐτὸν (Mark 4:1). Whether or not to accept πρὸς αὐτόν (pros avton, “to him”) for GR is a difficult decision. In LXX we sometimes encounter συνήχθησαν + πρός as the translation of אֶל + נֶאֱסַף (2 Esd. 9:4) or עַל + נִקְבַּץ (2 Chr. 13:7). On the other hand, if Luke’s ἐπιπορευομένων πρὸς αὐτόν (“coming to him”) in L10 contains an echo of Anth.’s wording, then πρὸς αὐτόν in L7 is redundant. Since we have decided to be guided by Luke, we have omitted πρὸς αὐτόν from GR in L7. Perhaps Mark’s πρὸς αὐτόν in L7 preserves an echo of Anth.’s wording at L10.

L8 ὄχλος πλεῖστος (Mark 4:1). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s superlative is an important clue that suggests that both authors had access to a pre-synoptic source that had an introduction to the Four Soils parable that read differently from Mark’s. The use of the superlative πλεῖστος (pleistos, “largest”) in Mark 4:1 is a dramatic flourish characteristic of the author of Mark’s emphatic style.

ὄχλοι πολλοὶ (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s reading, ὄχλοι πολλοί (ochloi polloi, “large crowds [plur.]”), rather than Luke’s ὄχλου πολλοῦ (ochlou pollou, “of a large crowd [sing.]”) for GR for two reasons. First, whereas the author of Luke copied the Four Soils parable from FR, a polished Greek paraphrase of Anth., the author of Matthew corrected Mark directly from Anth. Second, it is far more common to encounter plural forms of אֻכְלוּס (’uchlūs, “crowd”) in the extant sources than singular forms, so Matthew’s plural ὄχλοι looks more Hebraic than Luke’s singular form. Strengthening our supposition that in L8 the author of Matthew corrected Mark on the basis of Anth. is the fact that in L15, where the author of Matthew had no source to follow but Mark, he copied Mark’s reference to “the crowd” in the singular. The fluctuation between plural and singular with reference to the crowd(s) in Matt. 13:2 is probably the result of Matthew’s combination of two different sources (Anth. in L8; Mark in L15).

אֻכְלוּסִים גְּדוֹלִים (HR). See our discussion on reconstructing ὄχλος πολύς (ochlos polūs, “a large crowd”) with אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל (’uchlūs gādōl, “a large crowd”) in Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L4.

L9 καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν (Luke 8:4). Not only does the genitive absolute (τῶν…ἐπιπορευομένων, L9-10) hint at Greek redaction, but the distributive κατὰ πόλιν (kata polin, “each city”) also looks like a Greek improvement.[29] Moreover, the distributive use of κατὰ πόλιν never occurs in Mark or Matthew, but two examples occur in close proximity in Luke—the first in the Ministering Women pericope (Luke 8:1), and the second in the Four Soils parable (Luke 8:4).[30] Since the Ministering Women pericope (Luke 8:1-3) shows additional signs of Greek polishing, it too may have been copied from FR. In any case, we have not accepted Luke’s καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν for GR or an equivalent for HR.

L10 ἐπορεύθησαν πρὸς αὐτόν (GR). Luke’s compound verb ἐπιπορεύεσθαι (epiporevesthai, “to come upon”) occurs just this once in NT and is extremely rare in LXX, appearing only twice in books contained in MT (Lev. 26:33; Ezek. 39:14).[31] The use of this compound verb in a genitive absolute construction is probably due to the editorial work of the First Reconstructor. Perhaps he paraphrased a more Hebraic sentence, such as καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν πρὸς αὐτόν (“and they came to him”), which we have adopted for GR.

וַיֵּלְכוּ אֵלָיו (HR). On reconstructing πορεύεσθαι (porevesthai, “to go”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk,” “go”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2.

L11 ὥστε αὐτὸν (Mark 4:1). Whereas in L6-8 the author of Mark seems to have paraphrased the wording of Anth., beginning in L11 the author of Mark returned to the description of Jesus’ teaching from a boat, which he picked up from Luke 5:2-3. Some scholars have pointed out that the use of ὥστε + infinitive (ὥστε…καθῆσθαι in Mark 4:1) is often indicative of Markan redaction.[32] We concur with this assessment. It is noteworthy that although ὥστε + infinitive occurs in both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts,[33] there are no agreements between Luke and Mark on the use of ὥστε + infinitive.[34] Moreover, there are two Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark’s use of ὥστε + infinitive (Matt. 9:8 // Luke 5:26 [cf. Mark 2:12]; Matt. 17:18 // Luke 9:42 [cf. Mark 9:26]). These data fit the profile of what Lindsey referred to as “Markan stereotypes,” which is to say, words and grammatical constructions that occur disproportionately in Mark as compared to the other Synoptic Gospels (especially Luke). Lindsey supposed that the author of Mark relied on these stereotypes as he paraphrased the stories and sayings in Luke’s Gospel. Since the ὥστε…καθῆσθαι clause in Mark 4:1 appears to be the product of Markan redaction, we have omitted it from GR.

Reconstruction of the so-called “Jesus Boat,” discovered at Magdala. Illustration by Phil Crossman.

L12 εἰς πλοῖον ἐμβάντα (Mark 4:1). Mark’s wording in L12 appears to be a paraphrase of ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων (“So getting into one of the boats”) in Luke 5:3. The author of Matthew copied this wording from Mark.

L13 καθῆσθαι (Mark 4:1). Jesus’ “sitting” in a boat is also described in Luke 5:3, the likely source for Mark’s wording in L13.

L14 ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ (Mark 4:1). Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ sitting “in the sea” is so infelicitous it reduces the probative value of the Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit Mark’s wording in L14. The author of Matthew did not omit ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ because he noticed it was missing in Anth.—Anth.’s introduction to the Four Soils parable said nothing at all about Jesus on the sea in a boat. Rather, he omitted the reference to Jesus’ sitting “in the sea” because it sounded ridiculous.

L15 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος (Matt. 13:2). Unlike L8, where Matthew’s reference to “crowds” (plural) reflected the wording of Anth., here in L15, where the author of Matthew had to rely solely on Mark, he accepted Mark’s reference to “the crowd” (singular) despite the grammatical inconsistency this created in his narrative introduction of the Four Soils parable.

L16 πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν (Mark 4:1). The author of Mark’s repetitious use of the (roughly) synonymous phrases παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν (“beside the sea”; L5) and πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν (“toward the sea”; L16) in the narrative introduction to the Four Soils parable is similar to his repetition of ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς (“upon the earth”) in his version of the Mustard Seed parable (Mark 4:31). As in L14, the probative value of the Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit Mark’s “beside the sea” in L16 is less impressive than usual because the author of Matthew understandably omitted the redundant reference to “the sea,” while Luke’s narrative introduction to the Four Soils parable makes no reference to a seaside location at all. On the other hand, the author of Mark’s stacking up of prepositional phrases in L16-17, so typical of Markan redaction, strenghtens our supposition that “toward the sea” in L16 is redactional.[35]

L17 ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἦσαν (Mark 4:1). Here, in the opening verse of his parables excursus (Mark 4:1-34), the author of Mark employed the phrase “on the earth,” which he peppered throughout this section on parables (Mark 4:1, 20, 26, 31 [2xx]). Only one of Mark’s uses of ἐπί + γῆ in his parables excursus is supported by another Synoptic Gospel (Matt. 13:23 // Mark 4:20).[36]

ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν ἱστήκει (Matt. 13:2). The author of Matthew improved upon Mark’s wording by referring to the “shore” (αἰγιαλός [aigialos]) rather than to the “land” (γῆ []),[37] and by contrasting the people’s standing with Jesus’ sitting. Davies and Allison noted that Matt. 13:2 and Matt. 13:48 contain the only two instances of αἰγιαλός in the Synoptic Gospels.[38] Since αἰγιαλός occurs 3xx in Acts (Acts 21:5; 27:39, 40), there is no reason to assume that the author of Luke would have avoided this term had it occurred in his sources. The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that Matthew’s αἰγιαλός in L17 is not a reflection of Anth., but a stylistic improvement from the pen of the author of Matthew.

L18-19 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς παραβολὴν (GR). Whereas all three synoptic evangelists agree that Jesus performed some verbal action in connection with a parable (or parables), none of them agree on which verb ought to be used to describe Jesus’ action. According to Luke’s version, Jesus “told” the story of the Four Soils “through a parable,”[39] while according to Mark, Jesus “was teaching…many things in parables,”[40] and according to Matthew, Jesus “spoke…many things in parables.”[41] None of these descriptions are particularly Hebraic.[42] We suspect that Luke’s εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς (“he said through a parable”) is FR’s paraphrase of Anth.’s καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς παραβολήν (“and he told them a parable”), which can be reconstructed quite easily as וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם מָשָׁל (“and he parabled to them a parable”).[43]

L18 καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς (Mark 4:2). Mark’s description of Jesus’ teaching in parables echoes Luke 5:3, where the author of Luke portrayed Jesus’ teaching the crowd from a boat. See above, Comment to L4-5, 11-17.

καὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ (Matt. 13:3). Scholars differ as to whether Matthew’s πολλά (polla) is used adverbially (“he spoke to them a lot”)[44] or whether πολλά ought to be regarded as a substantive (“he spoke to them many things”).[45] In any case, the author of Matthew picked up πολλά from Mark 4:2 (L19).

L19 ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλὰ (Mark 4:2). The author of Mark replaced διὰ παραβολῆς (“through a parable”), which the author of Luke probably copied from FR, with ἐν παραβολαῖς (“in parables”). “In parables” anticipates the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, where the only example of ἐν παραβολαῖς in the Gospel of Luke occurs (Luke 8:10). In the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying the original intention of ἐν παραβολαῖς was not as a reference to Jesus’ method of teaching with parables, but to the inability of those who predicted the coming redemption to fully grasp or adequately describe the enormity of the Kingdom of Heaven and the blessings it would bring. The author of Luke, and the other synoptic evangelists in his wake, misunderstood the meaning of ἐν παραβολαῖς in Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven as a reference to Jesus’ use of story parables, and the author of Mark proliferated this secondary usage of ἐν παραβολαῖς, which was subsequently picked up by the author of Matthew. Thus, Luke 8:10 is the source of Mark’s stereotyped phrase ἐν παραβολαῖς.[46]

As with Matthew’s use of πολλά in L19, scholarly opinion regarding Mark’s use of πολλά in Mark 4:2 is divided. Whereas scholars used to treat Mark’s πολλά as adverbial (“and he taught them a lot in parables”),[47] it is now more common for Mark’s πολλά to be treated as a substantive (“and he taught them many things in parables”).[48]

L20 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς (Mark 4:2). Lindsey classified the author of Mark’s frequent use of ἔλεγεν/ἔλεγον (“he was/they were saying”) as a “Markan stereotype.”[49] The author of Mark employed the phrase καὶ ἔλεγεν (“and he was saying”) in the Spontaneous Growth (Mark 4:26) and Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30) parables as a means of homogenizing the vocabulary within his parables excursus.[50]

λέγων (GR). Matthew’s λέγων (legōn, “saying”) appears to preserve a trace of Anth.’s introduction to the Four Soils parable, since we have found that parables were introduced with the formula εἶπεν + παραβολή + λέγων elsewhere in Anth.[51]

לֵאמֹר (HR). On reconstructing λέγων (legōn, “saying”) with לֵאמֹר (lē’mor, “to say”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L8.

L21 ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ (Mark 4:2). Not only did the authors of Luke and Matthew agree to omit the phrase ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ (“during his teaching”), but διδαχή (didachē, “teaching”) is another term that the author of Mark stereotyped. In the Gospel of Luke the noun διδαχή occurs only once, where it appears in Teaching in Kefar Nahum story (Luke 4:32). The Markan and Matthean versions of Teaching in Kefar Nahum agree with Luke’s use of διδαχή (Matt. 7:28; Mark 1:22), but Mark contains additional references to Jesus’ διδαχή (Mark 1:27; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38). The author of Matthew referred to Jesus’ διδαχή on only one other occasion (Matt. 22:33), in a verse that is based on Mark 11:18.[52] Luke and Matthew agree to omit Mark’s repetition of the phrase ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ in Mark 12:38 (cf. Matt. 23:1; Luke 20:45).

L22 ἀκούετε (Mark 4:3). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit the imperative ἀκούετε (akouete, “Listen!”) at the opening of the parable proper is weightier than some of the other “minor agreements” of omission we have encountered in this pericope, since there is much more agreement between the Matthean, Markan and Lukan versions of Four Soils as to the wording of the main body of the parable than there was agreement as to the wording of the narrative introductions. Snodgrass has pointed out that Mark’s ἀκούετε (L22) and ἰδού (L23; also omitted by Luke) anticipate the references to “hearing” and “seeing” in the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying.[53] It is probable, therefore, that the author of Mark added ἀκούετε and ἰδού to the Four Soils parable in order to tie these pericopae more closely together.

Seed-on-the-Path Scenario

The seed-on-the-path scenario depicted in a stained glass window. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L23 ἐξῆλθεν (GR). As we noted in Comment to L22, the author of Mark added the interjection ἰδού (idou, “Behold!” “Look!”) to the Four Soils parable. The author of Mark’s use of ἰδού is a bit odd: on two occasions the author of Mark accepted ἰδού from Luke (Mark 10:28 // Luke 18:28; Mark 10:33 // Luke 18:31), but the Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark to include ἰδού demonstrate that there were many more instances where the author of Mark rejected Luke’s use of ἰδού.[54] The multiple rejections of Luke’s ἰδού notwithstanding, the author of Mark occasionally inserted ἰδού where it did not occur in Luke (Mark 3:32 [cf. Luke 8:20]; 4:3 [cf. Luke 8:5]), and added it in verses that have no parallel in Luke (Mark 14:41, 42).[55] The author of Matthew, by contrast, usually accepted ἰδού when he encountered it in one (or both) of his sources (Anth. and Mark).

יָצָא (HR). On reconstructing ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”) with יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L98.

Second or third-century C.E. mosaic from Cherchell in Algeria depicting a man sowing seed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L24 ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν (GR). Luke and Matthew agree against Mark to add the definite article τοῦ before the infinitive, but whereas Luke and Mark have the aorist infinitive σπεῖραι (speirai, “to sow”), Matthew has the present infinitive σπείρειν (speirein, “to sow”). Since Lindsey’s hypothesis dictates that Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark are reflections of Anth., we have accepted the definite article before the infinitive for GR. Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable preserves Anth.’s wording via FR, whereas the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s version of Four Soils using Anth. Since we must suppose that the author of Matthew copied the definite article prior to the infinitive from Anth., it is reasonable to suppose that he copied σπείρειν from Anth. as well. We regard the aorist infinitive σπεῖραι in Luke 8:5 as a change introduced by the First Reconstructor or (less probably) by the author of Luke himself.

הַזּוֹרֵעַ לִזְרוֹעַ (HR). On reconstructing σπείρειν (speirein, “to sow”) with זָרַע (zāra‘, “sow”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L14. On reconstructing τοῦ + infinitive with -לְ + infinitive construct, see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L19.

L25 τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ (GR). Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable is the only one to explicitly mention “the seed.” The Markan and Matthean versions of the Four Soils parable do not contain a word for “seed”; in these versions the seed is referred to only obliquely. Some scholars have noted that Luke’s inclusion of a direct object (“his seed”) is more Hebraic than the versions of Mark and Matthew.[56] This being the case, we have adopted Luke’s reading in L25 for GR.

אֶת זַרְעוֹ (HR). In LXX the noun σπόρος (sporos) is relatively rare.[57] In Exod. 34:21 σπόρος is used in its more usual sense of “seed-time,” where τῷ σπόρῳ (tō sporō, “in the seed-time”) occurs as the translation of בֶּחָרִישׁ (beḥārish, “in the [time for] plowing”). In Lev. 26:20 σπόρος is used in the sense of “crop” as the translation of יְבוּל (yevūl, “produce”). In most of the rest of the cases, however, σπόρος is used to translate זֶרַע (zera‘, “seed”).[58] The more usual translation of זֶרַע in LXX was σπέρμα (sperma, “seed”).[59] Nevertheless, our selection for HR is not in doubt since there are no viable Hebrew alternatives.

L26 καὶ ἐγένετο (Mark 4:4). While Mark’s καὶ ἐγένετο in L26 is not un-Hebraic,[60] the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark tells against the presence of καὶ ἐγένετο in Anth., at least at L26. Above, in Comment to L1, we suggested that Anth. might have employed the Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο + time phrase + καί + aorist construction to open the Four Soils pericope. Perhaps the author of Mark noticed the καὶ ἐγένετο there and shifted it to its present location in Mark 4:4.

L27 ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to include the personal pronoun αὐτόν (avton, “him”) virtually assures that this Hebraic construction was the reading of Anth. The author of Mark probably dropped the accusative pronoun because it is unidiomatic Greek.[61]

וּבִזְרִיעָתוֹ (HR). In LXX ἐν τῷ + infinitive + accusative pronoun is a common translation of -בְּ + infinitive construct + pronominal suffix.[62] In MH, however, -בְּ + infinitive construct disappeared, being replaced by -בְּ + qeṭilāh noun + pronominal suffix.[63] Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech, including parables, in a style resembling Mishnaic Hebrew, we have adopted the latter construction for HR. The qeṭilāh noun from the root ז-ר-ע is זְרִיעָה (zeri‘āh), which means “sowing.”[64] An example of זְרִיעָה + pronominal suffix is found in the following rabbinic statement:

חייבים על זריעתם ואין חייבים על אכילתם

They are liable on account of their sowing [זְרִיעָתָם], but they are not liable on account of their eating. (Sifre Deut. §76 [ed. Finkelstein, 142])

L28 ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement in Codex Vaticanus to write ἃ μέν in L28 against Mark’s ὃ μέν is likely a mirage, since various other NT MSS read ὃ μέν at Luke 8:5, which is the reading adopted by the critical editions. The fact that all pronouns and adjectives referring to the seeds in Matthew’s version of the Four Soils parable are plural (L28, L32, L33, L43, L47, L49) looks like an attempt to improve the Greek style of the parable.[65] Moreover, Matthew’s improved Greek style could explain why the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus pluralized the pronouns in Luke’s version of the parable at L28 and L32. Since the pluralized pronouns of Matthew’s version are likely to be a Greek stylistic improvement, we have adopted Luke’s reading (according to the critical editions) for GR.

זֶה נָפַל עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ (HR). Since in L28 ὅς (hos) functions as a demonstrative pronoun (“this”),[66] we have adopted זֶה (zeh, “this”) for HR. In the continuation of the parable ὅς (“this”) is contrasted with ἕτερος (heteros, “[a] different [one]”; L33, L44, L49), which parallels the contrast between זֶה and אַחֵר (’aḥēr, “another,” “other”) that we encounter in rabbinic sources, such as the following:

וְלָמָּה הִיא אוֹמֶרֶת אָמֵן אָמֵן…אָמֵן מֵאִישׁ זֶה אָמֵן מֵאִישׁ אַחֵר

And why does she [i.e., the suspected adulteress—DNB and JNT] say, Amen! Amen! [Num. 5:22]? …Amen because of this [זֶה] man, Amen because of another [אַחֵר] man. (m. Sot. 2:5)

הַבַּנַּיי שֶׁקִּיבֵּל עָלָיו אֶת הַכּוֹתֶל לְסוֹתְרוֹ…הָיָה סוֹתֵר מִצַּד זֶה וְנָפַל לְצַּד אַחֵר פָּטוּר

A builder who undertakes to tear down a wall…if he was tearing down from this [זֶה] side but it fell to another [אַחֵר] side, he is exempt. (m. Bab. Kam. 9:3)

כשהיה מתפלל בינו לבין עצמו היה אדם מניחו בצד זה ובא ומצאו בצד אחר מפני הכריעות והשתחויות שהיה עושה

When he [i.e., Rabbi Akiva—DNB and JNT] would pray by himself, a person could leave him on this [זֶה] side [of the room—DNB and JNT] and come and find him on another [אַחֵר] side because of the bowing and prostrations that he would make. (t. Ber. 3:5; Vienna MS)

עוקר מסהר זה ונותן לתוך סהר אחר

He may remove [his flock—DNB and JNT] from this [זֶה] enclosure and put it within another [אַחֵר] enclosure. (t. Shev. 2:16; Vienna MS)

עוקר משדה זו ונותן לתוך שדה אחרת

He may remove [his flock—DNB and JNT] from this [זוֹ] field and put it within another [אַחֶרֶת] field. (t. Shev. 2:17; Vienna MS)

בדבר הזה אל תבקש ממנו אבל בדבר אחר גזור עלי ואני אעשה

In this [הַזֶּה] matter do not beseech me, but in another [אַחֵר] matter make the decree and I will do it. (Sifre Num. §135 [ed. Horovitz, 182])

The prepositional phrase παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν (“beside the path”) is hard to reconcile with Luke’s statement that the seed was trampled.[67] For the seed to have been trampled we would have expected to find ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ (epi tēs hodou, “on the path”) or ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ (en tē hodō, “in the path”). Numerous scholars have suggested that παρά (para, “beside”) is a mistranslation of the Hebrew/Aramaic preposition עַל (‘al, “upon”).[68] Such a suggestion is plausible, since there are cases in MT where עַל clearly does mean “beside,” and the LXX translators accordingly rendered the preposition as παρά, as in the following example:

וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל פַּלְגֵי מָיִם אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ

And he will be like a tree planted beside streams of water, which will give its fruit in its season…. (Ps. 1:3)

καὶ ἔσται ὡς τὸ ξύλον τὸ πεφυτευμένον παρὰ τὰς διεξόδους τῶν ὑδάτων, ὃ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ δώσει ἐν καιρῷ αὐτοῦ

And he will be like the tree that was planted by the channels of waters, which will yield its fruit in its season…. (Ps. 1:3; NETS)

There are also cases where עַל clearly means “beside,” but the LXX translators nevertheless rendered the preposition as ἐπί, as in the following example:

וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה וְאֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן אֹתָם בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב עַל־יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחוֹ לֵאמֹר

And Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab, beside the Jordan [עַל יַרְדֵּן] of Jericho, saying…. (Num. 26:3)

καὶ ἐλάλησεν Μωυσῆς καὶ Ελεαζαρ ὁ ἱερεὺς ἐν Αραβωθ Μωαβ ἐπὶ τοῦ Ιορδάνου κατὰ Ιεριχω λέγων

And Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke in Araboth of Moab upon the Jordan [ἐπὶ τοῦ Ιορδάνου] opposite Jericho, saying…. (Num. 26:3)[69]

There are even cases in which עַל דֶּרֶךְ (‘al derech) and עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ (‘al haderech) mean “along the path/road,” rather than “on the path/road” (cf., e.g., Gen. 38:14, 21), so it is possible that παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν in the Four Soils parable is due to a mistranslation of an underlying Hebrew text.

On reconstructing πίπτειν (piptein, “to fall”) with נָפַל (nāfal, “fall”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L17. On reconstructing ὁδός (hodos, “road,” “way”) with דֶּרֶךְ (derech, “road,” “way”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L52.

L29 καὶ κατεπατήθη (GR). McNeile considered Luke’s καὶ κατεπατήθη (“and it was trampled”) to be a description of the path itself, rather than a description of the fate of the seeds that had fallen on the path;[70] however, his opinion has not gained acceptance among most interpreters, and one wonders why it would have been necessary or desirable to state that the path had been trodden upon, especially since parables are typically scant on nonessential detail.

Whether Luke’s “and it was trampled” ought to be regarded as a Lukan or FR addition, or whether it ought to be traced back to Anth., is a difficult question. We note that Flusser and Lindsey omitted “and it was trampled” from their reconstruction (see Reconstruction above). Their reconstruction seems to have been guided by the fact that καὶ κατεπατήθη has no parallel in the Markan or Matthean versions of the parable. But the fact that καὶ κατεπατήθη is unparalleled in Mark and Matthew is inconclusive, since Luke’s version contains other details not paralleled in Mark or Matthew, such as τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ (“his seed”; see above, Comment to L25) and τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“of the heaven”; see below, Comment to L31), which probably did originate in Anth. The author of Mark allowed himself considerable latitude when paraphrasing his sources (Luke and Anth.), so a Markan omission of καὶ κατεπατήθη is not inconceivable, and the author of Matthew might simply have followed Mark in the omission of this detail. Creed noted that “and it was trampled” does not add much to the picture,[71] and therefore we must ask ourselves why a Greek editor such as the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke would have added this detail if it had not appeared in his source. Moreover, in Luke’s description of the seeds that fell on the rock and in the good soil we find the following pattern: seed’s location → seed’s initial response to environment → seed’s ultimate fate (location: rock → initial response: growing → ultimate fate: it was dried up; location: good soil → initial response: growing → ultimate fate: it produced fruit). Luke’s “and it was trampled” conforms to this pattern (location: path → initial response: it was trampled [hence it could not grow] → ultimate fate: birds ate it). Only in the seed-among-thorns scenario is this pattern disturbed (location: thorns→ destroying agent arrives: thorns grew → result: thorns strangled it), and we suspect that this disturbance was caused by the editorial work of FR (see below, Comment to L46). If the First Reconstructor disturbed the pattern location → initial response → ultimate fate in the seed-among-thorns scenario, then we must conclude that the location → initial response → ultimate fate pattern in Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable was inherited from Anth., the source behind FR. We have accordingly adopted Luke’s καὶ κατεπατήθη in L29 for GR.

Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable, on the other hand, exhibits a quite different pattern in the first three scenarios: seed’s location → destroying agent arrives → result.[72]

Scenario 1: location: path → destroying agent arrives: birds come → result: they eat it

Scenario 2: location: rocky soil → destroying agent arrives: sun rises → result: dries it out[73]

Scenario 3: location: thorns → destroying agent arrives: thorns come up → result: thorns choke it

The Markan pattern does not apply to the final scenario of seed falling on good soil, which weakens the overall structural unity of Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable. In addition, shifting the focus away from the seeds and their growth to the actions of the destroying agents in Mark’s version of Four Soils looks like a secondary development. In fact, the First Reconstructor’s shifting of the focus onto the destroying agent in the seed-among-thorns scenario, which the author of Mark would have noted when he compared the Anth. and Lukan versions of the Four Soils parable, may have been the inspiration behind the author of Mark’s adaptation of the seed-on-the-path and the seed-on-the-rocky-place scenarios to the location → destroying agent arrives → result pattern, as well.

וְנִדְרַךְ (HR). The verb καταπατεῖν (katapatein, “to trample”), which occurs elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 5:13; 7:6; Luke 12:1), appears in LXX as the translation of several different Hebrew verbs. Two of the most likely candidates for HR are נִדְרַךְ (nidrach, “be trampled”)[74] and נִרְמַס (nirmas, “be trampled”).[75] We have decided against נִרְמַס because Jastrow did not list ר-מ-ס in the nif‘al stem in his dictionary,[76] and we have not found any instances of נִרְמַס in tannaic sources. Tipping the balance in favor of נִדְרַךְ is the pleasing collocation in L28 and L29 of דֶּרֶךְ (“path”) and נִדְרַךְ (“was trampled”) from the same root, similar to the collocation in L24-27 of זוֹרֵעַ (“sower”), לִזְרוֹעַ (“to sow”), זַרְעוֹ (“his seed”) and וּבִזְרִיעָתוֹ (“and during his sowing”).

L30 καὶ ἦλθεν (Mark 4:4). Mark’s καί + aorist is not un-Hebraic, and it is probably for this reason that Flusser and Lindsey accepted Mark’s reading in their reconstruction of the Four Soils parable (see Reconstruction above). However, as we noted in Comment to L29, descriptions of the arrival of the destroying agents appear to be a secondary development, which shifted the focus away from the seeds and their growth. Matthew’s καί + participle in L30 is probably a Greek stylistic improvement to Mark’s wording.

Brickwork depiction of a hand sowing seed and birds coming to eat it, by the Dutch artist Levinus Tollenaar (1918 – 1970). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L31 τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (GR). Luke’s longer reading of “the birds of the heaven,” as opposed to Mark and Matthew’s simple “birds,” is Hebraic,[77] and since we have traced the phrase τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (ta peteina tou ouranou, “the birds of the heaven”) to Anth. in other pericopae,[78] we think it is likely that Luke’s version has preserved (via FR) the wording of Anth.

וְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם (HR). On reconstructing πετεινόν + τοῦ οὐρανοῦ as עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם (‘ōf hashāmayim, “the birds of the heavens”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L10.

L32 κατέφαγεν αὐτό (GR). Whereas the Lukan-Matthean agreement in Codex Vaticanus to write αὐτά is likely a mirage caused by a scribal instinct to improve the Greek style of Luke 8:5 (see above, Comment to L28),[79] their agreement to omit Mark’s καί is more strongly attested, and affords solid grounds for omitting it from GR.

The use of the compound verb κατεσθίειν (katesthiein, “to eat up,” “to devour”) rather than the simple form ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”) could have been introduced by the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke, but it is not uncommon to encounter κατεσθίειν in LXX.[80] According to LSJ, κατεσθίειν was used especially with reference to animals,[81] and in LXX we find a few examples of κατεσθίειν used to describe the action of birds.[82] Since κατεσθίειν is not atypical for translation Greek and occurs elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels, we have retained this verb in GR.

אָכְלוּ אוֹתוֹ (HR). Since nearly all instances of κατεσθίειν in LXX are the translation of אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”),[83] this is the most natural option for HR.

The portion of seed that fell upon the path failed even to germinate, having been trampled upon by passersby. Its ultimate fate was to be eaten by birds who easily spotted the seed on the packed surface of the path.

Seed-on-the-Rock Scenario

The seed-on-the-rock scenario depicted in a stained glass window. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L33 ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν (Matt. 13:5). Matthew’s use of plural pronouns is a Greek stylistic improvement (see above, Comment to L28), as is his use of the conjunction δέ (de, “but”) opposite the καί (kai, “and”) in Luke and Mark, since Matthew’s δέ joins up more correctly with the μέν (men, “indeed,” “on the one hand…”) of L28.

καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν (GR). Although Koine Greek often failed to distinguish between ἄλλος (allos, “another [one]”) and ἕτερος (heteros, “[a] different [one]”),[84] an educated writer such as the author of Luke would have known that ἕτερος suggests that a different kind of seed fell upon the rocky ground, which was clearly not the intention of the parable. In other words, ἄλλος in the Markan and Matthean versions of the Four Soils parable looks like a Greek improvement, and the best explanation for why Luke’s version reads ἕτερος is that this wording was inherited (via FR) from Anth.

Luke’s compound verb καταπίπτειν (katapiptein, “to fall down”), on the other hand, does look like a Greek improvement. In LXX καταπίπτειν is rare, occurring mainly in Greek-composed books.[85] There are only two instances in LXX where καταπίπτειν translates a verb in the underlying Hebrew text: 2 Esd. 18:11 (= נֶעֱצַב) and Ps. 144[145]:14 (= נָפַל). It appears that either the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke, having copied two κατα-prefixed compound verbs (καταπατεῖν in L29 and κατεσθίειν L32), decided to add a third. Since the simple form πίπτειν (without the κατα-prefix) occurs in each of the other scenarios in the Lukan version, and in all of the scenarios according to the Markan and Matthean versions, we have adopted ἔπεσεν (epesen, “it fell”) for GR. Thus, here in L33 we encounter another example where the author of Mark correctly preserved an echo of Anth.’s wording despite his tendency to paraphrase.

וְאַחֵר נָפַל (HR). On reconstructing ἕτερος (heteros, “[a] different [one]”) with אַחֵר (’aḥēr, “another,” “other”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L15. On contrasting זֶה with אַחֵר, and on reconstructing πίπτειν with נָפַל, see above, Comment to L28.

L34 ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη (Matt. 13:5). The author of Matthew changed Mark’s singular ἐπὶ τὸ πετρῶδες (“upon the rocky [place]”) to the plural ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη (“upon the rocky [places]”), most likely being motivated by a desire to conform the wording of the parable to that of the interpretation, for in Mark 4:16 and Matt. 13:20 we find the plural ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη.[86]

ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν (GR). It appears that the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus inadvertently omitted the definite article before the noun πέτρα (petra, “rock”) in Luke 8:6. Since all of the other environments into which the seed fell in the other scenarios are definite, and since the critical editions have the definite article before πέτρα in Luke 8:6, we have included the definite article in GR.

A flower sprouting from a rock outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

A few scholars have noted that Luke’s reading of “on the rock” preserves a Semitism that has been erased in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.[87] Not only is “upon the rocky place(s)” in Mark and Matthew better Greek than “upon the rock” in Luke’s version, but Hebrew lacks an adjective corresponding to “rocky.” This fact largely accounts for the absence of the adjective πετρώδης (petrōdēs, “rocky”) in LXX. “On the rock,” therefore, looks like the literal rendering into Greek of a Hebrew or Aramaic source. Presumably, this is another instance where Luke’s version preserves the wording of Anth. via FR.

עַל הַסֶּלַע (HR). On reconstructing ἐπί (epi, “upon”) with עַל (‘al, “upon”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L11.

In LXX πέτρα usually occurs as the translation of צוּר (tzūr, “rock”) or סֶלַע (sela‘, “rock”).[88] In the Mishnah צוּר occurs twice, but in the sense of “flint knife” (m. Hul. 1:2; m. Ohol. 18:1); סֶלַע, on the other hand, occurs frequently in the Mishnah, and we even encounter the phrase עַל הַסֶּלַע (‘al hasela‘, “upon the rock”) several times.[89] The Tosefta envisions a scenario in which someone sows seed עַל גַּבֵּי סֶלַע (“upon rock”; t. Kil. 1:14). Another possible option for reconstructing πέτρα is פִּטְרָה (piṭrāh, “rock”), a Hebrew loanword from Greek.[90] Bivin has drawn attention to a rabbinic text in which the term פִּטְרָה occurs in the context of sowing:[91]

מודה ר″ש בן לקיש בזורע ע″ג הים ע″ג פטרה ע″ג סלעים ע″ג טרשים שהוא פטור

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish agrees that one who sows on the sea, on bedrock [פִּטְרָה], on rocks [סְלָעִים], or on crags [טְרָשִׁים] is exempt [from the prohibition against growing more than one species on the same plot of ground—DNB and JNT]. (y. Kil. 1:9 [5a])

Evidently, a person was not considered to have violated the biblical prohibition in the scenarios Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish described because, although the person intentionally sowed the seed in these places, there was no hope of their growing there.[92] The scenario described in the Four Soils parable is rather different, since the seed that fell into the inhospitable environments landed there unintentionally, and only one kind of seed was sown. Nevertheless, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish’s opinion confirms what is assumed in the Four Soils parable: seed sown on rocky ground stands no chance of success.

L35 καὶ ὅπου οὐκ εἶχε γῆν πολλήν (Mark 4:5). Some scholars, noting the disproportionate length of the scenario concerning the seed that fell on a rocky place in Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable, regard this explanation as a Markan addition.[93] We concur with their assessment. The author of Mark elaborated upon the description of the “rocky place,” explaining that it did not have much soil. In Luke’s version (“it fell upon the rock”) the lack of soil would have been self-evident. Mark’s phrase οὐκ εἶχε (ouk eiche, “it was not having”) was probably inspired by the explanatory comment διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν (dia to mē echein, “because it did not have”) in Luke’s version of the parable (L43).

How precisely the author of Matthew copied Mark’s wording is difficult to determine, due to the variant readings in the MSS. According to critical editions, Mark and Matthew are identical in L35, whereas in Codex Vaticanus Mark’s explanation about the lack of soil is introduced with the conjunction καί (kai, “and”),[94] and the has been dropped from the end of εἶχε (eiche, “it was having”).

L36 καὶ εὐθὺς (Mark 4:5). Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable includes εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”) in L36. In their own ways the Lukan and Matthean versions of Four Soils agree against Mark’s use of this stereotyped adverb: in Luke it is missing entirely, in Matthew εὐθύς has been replaced with the synonym εὐθέως (evtheōs, “immediately”). Their mutual agreement against Mark’s εὐθύς, combined with the fact that εὐθύς is a hallmark of Markan redaction, strongly suggests that εὐθύς did not appear in FR or Anth.[95] The author of Mark may have added the fantastic idea of the instantaneous growth of the seed in order to conform the parable more closely to the Four Soils interpretation, where the seed that fell upon the rock corresponds to hearers who at first (“immediately” in Mark’s version) respond positively, but who subsequently fade away (Mark 4:16-17 // Luke 8:13).

L37 ἐξανέτειλεν (Mark 4:5). To describe the seed’s growth, the author of Mark employed the verb ἐξανατέλλειν (exanatellein, “to spring up”). In LXX this verb occurs a total of 5xx, always as the translation of הִצְמִיחַ (hitzmiaḥ, “cause to sprout”; Gen. 2:9; Ps. 103[104]:14; 131[132]:17; 146[147]:8), except for one instance where ἐξανατέλλειν serves as the translation of זָרַח (zāraḥ, “rise”; Ps. 111[112]:4). We suspect that the author of Mark’s decision to use ἐξανατέλλειν here in L37 was influenced by his intention to use ἀνατέλλειν (anatellein, “to rise”) in his description of the sun in L39. Throughout his parables excursus the author of Mark exhibited a tendency to make repeated use of the same vocabulary.[96] The author of Matthew accepted the verb ἐξανατέλλειν from Mark.

According to the text of Codex Vaticanus, the verb in Matthew is plural, but since everywhere else in the parable the author of Matthew used singular verbs with reference to the seed (L28, L33, L35, L40, L42, L44, L49, L52), and since the critical editions read ἐξανέτειλεν (exaneteilen, “it sprang up”) in Matt. 13:5, it is likely that the ἐξανέτειλαν (exaneteilan, “they sprang up”) in L37 was a slip of the pen of the scribe who produced the Vaticanus MS.

φυὲν (GR). Although the verb φύειν (fūein, “to grow”; Luke 8:6, 8) and its cognate συμφύειν (sūmfūein, “to grow together”; Luke 8:7) are not found in the Gospels of Mark or Matthew, these verbs cannot be characterized as especially Lukan, since in all of Luke’s writings these verbs are confined to his version of the Four Soils parable. It is just as probable, therefore, that the author of Luke copied these verbs from his source (FR).

While Luke’s use of a participle (φυέν [fūen, “growing”]) might at first glance appear to be a Greek improvement, we have found that καί + participle + aorist constructions, such as we find in Luke 8:6 (καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη; L36-42), were often used in LXX as the translation of vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive.[97] It seems plausible, therefore, that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua might have rendered two vav + perfect verbs with a καί + participle + aorist construction. Accordingly, we have not seen fit to change Luke’s participle (φυέν) into a finite aorist verb (ἔφυ [efū, “it grew”]) in GR.

וְעָלָה (HR). In LXX φύειν occurs 5xx as the translation of a Hebrew term: צָמַח (tzāmaḥ, “grow”) in Exod. 10:5; פָּרָה (pārāh, “bear fruit”) in Deut. 29:17; נָטַע (nāṭa‘, “plant”) in Jer. 38[31]:5 (Alexandrinus); and עָלָה (‘ālāh, “go up”; of plants, “sprout”) in Prov. 26:9 and Ezek. 37:8. This last verb, עָלָה, is of particular interest, since it admirably fits the context of the Four Soils parable, where the initial growth of the seed is described. The verb עָלָה was used in BH and MH to describe the sprouting of plants, as the following examples illustrate:

וְלֹא יַעֲלֶה בָהּ כָּל־עֵשֶׂב

…and no grass will sprout up in it [i.e., the land under God’s curse—DNB and JNT]…. (Deut. 29:22)

עָלוּ בוֹ עֲשָׂבִים לֹא יִתְלוֹשׁ

If herbs sprout up in it [i.e., a ruined synagogue—DNB and JNT], he may not pull them up…. (m. Meg. 3:3)

שדה שעלו בו עשבים

A field in which herbs sprouted up…. (t. Kil. 1:19; Vienna MS)

Since φύειν was used to translate עָלָה in LXX, and since this verb fits the context of the Four Soils parable, we can think of no better option for HR.[98]

L38 διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν βάθος τῆς γῆς (Mark 4:5). In L38 the author of Mark reiterates the fact that the rocky place lacked sufficient soil, but here he cites the soil’s deficiency as the cause of the seed’s rapid growth, which, as France remarked, “makes little agricultural sense.”[99] Textual evidence suggests that ancient scribes found Mark’s explanation to be incredible, since this explanatory clause was omitted in certain MSS.[100] In order to make more sense of Mark’s explanation that the seed instantly (cf. εὐθύς in L36) germinated because the soil was shallow, some commentators have suggested that in shallow soil seed grows more rapidly due to the warming effects of the sun.[101] But this ingenious suggestion does not square with the details of Mark’s parable, according to which the sun is a destroying agent that scorches the seed as soon as it rises (Mark 4:6). In any case, these fantastic details, which lack parallels in the Lukan version of the parable, are examples of the author of Mark’s literary inventiveness.[102] The wording of the explanation in L38, which the author of Mark gave for the instantaneous germination of the seed, was crafted in imitation of Luke’s similarly phrased διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα (“because it did not have moisture”; L43). The author of Matthew copied this addition verbatim from Mark.

L39-42 According to Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable, there were two reasons the seed that fell upon the rocky place failed to thrive. Not only did the lack of soil cause the plants to develop a weak root system, which ultimately led to the drying up of the plants, but a destroying agent—the sun—also acted upon the seed, scorching it to death. Scholars have suggested that at least one of these causes was probably added by the author of Mark.[103] The sun’s seed-destroying action lacks a parallel in the Four Soils interpretation, but there is a striking correspondence between Mark’s description of the scorching power of the sun and an illustration in the Epistle of James:[104]

Mark 4:6 James 1:11
καὶ ὅτε ἀνέτειλεν ὁ ἥλιος ἐκαυματίσθη καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν ἐξηράνθη ἀνέτειλεν γὰρ ὁ ἥλιος σὺν τῷ καύσωνι καὶ ἐξήρανεν τὸν χόρτον
And when the sun rose it was scorched and, because it did not have root, it dried up. For the sun rose with the scorching heat and it dried up the grass.

All of Mark’s wording in this section has its counterpart in James 1:11, apart from the causal clause about the lack of roots, which was probably picked up from the Four Soils interpretation (Mark 4:17 // Luke 8:13). Lindsey believed that the author of Mark borrowed from the book of Acts and from the Epistle of James while paraphrasing the stories in Luke’s Gospel, and this may be one of Lindsey’s strongest examples of such borrowing.[105] Note that, as well as lacking a parallel in the Four Soils interpretation, Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable completely lacks the description of the sun’s scorching the seed. It seems likely that when the author of Mark, who shifted the focus of the Four Soils parable onto the destroying agents (see above, Comment to L29), was confronted with the lack of a destroying agent in the second scenario of Luke’s parable, he went in search of a suitable candidate. Luke’s use of ἐξηράνθη (“it was dried up”) to describe the ultimate fate of the seed that had fallen upon the rock evidently reminded Mark of the verse in James that describes how the sun dried up (ἐξήρανεν) the grass with its scorching heat, and thus the sun became the destroying agent in Mark’s version of the parable.

L39 καὶ ὅτε ἀνέτειλεν ὁ ἥλιος (Mark 4:6). Mark’s reference to the rising of the sun gives readers the impression that the seed had sprung up overnight (cf. εὐθύς in L36) and that the new growth was killed as soon as the sun rose the next morning.[106] This fantastic aspect of Mark’s version of the parable is the result of his secondary allusion to James 1:11. It was subsequently picked up by the author of Matthew, who improved the Greek style of Mark’s wording by changing καὶ ὅτε ἀνέτειλεν ὁ ἥλιος ἐκαυματίσθησαν (“And when the sun rose, they were scorched”) into a genitive absolute, ἡλίου δὲ ἀνατείλαντος ἐκαυματώθη (“But, the sun having risen, it was scorched”).

L40 ἐκαυματίσθησαν (Mark 4:6). Whereas James 1:11 has the noun καύσων (kavsōn, “scorching heat”), the author of Mark used the similar-sounding verb καυματίζειν (kavmatizein, “to scorch”) to describe the destruction of the seed caused by the sun. The verb καυματίζειν does not occur in LXX, nor does it occur in the Synoptic Gospels apart from Mark 4:6 and its parallel in Matt. 13:6.

L41 καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν (Mark 4:6). In the middle of his expansion based on James 1:11 the author of Mark inserted a note about the lack of root development, which contributed to the demise of the seed’s growth. This detail lacks a parallel in the Lukan version of the parable, but it corresponds to the interpretation of the parable, which does mention the root (Mark 4:17 // Luke 8:13). It seems likely that the author of Mark inserted the reference to the root into the parable in order to create greater compatibility between the parable and its interpretation.[107] As with the explanatory clause in L38, Mark’s διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν (“because it did not have a root”) was crafted in imitation of διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα (“because it did not have moisture”; Luke 8:6), which the author of Mark omitted. Lindsey noted that the author of Mark often made up for omissions from Luke by repeating the omitted words or constructions elsewhere in his Gospel.

L42 ἐξηράνθη (GR). Despite the wide divergence between the Markan and Matthean versions of the seed-on-the-rock scenario on the one hand and the Lukan version on the other, all three versions agree to use the verb ξηραίνειν (xērainein, “to dry up”). As noted above in Comment to L39-42, it was probably Luke’s ἐξηράνθη (“it was dried up”) that reminded the author of Mark of James 1:11, his allusion to which created the divergence between the Markan-Matthean and Lukan versions of the seed-on-the-rock scenario.

וְיָבֵשׁ (HR). Although Flusser and Lindsey used the verb נָבֵל (nāvēl, “fade,” “wither”) in their reconstruction of the Four Soils parable (see Reconstruction subheading above), ξηραίνειν was never used as the translation of נָבֵל in LXX.[108] In LXX ξηραίνειν usually occurs as the translation of verbs formed from the root י-ב-שׁ in its various stems.[109] Likewise, י-ב-שׁ verbs were usually translated in LXX with ξηραίνειν or compound forms of this verb.[110] Below are a few examples similar to our reconstruction in L42:

יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר נָבֵל צִיץ כִּי רוּחַ יי נָשְׁבָה בּוֹ

Grass dried up and flower withered when the spirit of the LORD blew upon it. (Isa. 40:7)

ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν

The grass was dried up, and the flower fell…. (Isa. 40:7; LXX omits the second clause)

הֻכָּה אֶפְרַיִם שָׁרְשָׁם יָבֵשׁ

Ephraim was smitten, their root dried up. (Hos. 9:16)

ἐπόνεσεν Εφραιμ, τὰς ῥίζας αὐτοῦ ἐξηράνθη

Ephraim has suffered; he has dried up at his roots…. (Hos. 9:16)

וְאָבְלוּ נְאוֹת הָרֹעִים וְיָבֵשׁ רֹאשׁ הַכַּרְמֶל

And the pastures of the shepherds withered, and the summit of Carmel dried up. (Amos 1:2)

καὶ ἐπένθησαν αἱ νομαὶ τῶν ποιμένων, καὶ ἐξηράνθη ἡ κορυφὴ τοῦ Καρμήλου

And the pastures of the shepherds mourned, and the summit of Carmel was dried up. (Amos 1:2)

As the above examples demonstrate, it was common in LXX for יָבֵשׁ (yāvēsh, “it dried up”) to be rendered with the passive ἐξηράνθη (exēranthē, “it was dried up”), the very form we have at L42 in all three versions of the Four Soils parable.

L43 διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα (Luke 8:6). Flusser and Lindsey omitted any explanatory clause from the seed-on-the-rock scenario in their reconstruction of the Four Soils parable (see Reconstruction subheading above), perhaps because they regarded the διὰ τό + infinitive constructions as too Greek to reflect an underlying Hebrew source, and because the noun ἰκμάς (ikmas, “moisture”) occurs only twice in LXX (Job 26:14 [= שֵׁמֶץ]; Jer. 17:8 [= יוּבַל]) and neither of the Hebrew terms represented by ἰκμάς in LXX are suitable for the context of the Four Soils parable. Nevertheless, there are two reasons for supposing that Luke’s explanatory clause was inherited (via FR) from Anth. First, in the other two hostile environment scenarios we are told why the seed ultimately failed to flourish, so the omission of an explanation from the seed-on-the-rock scenario leaves it feeling unbalanced and incomplete. Second, the interpretation of the parable says nothing about moisture, focusing on the lack of roots instead, and it is difficult to imagine why the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor would have added an explanation different from the one in the interpretation. Whereas the author of Mark had a motive (wishing to add a destroying agent) for adding an element (the sun) not found in the interpretation, no such motive exists for adding the reference to moisture in Luke. We have therefore accepted Luke’s explanatory clause in GR.

מֵאֵין לֵחָה (HR). While it is true that in LXX there is no single Hebrew equivalent to the διὰ τό + infinitive construction, examples of διὰ τό + infinitive and διὰ τὸ μή + infinitive as the translation of Hebrew explanatory clauses are not scarce.[111] The precise phrase διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν (“because of not having”) does not occur in LXX, but the synonymous phrase διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑπάρχειν (“because of not having”) occurs twice in the book of Jeremiah:

וְקָבְרוּ בְתֹפֶת מֵאֵין מָקוֹם

…and they will bury in Tophet from there not being [another] place. (Jer. 7:32)

καὶ θάψουσιν ἐν τῷ Ταφεθ διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑπάρχειν τόπον

…and they will bury in the Tapheth because of not having [another] place. (Jer. 7:32)

כִּי נֹף לְשַׁמָּה תִהְיֶה וְנִצְּתָה מֵאֵין יוֹשֵׁב

For Nof will become a desolation, and it will fall into ruins from there not being an inhabitant. (Jer. 46:19)

ὅτι Μέμφις εἰς ἀφανισμὸν ἔσται καὶ κληθήσεται οὐαὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑπάρχειν κατοικοῦντας ἐν αὐτῇ

Because Memphis will become a desolation, and “Woe” will be cried because of not having inhabitants in it. (Jer. 26:19)

In both of these examples the LXX translators rendered מֵאֵין + noun in the Hebrew text as διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑπάρχειν + noun. Apart from using a different verb for “have,” this is the same pattern we find in Luke’s explanatory clause. Based on these observations, a reconstruction of διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα (“because of not having moisture”) might be מֵאֵין מַיִם (“from there not being water”), a phrase that occurs in Isaiah:

הֵן בְּגַעֲרָתִי אַחֲרִיב יָם אָשִׂים נְהָרוֹת מִדְבָּר תִּבְאַשׁ דְּגָתָם מֵאֵין מַיִם וְתָמֹת בַּצָּמָא

Behold, with my rebuke I will dry up the sea, I will make rivers a desert, their fish will stink from there not being water [LXX: ἀπὸ τοῦ μὴ εἶναι ὕδωρ], and they will die of thirst. (Isa. 50:2)

On the other hand, we have to wonder why the Greek translator of the Hebrew source behind Luke 8:6 would have rendered מַיִם (mayim, “water”) with ἰκμάς (ikmas, “moisture”) rather than ὕδωρ (hūdōr, “water”), the usual LXX equivalent of מַיִם.[112] Perhaps this hurdle could be overcome by supposing that ἰκμάς was the First Reconstructor’s replacement for ὕδωρ in Anth., but such a substitution serves no real purpose.

Another possibility is that ἰκμάς in the Greek text is an indication that a noun other than מַיִם occurred in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text. In post-Biblical Hebrew a noun meaning “moisture” appeared, which might have stood behind Luke’s ἰκμάς, namely לֵחָה (lēḥāh). Thus, in DSS we read:

מלחת טל יאכל

…from the moisture [לֵחָה] of dew he may eat…. (4QTohorot A [4Q274] 3 II, 5)

ואף המוצקות אינמ מבדילות בין הטמא [ל]טהור כי לחת המוצקות והמקבל מהמה כהמ לחה אחת

And also poured out fluids do not separate into impure and pure [parts], for the poured out fluid [לֵחָה] and that which receives it is all alike, a single fluid [לֵחָה]. (4QMMTa [4Q394] 8 IV, 6-8)

וביום אשר יוציאו ממנו את המת יכבדו את הבית מכול תגאולת שמן ויין ולחת מים

And on the day when they take out the dead from it, they must sweep the house from all pollution of oil and wine and moisture [לֵחָה] of water. (11QTa [11Q19] XLIX, 11-12)

In the Mishnah, as in DSS, most of the instances of לֵחָה occur in contexts dealing with ritual purity. In one halachah, however, we find לֵחָה in an agricultural context not dissimilar to that of the Four Soils parable:

עַד אֵימָתַיִ חוֹרְשִׁין בִּשְׂדֵה הַלָּבָן עֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית עַד שֶׁתִיכְלֶה הַלֵּחָה

Until when do they plow in a grain field leading up to the Sabbatical year? Until the moisture [לֵחָה] has gone out of it. (m. Shev. 2:1)

Similarly, in the Tosefta we find the following:

שכר את הפועלין והלכו ומצאו את השדה כשהיא לחה

If he hired the workers and they went and found the field when it is moist [לֵחָה]…. (t. Bab. Metz. 7:1; Vienna MS)

In these two instances לֵחָה refers to moisture in the soil of a field where crops are grown. Since this is precisely the meaning required in the Four Soils parable, we have adopted לֵחָה for HR.

Seed-among-Thorns Scenario

The seed-among-thorns scenario depicted in a stained glass window. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L44 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν (GR). GR and HR in L44 are identical to those in L33.

L45 ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν (GR). We have accepted Luke’s prepositional phrase ἐν μέσῳ (en mesō, “among”) for GR based on the following considerations:

  1. In Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation we find εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας (“into the thorns”; Luke 8:14). While it is understandable that an editor would seek to conform the language of the parable to that of the interpretation, we can think of no reason why the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor would have wanted to create a discrepancy, however slight, between the wording of the parable and its interpretation. Thus, it seems likely that Luke inherited ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν (“among the thorns”) from Anth. (via FR).
  2. The author of Mark probably picked up εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας from Luke 8:14 and inserted it into his version of the parable. This he did in order to make the wording of the parable agree with the interpretation, thereby illustrating the natural tendency to homogenize the vocabulary of the parable and its interpretation, which we assumed in point number one.
  3. The author of Matthew did create a discrepancy between the wording of the parable and its interpretation by writing ἐπὶ τὰς ἀκάνθας (“upon the thorns”), but unlike with Luke, in Matthew there is an obvious reason: apart from the first scenario (L28), the author of Matthew saw to it that all the prepositions describing where the seed fell were ἐπί (L34, L45, L50). Thus, the author of Matthew sacrificed conformity with the interpretation in favor of consistency within the parable itself. This leaves the author of Luke as the only Gospel writer with no motive for changing the wording of his source, and therefore the likeliest to have preserved the wording of his pre-synoptic source.

בֵּין הַחוֹחִים (HR). In LXX ἐν μέσῳ usually occurs as the translation of בְּתוֹךְ (betōch, “among”);[113] however, we have preferred to reconstruct ἐν μέσῳ here in L45 with the preposition בֵּין (bēn, “among”), mainly on the basis of the following parallel in Song of Songs:

כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים כֵּן רַעְיָתִי בֵּין הַבָּנוֹת

Like a lily among [בֵּין] the thistles, so is my companion among [בֵּין] the daughters. (Song 2:2)

ὡς κρίνον ἐν μέσῳ ἀκανθῶν, οὕτως ἡ πλησίον μου ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν θυγατέρων

As a flower among [ἐν μέσῳ] thorns, in this way is my companion among [ἀνὰ μέσον] the daughters. (Song 2:2)

This verse not only provides us with a striking linguistic parallel, it also demonstrates that בֵּין could be put into Greek in different ways, even in the same verse. Compare our reconstruction of ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν (“among the thorns”) with בֵּין הַחוֹחִים (“among the thistles”) to our reconstruction in Darnel Among the Wheat of ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σίτου (“among the grain”) with בֵּין הַחִטִּים (“among the wheat”).[114]

Photograph of a Golden Thistle (Scolymus maculatus), known as חוֹחַ עָקוֹד (ḥōaḥ ‘āqōd, “striped thistle”) in Modern Hebrew, a likely candidate for the “thorns” of the Four Soils parable. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Regarding our reconstruction of ἄκανθα (akantha, “thorn”) with חוֹחַ (ḥōaḥ, “thistle”), our decision was partly informed by the parallel in Song 2:2, but even more so by Zohary’s description of the Golden Thistle (Scolymus maculatus; חוֹחַ עָקוֹד [“striped thistle”] in Modern Hebrew), which sprouts “in borders and abandoned or fallow fields,” and which he suggested could be the “thorns” of the Four Soils parable.[115] While it is true that in LXX ἄκανθα is more often the translation of קוֹץ (qōtz, “thorn”; 12xx) than of חוֹחַ (3xx),[116] the perfect match between the location of “thorns” in the Four Soils parable and the natural habitat of the חוֹחַ (“thistle”) is too much for us to ignore. Nevertheless, we admit that קוֹץ, which Flusser and Lindsey used in their reconstruction (see the subheading Reconstruction above), is a perfectly acceptable alternative for HR.

L46 καὶ φυὲν αἱ ἄκανθαι (GR). According to Luke, “the thorns grew with” the seed “and they strangled it.” Above, in Comment to L29, we discussed how we believe the First Reconstructor disrupted an original pattern of location → initial response → ultimate fate in the seed-among-thorns scenario, a pattern that also holds true in the Lukan versions of the seed-on-the path, the seed-on-the rock, and the seed-in-good-soil scenarios. In Luke’s version of the seed-among-thorns scenario, instead of the usual location → initial response → ultimate fate pattern, we find location → destroying agent arrives → result (the seed fell among the thorns → thorns grew with the seed → thorns choked it). It must be noted, however, that by changing just one of Luke’s words in L46 it is possible to revert the seed-among-the-thorns scenario to the location → initial response → ultimate fate pattern. That single term is the participle συμφυεῖσαι (sūmfūeisai, “growing with”), which, being a feminine plural, has αἱ ἄκανθαι (hai akanthai, “the thorns”) as its subject. If συμφυεῖσαι were changed to φυέν (fūen, “growing”), as in L37 and L51, the seed would be the subject and the usual location → initial response → ultimate fate pattern would be restored (the seed fell among the thorns → at first it grew → but the thorns strangled it). Since changing simple verbs into compound forms was typical of the First Reconstructor’s editorial activity,[117] and since the change necessary to revert Luke’s version to the expected location → initial response → ultimate fate is so slight, we believe that φυέν is what the First Reconstructor read in Anth., and we have, accordingly, adopted φυέν in GR.

וְעָלָה וְהַחוֹחִים (HR). On reconstructing φύειν (fūein, “to grow,” “to come up”) with עָלָה (‘ālāh, “go up”; of plants, “sprout”), see above, Comment to L37. On reconstructing ἄκανθα (akantha, “thorn”) with חוֹחַ (ḥōaḥ, “thistle”), see above, Comment to L45.

καὶ ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι (Mark 4:7). We suspect that by writing “and the thorns came up” the author of Mark consciously imitated LXX descriptions of the growth of thorns. There are three examples in LXX where the verb ἀναβαίνειν (anabainein, “to go up,” “to ascend”) is used in conjunction with the noun ἄκανθα (“thorn”):

καὶ ἐξαρθήσονται βωμοὶ Ων, ἁμαρτήματα τοῦ Ισραηλ· ἄκανθαι καὶ τρίβολοι ἀναβήσονται ἐπὶ τὰ θυσιαστήρια αὐτῶν· καὶ ἐροῦσιν τοῖς ὄρεσιν Καλύψατε ἡμᾶς, καὶ τοῖς βουνοῖς Πέσατε ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς

And altars of On, the sins of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorns [ἄκανθαι] and thistles shall grow up [ἀναβήσονται] on their altars. And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us. (Hos. 10:8; NETS)

καὶ ἀνήσω τὸν ἀμπελῶνά μου καὶ οὐ μὴ τμηθῇ οὐδὲ μὴ σκαφῇ, καὶ ἀναβήσεται εἰς αὐτὸν ὡς εἰς χέρσον ἄκανθα

And I will abandon my vineyard, and it shall not be pruned or dug, and a thorn [ἄκανθα] shall come up [ἀναβήσεται] into it as into a wasteland…. (Isa. 5:6; NETS)

ἡ γῆ τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἄκανθα καὶ χόρτος ἀναβήσεται, καὶ ἐκ πάσης οἰκίας εὐφροσύνη ἀρθήσεται

As for the land of my people, thorns [ἄκανθα] and grass will come up [ἀναβήσεται], and joy will be removed from every house. (Isa. 32:13; NETS)

The author of Mark might have had any or all of these verses in mind when he changed Luke’s καὶ συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι (“and the thorns growing with [the seed]”) to καὶ ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι (“and the thorns went up”). The author of Mark would have been familiar with Hos. 10:8, since it is quoted in Luke 23:30. We also know that the author of Mark was acquainted with Isaiah’s song of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7), for he changed the wording of his source to bring out the allusion to this passage in Mark 12:1. But a Markan allusion in the Four Soils parable to Isa. 32:13 is also possible.[118] In any case, we regard Mark’s wording in L46 as the product of his own literary creativity rather than the reflection of a pre-synoptic source. The author of Matthew, as usual in the Four Soils parable, copied the wording of Mark.

L47 καὶ συνέπνιξαν αὐτό (Mark 4:7). In place of Luke’s ἀπέπνιξαν (apepnixan, “they strangled”) the author of Mark wrote συνέπνιξαν (sunepnixan, “they strangled”). Such exchange of synonymous terms is typical of the author of Mark’s paraphrasing of Luke’s wording. The verb συμπνίγειν (sūmpnigein, “to strangle”) does not occur in LXX, and elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels the only place συμπνίγειν appears with the meaning “to strangle” is in the Lukan, Markan and Matthean versions of the Four Soils interpretation.[119] As in L41, where the author of Mark added the reference to the lack of root in order to conform the parable to the interpretation, the author of Mark likely made this change in order to standardize the vocabulary used in the parable and in its interpretation.[120]

ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό (GR). Although in Codex Vaticanus both Matthew and Luke read ἀπέπνιξαν (apepnixan, “they strangled”), according to the critical editions Matthew reads ἔπνιξαν (epnixan, “they strangled”).[121] Since using a simple verb instead of a compound form is not a stylistic improvement, and since the natural tendency would be toward standardization of the vocabulary across the parable and its interpretation, it is possible that the author of Matthew copied the simple verb πνίγειν (pnigein, “to strangle”) from Anth.[122] Moreover, Luke’s compound verb ἀποπνίγειν (apopnigein, “to strangle”) could easily be explained as the First Reconstructor’s replacement of the simple πνίγειν, since we have noted similar FR replacements of simple verbs with compound forms in L33 and L46. Against this conclusion, however, is the fact that a different compound verb, συμπνίγειν (sūmpnigein, “to strangle”), occurs in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation. Since we cannot understand why the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke would have intentionally created a verbal disagreement between the Four Soils parable and the Four Soils interpretation, it seems probable that ἀποπνίγειν occurred in Anth. We face the same problem trying to explain why the author of Matthew would have written πνίγειν in the Four Soils parable but συμπνίγειν in the Four Soils interpretation, but it would make sense for him to have written ἀποπνίγειν (the reading of Vaticanus) if this had been what the author of Matthew had read in Anth. To our mind, this lends support for the Lukan-Matthean agreement in L47 according to Codex Vaticanus.

חָנְקוּ אוֹתוֹ (HR). Verbs for “strangle” in MT and rabbinic sources are formed from the root ח-נ-ק. In the description of Ahitophel’s suicide we find the verb נֶחְנַק (neḥnaq, “be strangled,” “strangle oneself”; 2 Sam. 17:23), which the LXX translators rendered as ἀπάγχεσθαι (apanchesthai, “to be hanged”); and in Nahum’s description of lions strangling their prey we encounter the verb חִנֵּק (ḥinēq; Nah. 2:13), which in LXX was translated with ἀποπνίγειν (apopnigein, “to strangle”), the verb we have accepted for GR. For HR we have used a qal form of ח-נ-ק, since in MH ח-נ-ק appears to have been used more commonly in the qal than in the pi‘el stem.[123]

L48 καὶ καρπὸν οὐκ ἔδωκεν (Mark 4:7). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit Mark’s statement that “it did not give fruit” is a strong indication that these words did not appear in Anth. Mark’s addition, with its un-Hebraic word order, appears to have been inspired by the statement καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν (“and they do not bear ripe fruit”), which describes the seed among the thorns in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation (Luke 8:14). Thus, once more we find that the author of Mark imported vocabulary and concepts from the Four Soils interpretation into the parable itself.

Seed-in-Good-Soil Scenario

The seed-in-good-soil scenario depicted in a stained glass window. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L49 καὶ ἄλλα ἔπεσεν (Mark 4:8). Whereas in L33 and L44 the author of Mark had used the singular ἄλλο (allo, “another”), in the seed-in-good-soil scenario the author of Mark used the plural ἄλλα (alla, “others”).[124] Mark’s change to the plural prepares the way for the different yields of thirty-, sixty-, and a hundredfold that these “others” produced. Thus, whereas Luke’s version of the parable contrasts three hostile environments to one hospitable environment, Mark’s version of the parable contrasts six groupings of seed, three of which landed in different hostile environments and produced no fruit, and three of which landed in a hospitable environment and produced increasingly impressive amounts of fruit.

καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν (GR). GR and HR in L49 are identical to those in L33 and L44.

L50 εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν (Mark 4:8). The author of Mark substituted Luke’s adjective ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”) with the synonym καλός (kalos, “beautiful,” “good”). While paraphrasing Luke’s wording was typical of the author of Mark’s editorial style, it is no accident that in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation we find ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ (en tē kalē gē, “in the good earth”; Luke 8:15).[125] Yet again the author of Mark imported the vocabulary of the parable’s interpretation into the parable itself. The author of Matthew followed Mark in using the adjective καλός, but he changed Mark’s preposition, εἰς (eis, “into”), to ἐπί (epi, “upon”). We noted above, in Comment to L45, that, with the exception of the first scenario, the author of Matthew saw to it that all the prepositions describing the location of the fallen seed were ἐπί. We must note, however, that in Mark’s version of the Four Soils interpretation we find ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν (Mark 4:20), so the Markan wording of the interpretation likely provided further impetus for the author of Matthew’s decision to write ἐπί in L50.

εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθὴν (GR). Since we can see no reason why the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor would have intentionally created a conflict, however slight, between the wording in the parable and the wording in the interpretation, we believe that εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν (eis tēn gēn tēn agathēn, “into the good land”) accurately reflects the wording of Anth. Moreover, the word order is highly Hebraic, so no stylistic polishing of Luke’s Greek can be detected.

בָּאֲדָמָה הַטּוֹבָה (HR). In LXX γῆ (, “land,” “earth”) is usually the translation of אֶרֶץ (’eretz, “land,” “earth”),[126] but there are plenty of instances where γῆ is the translation of אֲדָמָה (adāmāh, “ground”). Moreover, there are three instances in MT where the phrase הָאֲדָמָה הַטּוֹבָה (hā’adāmāh haṭōvāh, “the good ground”) occurs (Josh. 23:13, 15; 1 Kgs. 14:15), and in the first two of these instances the LXX translators rendered this phrase as ἡ γῆ ἡ ἀγαθή (hē gē hē agathē, “the good land”). While הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה (hā’āretz haṭōvāh, “the good land”) is also a possible reconstruction,[127] in the context of the Four Soils parable אֲדָמָה (“ground”) is a more natural option than אֶרֶץ (“land”). On reconstructing ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”) with טוֹב (ṭōv, “good”), see Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L13.

L51 καὶ φυὲν (GR). Luke’s καὶ φυέν in L51 has no parallel in the Markan or Matthean versions, but since it fits the pattern of the scenarios (cf. GR in L36-37 and L46), we have accepted Luke’s wording for GR.

וְעָלָה (HR). On reconstructing φύειν (fūein, “to grow,” “to come up”) with עָלָה (‘ālāh, “go up”; of plants, “sprout”), see above, Comment to L37.

L52 ἐποίησεν καρπὸν (GR). For “producing fruit” the author of Luke used the verb ποιεῖν (poiein, “to make”), whereas the authors of Mark and Matthew used the verb διδόναι (didonai, “to give”). Which reading to accept for GR cannot be decided on the basis of which is more Hebraic, since both עָשָׂה פְּרִי (‘āsāh peri, “it made fruit”), the equivalent of Luke’s ἐποίησεν καρπόν (epoiēsen karpon, “it made fruit”), and נָתַן פְּרִי (nātan peri, “it gave fruit”), the equivalent of Mark and Matthew’s ἐδίδου καρπόν (edidou karpon, “it was giving fruit”), are attested in MT.[128] It may weigh somewhat in Luke’s favor, however, to note that whereas we find no examples in the Mishnah of נָתַן פְּרִי in the sense of “produce fruit,” עָשָׂה פְּרִי does occur with this meaning (cf., e.g., m. Kil. 6:5; m. Ohol. 18:3). Likewise, the fact that ἐδίδου καρπόν (“it was giving fruit”) occurs in the imperfect tense weighs somewhat against Mark and Matthew’s wording. More importantly, in the Synoptic Gospels διδόναι + καρπός is found exclusively in the Markan and Matthean versions of the Four Soils parable (Matt. 13:8; Mark 4:7, 8), while ποιεῖν + καρπός occurs with Lukan-Matthean agreement in DT pericopae,[129] indicating that at least these instances of ποιεῖν + καρπός can be traced back to Anth.[130] Since ποιεῖν + καρπός is known to have occurred in Anth., we find it that much more credible to suppose that Luke’s ἐποίησεν καρπόν in the Four Soils parable preserves (via FR) the wording of Anth. Mark’s ἐδίδου καρπόν is simply a paraphrase of Luke’s wording that was picked up by the author of Matthew.

וְעָשָׂה פְּרִי (HR). In LXX ποιεῖν + καρπός serves as the translation of עָשָׂה פְּרִי in Gen. 11:11, 12; 4 Kgdms. 19:30; Ps. 106[107]:37; Jer. 12:2; 17:8; Ezek. 17:23. Most instances of καρπός (karpos, “fruit”) in LXX are the translation of פְּרִי (peri, “fruit”),[131] and the majority of instances of פְּרִי in MT were rendered by the LXX translators as καρπός.[132]

L53 ἀναβαίνοντα καὶ αὐξανόμενα (Mark 4:8). Mark’s “going up and growing,” which is out of sequence from the point of view of plot development, finds no support in the Lukan or Matthean versions of the parable. Along with other scholars, we regard these words as a Markan addition to the parable.[133]

L54 καὶ εὗρεν (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s “and it was bearing” strongly suggests that it did not occur in Anth., and the imperfect tense of the verb looks Markan.[134] Nevertheless, we cannot help but wonder whether Mark’s “and it was bearing” preserves a faint echo of the wording of Anth. As we will discuss below (see Comment to L57), Luke’s ἑκατονταπλασείονα (hekatontaplaseiona, “one hundred times”) has a strong claim to originality, since it appears to preserve a non-Septuagintal allusion to the story of divine blessing of Isaac’s harvest (Gen. 26:12).[135] According to that story, Isaac discovered that the seed he had sown produced a hundredfold return (וַיִּמְצָא בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים [“and he found in that year a hundred measures”] = καὶ εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἐνιαυτῷ ἐκείνῳ ἑκατοστεύουσαν κριθήν [“and in that year [he] found barley bearing a hundredfold”; NETS]). Neither Mark nor Matthew understood this allusion, and so we find the author of Mark amplifying the conclusion of the Four Soils parable by mentioning differing grades of seed that produced increasing amounts of grain, and the author of Matthew adapting Mark’s amplification. We suspect that the biblical allusion was not recognized by the First Reconstructor either, who omitted the phrase καὶ εὗρεν (kai hevren, “and he found”) when he paraphrased Anth. In this way the First Reconstructor kept the focus on the seed and its yield, but he unintentionally obscured the allusion to Gen. 26:12. The author of Luke followed FR in the omission of καὶ εὗρεν, for unlike the author of Matthew, the author of Luke did not attempt to reconcile the wording of his parallel sources. The author of Mark saw καὶ εὗρεν in Anth., but decided, in keeping with Luke’s version, to keep the focus on the seed and therefore wrote in its place καὶ ἔφερεν (kai eferen, “and it was bearing”), which even sounds like Anth.’s καὶ εὗρεν. The author of Matthew, seeing καὶ ἔφερεν in Mark and καὶ εὗρεν in Anth., decided that neither phrase was necessary in his retelling of the parable. That, at least, is how we imagine the process of transmission might have happened.

וּמָצָא (HR). On reconstructing εὑρίσκειν (hevriskein, “to find”) with מָצָא (mātzā’, “find”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L5.

L55-57 εις τριάκοντα καὶ εν ἑξήκοντα καὶ εν ἑκατόν (Mark 4:8). There is a great deal of textual inconsistency regarding Mark’s description of the yield, and there is also great uncertainty as to interpretation. Did the original text read εις τριάκοντα καὶ εν ἑξήκοντα καὶ εν ἑκατόν, as in Codex Vaticanus, or was the word εν found before “thirty,” “sixty” and “one hundred” in all three cases, as in the critical editions?[136] And are we to regard εις and/or εν as cardinals (i.e., εἷς [heis, “one”] and/or ἕν [hen, “one”]) or as prepositions (i.e., εἰς [eis, “into”] and/or ἐν [en, “in”])? The MSS are ambiguous, since they are without rough and smooth breathing marks.[137] Allen and many scholars after him have argued that ἕν ([hen, “one”]) is the original reading in all three instances and that ἕν is a literal translation of the Aramaic idiom חַד + cardinal, which is used to express “x-fold” (e.g., חַד שִׁבְעָה [ḥad shiv‘āh, “sevenfold”; Dan. 3:19).[138] Additional examples of this idiom are found in the Elephantine Papyri (חד אלף [“a thousandfold”])[139] and in a Targum (חַד מְאָה [“a hundredfold”; to Gen. 26:12]).[140] Other scholars, however, have argued on the basis of “Semitic” usage that the correct reading is ἐν (en, “in”), since -בְּ can be used in the sense of “at the rate of.”[141] More recently, Buth has pointed out that ἐν + cardinal could be used in Koine Greek in the sense of “amounting to,”[142] so there is no need to conjecture an Aramaic or “Semitic” background to Mark 4:8 at all. In any case, we regard Mark’s “thirtyfold,” “sixtyfold,” and “one hundredfold” as a secondary Markan elaboration of the parable.

Note that the progression “thirty→sixty→one hundred” is rather unusual. We might have expected “thirty→sixty→ninety” (regular increments of thirty) or “thirty→sixty→one hundred twenty” (doubling each time), and indeed the Gospel of Thomas changed the climax of the parable to “it bore sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure” (Gos. Thom. §9 [ed. Guillaumont, 7]).[143] Although we regard “one hundredfold” as the only original reading, this cannot explain why Mark chose such an unusual progression, since he could have written “fifty→seventy-five→one hundred” or “twenty-five→fifty→one hundred.” Perhaps the author of Mark simply enjoyed giving his readers a jolt.

L57 ἑκατονταπλασείονα (GR). As we saw above in Comment to L54, in the story of the divine blessing of Isaac’s harvest we read וַיִּמְצָא בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים (“and he found in that year a hundred measures”), meaning that Isaac’s crop gave a yield of a hundredfold. The LXX translators rendered the phrase מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים (mē’āh she‘ārim, “a hundred measures”) with the participle ἑκατοστεύουσαν (hekatostevousan, “producing a hundredfold”). Luke 8:8, on the other hand, has the adjective ἑκατονταπλασίων (hekatontaplasiōn, “a hundred times as much”),[144] which means that if Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable does indeed allude to the story in Genesis, it did not allude to the LXX version of that story.[145]

That an allusion to the story of Isaac was, indeed, intended is likely, given the exposition of this story that was current in rabbinic circles. According to the rabbinic sages, the hundredfold return of Isaac’s seed was a result of the patriarch’s hearing God’s word and acting upon it:

ר′ דוסתאי בי ר′ יניי אמ′ משם ר′ מאיר הרי הוא או′ ביצחק וברכתיך והרבתי את זרעך בעבור אברהם עבדי דרש יצחק ואמ′ הואיל ואין הברכה שורה אלא על מעשה בידי עימד וזרע שנ′ ויזרע יצחק בארץ ההיא וימצא בשנה ההיא מאה שערים מאה מנין מאה שערים מאה דגנים מאה שערים ששערו מאה פעמים ונמצא על אחד במה ששיערו

Rabbi Dosetai ben Rabbi Yannai said in the name of Rabbi Meir, “Behold, it says with respect to Isaac, And I will bless you and cause your seed to increase for the sake of Abraham, my servant [Gen. 26:24]. Isaac expounded this Scripture and said, ‘Since no blessing comes to rest except through the work of my hands….’ He stood up and sowed, as it is said, And Isaac sowed in that land and he found in that year a hundred measures [Gen. 26:12]—a hundred in number. A hundred measures—a hundred piles of grain. A hundred measures—[it means that] they measured it a hundred times.[146] It was found concerning one [measure that had been sown] a hundred [measures] when they measured it.” (t. Ber. 6:8; Vienna MS)

During the first century C.E. there was a debate among the Jewish sages over whether study or deeds ought to take precedence.[147] Whereas the rabbinic sages tended to favor Torah study, which they argued would lead to deeds, the Hasidim favored deeds, which they contended were often ignored in favor of study. Jesus’ opinion, as we see from statements such as “Blessed are the ones hearing the word of God and keeping it” (Luke 11:28; cf. Luke 8:21), was aligned with that of the Hasidim.

This prioritization of deeds over study found expression in the rabbinic midrash on the story of Isaac quoted above, and it is possible that Jesus was acquainted with an early form of this midrash and alluded to it at the conclusion of the Four Soils parable.[148] As Jesus’ exhortation to those “with ears to hear” delivered at the end of the parable, and his subsequent explanation of the parable, make clear, the Four Soils parable concerns different types of hearers. Some never listen, some listen but give in to temptation, some listen but are distracted by mundane concerns, but others hear and obey—just as Isaac heard God’s promise and decided to act, according to the rabbinic midrash.

The story of Isaac’s harvest and the interpretive lens through which it was viewed in ancient Jewish tradition cohere so well with the message of the Four Soils parable that it is difficult to imagine that an allusion to Gen. 26:12 was not intended in the original form of Jesus’ parable. It is simply incredible to suppose that the author of Luke accidentally came up with an ending to the Four Soils parable that only appears to allude to the story in Genesis, and that the way this pseudo-allusion lines up perfectly with ancient midrashic interpretations is merely happenstance.

Since the hundredfold harvest described in the parable is almost certainly an allusion to Gen. 26:12, the large amount of space dedicated in some commentaries to the question of whether a hundredfold return is realistic or miraculous or a covert reference to the eschatological harvest is beside the point.[149] The point of mentioning the size of the yield was not to compare it to that of typical Galilean harvests, but, by alluding to Gen. 26:12, to indicate what type of hearing is likely to bear fruit (viz., hearing that is translated into action) and to challenge listeners to become that kind of hearer.

L57-59 ὃ μὲν ἑκατόν ὃ δὲ ἑξήκοντα ὃ δὲ τριάκοντα (Matt. 13:8). Matthew’s “one a hundred, one sixty, and one thirty” mirrors Mark’s expansion at the end of the Four Soils parable, but the descending order is anticlimactic. Why, then, would the author of Matthew have reversed Mark’s order? The explanation that most recommends itself to us is that in Anth., as in Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable, only the hundredfold return was mentioned. In order to reconcile Anth.’s version of the parable with Mark’s, the author of Matthew decided to mention the hundredfold return first.[150]

L60 ταῦτα λέγων ἐφώνει (Luke 8:8). Luke’s introduction to the concluding exhortation, “these things saying, he shouted,” is un-Hebraic. Since in the Synoptic Gospels ταῦτα λέγων + verb is found only in Luke (Luke 8:8; 11:45; cf. Luke 24:40), we suspect this construction was added by the author of Luke or by the First Reconstructor.

καὶ ἔλεγεν (Mark 4:9). We regard Mark’s “and he was saying” as the author of Mark’s paraphrase of Luke’s “these things saying, he shouted.” The author of Mark had repeated recourse to the phrase καὶ ἔλεγεν throughout his parables excursus (see above, Comment to L20).

L61 ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω (GR). The exhortation for those with ears to listen appears in various places in each of the Synoptic Gospels. The only mutually agreed upon placement of this saying is at the conclusion of the Four Soils parable, and this was probably its native context.[151] It is only here, at the end of the parable, that Jesus disclosed to his audience what the parable was about. Jesus usually used parables to drive home his message at the end of a teaching discourse. The Four Soils parable is different in this respect. Jesus’ audience would have recognized the story about the sower whose seed fell into different kinds of soil as a parable, but until they caught the allusion to Gen. 26:12 and heard the closing exhortation they would have had no idea as to what in the real world the parable was analogous. This uncertainty would have drawn in the hearers by piquing their curiosity. Thus, by its very design and delivery the Four Soils parable invited the audience to become the attentive listeners Jesus exhorted them to be at the parable’s end.

The Lukan-Matthean agreement to write ὁ ἔχων (ho echōn, “the one having”) against Mark’s ὃς ἔχει (hos echei, “who has”) assures us that the former was the reading of Anth. On the other hand, we have accepted the infinitive ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) of the Lukan and Markan versions, since the omission of the infinitive in Matthew’s version is best explained as an improvement of the exhortation’s Greek style. “Ears to hear” and “eyes to see” etc. is perfectly acceptable in Hebrew, but rather odd for Greek, though such constructions are encountered in LXX.[152]

מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ אָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמוֹעַ יִשְׁמַע (HR). Hebrew has no verb corresponding to ἔχειν (echein, “to have”), so the closest approximation to ὁ ἔχων (ho echōn, “the one having”) is מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ (mi sheyēsh lō, “who that there is to him”).[153] Compare our reconstructions in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L13, L40, and Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L62. On reconstructing ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) with שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L24-25. On reconstructing οὖς (ous, “ear”) with אֹזֶן (’ozen, “ear”), see Blessedness of the Twelve, Comment to L7.

An example of ὦτα ἀκούειν (ōta akouein, “ears to hear”) as the translation of אָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמוֹעַ (’oznayim lishmōa‘, “ears to hear”) is found in Moses’ complaint about Israel’s lack of appreciation for everything God had done for them:

וְלֹא נָתַן יי לָכֶם לֵב לָדַעַת וְעֵינַיִם לִרְאוֹת וְאָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

But the LORD did not give you a heart to know or eyes to see or ears to hear [וְאָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ] until this day. (Deut. 29:3)

καὶ οὐκ ἔδωκεν κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῖν καρδίαν εἰδέναι καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς βλέπειν καὶ ὦτα ἀκούειν ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης

But to this day the Lord God has not given you a heart to know and eyes to see and ears to hear [ὦτα ἀκούειν]. (Deut. 29:3; NETS)[154]

The use of “ears to hear” is also attested in rabbinic sources, such as the following prayer, which the sages imaginatively placed in the mouth of Hannah:

רבונו של עולם כל מה שבראת באשה לא בראת דבר אחד לבטלה עינים לראות ואזנים לשמוע חוטם להריח פה לדבר ידים לעשות בהם מלאכה רגלים להלך בהן דדים להניק בהן דדים הללו שנתת על לבי למה לא להניק בהן תן לי בן ואניק בהן

Master of the world, of all that you have created in a woman you have not created a single one to no purpose: eyes to see, ears to hear [אָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמוֹעַ], nose to smell, mouth to speak, hands with which to do work, feet with which to walk, breasts with which to nurse. But why have you given me these breasts over my heart, if not to nurse with them? Give me a son so that I may nurse with them. (b. Ber. 31b)

Redaction Analysis

The Four Soils parable has come down to us in three canonical versions, none of which depended solely on the Hebraic-Greek source (Anth.) which we believe was an ancestor of all three Synoptic Gospels. While each of the canonical versions of the Four Soils parable departed to greater or lesser degrees from the wording of that pre-synoptic source, we believe all three synoptic evangelists had access to that source. Because the authors of Mark and Matthew occasionally made reference to Anth., the Markan and Matthean versions sometimes preserve an echo of the Hebraic-Greek source more accurately than does the version in Luke. However, on the whole, Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable more closely resembles the Anth. version than do either of the others.

Luke’s Version[155]

Four Soils parable
Luke Anthology
Total
Words:
89 Total
Words:
95
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
71 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Luke:
71
%
Identical
to Anth.:
79.78 % of Anth.
in Luke:
74.74
Click here for details.

We believe the author of Luke altered very little of the wording of his source for the Four Soils parable, but since that source was FR the wording of Luke’s version was often at variance with Anth. Lindsey described FR as a stylistically improved Greek epitome of Anth. The First Reconstructor had selected some of Anth.’s stories and teaching materials and attempted to reassemble them into some sort of cohesive narrative. In the process, the First Reconstructor eliminated some of Anth.’s more glaring Hebraisms and polished its Greek style. We find examples of this procedure in FR’s revisions to the narrative introduction to the Four Soils parable, with its possible elimination of the Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο + time phrase + finite verb construction in the opening line, its use of genitive absolutes (L6-10), the changing of “crowds” to “crowd” (L8), its insertion of κατὰ πόλιν (“each city”; L9), and its description of Jesus’ speaking “through parables” (L18-19).

Regarding the parable proper, the First Reconstructor appears to have adopted a more conservative approach to his source. He probably changed the infinitive σπείρειν (“to sow”) to σπεῖραι (“to sow”) in L24, and ἔπεσεν (“it fell”) to the compound form κατέπεσεν (“it fell down”) in L33. Two somewhat more significant changes the First Reconstructor made to his source were to change φυέν (“growing”) to the compound form συμφυεῖσαι (“growing with”) in L46 and to eliminate καὶ εὗρεν (“and he found”) in L54. The change in L46 not only introduced a compound verb, it also shifted the action onto the destroying agent and slightly away from the seed, thereby altering the locationinitial responseultimate fate pattern that characterizes the other three scenarios in the Lukan version of the Four Soils parable. The omission of “and he found” in L54 kept the focus on the seed instead of returning to the sower, as we believe was the case in Anth.’s version of the parable, and partly obscured the allusion to Gen. 26:12, which the First Reconstructor probably failed to recognize.

Finally, it appears that the First Reconstructor added the introduction “saying these things, he shouted” (L60) before the exhortation at the end of the parable.

Mark’s Version[156]

Four Soils parable
Mark Anthology
Total
Words:
153 Total
Words:
95
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
51 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Mark:
51
%
Identical
to Anth.:
33.33 % of Anth.
in Mark:
53.68
Click here for details.

The Markan version of the Four Soils parable is such a thorough reworking of Luke’s version that it will only be possible to highlight the most significant or unusual of the author of Mark’s editorial decisions. First, the author of Mark gave the Four Soils parable an entirely new geographical setting (“by the sea”; L5; cf. L14, L16), modeling his narrative introduction on Luke’s account of the call of Jesus’ first disciples (Luke 5:2-3). Second, in the parable proper the author of Mark changed the structure of the first three scenarios from locationinitial responseultimate fate to location → arrival of destroying agent → result, thereby shifting the focus from the seed toward the causes of calamity. In order to achieve this change, the author of Mark eliminated the trampling of the seed from the first scenario (L29), and he introduced the sun as a destroying agent in the second scenario (L39-40), which he probably picked up from the Epistle of James (cf. James 1:11). Third, the author of Mark imposed a symmetry onto the parable by describing three groups of productive seed (those that produced thirty-, sixty-, and a hundredfold, respectively) to balance the three groups of unproductive seed described in the first three scenarios of the parable. Fourth, the author of Mark aimed to conform the parable more closely to the Four Soils interpretation by importing vocabulary and concepts from the interpretation and inserting them into the parable itself.

Despite the pervasiveness of Markan redaction in the Four Soils parable, there are a few places where the author of Mark may have preserved echoes of Anth.’s version that are absent in the version in Luke. Mark’s καὶ ἐγένετο in L26, for instance, might be a reminiscence of an original καὶ ἐγένετο at L1. Likewise, Mark’s καὶ ἔφερεν (“and it was bearing”) might be a faint echo of the similar sounding καὶ εὗρεν (“and he found”) at the same point in Anth. (L54). In the final analysis, however, Mark’s version of the Four Soils parable is of extremely limited value for recovering the wording of Anth.

Matthew’s Version[157]

Four Soils parable
Matthew Anthology
Total
Words:
132 Total
Words:
95
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
55 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Matt.:
55
%
Identical
to Anth.:
41.67 % of Anth.
in Matt.:
57.89
Click here for details.

The Matthean version of the Four Soils parable is deeply indebted to the version in Mark, and most of the differences between the two can be explained as literary and stylistic improvements made by the author of Matthew. The author of Matthew eliminated redundant (L16, L21, L48), awkward (L14, L53, L61) or superfluous (L22, L60) wording, and he paraphrased with more elegant Greek (L17, L30, L39, L57-59). His observation of the absence of some of Mark’s details in Anth.’s version of the parable may have emboldened the author of Matthew to trim away some of what he evidently regarded as Mark’s excesses. Changing the pronouns and adjectives in L28, L32, L33, L44 and L47 from singular to plural was a stylistic improvement of Mark’s wording, as was ensuring that the prepositions at the opening of the second, third and fourth scenarios were ἐπί (L34, L45, L50), and likewise using δέ in L33, L44 and L49 to match the μέν in L28. The author of Matthew also modified the narrative introduction of the parable in order to connect it to the events that preceded it in his Gospel (L2).

There are several instances of Matthew’s independence from the Markan and Lukan versions that may reflect the wording of Anth.: ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ in L1; συνήχθησαν in L6; ὄχλοι πολλοί in L8; λέγων in L20; and σπείρειν in L24. Likewise, Matthew’s reversal of Mark’s ascending order of “thirty→sixty→one hundred” probably owes something to Anth., which only mentioned a hundredfold return of the seed. For the purposes of reconstructing the pre-synoptic version of the parable, however, the main value of Matthew’s version lies in its confirmation of the wording in Luke. The Lukan-Matthean “minor agreements” against Mark (L8, L24, L27, L47, L61) afford us the greatest certainty regarding the wording of the earliest Greek version of the parable.

Results of This Research

1. Is the Four Soils parable semi-autobiographical, in other words, Jesus’ personal reflection on the failures and successes of his career? Some scholars have suggested that Jesus told the Four Soils parable about himself:[158] Jesus saw himself as often unsuccessful in propagating his message, but the successes made up for his failures. However, if we are correct that the parable originally alluded to Gen. 26:12, then if the sower must be identified with anyone, he must be identified with Isaac. While the parable might be secondarily applicable to Jesus’ experience, the original purpose of the parable was to challenge hearers of God’s word to act according to his commands, since the promises only find fulfillment when the recipients act in accordance with their belief that the promises are true.

2. Was the Four Soils parable intended to be an exhortation to preachers of the Gospel, encouraging them to continue despite apparent failures? Once again we encounter a secondary application of the parable. Preachers do indeed become discouraged, and it is heartening to recall that when a single hearer is inspired to put the word of God into faithful action because of a preacher’s exhortation this success more than compensates for the many times his or her preaching fell on deaf ears. But as we stated above, the original purpose of the parable was not to console deflated preachers, it was to create productive hearers.

3. Does the Four Soils parable depict the sower as a careless or unskillful farmer? There has been a great deal of discussion about the sower’s agricultural methods.[159] Was he wasteful with his seed?[160] Was he negligent in his plowing and weeding responsibilities? Did he have exceptionally bad aim? The parable does not address any of these concerns, and it is hazardous to read anything into the parable that is not explicitly stated. Since the parable does not state otherwise, it is best to assume that the sower followed normal agricultural procedures. When scattering seed, some of it inevitably falls into inhospitable or even hostile environments. There is no reason to suppose that the sower sowed extravagantly or that he was sloppy in his work. What happened to the seeds in the parable is what anyone would have expected: the seeds that landed in hostile environments failed to become productive, while those that landed in good soil flourished. It is the application of the parable that gives it significance. Just as the only seeds that are of value to the farmer are those that bear fruit, so only those hearers who combine listening with faithful action help to advance the Kingdom of Heaven.

4. Ought we to conclude that as much as three-quarters of the seed was wasted? No. There are no indications of proportion in the Lukan or Matthean versions of the parable.[161] Mark’s version could be read as though it described the fate of individual seeds, three that fell into hostile environments and three that fell in good soil. But who ever heard of a farmer who sowed his field with six seeds?[162] Since we are not told otherwise, it is best to assume that the proportion of seed to fall on the good soil was the average amount, in other words, the vast majority. But proportionality was not the point of the parable. The point was to inspire hearers to become like the seed that fell on good soil by putting their hearing into faithful action.

Conclusion

The Four Soils parable drew hearers in with its vivid descriptions of how the seeds that fell into different environments fared. It also drew them in by causing them to wonder what real life situation the parable illustrated. Jesus’ audience had to listen carefully and thoughtfully if they wanted to catch the point of his parable. The audience must have felt a rush of pleasure and satisfaction when they realized that the parable was about the right way to listen—the very thing they had been doing before they figured out what the parable was about.

Medieval illustration of the Parable of the Sower. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



Click here to return to “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” main page. _______________________________________________________
  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] The reconstruction of the Four Soils parable that Flusser and Lindsey produced was published in David Flusser, “The Parables of Jesus and the Parables in Rabbinic Literature,” in his Jewish Sources in Early Christianity: Studies and Essays (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1979 [in Hebrew]), 150-209, esp. 184.
  • [4] The English translation of the Flusser-Lindsey reconstruction of the Four Soils parable is our own—DNB and JNT.
  • [5] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [6] Elsewhere we have observed that the author of Luke occasionally inserted a saying from one source into a block of material from another source. This was the case with Tower Builder and King Going to War (from FR), which the author of Luke inserted into an Anth. context (Demands of Discipleship). Likewise, the author of Luke inserted FR’s version of the Lord’s Prayer into a block of material he copied from Anth. See the introduction to the “How to Pray” complex.
  • [7] On the small collections of sayings we refer to as “strings of pearls” scattered about in Luke’s Gospel as stemming from FR, see the LOY Excursus: Sources of the “Strings of Pearls” in Luke’s Gospel.
  • [8] In the Gospel of Thomas we read:

    Jesus said: See, the sower went out, he filled his hand, he threw. Some (seeds) fell on the road; the birds came, they gathered them. Others fell on the rock and did not strike root in the earth and did not produce ears. And others fell on the thorns; they choked the seed and the worm ate them. And others fell on the good earth; and it brought forth good fruit; it bore sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure. (Gos. Thom. §9 [ed. Guillaumont, 7])

  • [9] Justin Martyr quotes a version of the Four Soils parable as follows:

    ὡς ὁ ἐμὸς κύριος εἶπεν ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον καὶ ὁ μὲν ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν ὁδὸν ὁ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλήν.

    As my Lord said, “The sower went out to sow the seed. And some fell into the path, and some into the thorns, and some upon the rocky [places], and some upon the good land.” (Dial. §125 [ed. Trollope, 2:113])

    Justin’s version combines elements from all three synoptic versions: τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον (“to sow the seed”; Luke 8:5); εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας (“into the thorns”; Mark 4:7); ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη (“upon the rocky [places]”; Matt. 13:5). Unlike any synoptic version, Justin’s version of the Four Soils parable has εἰς τὴν ὁδόν (“into the path”), and the order of rock and thorns is inverted.

  • [10] In LXX the phrase ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ occurs as the translation of בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא in Gen. 15:18; 26:32; 30:35; 33:16; 48:20; Exod. 8:18; 13:8; 14:30; Lev. 27:23; Num. 9:6; 32:10; Deut. 21:23; 27:11; 31:17 (2xx), 18; Josh. 8:25; 9:27; 10:28, 35; 24:25; Judg. 3:30; 4:23; 5:1; 6:32; 20:15, 21, 26, 35, 46; 1 Kgdms. 3:2, 12; 4:12; 6:15; 7:6, 10; 8:18; 9:24; 10:9; 12:18; 14:18, 23, 24, 31, 37; 20:26; 21:8, 11; 22:18, 22; 27:6; 31:6; 2 Kgdms. 2:17; 3:37; 6:9; 11:12; 18:7, 8; 19:3 (2xx), 4; 23:10; 24:18; 3 Kgdms. 13:3; 16:16; 22:25, 35; 4 Kgdms. 3:6; 1 Chr. 13:12; 16:7; 2 Chr. 18:24, 34; 35:16; 2 Esd. 22:43, 44; 23:1; Hos. 1:5; Amos 8:13; 9:11; Mic. 2:4; 4:6; Joel 4:18; Zeph. 3:11; Hag. 2:23; Zech. 2:15; 3:10; 6:10; 9:16; 11:11; 12:3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11; 13:1, 2, 4; 14:4, 8, 9, 13, 20, 21; Isa. 2:11, 17; 3:7, 18; 5:30; 7:18, 20, 21, 23; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 12:1, 4; 17:4; 19:21; 22:12, 20, 25; 23:15; 27:12, 13; 29:18; 52:6; Jer. 30:16 [49:22]; 37[30]:8; 46[39]:17; Ezek. 29:21; 30:9; 38:10, 14, 18, 19; 39:11. Cf. Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L119-120.
  • [11] See Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L1.
  • [12] See “Jesus and a Canaanite Woman,” Comment to L4; Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L36.
  • [13] See Davies-Allison, 2:377; Witherington, 261.
  • [14] See Allen, 142.
  • [15] See Taylor, 251; Guelich, 189; Marcus, 1:293.
  • [16] LHNS, 71 §90.
  • [17] According to Lindsey, reusing Lukan material that the author of Mark had omitted in the course of paraphrasing Lukan pericopae was typical of the author of Mark’s editorial method. See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups.”
  • [18] See Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [19] See LHNS, 71 §90.
  • [20] See R. Steven Notley, “The Sea of Galilee: Development of an Early Christian Toponym,” Journal of Biblical Literature 128.1 (2009): 183-188, esp. 185.
  • [21] Signs of Greek stylistic improvement in Luke 8:4 include refined vocabulary (viz., συνεῖναι in L6) and the use of Greek grammatical constructions such as κατὰ πόλιν (kata polin, “each city”; L9) and the genitive absolute (συνιόντος δὲ ὄχλου πολλοῦ; L6, L8; τῶν κατὰ πόλιν ἐπιπορευομένων; L9-10). The phrase διὰ παραβολῆς (L19) is unique to Luke 8:4 within the synoptic tradition.
  • [22] See Creed, 114. In LXX συνεῖναι is quite rare, occurring mainly in books not composed in Hebrew (1 Esd. 6:2; 8:50; 2 Macc. 9:4) or in places where it lacks a Hebrew equivalent (Ps. 57[58]:10 [Vaticanus]; Prov. 5:19). In Jer. 3:20 εἰς τὸν συνόντα αὐτῇ (“toward her mate”) is the translation of מֵרֵעָהּ (“from her friend”). See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1313.
  • [23] On the author of Mark’s use of the historical present, see “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [24] In LXX καὶ συνήχθησαν is the translation of וַיֵּאָסְפוּ in Judg. 9:6; 20:14; 2 Kgdms. 10:15; 23:11; 2 Chr. 30:13; 2 Esd. 18:1; 22:28. Cf. 2 Esd. 9:4; 18:13; Ps. 34[35]:15 (2xx); 103[104]:22.
  • [25] In LXX καὶ συνήχθησαν is the translation of וַיִּקָּבְצוּ in 1 Kgdms. 7:6; 2 Chr. 13:7; 15:10; 2 Esd. 10:9.
  • [26] We have reconstructed συνάγειν with הִכְנִיס in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, L16, and Darnel Among the Wheat, L34.
  • [27] See Dos Santos, 14.
  • [28] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1307-1309.
  • [29] In LXX we encounter κατὰ πόλιν καὶ κατὰ πόλιν (lit., “each city and each city”) as the translation of וּבְכָל עִיר וָעִיר (lit., “and in every city and city”; 2 Chr. 11:12).
  • [30] See Fitzmyer, 1:702; Nolland, Luke, 1:370.
  • [31] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:527.
  • [32] See Taylor, 251; Pryke, 115-119.
  • [33] We encounter ὥστε + infinitive in Luke 4:29; 5:7; 12:1; 20:20; Acts 1:19; 5:15; 14:1; 15:39; 16:26; 19:12, 16.
  • [34] The following table shows the examples of ὥστε + infinitive in the Synoptic Gospels:

    Matt. 8:24 TT = Mark 4:37 (cf. Luke 8:23)

    Matt. 8:28 TT (cf. Mark 5:4; Luke 8:[–])

    Matt. 10:1 TT (cf. Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1)

    Matt. 12:22 TT (cf. Mark 3:[–]; Luke 11:14)

    Matt. 13:2 TT = Mark 4:1 (cf. Luke 8:4)

    Matt. 13:32 TT = Mark 4:32 (cf. Luke 13:19)

    Matt. 13:54 TT (cf. Mark 6:2; Luke 4:22)

    Matt. 15:31 Mk-Mt (cf. Mark 7:37)

    Matt. 24:24 TT (cf. Mark 13:22; Luke 21:[–])

    Matt. 27:1 TT (cf. Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66)

    Matt. 27:14 TT = Mark 15:5 (cf. Luke 23:[–])

    Mark 1:27 Lk-Mk (cf. Luke 4:36)

    Mark 1:45 TT (cf. Matt. 8:[–]; Luke 5:15)

    Mark 2:2 TT (cf. Matt. 9:[–]; Luke 5:17)

    Mark 2:12 TT (cf. Matt. 9:8; Luke 5:26)

    Mark 3:10 Lk-Mk (cf. Luke 6:19)

    Mark 3:20 U

    Mark 4:1 TT = Matt. 13:2 (cf. Luke 8:4)

    Mark 4:32 TT = Matt. 13:32 (cf. Luke 13:19)

    Mark 4:37 TT = Matt. 8:24 (cf. Luke 8:23)

    Mark 9:26 TT (cf. Matt. 17:18; Luke 9:42)

    Mark 15:5 TT = Matt. 27:14 (cf. Luke 23:[–])

    Luke 4:29 U

    Luke 5:7 U

    Luke 12:1 U

    Luke 20:20 TT (cf. Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:13)


    Key: TT = verse has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; DT = Lukan-Matthean pericope; Mk-Mt = Markan-Matthean pericope; Lk-Mk = Lukan-Markan pericope; U = verse unique to a particular Gospel

  • [35] On stacked prepositional phrases as typical of Markan redaction, see the LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [36] See Spontaneous Growth, Comment to L4.
  • [37] Cf. Nolland, Matt., 523.
  • [38] See Davies-Allison, 2:377; cf. Luz, 2:233 n. 4.
  • [39] We do not encounter Luke’s εἰπεῖν διὰ παραβολῆς anywhere else in NT, neither does it occur in LXX. See Plummer, Luke, 218.
  • [40] In NT διδάσκειν ἐν παραβολαῖς is unique to Mark 4:2, and it is not found in LXX.
  • [41] In NT we encounter λαλεῖν ἐν παραβολαῖς in Matt. 13:3, 10, 13, 34; Mark 12:1, but never in LXX.
  • [42] See our discussion in Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L19.
  • [43] On reconstructing λέγειν/εἰπεῖν + παραβολή (“to tell a parable”) as מָשַׁל מָשָׁל (“tell a parable”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L8-9.
  • [44] McNeile (185) regarded the πολλά in Matt. 13:3 as adverbial.
  • [45] Davies and Allison regarded the πολλά in Matt. 13:3 as an accusative. See Davies-Allison, 2:377.
  • [46] See “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” in the entry for Mark 4:11; Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L19.
  • [47] See Allen, 143; Plummer, Mark, 120.
  • [48] See Taylor, 251.
  • [49] See Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem,” thesis 7; “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” in the entry for Mark 2:16.
  • [50] See Spontaneous Growth, Comment to L1.
  • [51] See Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L8-9; Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, L1; Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, L3. Cf. Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L1.
  • [52] See Lindsey, GCSG, 1:205.
  • [53] See Snodgrass, 153.
  • [54] See Lindsey, GCSG, 1:440-443.
  • [55] The table below shows all of the instances of ἰδού in Mark and their parallels (if any) in Matthew and Luke:

    Mark 1:2 U (cf. Matt. 11:10; Luke 7:27)

    Mark 3:32 TT = Matt. 12:47 (cf. Luke 8:20)

    Mark 4:3 TT = Matt. 13:3 (cf. Luke 8:5)

    Mark 10:28 TT = Matt. 19:27; Luke 18:28

    Mark 10:33 TT = Matt. 20:18; Luke 18:31

    Mark 14:41 TT = Matt. 26:45 (cf. Luke 22:[–])

    Mark 14:42 TT = Matt. 26:46 (cf. Luke 22:[–])


    Key: TT = verse has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; U = verse unique to a particular Gospel

  • [56] See Young, Parables, 257; R. Steven Notley, “Let the One Who Has Ears to Hear, ‘Hear!’” under the subheading “Hebraisms in Luke’s Version of Jesus’ Parable.”
  • [57] In LXX the noun σπόρος occurs in Exod. 34:21; Lev. 26:5, 20; 27:16; Deut. 11:10; Job 21:8; 39:12; Sir. 40:22; Amos 9:13; Isa. 28:24; 32:10.
  • [58] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1285.
  • [59] See Dos Santos, 56.
  • [60] See Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Critical Notes on VTS” (JS1, 259-327, esp. 269 n. 25); Randall Buth, “Distinguishing Hebrew from Aramaic in Semitized Greek Texts, with an Application for the Gospels and Pseudepigrapha” (JS2, 247-319, esp. 268 n. 47).
  • [61] See Moulton-Howard, 449-450; Moule, 76.
  • [62] See Young, Parables, 257; R. Steven Notley, “Non-Septuagintal Hebraisms in the Third Gospel: An Inconvenient Truth” (JS2, 320-346, esp. 325).
  • [63] See Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L6.
  • [64] See Jastrow, 414.
  • [65] See John Dominic Crossan, “The Seed Parables of Jesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 92.2 (1973): 244-266, esp. 246.
  • [66] For examples of ὅς (hos) used as a demonstrative pronoun, see BDAG, 727.
  • [67] According to scholars, παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν does not convey the meaning “upon the path.” See Moule, 51; Marcus, 1:292; Nolland, Matt., 525.
  • [68] See Charles Cutler Torrey, The Four Gospels: A New Translation (London: Harper and Brothers, 1933), 298; idem, Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1936), 9; Black, 120; Taylor, 252; Jeremias, Parables, 12 n. 4; Beare, Earliest, 108 §90; Guelich, 1:193; Buchanan, 2:589.
  • [69] Similar examples occur in Num. 26:63; 31:12.
  • [70] See McNeile, 187.
  • [71] See Creed, 114.
  • [72] See Theodore J. Weeden, Sr., “Recovering the Parabolic Intent in the Parable of the Sower,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 47.1 (1979): 97-120, esp. 99.
  • [73] Mark’s version does, however, mention that the seed “sprang up” (L37) before the sun arose.
  • [74] In LXX καταπατεῖν translates verbs from the root ד-ר-כ in Judg. 5:21; 9:27 (Alexandrinus); 20:43; Job 28:8 (Sinaiticus); Isa. 63:3 (2xx); πατεῖν translates ד-ר-כ in its various stems in Deut. 11:24; Judg. 9:27; 2 Esd. 23:15; Job 22:15; 28:8; Isa. 16:10; 42:16; Jer. 31[48]:33; Lam. 1:15.
  • [75] In LXX καταπατεῖν translates verbs from the root ר-מ-ס in 2 Chr. 25:18; Ps. 7:6; 90[91]:13; Isa. 16:4; 28:3; 41:25; Ezek. 26:11; 34:18; Dan. 8:10; πατεῖν translates the root ר-מ-ס in Isa. 1:12; 26:6.
  • [76] See Jastrow, 1483.
  • [77] See Young, Parables, 257; Notley, “Let the One Who Has Ears to Hear, ‘Hear!’” under the subheading “Hebraisms in Luke’s Version of Jesus’ Parable.”
  • [78] We have traced τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ to Anth. in Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, L10, and Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, L21.
  • [79] Note that, even according to Codex Vaticanus, Luke read αὐτό in L47 (Luke 8:7), in a spot in the seed-among-thorns scenario parallel to the location of L32, where Vaticanus mistakenly reads αὐτά in the seed-on-the-path scenario.
  • [80] The verb κατεσθίειν occurs over 100xx in LXX books corresponding to those contained in MT.
  • [81] See LSJ, 925.
  • [82] In LXX κατεσθίειν is applied to birds in Gen. 40:17; 3 Kgdms. 12:24 (= 1 Kgs. 14:11); 16:4; Hos. 2:14. See McNeile, 187.
  • [83] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:749-750.
  • [84] On the interchangeability of ἕτερος and ἄλλος in Koine Greek, see James Keith Elliott, “The Use of ἕτερος in the New Testament,” Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenchaft 60.1-2 (1969): 140-141.
  • [85] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:741.
  • [86] See Davies-Allison, 2:383.
  • [87] See McNeile, 187; Young, Parables, 257; Notley, “Let the One Who Has Ears to Hear, ‘Hear!’” under the subheading “Hebraisms in Luke’s Version of Jesus’ Parable”; Randall Buth, Living Koiné Greek: Part Two-b (Jerusalem: Biblical Language Center, 2008), 23.
  • [88] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1129-1130.
  • [89] We find the phrase עַל הַסֶּלַע in m. Shev. 3:3; m. Ter. 8:11; m. Ned. 4:8; m. Zev. 13:3; m. Kel. 6:2.
  • [90] Variant spellings of פִּטְרָה include פִּיטְרָה and פִּיטְרָא. See Jastrow, 1162.
  • [91] See David N. Bivin, “Matthew 16:18: The Petros-petra Wordplay—Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew?” under the subheading “Petra in a Midrash.” Cf. Lightfoot, 2:214.
  • [92] Cf. t. Kil. 1:14, and see Irving Mandelbaum, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: Kilayim (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1982), 65-66, 331 n. 270.
  • [93] See Taylor, 252; Crossan, “The Seed Parables of Jesus,” 245-246; Weeden, “Recovering the Parabolic Intent in the Parable of the Sower,” 99-100.
  • [94] See Taylor, 252.
  • [95] On εὐθύς as a sign of Markan redaction, see Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [96] On the Markan tendency to homogenize the vocabulary within his parables excursus, see Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L11.
  • [97] On καί + participle + aorist as the translation equivalent of vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive, see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L1.
  • [98] Flusser and Lindsey, in their reconstruction, used the verb נָבַט (nāvaṭ, “sprout”), but נָבַט did not have the meaning “sprout” in BH, nor even in MH, according to Jastrow (868), who lists “shine,” “illuminate,” “look at” and “have a vision” for the meaning of the Hebrew verb. Only to the Aramaic נְבַט (nevaṭ) did Jastrow assign the meaning “sprout,” “grow.”
  • [99] See France, Mark, 191; idem, Matt., 504.
  • [100] See Davies-Allison, 2:383.
  • [101] See Gill, 142; Gould, 70; Swete, 73.
  • [102] Cf. Guelich, 194.
  • [103] See Crossan, “The Seed Parables of Jesus,” 245-246; Weeden, “Recovering the Parabolic Intent in the Parable of the Sower,” 99.
  • [104] See Swete, 73.
  • [105] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke.”
  • [106] Cf. France, Mark, 191.
  • [107] Pace, Young, Parables, 256 n. 14, 257.
  • [108] See Dos Santos, 127; cf. Hatch-Redpath, 2:957.
  • [109] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:957.
  • [110] See Dos Santos, 76.
  • [111] Examples of διὰ τό + infinitive are found in Gen. 6:3; 39:9, 23; Exod. 16:8; 17:7; 19:18; 33:3; Deut. 1:27, 36; 4:37; Josh. 5:7; 14:14; 22:19; Judg. 3:12; 1 Kgdms. 15:20; 3 Kgdms. 10:9; 4 Kgdms. 19:28; 1 Chr. 13:10; 2 Chr. 29:36; Isa. 27:11; 36:21; 53:7; 60:9, 15; 63:9; Jer. 9:12; Ezek. 35:10. Examples of διὰ τὸ μή + infinitive include Deut. 28:55; Isa. 5:13; 8:6; Jer. 7:32; 26[46]:19; Ezek. 33:28; 34:5. See our discussion in Friend in Need, Comment to L17.
  • [112] See Dos Santos, 110.
  • [113] See “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L50.
  • [114] See Darnel Among the Wheat, L8.
  • [115] See Zohary, 160; cf. Gloria E. M. Suess, “Enemies of the Harvest,” under the subheading “The Curse of Thistles.”
  • [116] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:43.
  • [117] We have already encountered examples of the First Reconstructor’s habit of changing simple verbs to compound forms in L10 and L33. See above, Comment to L10 and Comment to L33.
  • [118] We wonder whether it is a mere coincidence that both James 1:11, to which the author of Mark alluded in the seed-on-the-rocky-place scenario (see above, Comment to L39-42), and Isa. 32:13 contain references to grass (χόρτος).
  • [119] The verb συμπνίγειν also occurs in Luke 8:42, with the meaning “to press against.”
  • [120] See LHNS, 71 §90.
  • [121] Allen (143) suggested that Vaticanus’ ἀπέπνιξαν could be an assimilation to the more elegant Greek of Luke. Cf. Luz, 2:235 n. 1.
  • [122] The only other instance of πνίγειν in Matthew occurs in the Unforgiving Slave parable (Matt. 18:28). Since the author of Matthew presumably copied Unforgiving Slave from Anth., the appearance of πνίγειν in Matt. 18:28 provides another argument for supposing that πνίγειν occurred in Anth.’s version of the Four Soils parable.
  • [123] Note that Flusser and Lindsey also used חָנַק in their reconstruction of the Four Soils parable (see the Reconstruction subheading above). Young (Parables, 255) also discussed חָנַק as a probable reconstruction for “strangle” in the Four Soils parable.
  • [124] See Crossan, “The Seed Parables of Jesus,” 246.
  • [125] See LHNS, 71 §90.
  • [126] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:240-255.
  • [127] In LXX הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה is translated as τὴν ἀγαθὴν ταύτην γῆν in Deut. 1:35 and as τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθὴν (ταύτην) in Deut. 3:25; 4:22; 6:18; 9:6; 1 Chr. 28:8. We find ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τῆς ἀγαθῆς in Deut. 8:10 as the translation of עַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה, and ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τῆς ἀγαθῆς as the translation of מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה in Deut. 11:17.
  • [128] Examples of נָתַן פְּרִי are found in Lev. 25:19; 26:4, 20; Zech. 8:12; Ps. 1:3. Most of these describe the yield of fruit trees and/or vines, but the example in Lev. 25:19 refers to sown crops. Examples of עָשָׂה פְּרִי are found in Gen. 1:11, 12; 2 Kgs. 19:30; Isa. 37:31; Jer. 12:2; 17:8; Ezek. 17:23; Ps. 107:37. Most of these are likewise descriptive of fruit trees and/or vines, although Ps. 107:37 refers to sown crops and vines.
  • [129] Instances of ποιεῖν + καρπός occur in Matt. 3:8 // Luke 3:8; Matt. 3:10 // Luke 3:9; Matt. 7:18 // Luke 6:43.
  • [130] On the author of Matthew’s tendency to add ποιεῖν + καρπός, see Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L11.
  • [131] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:723-724.
  • [132] See Dos Santos, 171.
  • [133] See Crossan, “The Seed Parables of Jesus,” 246. Lindsey (personal communication) suggested that Mark added αὐξάνειν in order to allude to the three instances of this verb in Acts, where it refers to the word of God’s increasing (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20). Cf. HTGM, 54.
  • [134] On the author of Mark’s redactional preference for imperfect verbs, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [135] See Notley, “Let the One Who Has Ears to Hear, ‘Hear!’” under the subheading “Hebraisms in Luke’s Version of Jesus’ Parable”; Buth, Living Koiné Greek: Part Two-b, 24; Notley-Safrai, 40.
  • [136] See Taylor, 254.
  • [137] See Gould, 77; Metzger, 83.
  • [138] See W. C. Allen, “The Aramaic Element in St. Mark,” Expository Times 13.7 (1902): 328-330; Torrey, The Four Gospels: A New Translation, 298; Black, 90; Jan Joosten, “Varieties of Greek in the Septuagint and the New Testament,” in The New Cambridge History of the Bible (4 vols.; ed. James Carleton Paget, Joachim Schaper et al.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013-2015), 1:22-45, esp. 40-41.
  • [139] Elephantine Papyrus 30 line 3 (ed. Cowley, 112). See A. E. Cowley, ed. and trans., Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923). Cited by Black, 90.
  • [140] See Allen, 143.
  • [141] See C. H. Turner, “Marcan Usage: Notes, Critical and Exegetical, on the Second Gospel [Part 2],” Journal of Theological Studies 26 (1924): 12-20, esp. 17. Cf. Swete, 74; McNeile, 188; Taylor, 254.
  • [142] Unpublished essay. Buth cited the example of ἐν δραχμαῖς ἐννακοσίαις (“amounting to 900 drachmas”), which occurs in a second-century papyrus (Berlin Museum, BGU 970, 14).
  • [143] See Weeden, “Recovering the Parabolic Intent in the Parable of the Sower,” 108, 116; Nolland, Matt., 528.
  • [144] In LXX there is only one instance of ἑκατονταπλασίων, where it is the translation of מֵאָה פְעָמִים (mē’āh pe‘āmim, “one hundred times”; 2 Kgdms. 24:3).
  • [145] See Buth, Living Koiné Greek: Part Two-b, 24.
  • [146] The Hebrew for “they measured it a hundred times” is מֵאָה פְעָמִים (mē’āh pe‘āmim). As we noted in a previous footnote, ἑκατονταπλασίων (hekatontaplasiōn, “a hundred times as much”), the adjective Luke used in the Four Soils parable, occurs only one time in LXX, where it translates the phrase מֵאָה פְעָמִים (2 Kgdms. 24:3).
  • [147] See m. Avot 3:10, representing the Hasidic point of view, in contrast to Sifre Deut. §41 (ed. Finkelstein, 85-86), representing the point of view of the rabbinic mainstream. On the study versus deeds debate, see Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33, esp. 16 n. 11; idem, “Jesus and the Hasidim,” under the subheading “Torah Study”; Notley-Safrai, 22-23.
  • [148] Although the precise formulation of the midrash cited in t. Ber. 6:8 is attributed to Rabbi Meir, it is probable that earlier versions of the midrash existed at the end of the Second Temple period. According to Kister, “aggadic statements in rabbinic literature should be regarded principally as traditions, and the sages to whom these utterances are attributed as tradents of ancient material. Studies that consider rabbinic literature together with writings of the Second Temple period (such as Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Philo, Josephus, and Gospels) validate time and again this assertion.” See Menahem Kister, “Allegorical Interpretations of Biblical Narratives in Rabbinic Literature, Philo, and Origen: Some Case Studies,” in New Approaches to the Study of Biblical Interpretation in Judaism of the Second Temple Period and in Early Christianity (ed. Gary A. Anderson, Ruth A. Clements, and David Satran; Leiden: Brill, 2013), 133-183, quotation on 142.
  • [149] See Fitzmyer, 1:704; Davies-Allison, 2:385; Nolland, Luke, 1:372. Ancient sources that are regularly cited in the discussion include the following:

    ἐν Βαβυλῶνι…. γίνεται δὲ μὴ καλῶς ἐργασαμένοις πεντηκονταχόα, τοῖς δὲ ἐπιμελῶς ἑκατονταχόα

    At Babylon…if the ground is ill cultivated, it produces fifty fold, if it is carefully cultivated, a hundred fold. (Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants 8:7 §4; Loeb)

    τοῖσι μόνοις καρπὸν τελέθει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα
    ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς ἑκατόν, τελέθοντό τε μέτρα θεοῖο.

    For these alone the fertile soil yields fruit
    from one- to a hundredfold, and the measures of God are produced. (Sib. Or. 3:263-264 [ed. Geffcken, 62]; trans. Charlesworth)

    In Italia in Subaritano dicunt etiam cum centesimo redire solitum, in Syria ad Gadara et in Africa ad Byzacium item ex modio nasci centum.

    Around Sybaris in Italy the normal yield is said to be even a hundred to one, and a like yield is reported near Gadara in Syria, and for the district of Byzacium in Africa. (Varro, On Agriculture 1:44 §2; Loeb)

    πολύσιτος δ᾽ ἄγαν ἐστίν, ὥστε ἑκατοντάχουν δι᾽ ὁμαλοῦ καὶ κριθὴν καὶ πυρὸν ἐκτρέφειν, ἔστι δ᾽ ὅτε καὶ διακοσιοντάχουν

    Susis abounds so exceedingly in grain that both barley and wheat regularly produce one hundred fold, and sometimes even two hundred…. (Strabo, Geography 15:3 §11; Loeb)

    Tritico nihil est fertilius…utpote cum e modio, si sit aptum solum quale in Byzaeio Africae campo, centeni quinquageni modii reddantur. …cum centesimo quidem et Leontini Siliae campi fundunt aliique et tota Baetica et in primis Aegyptus.

    Nothing is more prolific than wheat…inasmuch as a peck of wheat, given suitable soil like that of the Byzaeium plain in Africa, produces a yield of 150 pecks. …At all events the plains of Lentini and other districts in Sicily, and the whole of Andalusia, and particularly Egypt reproduce at the rate of a hundred fold. (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 18:21 §94-95; Loeb)

    McIver, however, argued that reports such as these are more likely folkloric or “tall tales” from far away places or distant times. See Robert K. McIver, “One Hundred-fold Yield—Miraculous or Mundane? Matthew 13.8, 23; Mark 4.8, 20; Luke 8.8,” New Testament Studies 40.4 (1994): 606-608. McIver cited Columella and Rabbi Yose as more reliable authorities on typical returns:

    Nam frumenta maiore quidem parte Italiae quando cum quarto responderint, vix meminisse possumus.

    For we can hardly recall a time when crops, thoughout at least the greater part of Italy, returned a yield of four for one. (Columella, On Agriculture 3:3 §4; Loeb)

    אמר רבי יוסי סאה ביהודה היתה עושה חמש סאין

    Rabbi Yose said, “A seah in Judah would produce five seahs….” (b. Ket. 112a)

  • [150] Cf. Young, Parables, 259.
  • [151] See Malcolm Lowe and David Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” New Testament Studies 29.1 (1983): 25-37, esp. 36-37; J. Duncan M. Derrett, “‘He Who has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear’ (Mark 4:9 and Parallels),” Downside Review 119.417 (2001): 255-268, esp. 263.
  • [152] See Derrett, “‘He Who has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear’ (Mark 4:9 and Parallels),” 263.
  • [153] On reconstructing ἔχειν (echein, “to have”) with יֵשׁ (yēsh, “there is”), see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L4.
  • [154] In Isa. 50:4 ὠτίον ἀκούειν (“ear to hear”) is the translation of אֹזֶן לִשְׁמֹעַ (“ear to hear”).
  • [155]
    Four Soils parable
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    συνιόντος δὲ ὄχλου πολλοῦ καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν ἐπιπορευομένων πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸνμὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτά καὶ ἕτερον κατέπεσεν ἐπὶ πέτραν καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν καὶ συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθὴν καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασείονα ταῦτα λέγων ἐφώνειὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ καὶ συνήχθησαν ὄχλοι πολλοὶ καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν πρὸς αὐτόν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς παραβολὴν λέγων ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸνμὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν καὶ φυὲν αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθὴν καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν καὶ εὗρεν ἑκατονταπλασείοναὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω
    Total Words: 89 Total Words: 95
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 71 Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 71
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 79.78% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 74.74%

  • [156]
    Four Soils parable
    Mark’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    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 καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλὰ καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων σπεῖραι καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ σπείρειν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν καὶ ἦλθεν τὰ πετεινὰ καὶ κατέφαγεν αὐτό καὶ ἄλλο ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸ πετρῶδες καὶ ὅπου οὐκ εἶχε γῆν πολλήν καὶ εὐθὺς ἐξανέτειλεν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν βάθος τῆς γῆς καὶ ὅτε ἀνέτειλεν ὁ ἥλιος ἐκαυματίσθησαν καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν ἐξηράνθη καὶ ἄλλο ἔπεσεν εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας καὶ ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι καὶ συνέπνιξαν αὐτό καὶ καρπὸν οὐκ ἔδωκεν καὶ ἄλλα ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν καὶ ἐδίδου καρπὸν ἀναβαίνοντα καὶ αὐξανόμενα καὶ ἔφερεν εις τριάκοντα καὶ εν ἑξήκοντα καὶ εν ἑκατόν καὶ ἔλεγενὃς ἔχει ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ καὶ συνήχθησαν ὄχλοι πολλοὶ καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν πρὸς αὐτόν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς παραβολὴν λέγων ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν καὶ φυὲν αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθὴν καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν καὶ εὗρεν ἑκατονταπλασείοναὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω
    Total Words: 153 Total Words: 95
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 51 Total Words Taken Over in Mark: 51
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 33.33% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Mark: 53.68%

  • [157]
    Four Soils parable
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἐξελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῆς οἰκίας ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ συνήχθησαν πρὸς αὐτὸν ὄχλοι πολλοί ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς πλοῖον ἐμβάντα καθῆσθαι καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν ἱστήκει καὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγων ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸνμὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν καὶ ἐλθόντα τὰ πετεινὰ κατέφαγεν αὐτά ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη ὅπου οὐκ εἶχεν γῆν πολλήν καὶ εὐθέως ἐξανέτειλαν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν βάθος τῆς γῆς ἡλίου δὲ ἀνατείλαντος ἐκαυματώθη καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν ἐξηράνθη ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὰς ἀκάνθας καὶ ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι καὶ ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτά ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν καὶ ἐδίδου καρπόν ὃ μὲν ἑκατόν ὃ δὲ ἑξήκοντα ὃ δὲ τριάκονταὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ καὶ συνήχθησαν ὄχλοι πολλοὶ καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν πρὸς αὐτόν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς παραβολὴν λέγων ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸνμὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν καὶ φυὲν αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθὴν καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν καὶ εὗρεν ἑκατονταπλασείοναὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω
    Total Words: 132 Total Words: 95
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 55 Total Words Taken Over in Matt: 55
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 41.67% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 57.89%

  • [158] Cf., e.g., Schweizer, Matt., 297.
  • [159] On the question of the coordination of sowing and plowing in the Four Soils parable, see Jeremias, Parables, 11-12; K. W. White, “The Parable of the Sower,” Journal of Theological Studies 15.2 (1964): 300-307; P. B. Payne, “The Order of Sowing and Ploughing in the Parable of the Sower,” New Testament Studies 25.1 (1978): 123-129. Although in Jeremias’ view a great deal depended on the plowing taking place after the sowing, the parable itself is entirely silent as to the timing of the plowing, which strongly implies that it has no bearing on the correct interpretation of the parable. See Luz, 2:241; Snodgrass, 167.
  • [160] Nolland’s interpretation of the Four Soils parable is based on his conclusion that the sower was extravagant in sowing in places he knew had little chance of producing a crop. See Nolland, Luke, 1:372-373; idem, Matt., 529-530. Cf. Vermes, 117.
  • [161] See Plummer, Matt., 191.
  • [162] Cf. France, Mark, 191; Snodgrass, 167.

Comments 18

  1. Pingback: Fig Tree Parable | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  2. Pingback: Calamities in Yerushalayim | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  3. Pingback: Cumulative Life of Yeshua Greek Reconstructions | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  4. Pingback: LOY Excursus: Sources of the “Strings of Pearls” in Luke’s Gospel | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  5. Pingback: Cumulative Life of Yeshua Reconstructions | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  6. Pingback: Yohanan the Immerser’s Exhortations | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  7. Pingback: Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  8. Pingback: Darnel Among the Wheat Parable – JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  9. Pingback: LOY Excursus: Synoptic Fidelity to the Anthology – JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  10. Pingback: Spontaneous Growth Parable – JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  11. Pingback: Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers – JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  12. Pingback: Four Soils Interpretation | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  13. Pingback: The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  14. Pingback: Scripture Key to “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  15. Pingback: Blessedness of the Twelve | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  16. Pingback: Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  17. Pingback: Mustard Seed and Starter Dough Parables | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  18. Pingback: “Four Types of Hearers” Complex | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

Leave a Reply

  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
    Facebook

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
    [Read more about author]

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
    [Read more about author]

  • Online Hebrew Course

    Want to learn Hebrew? Check out our online Hebrew course Aleph-Bet: Hebrew Reading and Writing for Christians in 17 Easy Lessons.

  • JP Content