Four Soils Interpretation

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In the Four Soils interpretation Jesus explained the meaning of the imagery in the Four Soils parable.

Matt. 13:10, 18-23; Mark 4:10, 13-20; Luke 8:9, 11-15
(Huck 91, 93; Aland 123, 124; Crook 145, 146)[1]

Revised: 12 November 2021

וַיִּקְרְבוּ תַּלְמִידָיו וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ מַה הוּא הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה וַיֹֹּאמֶר לָהֶם זֶה הוּא הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּרַע זֶה דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים וְהֵם עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ אֵלּוּ הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר וְאֵינָם מְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ וּבָא הַשָּׂטָן וְעוֹקֵר אֶת הַדָּבָר מִלִּבָּם וְהֵם עַל הַסֶּלַע אֵלּוּ הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר וּמְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ בְּשִׂמְחָה וְעִקָּר אֵין לָהֶם וּבִשְׁעַת נִסָּיוֹן הֵם סָרִים וְהֵם בַּחוֹחִים אֵלּוּ הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר וּמְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ וְהִרְהוּרִים וְהוֹן וְתַעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הוֹלְכִים וְחוֹנְקִים אוֹתָם וְהֵם בָּאֲדָמָה הַטּוֹבָה אֵלּוּ הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר וּמְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ בְּלֵב טוֹב

Yeshua’s disciples approached him and said, “What is the meaning of this parable?”

So Yeshua replied, “The meaning of the parable is this: the seed represents the word of God. The scenario of the seed on the path represents those who hear God’s word but do not accept it, so Satan comes and uproots it from their hearts. The scenario of the seed on the rock represents those who hear God’s word and joyfully accept it, but since they have missed the point they turn away in times of testing. The scenario of the seed among the thistles represents those who hear God’s word and accept it, but worries, possessions and worldly pleasures choke them more and more. The scenario of the seed in the good soil represents those who hear God’s word and accept it with a sincere determination to put it into practice.”[2]


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Reconstruction

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

Download (PDF, 212KB)

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

וזה המשל אלה אשר בדרך הם שומעים ובא השטן ונוטל את הזרע מלבם ואלה אשר בסלע הם שומעים ובשמחה מקבלים ושורש אין להם ובעת נסיון נסוגים והנופל בקוצים הם שומעים ומצרות ועושר הולכים ונחנקים ואשר באדמה הטובה הם שומעים בלב טוב וקולטים ונושאים פרי

And this is the parable: These that are in the road, they hear and the satan comes and takes the seed from their heart. And these that are in the rock, they hear and with joy they receive, but they do not have root, and in a time of testing they retreat. And the one falling in the thorns, they hear, but because of troubles and wealth they are steadily choked. And that which is in the good soil, they hear with a good heart and absorb [it] and bear fruit.[4]

Young also provided a reconstruction of the Four Soils parable,[5] which reads as follows:

זה המשל הזרע הוא דבר אלוהים אלה שבדרך המה השומעים ואז בא השטן ונוטל מלביהם אלה שבסלע המה השומעים ומשמחה מקבלים אף אין לאלה [להם] שורש אלה שבקוצים המה השומעים ומדאגות ועושר הולכים ונתנחקים ולא יעשו פרי אלה שבאדמה הטובה המה השומעים בלב טוב ומקבלים ונושאים פרי

This is the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those [which fell] on the path are those who hear [the word] and then Satan comes and takes [it] from their hearts. Those [which fell] upon the stone are those who hear [the word] and receive [it] with joy but have no root. Those [which fell] among the thorns are those who hear [the word] but because of concerns and riches, go and are choked and do not bear fruit. Those [which fell] in the good soil are those who hear with a good heart, receiving and bearing fruit.[6]

“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 interpretation is separated from the Four Soils parable by at least the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying. In Matthew the Four Soils interpretation is separated from the parable by Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven plus the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement. We believe the separation of the Four Soils parable from the Four Soils interpretation is artificial, resulting from the editorial work of the author of Luke, who inserted Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, which he copied from the Anthology (Anth.), between the Four Soils parable and its interpretation, both of which he copied from the First Reconstruction (FR).[7]

That Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven is an intrusion is seen from the disciples’ question, “What is [the meaning of] the parable?” (Luke 8:9), which comes just prior to Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 8:10), but which is not answered until just after Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven is concluded (“This is [the meaning of] the parable”; Luke 8:11). The reason the author of Luke inserted Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven between the disciples’ question and Jesus’ reply was probably that he misunderstood the original meaning of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying. In that saying Jesus explained that in former times the wonders of the coming redemption were only hinted at by the prophets ἐν παραβολαῖς (en parabolais, “in figurative speech”). The author of Luke, however, interpreted ἐν παραβολαῖς as a reference to Jesus’ story-parables, and therefore mistakenly concluded that in Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus articulated his rationale for using story-parables in the course of teaching the crowds who listened to him. On the basis of this misunderstanding of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, the author of Luke inserted it between the Four Soils parable and its interpretation, which appeared to him a logical location for the saying.[8] Despite the author of Luke’s logical, if mistaken, placement of Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, the seams where the parable had been separated from its interpretation remained visible.

When the author of Mark read Luke’s Gospel he sensed the intrusiveness of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, but rather than rearrange Luke’s pericope order he decided to modify the wording of the disciples’ question to better integrate Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven into its context. Thus, in Mark 4:10 those around Jesus no longer ask, “What is [the meaning of] this parable?”; instead they ask “[about] the parables.” This form of the question more naturally leads into a rationale for Jesus’ use of story-parables. In Matthew the disciples’ question has been shaped even further: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matt. 13:10). This reformulation of the disciples’ question in the Synoptic Gospels is one of the clearest examples of transmission from Luke to Mark to Matthew.

In FR, and doubtless in Anth., the Four Soils parable was immediately followed by its interpretation, and so it appears in our reconstruction.

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

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

The considerable resistance to Hebrew retroversion that characterizes certain parts of the Four Soils interpretation[9] initially caused us to wonder whether the Four Soils interpretation had been composed by the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) or even by the author of Luke. Another reason behind our initial doubts as to the ultimate derivation of the Four Soils interpretation from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua is that most of Jesus’ parables are unaccompanied by, and generally do not require, an interpretation.[10] The usual function of parables was to illustrate a concept that had previously been discussed in Jesus’ teaching. The need for an illustrating parable to be explained would be proof that the parable had failed in its purpose, just as a joke that needs to be explained has failed to be humorous. But in this respect the Four Soils parable was different from most (perhaps all) other parables. Instead of illustrating the content of a prior discourse, the Four Soils parable was the opening of Jesus’ address to the crowds who had gathered to listen to him. Instead of making an analogy between something in the real world and the scenario described in the parable, Jesus simply launched into the story, leaving his audience to guess what the parable might be about. Not until the parable’s application (“Let the one with ears to hear, hear!”) would it have become clear to the audience what the parable was aiming at (viz., different types of hearers), and it is natural that in such a situation the disciples would have desired further elucidation: To what is the footpath analogous? What in the real world is analogous to the thorns? Etc.

Moreover, the interpretation given to the Four Soils parable in the Synoptic Gospels is fully at home in an ancient Jewish context. Flusser cited various ancient Jewish sources that use colorful metaphors to describe different kinds of disciples and their aptitude for learning and retaining Torah.[11] For instance:

אַרְבַּע מִידּוֹת בְּיוֹשְׁבֵי{ם} לִפְנֵי חֲכָמִ′ סְפוֹג מַשְׁפֵּךְ וּמְשַׁמֶּרֶת וְנָפָה סְפוֹג שֶׁהוּא סוֹפֵג אֶת הַכֹּל מַשְׁפֵּךְ שֶׁהוא מַכְניס בָּזוֹ וּמוֹצִיא בָזוֹ מְשַׁמֶּרֶת שֶׁהִיא מוֹצִיאָה אֶת הַיַּיִן וְקוֹלֶטֶת אֶת הַשְּׁמָרִים נָפָה שֶׁהִיא מוֹצִיאָה אֶת הַקֶּמַח וְקוֹלֶטֶת אֶת הַסֹּלֶת

There are four kinds of those who sit before the sages: a sponge, a funnel, a strainer and a sifter. A sponge because it absorbs everything; a funnel because it brings it in with this and lets it out with that; a strainer because it lets out the wine but retains the dregs; a sifter because it lets out the coarse flour but retains the fine flour. (m. Avot 5:15)

According to the scheme above, there are only two types of disciple whose study is profitable: the disciple who retains everything he has heard (i.e., the sponge), and the disciple who is able to correctly sort out the valuable things he has heard from the worthless (i.e., the sifter). The study of the other two types of disciple is profitless: that of the funnel, because he remembers nothing of what he has heard, and that of the strainer, because he has completely missed the point and therefore remembers only the worthless things he has heard but grasps none of the essentials.

Similar in form, but expressive of a different ethos, is the following saying of Rabban Gamliel:

לענין תלמידים דרש רבן גמליאל הזקן ארבעה דברים דג טמא דג טהור דג מן הירדן דג מן הים הגדול דג טמא כיצד בן עניים שלמד מקרא ומשנה הלכות ואגדות ואין בו דיעה דג טהור כיצד זה בן עשירים שלמד מקרא ומשנה הלכות ואגדות ויש בו דיעה דג מן הירדן כיצד זה תלמיד חכם שלמד מקרא ומשנה מדרש הלכות ואגדות ואין בו דעת להשיב דג מן הים הגדול כיצד זה תלמיד חכם שלמד מקרא ומשנה מדרש הלכות ואגדות ויש בו דעת להשיב

Rabban Gamliel the elder[12] expounded four things on the subject of disciples: a non-kosher fish, a kosher fish, a fish from the Jordan, and a fish from the great sea [i.e., the Mediterranean—DNB and JNT]. A non-kosher fish—how so? A son of poor people who studied Scripture and Mishnah, halachah and aggadah, but he has no understanding. A kosher fish—how so? This is a son of rich people who studied Scripture and Mishnah, halachah and aggadah, and he has understanding. A fish from the Jordan—how so? This is the disciple of a sage who studied Scripture and Mishnah, exegesis, halachah and aggadah, but he does not understand enough to answer. A fish from the great sea—how so? This is the disciple of a sage who studied Scripture and Mishnah, exegesis, halachah and aggadah, and he understands enough to answer. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 40:6 [ed. Schechter, 127])

According to Rabban Gamliel’s scheme, it is not only a disciple’s innate ability but also his socio-economic situation that determines his success in Torah study. Jesus would not have accepted this elitist view, but in terms of literary composition Rabban Gamliel’s exposition is strikingly similar to the Four Soils parable and its interpretation. In both Four Soils and Rabban Gamliel’s exposition a single image prevails: for Jesus the prevailing image was of seed falling on different types of soil, for Rabban Gamliel the prevailing image was fish extracted from different bodies of water. Similar, too, is the progression from worst case to best-case scenario.[13]

If Rabban Gamliel’s saying reflects the elitist view of the privileged classes, the Four Soils interpretation expresses the worldview of the first-century Galilean charismatics known as Hasidim, who were known for their poverty and their popular appeal.[14] Whereas the rabbinic sages could be accused of isolating themselves in an ivory tower, the Hasidim were referred to as “men of deeds” because of their active involvement in community affairs.[15] The differing approaches of the rabbinic sages and the Hasidim are exemplified in the sages’ prioritization of study (“study leads to doing”) versus the prioritization of doing on the part of the Hasidim (“study must never get in the way of doing”).[16] Four Soils displays its compatibility with the hasidic approach, both in its application to all hearers—not just disciples of the sages—and in its focus on the responsiveness of the listener rather than on the aptitude of the student, as in the rabbinic parallels discussed above.

According to Four Soils, there is only one kind of hearing that is worthwhile: hearing that is translated into action. That the Four Soils parable was intended to encourage translating hearing into action is confirmed by the allusion at the end of the parable to the story of Isaac’s hundredfold return on the seed he sowed (Gen. 26:12), as well as by the identification of the good soil with a “good heart” in the Four Soils interpretation. According to Jewish tradition, the reason Isaac received such a bountiful return was that he heard God’s promise and acted upon it (t. Ber. 6:8; see Four Soils parable, Comment to L57). Likewise, the Hebrew idiom “good heart” surfaces in contexts related to the willing performance of God’s commandments (see below, Comment to L72).

Despite reflecting differing socio-religious contexts, the Four Soils parable and its interpretation, Rabban Gamliel’s comparison of disciples to various fish, and the Mishnah’s comparison of disciples to different household implements all bear some kind of relationship to the following statement in the Mishnah:

אַרְבַּע מִידּוֹת בַּלְּמֵידִים מְמַהֵר לִשְׁמוֹעַ וּמְמַהֵר לְאַבֵּד יָצָא שְׂכָרוֹ בַהֵפְסֵדוֹ קָשֶׁה לִּשְׁמוֹעַ וְקָשֶׁה לְאָבֵּד יָצָא הֵפְסֵדוֹ בִשְׂכָרוֹ מְמַהֵר לִשְׁמוֹעַ וְקָשֵׁה לְאַבֵּד חָכָם קָשֶׁה לִשְׁמוֹעַ וּמְמַהֵר לְאַבֵּד זֶה חֵלֶק רָע

There are four kinds of learner:[17] quick to hear but quick to lose—his profit is canceled by his expenditure; slow to hear but slow to lose—his expenditure is canceled by his profit; quick to hear and slow to lose—a sage; slow to hear and quick to lose—this is an evil portion. (m. Avot 5:12)

The above saying is most closely paralleled in the mishnaic comparison of disciples to a sponge, a funnel, a strainer and a sifter. Two mediocre disciples who break even are offset by one that is excellent and one that is deplorable.[18] The disciples are characterized according to their innate abilities. Rabban Gamliel adapted the “four kinds” schema to reflect his socio-economic biases—external conditions (viz., a disciple’s wealth and status) determine what kind of disciple he will be. Only one is truly desirable—the rich one who is undaunted when questioned. Jesus’ adaptation, though not elitist, also took external factors into consideration; satanic influence, temptation and wealth (!) could distract a hearer from putting God’s word into practice. But like Rabban Gamliel’s adaptation, only one kind of hearer is truly desirable—one who hears and acts in good faith.

In addition to the external evidence, which shows that the Four Soils parable and its interpretation are at home in a first-century Jewish context, two pieces of internal evidence suggest that although the Four Soils interpretation has undergone a considerable degree of Greek redaction, an earlier version of the interpretation was present in Anth., which itself was descended from a Hebrew source (i.e., the Hebrew Life of Yeshua). First, there are two significant Lukan-Matthean minor agreements in the interpretation proper: in the explanation of the seed-on-the-path scenario both the Lukan (L32) and Matthean (L25) versions mention the “heart” as the location where the word is kept before Satan snatches it away; and in the explanation of the seed-in-good-soil scenario Luke’s version reads οὗτοί εἰσιν (“these are”) parallel to οὗτός ἐστιν (“this is”) in Matthew’s version (L67) where there is nothing similar in Mark’s version. Since Lukan-Matthean minor agreements were usually achieved when the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s wording on the basis of Anth., the presence of these minor agreements strongly suggests that Anth. contained a version of the Four Soils interpretation. The second major consideration leading us to conclude that the First Reconstructor copied the Four Soils interpretation from Anth. is the presence of a striking Hebraism in Luke’s version of the interpretation of the seed-among-thorns scenario, where the seeds are said to be “going [and] being choked,” which looks like the Hebrew idiom of using a participial form of הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk,” “go”) to indicate progressive action (see below, Comment to L60-61). The presence of such a glaring Hebraism in the Four Soils interpretation strongly suggests that it was contained in Anth.[19]

The evidence we have discussed suggests that the author of Luke copied this pericope from the First Reconstruction (FR), a source Lindsey described as an improved Greek epitome of the Anthology (Anth.), a highly Hebraic-Greek source. The author of Mark freely paraphrased Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation, and the author of Matthew improved upon Mark’s Greek style, occasionally making changes to reflect his own theological point of view (e.g., the emphasis on “understanding” in L22 and L71).

Crucial Issues

  1. Why did the Four Soils parable require an interpretation?
  2. Is the message of the Four Soils interpretation consistent with the message of the Four Soils parable?
  3. Should the Four Soils interpretation be traced back to Jesus?

Comment

L1-7 The narrative introduction of the Four Soils interpretation is rather different in all three Synoptic Gospels. In Luke’s version the disciples ask Jesus a question. According to Mark’s version, it is not the disciples, but the Twelve and those around Jesus who interrogate him when they are alone with their master. In Matthew we again encounter “the disciples”—a significant minor agreement—but they do not ask Jesus, they approach and speak to him. Of the three versions Matthew’s is the easiest to reconstruct in Hebrew, and since the Lukan-Matthean minor agreement shows that the author of Matthew was using Anth. in L5, it is reasonable to suppose that he copied the entire narrative introduction to the Four Soils interpretation from his non-Markan source.

L2 ὅτε ἐγένετο κατὰ μόνας (Mark 4:10). There is nothing in the Gospels of Luke or Matthew corresponding to Mark’s notice that the Four Soils interpretation was given in private. This Lukan-Matthean agreement of omission supports our suspicion that no such notice occurred in Anth., but was added to the story by the author of Mark.

L3 וַיִּקְרְבוּ (HR). In Matt. 13:10 we encounter a καί + participle + aorist construction. Such constructions in LXX typically occur as the translation of two vav-consecutives.[20] A verbal parallel to our Greek and Hebrew reconstructions in L1-7 is found in the story of Jonah:

וַיִּקְרַב אֵלָיו רַב הַחֹבֵל וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מַה לְּךָ נִרְדָּם

And the captain approached him and said to him, “Why are you sleeping?” (Jonah 1:6)

καὶ προσῆλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ πρωρεὺς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Τί σὺ ῥέγχεις

And the captain came toward him and said to him, “Why are you snoring?” (Jonah 1:6)

In the above-cited verse we have קָרַב + subject + אָמַר introducing a question, translated as προσέρχεσθαι + subject + εἰπεῖν, which is precisely what we find in our Greek and Hebrew reconstructions.

On reconstructing προσέρχεσθαι (proserchesthai, “to approach”) with קָרַב (qārav, “approach,” “come near”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L13.

L4 ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν (Luke 8:9). Luke’s use of a compound verb in the imperfect tense looks more like native Greek compositional style than translation Greek. We suspect that “they were asking him” was the First Reconstructor’s paraphrase of Anth.’s “they approached and said to him,” which was preserved in Matthew. Mark’s καὶ…ἠρώτων αὐτόν (kai…ērōtōn avton, “and…they were asking him”) opposite Luke’s ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτόν (epērōtōn de avton, “but they were asking him”) looks like a typical Markan paraphrase of Luke’s wording.

L5 οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν (Mark 4:10). In his version of Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers, which in Mark occurs just before the Markan parables excursus (Mark 4:1-34), the author of Mark had already used “the ones around him” to describe Jesus’ followers (Mark 3:34). The phrase οἱ περὶ αὐτόν (hoi peri avton, “the [ones] around him”) never occurs in Matthew, and neither of the Markan examples of οἱ περὶ αὐτόν have support in the Gospel of Luke, but a Lukan example οἱ περὶ αὐτόν as a description of the disciples does exist. It occurs in the account of Jesus’ arrest where “the ones around him” ask whether they should strike with the sword (Luke 22:49). Therefore, there is no reason to assume that the author of Luke would have avoided οἱ περὶ αὐτόν had he found it in his source for the Four Soils interpretation.

οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ (GR). Against Mark’s “the ones around him” the authors of Luke and Matthew agreed to write “the disciples,” to which Luke attaches the possessive pronoun αὐτοῦ (avtou, “his”). This Lukan-Matthean agreement is a strong indication that the disciples were mentioned in Anth. Greek translators and editors frequently omitted possessive pronouns, whereas “his disciples” sounds more natural in Hebrew.[21] Therefore, Luke’s wording in L5 appears to be closer to Anth.’s.

In support of this conclusion, we also note that when the author of Matthew composed the disciples’ request for an explanation of the Darnel Among the Wheat parable (Matt. 13:36) he referred back to Anth.’s narrative introduction to the Four Soils interpretation (see Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L37). Since in Matt. 13:36 we read καὶ προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ (“and his disciples approached him”), this provides indirect confirmation that οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ (“his disciples”) in Luke 8:9 stems from Anth.

תַּלְמִידָיו (HR). On reconstructing μαθητής (mathētēs, “disciple”) with תַּלְמִיד (talmid, “disciple”), see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L4.

L6 σὺν τοῖς δώδεκα (Mark 4:10). Lindsey noted that οἱ δώδεκα (hoi dōdeka, “the Twelve”), when used as a title for the apostles, is difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew, but in the Greek-speaking church οἱ δώδεκα had become a designation for the apostles at an early stage, as 1 Cor. 15:5 attests.[22] The few Lukan examples of οἱ δώδεκα used as a title for the apostles appear to be due to the editorial activity of the First Reconstructor or of the author of Luke himself. The author of Mark expanded the use of οἱ δώδεκα as a title for the apostles, as the Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark’s use of this moniker indicate (Mark 4:10 [cf. Matt. 13:10; Luke 8:9]; 9:35 [cf. Matt. 18:1; Luke 9:46]; 14:20 [cf. Matt. 26:23; Luke 22:21]).[23]

The narrative introduction to the Four Soils interpretation in Mark 4:10 shares certain verbal similarities with Luke 8:1, as we can see from the table below:

Mark 4:10 Luke 8:1
καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο κατὰ μόνας, ἠρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν σὺν τοῖς δώδεκα τὰς παραβολάς. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ καθεξῆς καὶ αὐτὸς διώδευεν κατὰ πόλιν καὶ κώμην κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ οἱ δώδεκα σὺν αὐτῷ
And when he was alone, the ones around him with the Twelve asked him [about] the parables. And it was in the order, and he was traveling to each city and town proclaiming and evangelizing the Kingdom of God, and the Twelve [were] with him.

Mark 4:10 and Luke 8:1 are the only two verses in the Synoptic Gospels in which we find σύν + οἱ δώδεκα. Luke 8:1 occurs in a pericope (Ministering Women) that was omitted in Mark. Moreover, in Luke, Ministering Women appears immediately before the Four Soils parable. Lindsey believed that the author of Mark liked to mine the Lukan pericopae he chose to omit for words and phrases to use elsewhere in his Gospel, so it is possible that the author of Mark picked up the καὶ ἐγένετο construction and σύν + οἱ δώδεκα from Luke 8:1 and reused them while paraphrasing the Four Soils interpretation, while Ministering Women, which he had skipped over, was still relatively fresh in his mind.

L7 εἶπαν αὐτῷ (GR). As we noted in Comment to L3, Matt. 13:10 opens with a Hebraic καί + participle + aorist construction. Moreover, the use of a verb for “asking” in the Lukan and Markan versions looks like a Greek stylistic improvement over Matthew’s bland “they said to him.” Since Matthew’s εἶπαν αὐτῷ reverts readily to Hebrew, we have accepted Matthew’s wording for GR.

L8 τίς εἴη ἡ παραβολὴ αὕτη (GR). It appears that the author of Luke preserved the wording of the disciples’ question more faithfully than did the parallel versions in Mark and Matthew. Perhaps the only difference between the wording of the question in Anth. and in Luke’s version is the position of the demonstrative pronoun αὕτη (havtē, “this”), which is not in Hebrew word order in Luke 8:9. Such an alteration of word order could be attributed to the First Reconstructor or to the author of Luke. The omission of the definite article (, “the”) before παραβολή (parabolē, “parable”) may have been the mistake of the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus; critical editions include the definite article before παραβολή in Luke 8:9.

According to Luke 8:9, the disciples asked, “What is this parable?” The answer to this question is deferred until Luke 8:11, the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying (Luke 8:10) having been inserted between the question and answer by the author of Luke (see the Story Placement discussion above). In order to smooth over the disjunction caused by the intruding Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, the author of Mark turned the disciples’ question into an inquiry about parables in general, instead of asking specifically about the Four Soils parable. Not satisfied with Mark’s attempt at integrating Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven into its surroundings, the author of Matthew completely reworded the disciples’ question in order to make Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven a logical response to the disciples’ query.

Note that Luke and Matthew are in agreement in reporting the disciples’ question as direct speech, whereas the author of Mark simply described the content of the disciples’ question.

מַה הוּא הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה (HR). In MT the phrase מַה הוּא (mah hū’, “What is he/it?”) is quite rare, only occurring 3xx (Exod. 16:15; Num. 16:11; Esth. 8:1). There are four examples of מַה הִיא (mah hi’, “What is she/it?”; Gen. 23:15; Num. 13:18; Zech. 5:6; Ps. 39:5). In DSS and rabbinic sources, however, the question מַה הוּא became more common.[24] In rabbinic sources the question מַה הוּא and its contracted form מָהוּ (māhū) often occur in the sense of “What is the meaning of…?”[25] The LXX translators usually rendered מַה הוּא and מַה הִיא as τί[ς] ἐστιν (Num. 13:18; 16:11; Zech. 5:6; Ps. 38[39]:5), but in one instance מַה הוּא was rendered τί ἦν (ti ēn, “What was it?”; Exod. 16:15), and in Gen. 23:15 מַה הִוא was translated as τί ἂν εἴη τοῦτο (ti an eiē touto, “What ever might this be?”), with the same verb form that appears in Luke 8:9.

A question similar to the one found in Luke’s version of the introduction to the Four Soils interpretation appears in the book of Ezekiel:

τίς ὑμῖν ἡ παραβολὴ αὕτη

What to you [is] this proverb…? (Ezek. 12:22)

מָה הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה לָכֶם

What [is] this proverb to you…? (Ezek. 12:22)

Although the Greek word order is different in Ezek. 12:22 and Luke 8:9, the key elements τίς (tis, “what?”), παραβολή (parabolē, “parable,” “proverb”) and αὕτη (havtē, “this”) are the same. As we noted above, we suspect that the First Reconstructor may be responsible for moving the demonstrative pronoun into a more emphatic position and for dropping the definite article before παραβολή. The presence of εἴη (“it might be”) in Luke’s version of the disciples’ question might reflect the pronoun הוּא (hū’, “he,” “it”), supposing the disciples formulated their question as מַה הוּא in good MH style.

On reconstructing παραβολή (parabolē, “parable,” “proverb”) with מָשָׁל (māshāl, “parable,” “proverb”), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L19.

L8-9 διὰ τί ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖς αὐτοῖς (Matt. 13:10). Whereas in L1-7 the author of Matthew had adhered closely to the wording of Anth., the question he placed on the lips of the disciples (“Why do you speak to them in parables?”) was his own formulation. As we noted above, in the Story Placement discussion and in Comment to L8, in Luke’s Gospel Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven intrudes between the disciples’ question and Jesus’ answer, but the author of Matthew so reworked the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying as to provide a direct reply to the disciples’ question (“Therefore, I speak to them in parables”).[26] Note that whereas the author of Mark used the phrase λαλεῖν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to speak in parables”) only once (Mark 12:1), the author of Matthew employed this phrase 4xx in his parables discourse (Matt. 13:3, 10, 13, 34). The phrase λαλεῖν ἐν παραβολαῖς never occurs in the Gospel of Luke, and is probably always redactional in the Synoptic Gospels.

L10 The author of Luke’s insertion of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying into the middle of the Four Soils interpretation between the disciples’ question and Jesus’ response was mainly due to his misunderstanding of the term παραβολή. In LXX, with which the author of Luke would have been familiar, παραβολή means “proverb,” “riddle” or “saying.” The Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used παραβολή to translate the noun מָשָׁל (māshāl), just as the LXX translators had done, but by the first-century C.E., מָשָׁל had acquired the new meaning of “story parable.” The author of Luke’s lack of familiarity with Hebrew contributed to his misunderstanding and misplacement of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying. The Lukan (mis)placement of Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven was accepted by the author of Mark, who passed it along to the author of Matthew.

L11 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς (GR). Some sort of narrative introduction to Jesus’ reply probably occurred in Anth. and FR. This narrative introduction was lost in the Gospel of Luke on account of the author of Luke’s insertion of Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven between the disciples’ question and Jesus’ answer. The author of Mark may have preserved an echo of Anth.’s wording with his καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς (“and he says to them”). If Mark’s historical present is converted into an aorist, as we have done in GR, the result is a literal equivalent of וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם (“and he said to them”), precisely the kind of introduction to Jesus’ reply we would have expected in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

L12-16 According to Mark, Jesus prefaced his reply with a two scathing questions[27] that express his surprise at the disciples’ lack of comprehension: “Don’t you know this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?” Since neither question appears in the Lukan or Matthean versions of the Four Soils interpretation, it is probable that these were added by the author of Mark. Jesus’ brusque reply fits the unusual portrayal of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel.[28]

The author of Mark’s reference to “this parable” (τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην; L14) betrays his knowledge of the Lukan version of the disciples’ question (τίς αὕτη εἴη παραβολή [“What might this parable be?”]; L8) and Jesus’ reply (ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή [“This is the parable”]; L14).

L13-17 Since the author of Matthew had so reworked his sources that the disciples no longer asked about the meaning of the Four Soils parable, and since he manipulated his version of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying so that it provided a logical answer to the question “Why do you speak in parables?” it is somewhat surprising that the author of Matthew proceeded to supply an interpretation of the Four Soils parable, which, according to his Gospel, the disciples neither requested nor required, having already been granted divine understanding of the mysteries concealed in the parables.[29] Despite this inconsistency, there are indications that the command in L13-17 (“Hear, therefore, the Parable of the Sower”) was the author of Matthew’s own composition.[30] First, the emphatic placement of ὑμεῖς (hūmeis, “you”) at the opening of the sentence (Matt. 13:18; L13) mirrors the emphatic position of ὑμῶν (hūmōn, “your”) in Matt. 13:16, which was also redactional (see Blessedness of the Twelve, Comment to L2).[31] Second, only in the Gospel of Matthew do parables receive titles (cf. ἡ παραβολὴ τῶν ζειζανίων τοῦ ἀγροῦ [“the Parable of the Darnel of the Field”]; Matt. 13:36),[32] and therefore the title ἡ παραβολὴ τοῦ σπείραντος (“the Parable of the Sower”; L14-17) ought to be regarded as a Matthean invention.

Matthew’s imperative to “hear” (ἀκούσατε [akousate]) at the opening of the Four Soils interpretation is reminiscent of—and perhaps compensates for his omission of—Mark’s imperative to “hear” (ἀκούετε [akouete]) at the opening of the Four Soils parable (Mark 4:3).

L14 αὕτη ἔστιν ἡ παραβολή (GR). Among the three synoptic versions of the Four Soils interpretation, Luke’s most accurately preserves the opening of Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question. We suspect that the First Reconstructor altered Anth.’s word order and added the conjunction δέ (de, “but”), but these changes did not affect the meaning of Jesus’ reply, “This is the parable.”

זֶה הוּא הַמָּשָׁל (HR). In MT the phrase זֶה הוּא (zeh hū’, “this is”) is not very common, but where it did occur the LXX translators rendered it as οὗτός ἐστιν (houtos estin, “this is”; 1 Kgdms. 16:12; Eccl. 1:17; 1 Chr. 22:1). In post-biblical Hebrew the explanatory phrase זֶה הוּא became more common, as examples in DSS and rabbinic sources attest:

וזה הואה המולד אשר הואה ילוד עליו ברגל השור

And this is [וְזֶה הוּאה] the zodiac sign under which he will be born: in the season of Taurus…. (4QHoroscope [4Q186] 1 II, 8-9)

וזה הוא אחרית הימים

And this is [וְזֶה הוּא] the end of days…. (4QMMTe [4Q398] 11-13 I, 4)

זֶה הוּא גוּפוֹ שֶׁל פְּרוֹזְבוֹל

This is [זֶה הוּא] the form of the prozbol….[33] (m. Shev. 10:4)

זֶה הוּא הַיָּרֵא וְרַךְ הַלֵּבָב

…this is [זֶה הוּא] the fearful and weak of heart [Deut. 20:8]. (m. Sot. 8:5)

זֶה הוּא שֶׁלָּקָה בִפְנֵיכֶם

This is [זֶה הוּא] the one who was whipped in your presence. (m. Sanh. 8:4)[34]

These examples show that זֶה הוּא הַמָּשָׁל (“This is the parable”) would have been an ordinary response to the disciples’ question.

L18 ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν (GR). Just as Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable is the only one to explicitly mention “the seed” (see Four Soils parable, Comment to L25), so explicit reference to “the seed” is found only in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation. In the Four Soils parable Luke’s mention of “the seed” felt perfectly Hebraic, and we accepted it for GR. Here in the Four Soils interpretation Luke’s explicit reference reverts quite easily to Hebrew, and we can see no reason to reject it in GR or HR.

הַזֶּרַע זֶה (HR). On reconstructing σπόρος (sporos, “seed”) with זֶרַע (zera‘, “seed”), see Four Soils parable, Comment to L25.

Our decision to reconstruct ἐστίν (estin, “it is”) with זֶה (zeh, “this”) was guided by examples in rabbinic sources where the demonstrative pronoun is used as an identifier in the explanation of sets of four types (of which Four Soils is an example). For instance:

אַרְבַּע מִידּוֹת בְּאָדָם הָאוֹמֵר שֶׁלִּי שֶׁלִּי וְשֶׁלָּךְ שֶׁלָּךְ זוֹ מִידָּה בֵינוֹנִית וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְ′ זוֹ מִידַּת סְדוֹם

There are four types of people: the one who says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours”—this [זוֹ] is the average type. And there are those who say, “This [זוֹ] is the type of Sodom.” (m. Avot 5:10)

אַרְבַּע מִידּוֹת בַּלְּמֵידִים…קָשֶׁה לִשְׁמוֹעַ וּמְמַהֵר לְאַבֵּד זֶה חֵלֶק רָע

There are four kinds of learner…slow to hear and quick to lose—this [זֶה] is an evil portion. (m. Avot 5:12)

היה ר′ מאיר או′ כשם שדיעות במאכל כך דיעות בנשים יש לך אדם שהזבוב עובר על גבי כוסו מניחו ואין טועמו זה חלק רע בנשים שנתן עיעיו באשתו לגרשה יש לך אדם שהזבוב שוכן בתוך כוסו זורקו ואין שותהו כגון פפוס בן יהודה שנעל דלת בפני אשתו ויצא ויש לך אדם שהזבוב נופל בתוך כוסו זורקו ושותהו זו מדת כל אדם שראה אשתו שמדברת עם שכיניה ועם קרובותיה ומניחה יש לך אדם שהזבוב נופל בתוך תמחוי שלו נוטלו מוצצו וזורקו ואוכל את מה שבתוכה זו מדת אדם רשע שראה את אשתו יוצאת וראשה פרוע יצאת וצדדיה פרומים לבה גס בעבדיה לבה גס בשפחותיה יוצא וטווה בשוק רוחצת ומשחקת עם כל אדם מצוה לגרשה

Rabbi Meir would say, “Just as there are attitudes toward food, so there are attitudes toward women. You have a man who [sees] a fly go over his cup, he leaves it and does not taste [his drink]—this [זֶה] is a bad portion for women, for he scrutinizes his wife for a reason to divorce her. You have a man who [sees] a fly land in his cup, he throws it away, and does not drink [from] it—such as Pappus ben Yehudah, who locked the door on his wife and went out. And you have a man who [sees] a fly fall in his cup, and he throws it away, and he drinks [from] it—this [זוֹ] type is the everyman, who saw his wife talking with her neighbors and relatives and he permits her. You have a man who [sees] a fly fall into his dish, he takes it, sucks it, and throws it away, and eats what was in the dish—this [זוֹ] type is the wicked man, for he sees his wife going out with her head uncovered and her shoulders bare, she acts intemperately toward her servants and maidservants, she goes out and spins in the market, she bathes and sports with anyone at all. It is a good deed to divorce her.” (t. Sot. 5:9; Vienna MS)

Rabbi Meir’s thorough explanation of the four types of husband provides a literary parallel to Jesus’ explanation of the four types described in the Four Soils parable.[35]

A Yemenite Habbani farmer sows a plowed field. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L19 ὁ σπείρων (Mark 4:14). Although the author of Matthew referred to the Four Soils parable as “the Parable of the Sower” (see above, Comment to L13-17), Mark’s is the only version of the Four Soils interpretation to mention “the sower” in the interpretation proper. The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s “the sower sows the word” is a good indication that Mark’s explanation is a paraphrase of Luke’s “the seed is the word.”

L20-25 The Matthean form of the seed-on-the-path explanation departs from the location→explanation pattern that prevails in the Matthean versions of the other three scenario explanations and in all four of Luke’s versions of the scenario explanations. Since the Matthean version of the seed-on-the-path explanation contains numerous signs of Matthean redaction—e.g., the phrase “the word of the Kingdom” in L21, the emphasis on “understanding” in L22, and the reference to Satan as “the evil one” in L23—it is likely that the reversal of the location→explanation pattern in the Matthean version of the seed-on-the-path explanation is likewise redactional.[36]

L20 παντὸς ἀκούοντος (Matt. 13:19). Matthew’s version of the seed-on-the-path explanation opens with a genitive absolute. Genitives absolute are often a mark of Greek redaction,[37] and since the author of Matthew appears to have extensively reworked the explanation of seed-on-the-path scenario, we attribute this Greek stylistic improvement to him.

L21 τὸν λόγον σπείρει (Mark 4:14). All three synoptic versions of the Four Soils interpretation mention “the word” in L21, but whereas Mark’s version interprets the activity of the sower as proclamation (“the sower sows the word”), the Lukan and Matthean versions agree against Mark to pass over the figure of the sower in silence. Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation identifies the seed as “the word of God,” an identification that is partially confirmed by Matthew’s reference to “the word of the Kingdom.”

τὸν λόγον τῆς βασιλείας (Matt. 13:19). In the Synoptic Gospels absolute uses of “the Kingdom” are unique to Matthew.[38] Examples include “the gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14), “the sons of the Kingdom” (Matt. 8:12; 13:38) and “the word of the Kingdom” (Matt. 13:19). Not only are these absolute uses of “the Kingdom” unique to Matthew’s Gospel, they often occur in verses composed by the author of Matthew, such as the summary statements about Jesus’ activity in Matt. 4:23 and 9:35, or the allegorical interpretation of the Darnel Among the Wheat parable (Matt. 13:38). Other instances of the absolute use of “the Kingdom” occur in verses where Matthean redaction is apparent, as with the author of Matthew’s insertion of the Many Will Come from East and West saying into the Healing a Centurion’s Slave story (Matt. 8:12). Thus, while absolute uses of “the Kingdom” to refer to God’s reign are not impossible in Hebrew,[39] it is more likely that the few instances that are found in the Gospel of Matthew are due to Matthean redaction rather than his reliance on Anth.

ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ (GR). Luke’s identification of the seed as “the word of God” appears to be authentic. Elsewhere Jesus laid special emphasis on hearing the word of God and putting it into practice (Luke 8:21; 11:28), the very thing the Four Soils parable was meant to encourage. Moreover, the construct phrase “the words of God” occurs in a rabbinic story with striking similarities to the interpretation of the seed-among-thorns scenario:

מעשה שאירע בר′ יאשיה ובר′ מתיא בן חרש שהיו שניהם יושבים ועוסקין בדברי תורה פירש ר′ יאשיה לדרך ארץ א″ל ר′ מתיא בן חרש רבי מה לך לעזוב דברי אלהים חיים ולשטוף בדרך ארץ ואע″פ שאתה רבי ואני תלמידך אין טוב לעזוב דברי אלהים חיים ולשטוף בדרך ארץ

An anecdote that occurred concerning Rabbi Yoshiah and Rabbi Matya ben Heresh, who were sitting, the two of them, and occupying themselves with words of Torah. Rabbi Yoshiah withdrew for a secular matter. Rabbi Matya ben Heresh said to him, “My master, what are you doing forsaking the words of the living God [דִּבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים] and drowning in secular matters? Although you are my master and I am your disciple, it is not good to forsake the words of the living God [דִּבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים] and to drown in secular matters.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 1:1 [ed. Schechter, 1])

There are two points of similarity between this rabbinic anecdote and the seed-among-thorns explanation. First, the secular matters that distracted Rabbi Yoshiah from studying the words of God are parallel to the thorns, which, according to the Four Soils interpretation, represent anxieties about wealth and creature comforts that distract people from hearing the word of God and putting it into practice (see below, Comment to L55-59). Second, the violent imagery used to describe the effect caused by these distractions is similar: drowning in the case of Rabbi Yoshiah’s secular matters, and strangulation in the case of the distractions represented by the thorns. The emphasis on Torah study in the rabbinic anecdote versus the emphasis on action in Four Soils is characteristic of the rabbinic-hasidic divide discussed in the Conjectured Stages of Transmission section above.

A story about Hillel also contains the phrase “the words of the living God”:

אמרו עליו על הלל הזקן שבכל יום ויום היה עושה ומשתכר בטרעפיק חציו היה נותן לשומר בית המדרש וחציו לפרנסתו ולפרנסת אנשי ביתו פעם אחת לא מצא להשתכר ולא הניחו שומר בית המדרש להכנס עלה ונתלה וישב על פי ארובה כדי שישמע דברי אלהים חיים מפי שמעיה ואבטליון

They say concerning Hillel the elder that every day he would hire himself out to work for a tropaik; half he would give to the keeper of the bet midrash and half was for his sustenance and for the sustenance of the people of his house. One time, he did not find work, and the keeper of the bet midrash did not permit him to enter. He went up and sat at the opening of an aperture in the roof so that he might hear the words of the living God [דִּבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים] from the mouth of Shemayah and Avtalyon…. (b. Yom. 35b)

These rabbinic anecdotes demonstrate that Luke’s identification of the seed as “the word of God” is at home in an ancient Jewish context. They also suggests that Jesus intended “the word of God” to be understood in a wider sense than just his own proclamation concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. “The word of God” encompasses the fullness of God’s revelation to Israel.

דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים (HR). On reconstructing λόγος (logos, “word”) with דָּבָר (dāvār, “word”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L24.

In LXX the noun θεός (theos, “god”) occurs as the translation of אֱלֹהִים (elohim, “God”) in the overwhelming majority of instances,[40] and similarly we find that the LXX translators typically rendered אֱלֹהִים as θεός.[41] The LXX translators variously rendered the construct phrase דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים (devar ’elohim, “the word of God”) as ῥῆμα (τοῦ) θεοῦ (hrēma [tou] theou, “word of [the] God”; 1 Kgdms. 9:27; Isa. 40:8), λόγος θεοῦ (logos theou, “word of God”; Judg. 3:20) and λόγος κυρίου (logos kūriou, “word of [the] Lord”; 1 Chr. 17:3).[42]

The phrase דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים does not occur in DSS, but a synonymous phrase does occur in the Rule of the Community:

 לוא לצעוד בכול אחד מכול דברי אל בקציהם ולוא לקדם עתיהם ולוא להתאחר מכול מועדיהם

Not to err in any one of the words of God [דִּבְרֵי אֵל] in their appointed times, and neither to push forward the dates nor to postpone any of the feasts. (1QS I, 13-14)

In addition to the rabbinic anecdotes cited above, the phrase דִּבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים also occurs in an announcement from a bat kol (heavenly voice) that is referred to several times in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds.[43] Usually, the bat kol is said to refer to “the words of the living God,” but on one occasion the bat kol is said to refer simply to “the words of God”:

תני יצאת בת קול ואמרה אילו ואילו דברי אלהים הן אבל הלכה כדברי ב″ה

A bat kol went out and said, “These, as well as these, are the words of God [דִּבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים], but the halachah is according to the words of bet Hillel.” (y. Kid. 1:1[4a])

L22 καὶ μὴ συνιέντος (Matt. 13:19). Matthew’s explanation that it is a lack of understanding that allows the seed to be snatched from the hearer’s heart forges a link between the Matthean version of the Four Soils interpretation and the Matthean version of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, since Matthew’s is the only version of Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to mention “understanding” with the heart (Matt. 13:15).[44] The author of Matthew also added a reference to “understanding” in his version of the seed-in-good-soil explanation (L71). Both references to “understanding” in the Matthean version of the Four Soils interpretation are redactional and reflect the author of Matthew’s sectarian worldview, which divided humanity between “insiders,” who understand the divine mysteries concealed in Jesus’ parables, and “outsiders,” to whom the divine mysteries remain undisclosed.

Despite the likelihood that the reference to “understanding” in L22 is Matthean, it is possible that Matthew’s citation of a reason why the hearers represented by the seed-on-the-path scenario were vulnerable to satanic attack owes something to Anth. In the seed-in-good-soil explanation, where Luke’s version refers to “holding fast” and Mark’s version refers to “receiving,” Matthew’s version once again refers to “understanding” (L71). It may be that in both places where the author of Matthew wrote “understanding” Anth. read “receiving.” Moreover, all three synoptic versions of the seed-on-the-rock explanation refer to “receiving” (L42). We think it is likely that Anth. referred to “hearing” and “receiving” in the explanations of all four scenarios, and that it was the First Reconstructor’s editorial activity that suppressed references to “receiving” in the Lukan and Markan versions of the Four Soils interpretation. Matthew’s καὶ μὴ συνιέντος (“and not understanding”) in L22, therefore, might preserve an echo of καὶ οὐ δέχονται (“and they do not receive”), which we believe appeared in Anth.’s version of the Four Soils interpretation (see below, Comment to L29).

L23 ἔρχεται ὁ πονηρὸς (Matt. 13:19). In the Synoptic Gospels absolute uses of ὁ πονηρός (ho ponēros, “the evil [one]”) in reference to the devil or Satan are confined to the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38). Even most of these examples are ambiguous, and might simply refer to “evil” in an abstract sense:

  • “Let your word be ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no.’ That which is more than this is from the Evil One [or: from evil].” (Matt. 5:37)
  • “…and rescue us from the Evil One [or: from evil].” (Matt. 6:13)
  • “…the darnel represents the sons of the Evil One [or: of evil].” (Matt. 13:38)

The only example where ὁ πονηρός is definitely used in the sense of “the Evil One” is in Matt. 13:19, as the parallels in Luke (ὁ διάβολος [ho diabolos, “the devil”]) and Mark (ὁ σατανᾶς [ho satanas, “Satan”]) make clear. It may be that the author of Matthew incorrectly understood ὁ πονηρός in the Lord’s Prayer as a reference to Satan and, inspired by this misapprehension, used “the Evil One” as a synonym for Satan in Matt. 13:19 (Four Soils interpretation) and Matt. 13:38 (Darnel Among the Wheat).

L24 καὶ ἁρπάζει τὸ ἐσπαρμένον (Matt. 13:19). Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation describes the Evil One snatching away that which was sown. Matthew’s verb, ἁρπάζειν (harpazein, “to grab,” “to snatch away”), is more vivid than the parallel verb, αἴρειν (airein, “to lift,” “to take,” “to remove”), which is used in the Lukan and Markan versions of the interpretation (L31). Moreover, among the Synoptic Gospels ἁρπάζειν occurs only in Matthew (Matt. 11:12; 12:29; 13:19), and we found the instance in Matt. 11:12 to be redactional (see The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, Comment to L9). It therefore seems probable that ἁρπάζειν in L24 is redactional, too. Likewise, Matthew’s τὸ ἐσπαρμένον (to esparmenon, “the [thing] sown”) is simply abbreviated from Mark’s version of the seed-on-the-path explanation, where we find τὸν λόγον τὸν ἐσπαρμένον εἰς αὐτούς (ton logon ton esparmenon eis avtous, “the word sown in them”; L31-33). All these considerations lead us to the conclusion that Matthew’s wording in L24 is a paraphrase of Mark’s and/or Anth.’s wording in L31.

L25 ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ (Matt. 13:19). Matthew’s reference to “the heart” in L25 is an important Lukan-Matthean minor agreement against Mark.[45] The reference to “the heart” proves that, despite his reworking of the seed-on-the-path explanation, the author of Matthew continued to be influenced by Anth. Since the author of Matthew reversed the location→explanation pattern in the seed-on-the-path explanation (see above, Comment to L20-25), we believe that Luke’s version preserves the reference to “the heart” at its original location (L32).

Seed-on-the-Path Explanation

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

L26 οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν οὗτοί εἰσιν (GR). There is close agreement between Luke, Mark and Matthew in L26, despite a few minor differences. Luke and Mark agree against Matthew to include the conjunction δέ (de, “but”) and to use the third-person plural form εἰσίν (eisin, “they are”), while Mark and Matthew agree against Luke to include a demonstrative pronoun (οὗτος [houtos, “this”] Matt. 13:19 // οὗτοι [houtoi, “these”] Mark 4:15). Since Luke and Matthew agree against Mark to use the pattern definite article + δέ + location at the opening of the seed-on-the-rock explanation (L36), the seed-among-thorns explanation (L50) and the seed-in-good-soil explanation (L65), we have accepted Luke’s οἱ δέ + location formula for GR in L26. We have also accepted the demonstrative pronoun for GR, albeit at a different location than it appears in Mark and Matthew. Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation includes the demonstrative pronoun in the identification formula in all four scenario explanations (L26, L38, L52, L67). Since there is a Lukan-Matthean minor agreement to use the demonstrative pronoun in the identification formula of L67, and since all three Gospels agree to use the demonstrative pronoun in the identification formula of L52, it seems likely that the demonstrative pronoun, in its plural form, occurred in all four of Anth.’s identifications. We have therefore restored οὗτοι to its Hebraic position in GR following the location (παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν [“beside the road”]) and before the verb (εἰσιν [“they are”]).

וְהֵם עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ אֵלּוּ (HR). On the demonstrative use of the third person pronoun in MH, see Segal, 201 §414. On reconstructing παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν (para tēn hodon, “beside the road”) as עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ (‘al haderech, “upon the road”), see Four Soils parable, Comment to L28. In LXX οὗτοί εἰσιν (houtoi eisin, “these are”) serves as the translation of אֵלֶּה (’ēleh, “these [are]”) in Gen. 9:19; Job 18:21; Zech. 1:10. Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech, including parables, in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have adopted אֵלּוּ (’ēlū, “these”), the MH equivalent of אֵלֶּה, for HR.[46]

L27 ὅπου σπείρεται ὁ λόγος (Mark 4:15). That the author of Mark added the phrase “where the word is sown” is demonstrated by the Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit ὅπου (hopou, “where”) and ὁ λόγος (ho logos, “the word”). The author of Matthew retained something of Mark’s wording by writing the passive participle σπαρείς (spareis, “sown”) opposite Mark’s passive verb σπείρεται (speiretai, “it is sown”).

L28 οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν (Mark 4:15). The adverb ὅταν (hotan, “when”) does not occur in the explanations of any of the scenarios in the Matthean version of the Four Soils interpretation. In Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation ὅταν occurs only in the seed-on-the-rock explanation (L39), where we find οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν (“who when they might hear”; L39-40), precisely the same wording as Mark’s in L28. The author of Mark probably noticed Luke’s use of οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν in the seed-on-the-rock explanation and decided to add it to his version of the seed-on-the-path explanation as well. Since the ὅταν + subjunctive construction looks like a Greek stylistic improvement, the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke probably inserted it in L39-40.

οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον (GR). Luke (L28) and Matthew (L20) agree to use a participial form of ἀκούειν in the seed-on-the path explanation against Mark’s subjunctive form of ἀκούειν (L28). Luke and Matthew likewise agree to use a participial form of ἀκούειν in L70, parallel to that in L28, against Mark’s present tense form of ἀκούειν (L70). Probably Anth. had οἱ ἀκούσαντες in all four scenario explanations (L28, L40, L53, L70) of the Four Soils interpretation.

As to our addition of τὸν λόγον (ton logon, “the word”) to GR, we note that Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation includes τὸν λόγον as the object following ἀκούσαντες (“hearing”) in the seed-in-good-soil explanation (L70), and it includes τὸν λόγον as the object of δέχονται (dechontai, “they receive”) in the explanation of the seed-on-the-rock scenario (L42). Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation consistently includes τὸν λόγον as the object of “hearing” in the explanations of all four scenarios (L21, L40, L53, L70). We think it is likely that “the word” occurred as the object of “hearing” in Anth.’s version of all four scenario explanations in the Four Soils interpretation.

“The word [of God]” is also the object of “hearing” in two other sayings of Jesus, which have affinities with the Four Soils parable and the Four Soils interpretation:

μήτηρ μου καὶ ἀδελφοί μου οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀκούοντες καὶ ποιοῦντες

My mother and my brothers—these are the ones hearing the word of God and acting. (Luke 8:21)

μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες

Blessed are the ones hearing the word of God and keeping [it]. (Luke 11:28)

הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר (HR). On reconstructing ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) with שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L24-25. On reconstructing λόγος (logos, “word”) with דָּבָר (dāvār, “word”), see above, Comment to L21.

L29 καὶ οὐ δέχονται αὐτόν (GR). Three related considerations have led us to add “but they do not receive it” to our reconstruction of the seed-on-the-path explanation. The first we have mentioned already: Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation includes a reason why the first set of hearers were susceptible to satanic attack, namely that these hearers lacked understanding (see above, Comment to L22). Although the specific reason the author of Matthew gave is probably secondary, his inclusion of a reason may be a hint that a reason was also given in Anth. Second, “receiving” is mentioned in all three synoptic versions of the seed-on-the-rock interpretation (L42), and something roughly corresponding to “receiving” (Mark: “they receive”; Luke: “they hold fast”; Matthew: “understanding”) also occurs in all three versions of the seed-in-good-soil explanation (L71). In these two scenario explanations the outcome is contingent upon what kind of reception the hearers give the word of God. We think it is likely that in Anth. all four scenario explanations turned on whether and how the hearers received the word of God. Our third reason for adding “but they do not receive it” to GR and HR is that the logic of the parable demands some kind of culpability on the part of the hearers for their failure to flourish.[47] Since “they do not listen” is not an option—the parable describes four kinds of hearer and all three synoptic versions affirm that the first group did, indeed, hear—“they do not receive” is the best alternative. The notion that Satan could indiscriminately rob hearers of God’s word might ring true to those who espouse sectarian worldviews, such as the Essenes of Qumran or the members of the Matthean community, but it is not compatible with Jesus’ hasidic worldview, which placed heavy emphasis on human volition and the power of repentance.[48] For Jesus, human beings were subject to Satan only if they willfully rejected God’s saving grace.

וְאֵינָם מְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing δέχεσθαι (dechesthai, “to receive,” “to accept”) with קִבֵּל (qibēl, “receive,” “accept”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L101.

L30 εὐθὺς ἔρχεται ὁ σατανᾶς (Mark 4:15). The author of Mark used the adverb εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”) so frequently that Lindsey referred to it as the classic “Markan stereotype.” Since the addition of this adverb is typical of Markan redaction, we have excluded it from GR.[49] Deciding between Mark’s ὁ σατανᾶς (ho satanas, “the satan”) and Luke’s ὁ διάβολος (ho diabolos, “the slanderer,” “the devil”) is more difficult. Both options revert equally well to Hebrew as הַשָּׂטָן (hasāṭān, “the adversary,” “the satan”). The author of Luke used διάβολος just as frequently as σατανᾶς in his Gospel,[50] so there is no reason to suppose that he would have rejected σατανᾶς had it occurred in FR’s version of the Four Soils interpretation. But this data point does not settle the matter, since ὁ διάβολος could have been the First Reconstructor’s standard replacement for Anth.’s ὁ σατανᾶς, in which case it would not have been the author of Luke who rejected ὁ σατανᾶς in the Four Soils interpretation. In other words, in L30 we may have one of those relatively rare instances where Mark preserves the wording of Anth. better than Luke. Weighing against this conclusion, however, are three important facts:

  1. The Double Tradition Yeshua’s Testing pericope demonstrates that the noun διάβολος occurred in Anth. (Matt. 4:1 // Luke 4:2; Matt. 4:11 // Luke 4:13).
  2. Mark’s summary of Yeshua’s Testing (Mark 1:13) demonstrates that the author of Mark wrote σατανᾶς where his source(s) (Luke and/or Anth.) read διάβολος.
  3. The author of Mark completely avoided the noun διάβολος in his Gospel.

The above facts show that the Gospel of Mark is not a reliable witness regarding the presence of the noun σατανᾶς in Anth.

καὶ ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος (GR). With the exception of the adverb εἶτα (eita, “then”), we have accepted Luke’s wording for GR. In the Synoptic Gospels εἶτα is quite rare, never occurring in Matthew, occurring only this once in Luke, and appearing four times in Mark (Mark 4:17, 28 [2xx]; 8:25). All of the instances of εἶτα in Mark appear to be redactional. Those occurring in the Markan version of the Four Soils interpretation (Mark 4:17) and in the Spontaneous Growth parable (Mark 4:28) were probably picked up from Luke 8:12 (see below, Comment to L46-48, and Spontaneous Growth, Comment to L9). We suspect that the εἶτα in Luke 8:12 is a Greek stylistic improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor, perhaps as a replacement for καί (kai, “and”) in Anth.

Luke and Mark (L30), as well as Matthew (L23), agreed to use the verb ἔρχεται (erchetai, “he comes”) to describe Satan’s apparition in the seed-on-the-path explanation.

וּבָא הַשָּׂטָן (HR). On reconstructing the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L8.

Most instances of the noun διάβολος (diabolos, “slanderer,” “enemy”) in LXX are concentrated in the first two chapters of Job and the third chapter of Zechariah, where διάβολος invariably occurs as the translation of שָׂטָן (sāṭān, “adversary”).[51] In these two sources διάβολος/שָׂטָן is a title belonging to a supernatural being who attempts to disrupt God’s relationship with the righteous and to thwart God’s redemptive purposes for Israel. Outside Job and Zechariah διάβολος occurs 4xx in LXX books corresponding to MT, and two of these are likewise the translation of שָׂטָן (1 Chr. 21:1; Ps. 108[109]:6). Only in Esther does διάβολος represent a term other than שָׂטָן (Esth. 7:4; 8:1). Examining the evidence from the opposite direction, we find that most instances of שָׂטָן in MT were rendered διάβολος by the LXX translators.[52] In light of this evidence, there can be little doubt regarding our Hebrew reconstruction of διάβολος in L30.

Some scholars have demured that the explanation of the birds (plural) who ate the seed on the path as Satan (singular) is somewhat incongruous.[53] Nevertheless, an ancient Jewish source that was certainly familiar to some first-century Jewish readers demonstrates that Jesus’ explanation of the birds would not necessarily have sounded strange to his audience. The book of Jubilees tells a story about how Mastema (one of the names of Satan) sent birds to eat up all the seeds that were sown in the fields in the days before Abraham was born (Jub. 11:11-14). The birds plagued the people until Abraham, as a youth, frightened the birds away (Jub. 11:18-22).[54] Whether or not the book of Jubilees itself was widely read in the first century C.E.,[55] the legend about Abraham and the birds likely enjoyed a much wider currency. Therefore, when Jesus described how the birds ate up the seed on the path in the Four Soils parable, his audience may well have remembered this story, in which case the interpretation’s association of the birds with Satan would probably not have caused his listeners surprise.

L31 καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον (GR). We saw above in Comment to L24 that Matthew’s parallel to “and he takes the word” is probably redactional. We have therefore accepted the identical wording of Luke and Mark in L31 for GR.

וְעוֹקֵר אֶת הַדָּבָר (HR). Flusser and Lindsey reconstructed αἴρειν (airein, “to lift,” “to take,” “to remove”) using the verb נָטַל (nāṭal, “lift,” “take”), as did Young in his reconstruction (see the Reconstruction section above). This is a perfectly good reconstruction, since although in LXX αἴρειν is more often the translation of נָשָׂא (nāsā’, “take,” “carry”) than נָטַל,[56] this is largely due to the fact that the root נ-ט-ל is rare in MT, occurring only 4xx (2 Sam. 24:12; Isa. 40:15; 63:9; Lam. 3:28), whereas in MH נָטַל became a common verb for “take.” Even so, αἴρειν does occur as the translation of נָטַל in 2 Kgdms. 24:12 and Lam. 3:28. These facts notwithstanding, we have preferred to reconstruct αἴρειν with the verb עָקַר (‘āqar, “uproot,” “remove”) for the following reasons:

  • First, the semantic overlap of αἴρειν + ἀπό (= “remove”) and מִן + עָקַר (= “uproot,” “remove”) makes עָקַר a good candidate for HR.
    _
  • Second, the agricultural connotation of עָקַר (“uproot”) fits the context of the Four Soils parable and the Four Soils interpretation.[57]

  • Third, we have not found any examples of נָטַל מִן הַלֵּב (“take from the heart”), but we do find an example of עָקַר מִן הַלֵּב (“uproot from the heart”) in the following rabbinic source:

    ר′ נחמיה אמר בשעה ששמעו ישראל לא יהיה לך נעקר יצר הרע מלבם

    Rabbi Nehemyah said, “The moment that Israel heard [God speak the commandment] You shall not have [other gods before me] [Exod. 20:3] the evil inclination was uprooted from their heart [נֱעֶקַר יֵצֶר הָרַע מִלִּבָּם].” (Song Rab. 1:2 §4 [ed. Etelsohn, 32])

In MT there are only two instances of the verb עָקַר in the sense of “uproot” or “remove” (Zeph. 2:4; Eccl. 3:2). It is not surprising, therefore, that in LXX there are no instances of αἴρειν as the translation of עָקַר.

On reconstructing λόγος (logos, “word”) with דָּבָר (dāvār, “word”), see above, Comment to L21.

L32 ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν (GR). We noted above in Comment to L25 that the Lukan-Matthean agreement to mention “the heart” in the seed-on-the-path explanation virtually assures us of its presence in Anth.

מִלִּבָּם (HR). In LXX καρδία (kardia, “heart”) almost always occurs as the translation of לֵב (lēv, “heart”) or לֵבָב (lēvāv, “heart”).[58] The evidence is somewhat less even when approaching the question from the opposite direction. LXX translators rendered לֵב and לֵבָב in a variety of ways; nevertheless, the most frequent rendering of לֵב and לֵבָב is καρδία.[59] The synonyms לֵב and לֵבָב continued to exist side-by-side in MH. For HR we have selected מִלִּבָּם (milibām, “from their heart”) because the form מִלְּבָבָם (milevāvām, “from their heart”) is not attested in MT, DSS or rabbinic sources.[60] In addition to the example of מִלִּבָּם (“from their heart”) in Song Rab. 1:2 §4 (ed. Etelsohn, 32; cited above in Comment to L31), further instances of מִלִּבָּם are found in Ezek. 13:2 and Job 8:10.

The description of “the word” that is taken from “their heart” in the Four Soils interpretation sounds like an allusion to the following passage in Deuteronomy:

כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא׃ לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה׃ וְלֹא מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר לָנוּ אֶל עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה׃ כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשׂתוֹ

For this commandment that I command you today is not too wonderful for you [to perform], neither is it beyond your grasp. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and take it for us, that it might be proclaimed to us and we might do it [וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה]?” Neither is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross beyond the sea for us and take it for us, that it might be proclaimed to us and we might do it [וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה]?” For the word [הַדָּבָר] is very close to you—in your mouth and in your heart [וּבִלְבָבְךָ] to do it. (Deut. 30:11-14)

Not only does this passage from Deuteronomy provide an example of an absolute use of הַדָּבָר (hadāvār, “the word”) parallel to the absolute use of ὁ λόγος (ho logos, “the word”) in the Four Soils interpretation,[61] but, according to Deut. 30:14, the residing place of “the word” is in the heart, just as in the Four Soils interpretation. Moreover, the emphasis on hearing and doing in this Deuteronomy passage (n.b. the twice-repeated “that it might be proclaimed [from the same root as שָׁמַע, “hear”] to us and we might do it”) agrees with the purpose of the Four Soils parable, which was to encourage hearing that is translated into deeds. In the seed-on-the-path explanation Jesus issued a warning to his fellow Israelites, that even though they heard the Torah read every Sabbath, the word of God could be removed from their hearts if they failed to put the Torah’s commandments into action.[62]

L33 τὸν ἐσπαρμένον εἰς αὐτούς (Mark 4:15). Instead of describing the devil as taking the word “from their heart” as in Luke, the author of Mark referred to his taking the word “that was sown in them.” Since the Lukan-Matthean agreement to mention “the heart” indicates that Luke preserved the original reading of Anth., it appears that Mark’s wording in L33 is simply the author of Mark’s paraphrase of Luke and/or Anth. It should be noted that whereas in Hebrew it is more usual to refer to ground that was sown (with seed),[63] in Greek it was more typical to describe seed that was sown (in the ground).[64] Thus, Mark’s “the word which is sown in them” conforms to Greek rather than Hebrew idiom.

L34 ἵνα μὴ πιστεύσαντες σωθῶσιν (Luke 8:12). Luke’s un-Hebraic ἵνα + subjunctive construction in L34, the fact that the combination “believe and be saved” is unique to Luke among the Synoptic Gospels (Luke 8:50),[65] and the absence of anything similar to “in order that they might not believe and be saved” in the Markan and Matthean versions of the Four Soils interpretation all lead to the conclusion that Luke’s wording in L34 did not occur in Anth.[66] We think it is likely that the two examples of “believe and be saved” in Luke’s Gospel were copied from FR, but since πιστεύομεν σωθῆναι (“we believe that we will be saved”) occurs in Acts 15:11 we cannot completely dismiss the possibility that the author of Luke was himself responsible for the addition of the wording in L34. We note, too, that most instances of σώζειν (sōzein, “to rescue,” “to save”) in the Synoptic Gospels refer to discrete acts of deliverance from acute situations (e.g., illness, demon possession, etc.). The few instances in the Synoptic Gospels where σώζειν refers to salvation in an absolute eschatological sense[67] appear to stem from the editorial work of the First Reconstructor, as, for example, the disciples’ question, “Who, then, can be saved?” in the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven incident (Matt. 19:25; Mark 10:26; Luke 18:26).[68]

L35 καὶ οὗτοί εἰσιν ὁμοίως (Mark 4:16). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to open the seed-on-the-rock explanation with the definite article + δέ + location construction indicates that “and these are likewise” in L35 was simply the author of Mark’s paraphrasing of the wording of Luke and/or Anth. Mark’s οὗτοί εἰσιν reflects Anth.’s wording in L38 (see below).

Seed-on-the-Rock Explanation

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

L36 οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας (GR). It appears that a Hebraism from Anth. survived the First Reconstructor’s Greek stylistic polishing and was accepted by the author of Luke, since Luke’s “on the rock” is more Hebraic than “on the rocky places” in the versions of Mark and Matthew (see Four Soils parable, Comment to L34). We have accordingly accepted Luke’s wording in L36 for GR.

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

On reconstructing πέτρα (petra, “rock”) with סֶלַע (sela‘, “rock”), see Four Soils parable, Comment to L34.

L37 σπειρόμενοι (Mark 4:16). We noted in Comment to L33 that describing seed as sown is more characteristic of Greek than Hebrew, which prefers to describe sown land. We therefore suspect that the passive participle σπειρόμενοι (speiromenoi, “sown”) in L37 was the author of Mark’s addition, possibly influenced by Luke’s addition of a participle in the seed-among-thorns explanation (see below, Comment to L50-51). The author of Matthew, who used singular forms to refer to the seed throughout his version of the Four Soils interpretation, replaced Mark’s plural participle with a singular form.

L38 οὗτοί εἰσιν (GR). Whereas Mark’s οὗτοί εἰσιν (houtoi eisin, “these are”) in L35 preserves Anth.’s wording, Matthew preserves the original location of these words in L38, but gives them in singular form. As we noted in Comment to L26, we believe that the identification formula οὗτοί εἰσιν occurred in Anth.’s version of all four scenario explanations (L26, L38, L52, L67).

L39-40 οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν (Luke 8:13). Luke’s ὅταν + subjunctive construction appears to be a Greek stylistic improvement of the plural participle ἀκούσαντες (akousantes, “hearing”), which occurs in the explanations of the other three scenarios (L28, L53, L70) in the Lukan version of the Four Soils interpretation. The First Reconstructor was probably responsible for making this stylistic improvement, which was simply copied by the author of Luke. We believe that the First Reconstructor was also responsible for moving τὸν λόγον (“the word”) from L40, where it appeared in Anth., to L42, where it appears in Luke, thereby making τὸν λόγον the object of “receiving” in the seed-on-the-rock explanation, rather than the object of “hearing” as in the Lukan version of the seed-in-good-soil explanation (L70) and in all four scenario explanations in the Matthean version of the Four Soils interpretation (L21, L40, L53, L70).

ὅταν ἀκούσωσι τὸν λόγον (Mark 4:16). While the author of Mark copied ὅταν + subjunctive from Luke, it appears he restored τὸν λόγον (“the word”) to its original position as the object of “hearing” on the basis of Anth.

ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων (Matt. 13:20). Matthew’s wording in L40 appears to be a blending of Anth. with Mark. Matthew’s use of the definite article + participial form of ἀκούειν to describe the hearers, and his use of τὸν λόγον as the object of “hearing,” reflect the wording of Anth., while Matthew’s word order was influenced by Mark’s in L53. The singular forms of the definite article (ho, “the”) and the participle ἀκούων (akouōn, “hearing”) are the author of Matthew’s own editorial contributions to his version of the Four Soils interpretation.

L40 οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον (GR). We have adopted οἱ ἀκούσαντες (“the ones hearing”) for GR, which is how the various groups of hearers are identified in Luke in the seed-on-the-path (L28), the seed-among-thorns (L53) and the seed-in-good-soil (L70 [minus the definite article]) explanations. On including τὸν λόγον (“the word”) as the object of “hearing” in GR, see above, Comment to L28.

הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר (HR). On reconstructing ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) with שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”), see above, Comment to L28. On reconstructing λόγος (logos, “word”) with דָּבָר (dāvār, “word”), see above, Comment to L21.

L41 μετὰ χαρᾶς (Luke 8:13). All three Synoptic Gospels agree to use the phrase μετὰ χαρᾶς (meta charas, “with joy”) to describe the enthusiasm with which the hearers received what they heard. Luke’s placement of the prepositional phrase μετὰ χαρᾶς is out of place from the standpoint of Hebrew word order. We have already had occasion to note that the First Reconstructor polished the Greek style of the seed-on-the-rock explanation by adding ὅταν + subjunctive (see above, Comment to L39-40). The un-Hebraic placement of μετὰ χαρᾶς in L41 was probably due to the editorial work of the First Reconstructor as well. We have therefore placed the prepositional phrase μετὰ χαρᾶς in L42 of GR. To Luke’s μετὰ χαρᾶς the author of Mark added his stereotypical εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”), which on this occasion the author of Matthew accepted. Matthew’s addition of καί (kai, “and”) before εὐθύς may be a reflection of καὶ δέχονται (“and they receive”), which we believe was Anth.’s wording in L42. Matthew and Mark agree with Luke’s un-Hebraic placement of the prepositional phrase μετὰ χαρᾶς ahead of the verb for “receiving.” Thus, the Greek stylistic “improvements” the First Reconstructor made to the seed-on-the-rock explanation influenced (directly or indirectly) each of the synoptic versions of the Four Soils interpretation.

L42 καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν μετὰ χαρᾶς (GR). As we discussed in Comment to L29, we believe that in Anth. each group of hearers was further qualified by what type of reception (if any) they gave to what they heard. Some hear and reject the word of God, others hear it and accept it in principle but allow other things to prevent them from translating their hearing into doing, but ideally hearers will put what they have accepted into action. The explanation of the seed-on-the-rock scenario, in each of its synoptic versions, offers support for this supposition, since in L42 all three synoptic versions of the Four Soils interpretation contain a word for “receiving.”

Since we believe that it was the First Reconstructor who made “the word” the object of “receiving” rather than of “hearing” (see above, Comment to L39-40), we have accepted the pronoun αὐτόν from Mark and Matthew so that our reconstruction in L42 agrees with GR in L29, L54 and L71.

וּמְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ בְּשִׂמְחָה (HR). On reconstructing δέχεσθαι (dechesthai, “to receive”) with קִבֵּל (qibēl, “receive”), see above, Comment to L29. On reconstructing μετὰ χαρᾶς (meta charas, “with joy”) with בְּשִׂמְחָה (besimḥāh, “with joy”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L4.

Examples of “receiving with joy” expressed as קִבֵּל בְּשִׂמְחָה occur in rabbinic sources such as the following:

ר′ יִשְׁמָעֵא′ אוֹמ′…הֱוֵוי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּשִׂמְחָה

Rabbi Yishmael says, “…be one who receives [מְקַבֵּל] every person with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה].” (m. Avot 3:12)

אמר להם אם מקבלים אתם עליכם עונשים בשמחה הרי אתם מקבלים שכר ואם לאו הרי אתם מקבלים פורענות וקבלו עליהן עונשין בשמחה

He [i.e., Moses—DNB and JNT] said to them [i.e., the Israelites at Sinai—DNB and JNT], “If you receive [מְקַבְּלִים] the penalties [mandated in the Torah—DNB and JNT] with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה], behold, you are receiving a wage. But if not, behold, you are receiving punishments.” And they received [וְקִבְּלוּ] the penalties with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 2 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:300])

רבי אומר להודיע שבחן של ישראל שכשעמדו כולן לפני הר סיני לקבל התורה השוו כלם לב אחד לקבל מלכות אלהים בשמחה

Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] says, “This is to make known the excellence of Israel, for as they all stood before Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, they determined as though with one heart to receive [לְקַבֵּל] the kingdom of God with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה].” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 5 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:314])

רבי שמעון אומר כל מצוה שקבלו אותה ישראל בשמחה מהר סיני עושים אותה בשמחה וכל מצוה שלא קבלו אותה מהר סיני בשמחה אין עושים אותה בשמחה

Rabbi Shimon says, “Every commandment that Israel received [שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ] with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה] from Mount Sinai they do joyfully, but every commandment that they did not receive [שֶׁלֹּא קִבְּלוּ] from Mount Sinai with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה] they do not do joyfully.” (Sifre Deut. §76 [ed. Finkelstein, 141])

Note that in all but the first of the above-cited sources “receiving joyfully” pertains to the Torah, just as we believe Four Soils pertained to hearing, receiving and performing the Torah’s commandments. Jesus’ view, however, is not as optimistic as the sentiments expressed in these rabbinic sources. According to the Four Soils interpretation, even the joyful acceptance of God’s word is no guarantee that the commandments will be put into practice.

L43 καὶ ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν (GR). We seriously considered accepting Mark’s wording in L43 for GR, since in Hebrew it is more common to find the order וְאֵין לוֹ + noun, which matches Mark’s word order, than -וְ + noun + אֵין לוֹ, the order indicated by the Greek of Luke. Nevertheless, in circumstantial clauses, such as the one in L43, we do sometimes encounter -וְ + noun + אֵין לוֹ, as we see from the following biblical and rabbinic examples:

וּבַת כֹּהֵן כִּי תִהְיֶה אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה וְזֶרַע אֵין לָהּ

And a daughter of a priest: when she becomes a widow or a divorcee, and offspring she does not have [וְזֶרַע אֵין לָהּ]…. (Lev. 22:13)

אִישׁ כִּי יָמוּת וּבֵן אֵין לוֹ

A man, when he dies and a son he does not have [וּבֵן אֵין לוֹ]…. (Num. 27:8)

כִּי יֵשְׁבוּ אַחִים יַחְדָּו וּמֵת אַחַד מֵהֶם וּבֵן אֵין לוֹ

When brothers live together and one of them dies, and a son he does not have [וּבֵן אֵין לוֹ]…. (Deut. 25:5)

עַל אֵילּוּ אֵין הַנָּזִיר מְגַלֵּיַח וּמַזֶּה בַּשְּׁלִישִׁי וּבַשְּׁבִיעִי וְאֵינוֹ סוֹתֵר אֶת הַקּוֹדְמִים וּמַתְחִיל מוֹנֶה מִיָּד וְקָרְבָּן אֵין לוֹ

On account of these [things] the Nazirite does not shave, but he does sprinkle on the third and seventh day, and he does not nullify the preceding days [he had already completed] but he begins counting immediately, and an offering he does not have [וְקָרְבָּן אֵין לוֹ]. (m. Naz. 7:3)

וְאֵיזֶה הוּא תַרְבִּית הַמַּרְבֶּה בַפֵּרוֹת כֵּיצַד לָקַח מִמֶּנּוּ חִיטִּים מִדִּינַר זָהָב הַכּוֹר וְכֵן הַשַּׁעַר עָמְדוּ חִיטִּים בִּשְׁלוֹשִׁים דִּינָר אָמַ′ לוֹ תֶּן לִי חִיטַּיִי שֶׁ[אֲ]נִי מוֹכְרָן וְלוֹקֵיַח אֲנִי לִי בָהֶן יַיִן אָמַ′ לוֹ וַהֲרֵי חִיטֶּיךָ עֲשׂוּיוֹת עָלַיִ בִּשְׁלֹשִׁים דִינָ′ וַהֲרֵי לָך אֶצְלִוֹ בָהֶן יַיִן וְיַיִן אֵין לוֹ

What is the “increase” [forbidden in Lev. 25:36—DNB and JNT]? The one who multiplies with produce. How so? If someone bought wheat from him at the price of a gold dinar [worth twenty-five regular dinars—DNB and JNT] per kor, but then the price of wheat went up to thirty dinars [per kor], he said to the seller, “Give me my wheat, for I am selling it and buying wine with it,” and the seller said to him, “Let your wheat be valued at thirty dinars, and so you have with me a claim for thirty dinars’ worth of wine”—but wine he [i.e., the seller] does not have [וְיַיִן אֵין לוֹ]. (m. Bab. Metz. 5:1)

In view of examples such as these, we cannot say that Luke’s word order is un-Hebraic. We have therefore accepted Luke’s wording for GR, with the exception of αὐτοί (avtoi, “they”), which either the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke may have added to the wording of Anth.

וְעִקָּר אֵין לָהֶם (HR). In the preceding paragraphs we cited examples that support the word order of our reconstruction. Nearly all instances of ῥίζα (hriza, “root”) in LXX occur as the translation of שֹׁרֶשׁ (shoresh, “root”),[69] and likewise we find that the LXX translators almost exclusively rendered שֹׁרֶשׁ into Greek as ῥίζα.[70] In post-biblical Hebrew, however, a synonym for שֹׁרֶשׁ, namely עִקָּר (‘iqār, “root”), entered the language. The noun עִקָּר is attested once in DSS (4QpsEzeka [4Q385] 6 I, 8) and numerous times in the Mishnah, where in many instances it occurs with the extended meaning of “main thing” or “most important part.”[71]

We have preferred to use עִקָּר in the reconstruction of the Four Soils interpretation for four main reasons. First, we have already had recourse to the root ע-ק-ר in our reconstruction of the seed-on-the-path explanation (L31), so עִקָּר suits the literary context of the Four Soils interpretation. Second, while we have not encountered parallels to וְשֹׁרֶשׁ אֵין לָהֶם (“but root[s] they do not have”) in ancient Jewish sources, we do find a parallel to וְעִקָּר אֵין לָהֶם (“but root[s] they do not have”) in a baraita, which is cited three times in the Babylonian Talmud.[72] This may suggest that for speakers of Mishnaic Hebrew עִקָּר sounded more natural than שֹׁרֶשׁ when stating that something lacked roots. Third, the noun עִקָּר admits of a double interpretation. While it can mean “root,” עִקָּר can also mean “the essential or main thing.” Assuming the latter meaning in L43 avoids a logical inconsistency in the seed-on-the-rock explanation, for otherwise there is a blurring of the signifier (the seed scenario), which is being interpreted for the disciples, and the signified (a certain type of hearer). Hearers, since they are human beings, do not have roots, but they can lack the most important thing about hearing: they can fail to respond. We suspect that Jesus played on the two meanings of עִקָּר: “root” fit the agricultural ambiance of the Four Soils interpretation, but “essential thing” was the meaning Jesus actually intended. A rabbinic parallel illuminates what that “essential thing” in the seed-on-the-rock explanation may have been, which in turn provides the fourth reason for our preference for reconstructing with עִקָּר, namely that עִקָּר reinforces the overall message of the Four Soils parable and the Four Soils interpretation.

The rabbinic parallel to which we refer is found in the Mishnah’s tractate Avot:

שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ אוֹ′ כָּל יָמַיִ גָּדַלְתִּי בֵין הַחֲכָמִ′ וְלֹא מָצָאתִי לַגּוּף טוֹב אֶלָּא שְׁתִיקָה וְלֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הַעִיקָּר אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה דְבָרִים מֵבִיא חֵטְא

Shimon his son says, “All my days I have grown up among the sages, and I have found nothing better than silence, and it is not study that is the essential thing [הַעִיקָּר], but the doing, and all who increase words bring sin.” (m. Avot 1:17)

The identification of the speaker, Shimon, is problematic, but a strong case has been made that he was the son of Hillel, in which case Shimon was a contemporary of Jesus.[73] According to Shimon, doing the commandments (i.e., performing them) takes precedence over studying the commandments. As we have argued above (see Conjectured Stages of Transmission), the overriding concern of the Four Soils parable and the Four Soils interpretation was to drive home the message that translating hearing into deeds is the essential thing, the entire purpose of hearing God’s word. We think it is likely that when Jesus told his audience that the seed-on-the-rock scenario represented hearers who “do not have the main thing,” they would have understood this as a reference to the intra-Jewish debate over whether priority was to be given to study (the position adopted by the majority of the sages) or to action (the position adopted by the Hasidim).

If we are correct that עִקָּר in the sense of “essential thing” was what stood in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, then ῥίζα (“root”) is an overly literal translation, which unfortunately misled later interpreters. Chief among those who were misled by ῥίζα in L43 was the First Reconstructor, who, following the lead of this overly literal translation, proceeded to blur the distinction between signifier and signified in his reworking of the seed-among-thorns (see below, Comment to L63) and seed-in-good-soil (see below, Comment to L68-74) explanations.

On reconstructing οὐκ ἔχειν with לְ- + אֵין + pronominal suffix, see Friend in Need, Comment to L8.

L44 ἐν ἑαυτοῖς (Mark 4:17). The author of Mark added the detail that the seed that fell upon the rocky places had no root “in themselves.” The author of Matthew accepted this detail from Mark, but changed the pronoun to the singular, as he did throughout the Four Soils interpretation.

L45 οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν (Luke 8:13). The use of πρὸς καιρόν (pros kairon) to refer to a short duration does not occur anywhere else in the Synoptic Gospels, and is rare in LXX, occurring only in Prov. 5:3 (where it lacks a parallel in the Hebrew text), Eccl. 10:17 (where it is the equivalent of בָּעֵת [bā‘ēt, “in the time”]) and Wis. 4:4 (which was not composed in Hebrew). However, in purely Greek compositions, such as the New Testament epistles, we do find parallel usages of πρὸς καιρόν in the sense of “a short time” (1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Thess. 2:17). These facts arouse our suspicions that Luke’s wording in L45 should not be traced back to Anth. The presence of πιστεύειν (pistevein, “to believe,” “to keep faith”) in L45 points toward the same conclusion. This verb does not occur anywhere in the Four Soils interpretation except for L34 and L45 of Luke’s version. As in L34, where we attributed the addition concerning “believing in order to be saved” to the First Reconstructor, the notice in L45 describing those “who believe for a time” appears to be another FR expansion. The First Reconstructor’s selection of the noun καιρός (kairos, “time”) was probably inspired by the appearance of this term in the phrase ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (“in a time of temptation”; L46), which he copied from Anth.

ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιροί εἰσιν (Mark 4:17). Mark’s “but they are temporary” is simply a paraphrase of Luke’s wording in L45. The adjective πρόσκαιρος (proskairos, “temporary”) is a clever substitute for Luke’s temporal phrase πρὸς καιρόν (“for a short time”). The author of Matthew copied Mark’s wording, merely changing the forms from plural to singular, as he did throughout the Four Soils interpretation.

L46-48 Mark’s “then[74] tribulation arises or persecution on account of the word, and immediately they are made to stumble” is a far cry from Luke’s “and in a time of testing they depart.” Some scholars have noticed that the vocabulary Mark used in this description is more at home in the early church than it is on the lips of Jesus.[75] We concur with this evaluation and note, moreover, that the terms θλῖψις (thlipsis, “tribulation”) and διωγμός (diōgmos, “persecution”) are completely absent in the Gospel of Luke. Since both terms occur in Acts, however, the claim cannot be made that the author of Luke had any particular aversion to these terms.[76] The more justifiable conclusion is that these terms, which reflect the experience of the early believers after the death and resurrection of Jesus, did not occur in the sources the author of Luke utilized when composing his Gospel. It was the author of Mark who introduced these terms into the synoptic tradition and transmitted them to the Gospel of Matthew.[77]

Lindsey offered a suggestion that could explain how Mark’s version of the seed-on-the-rock explanation came to include vocabulary reflecting the experience of the early church.[78] Lindsey proposed that Luke’s statement that “they receive the word with joy” reminded the author of Mark of a passage in the Pauline epistles, and that the author of Mark proceeded to rewrite the seed-on-the-rock explanation with vocabulary borrowed from that passage:

Luke 8:13 1 Thess. 1:6-7
οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον, καὶ οὗτοι ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν, οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου, δεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον ἐν θλίψει πολλῇ μετὰ χαρᾶς πνεύματος ἁγίου, ὥστε γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς τύπον πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ ἐν τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ.
But the ones on the rock [are those] who, when they hear, receive the word with joy. But they, having no root, [are those] who believe for a time, but in a time of testing depart. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in many tribulations with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

The diagram above highlights the distinctive vocabulary that Luke 8:13 and 1 Thess. 1:6-7 share. Lindsey suggested that the lexical overlapping of these two passages was what brought the Thessalonians passage to the author of Mark’s mind. The author of Mark then decided to use the term θλῖψις (“tribulation”), which occurs in 1 Thess. 1:6, as an equivalent to Luke’s ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (“in a time of testing”). According to Lindsey, the reference to θλῖψις further reminded the author of Mark of the famous passage in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ; θλῖψις ἢ στενοχωρία ἢ διωγμὸς ἢ λιμὸς ἢ γυμνότης ἢ κίνδυνος ἢ μάχαιρα;

Who will separate us from the love of the Messiah? Tribulation [θλῖψις], or distress, or persecution [ἢ διωγμὸς], or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or a sword? (Rom. 8:35)

Having been reminded of this verse, Lindsey explained, the author of Mark added ἢ διωγμοῦ διὰ τὸν λόγον (“or persecution on account of the word”; L47) for good measure. It is certainly true that Rom. 8:35 and Mark 4:17 // Matt. 13:21 are the only verses in the New Testament containing the phrase ἢ διωγμός (“or persecution”). Through this associative method of blending texts familiar to his readers, the author of Mark integrated his readers’ experiences into his retelling of the story of Jesus. The effects of this technique must have resonated with the author of Matthew, who accepted Mark’s wording in L46-48.

L46 καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (GR). We have not been successful in identifying an exact Hebrew parallel to the phrase καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (“a time of testing”), and for that reason we considered adopting the phrase ἐν πειρασμῷ (en peirasmō, “in testing”) for GR, since this phrase is well attested in Jewish sources (Deut. 4:34; 1 Macc. 2:52; Sir. 6:7; 33:1; 44:20), usually with Hebrew equivalents: בְּמַסֹּת (bemasot, “with trials”; Deut. 4:34), בְּנִסּוּי (benisūi, “in a trial”; Sir. 33:1 [MSS B and E]; 44:20 [MS B]; 4QDibHama [4Q504] 1-2 VI, 7) and בְּנִסָּיוֹן (benisāyōn, “in a trial”; Sir. 6:7 [MSS A and C]).[79] Nevertheless, it seems odd that the First Reconstructor would have twice inserted the noun καιρός (kairos, “time”) into the seed-on-the-rock explanation.[80] It is more probable that the First Reconstructor modeled οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν (“who for a time believe”; L45) on the phrase ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (“in a time of testing”; L46), which he read in Anth., and although we do not have exact parallels to “a time of testing” in Hebrew sources, this does not mean that “a time of testing” could not have existed in Hebrew (see below).

וּבִשְׁעַת נִסָּיוֹן (HR). Although, as we noted in the previous paragraph, we have not found any exact Hebrew parallels to “in a time of testing,” options for reconstructing ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ in Hebrew include, inter alia, בְּעֵת (הַ)נִּסָּיוֹן (be‘ēt [ha]nisāyōn, “in [the] time of [the] testing”),[81] בִּזְמַן (הַ)נִּסָּיוֹן (bizman [ha]nisāyōn, “in [the] time of [the] testing”) and בִּשְׁעַת (הַ)נִּסָּיוֹן (bish‘at [ha]nisāyōn, “in [the] hour of [the] testing”). We have preferred the latter, since construct phrases built with שָׁעָה (shā‘āh, “hour”) are particularly common in the Mishnah,[82] and we have found שָׁעָה to be a particularly suitable reconstruction of καιρός elsewhere in LOY.[83] We note, too, that the author of Revelation, who appears to have written Greek under the influence of Hebrew,[84] employed the phrase ἐκ τῆς ὥρας τοῦ πειρασμοῦ (“from the hour of the testing”; Rev. 3:10), which would be an exact equivalent of the Hebrew phrase מִשְּׁעַת הַנִּסָּיוֹן (“from the hour of the testing”).[85]

L48 ἀφίστανται (GR). The author of Mark paraphrased Luke’s ἀφίστανται (afistantai, “they leave”) as εὐθὺς σκανδαλίζονται (evthūs skandalizontai, “immediately they are made to stumble”). As we have noted (see above, Comment to L30 and Comment to L41), the use of the adverb εὐθύς is a trademark of Markan redaction. The same is true of the verb σκανδαλίζειν (skandalizein, “to trip,” “to ensnare”), which the authors of Luke and Mark agreed to use on only one occasion (Mark 9:42 // Luke 17:2), but which the author of Mark used 8xx, each of which the author of Matthew accepted.[86] Since the author of Luke used the verb σκανδαλίζειν once in a Triple Tradition pericope (Matt. 18:6 // Mark 9:42 // Luke 17:2) and once in a Double Tradition pericope (Matt. 11:6 // Luke 7:23), we know that he was willing to accept this verb when it occurred in his sources. The high frequency of σκανδαλίζειν in Mark (8xx) compared to that in Luke (2xx) is best explained as a result of the author of Mark’s editorial technique of stereotyping certain terms throughout his Gospel.[87] The author of Matthew, apart from changing the verb from plural to singular, accepted Mark’s redactional wording in L48.

Having deemed Mark’s wording in L48 to be secondary, we have accepted Luke’s wording for GR.

הֵם סָרִים (HR). In LXX the verb ἀφιστάναι (afistanai, “to withdraw,” “to remove”) occurs more often as the translation of סָר (sār, “turn aside”) than of any other Hebrew verb.[88] We also find that although the LXX translators more often rendered סָר as ἐκκλίνειν (ekklinein, “to turn from”), ἀφιστάναι is also a common LXX translation of סָר.[89] These were probably the reasons behind Lindsey’s suggestion that Luke’s ἀφίστανται (afistantai, “they leave”) in the Four Soils interpretation should be reconstructed as סָרִים (sārim, “turning aside”).[90] An example of the plural participle סָרִים, which we have adopted for HR, is found in DSS:

צי]ון ה[יאה] [עדת כול בני הצדק המה] מקימ[י] הברית הסרים מלכת [בד]רך העם

[Zi]on: i[t is] [the congregation of all the sons of righteousness. They are] the ones who establis[h] the covenant, who turn aside [הַסָּרִים] from walking [in the w]ay of the people. (11QMelch [11Q13] II, 23-24)

In MT it is more common to find סָר accompanied by the preposition מִן (min, “from”), which we also find in the DSS example cited above, but סָר does occasionally occur without מִן, as we find in the following examples:

הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם וְסַרְתֶּם וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם לָהֶם

Watch yourselves, lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and serve other gods and prostrate yourselves to them. (Deut. 11:16)

וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל עָבְרוּ אֶת־תּוֹרָתֶךָ וְסוֹר לְבִלְתִּי שְׁמוֹעַ בְּקֹלֶךָ

And all Israel transgressed your Torah and turned aside [LXX: καὶ ἀπέστησαν] without listening to your voice. (Dan. 9:11)

Seed-among-Thorns Explanation

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

L49 καὶ ἄλλοι εἰσὶν (Mark 4:18). Mark’s introduction to the seed-among-thorns explanation reads, “And others are….” The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit these words in L49 is a strong indication that they did not occur in Anth. The author of Mark’s use of ἄλλος (allos, “another [one]”) here in L49 is probably a reflection of his repeated use of the same adjective in the Four Soils parable (L33, L44, L49).

L50-51 τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν (Luke 8:14). Luke’s introduction to the seed-among-thorns explanation also appears to have been somewhat redacted. Whereas Luke introduced the seed-on-the-path explanation with masculine definite article + δέ + location (L26), and Luke and Matthew agreed against Mark to introduce the seed-on-the-rock explanation with the same masculine definite article + δέ + location formula (L36), here in L50-51 the author of Luke switched to a neuter definite article + δέ + location + participle formula.[91] The neuter definite article + δέ + location formula (minus a participle) appears again in Luke’s version of the seed-in-good-soil explanation (L65-66). We attribute this variation in Luke’s introductory formulae to the editorial work of the First Reconstructor. While it is difficult to be certain, the Lukan-Matthean agreement in L36 to write masculine definite article + δέ + location leads us to believe that οἱ δέ + location was the formula that occurred in Anth. (the author of Matthew seems to have been responsible for changing all the forms referring to the seed to the singular). The fact that in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation seed-among-thorns is the only scenario explanation to add a participle (“falling”) to the masculine definite article + δέ + location formula suggests that it was the First Reconstructor who added the participle in L51. Opposite πεσόν (peson, “falling”) the author of Mark wrote σπειρόμενοι (speiromenoi, “sown”). We suspect that it was FR’s addition of πεσόν in L51, which the author of Mark saw in Luke, that inspired him to add a passive form of σπείρειν to each of the scenario explanations in his version of the Four Soils interpretation (L27, L37, L51, L66). The author of Matthew subsequently accepted an equivalent to these passive forms of σπείρειν in L27, L37, L51 and L66 from Mark.

οἱ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας (GR). In the Four Soils parable the author of Luke described the seed as ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν (en mesō tōn akanthōn, “in among the thorns”), whereas here in the Four Soils interpretation he used a different prepositional phrase, εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας (eis tas akanthas, “into the thorns”). We can see no reason why the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke would have wanted the vocabulary in the interpretation to be different from the parable. The parallels in Mark indicate that the redactional instinct was rather toward greater verbal conformity, since the author of Mark used εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας in both the parable and the interpretation (see Four Soils parable, Comment to L45). We have therefore accepted εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας for GR rather than changing it to ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν to conform to the wording of the Four Soils parable.

וְהֵם בַּחוֹחִים (HR). On reconstructing ἄκανθα (akantha, “thorn”) with חוֹחַ (ḥōaḥ, “thistle”), see Four Soils parable, Comment to L45.

L52 אֵלּוּ (HR). Our reconstruction of οὗτοί εἰσιν (houtoi eisin, “these are”) with אֵלּוּ (’ēlū, “these [are]”) is identical to our reconstructions in L26 and L38.

L53 οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον (GR). On accepting the object τὸν λόγον (“the word”) in GR, see our discussion above in Comment to L28.

הַשּׁוֹמְעִים אֶת הַדָּבָר (HR). On reconstructing ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) with שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”), see above, Comment to L28. On reconstructing λόγος (logos, “word”) with דָּבָר (dāvār, “word”), see above, Comment to L21.

L54 καὶ δέχονται αὐτόν (GR). On adding “and they receive it” to GR, see above, Comment to L29.

וּמְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing δέχεσθαι (dechesthai, “to receive”) with קִבֵּל (qibēl, “receive”), see above, Comment to L29.

L55-59 In contrast to the seed-upon-the-rock scenario, which represented an acute moment of testing, in L55-59 we learn that the seed-among-thorns scenario represents daily concerns that have the potential to divert a hearer’s attention away from putting God’s word into action. These chronic threats to obedience are identified as anxiety, wealth and pleasure. This list reminds us of the rigorous demands Jesus placed on his would-be disciples to accept the austere conditions of an itinerant lifestyle. Jesus required his full-time disciples to forsake their property, livelihoods and the comforts of home and family in order to join him in his mission to heal, cast out demons and teach his fellow countrymen and women about the Kingdom of Heaven. As we saw in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, the disciples’ renunciation of their property and means of support generated considerable anxiety as to how their daily needs were to be met. Not everyone was up to the challenge, and even those whom Jesus accepted as full-time disciples needed his encouragement and reassurance. In Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry we also learned that not all ancient Jewish sages made such radical demands of their disciples. Some sages adopted a more moderate approach, allowing for discipleship to be balanced with a secular occupation.[92]

Jesus’ radical leanings surface in the seed-among-thorns explanation, where anxiety, wealth and pleasure are viewed as deadly enemies.[93] Contrast Jesus’ attitude to the following statement found in the addendum to the Mishnah’s tractate Avot, known as Kinyan Torah (“The acquisition of Torah”):

גְּדוֹלָה תּוֹרָה יוֹתֵר מִן הַכְּהֻנָּה וּמִן הַמַּלְכוּת, שֶׁהַמַּלְכוּת נִקְנֵית בִּשְׁלֹשִׁים מַעֲלוֹת וְהַכְּהֻנָּה בְּעֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע וְהַתּוֹרָה נִקְנֵית בְּאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמוֹנָה דְּבָרִים. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן, בְּתַלְמוּד בִּשְׁמִיעַת הָאֹזֶן בַּעֲרִיכַת שְׂפָתָיִם, בְּבִינַת הַלֵּב בְּאֵימָה, בְּיִרְאָה, בַּעֲנָוָה, בְּשִׂמְחָה, בְּשִׁמּוּשׁ חֲכָמִים, בְּדִבּוּק חֲבֵרִים, בְּפִלְפּוּל הַתַּלְמִידִים, בְּיִשּׁוּב, בְּמִקְרָא וּבְמִשְׁנָה, בְּמִעוּט סְחוֹרָה, בְּמִעוּט דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, בְּמִעוּט תַּעֲנוּג, בְּמִעוּט שֵׁנָה, בְּמִעוּט שִׂיחָה, בְּמִעוּט שְׂחוֹק, בְּאֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, בְּלֵב טוֹב, בֶּאֱמוּנַת חֲכָמִים, בְּקַבָּלַת הַיִּסּוּרִים, הַמַּכִּיר אֶת מְקוֹמוֹ, וְהַשָּמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, וְהָעוֹשֶׂה סְיָג לִדְבָרָיו, וְאֵינוֹ מַחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לְעַצְמוֹ, אָהוּב, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמָּקוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַצְּדָקוֹת, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמֵּישָׁרִים, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַתּוֹכָחוֹת, וּמִתְרַחֵק מִן הַכָּבוֹד, וְלֹא מֵגִיס לִבּוֹ בְּתַלְמוּדוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ שָׂמֵחַ בְּהוֹרָאָה, נוֹשֵׂא בְעֹל עִם חֲבֵרוֹ, וּמַכְרִיעוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת, וּמַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הָאֱמֶת, וּמַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הַשָּׁלוֹם, וּמִתְיַשֵּׁב בְּתַלְמוּדוֹ, שׁוֹאֵל וּמֵשִׁיב שׁוֹמֵעַ וּמוֹסִיף, הַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לְלַמֵּד וְהַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לַעֲשׂוֹת, הַמַּחְכִּים אֶת רַבּוֹ, וְהַמְכַוֵּן אֶת שְׁמוּעָתוֹ, וְהָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ. הָא לָמַדְתָּ כָּל הָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ מֵבִיא גְאֻלָּה לָעוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר לַמֶּלֶךְ בְּשֵׁם מָרְדְּכָי

The Torah is greater than the priesthood and the kingship, for the kingship is acquired with thirty virtues and the priesthood with twenty-four, but the Torah is acquired with forty-eight things, and these are they: with study, with the hearing of the ear, with the ordering of the lips, with the understanding of the heart, with awe, with reverence, with humility, with joy [בְּשִׂמְחָה], with serving the sages, with sticking with friends, with the discussion of the disciples, with calmness, with Scripture and Mishnah, with moderation in trade, with moderation in secular affairs, with moderation in pleasure, with moderation in sleep, with moderation in conversation, with moderation in jokes, with patience, with a good heart [בְּלֵב טוֹב], with the trust of the sages, with acceptance of suffering, the one who knows his place, and who is happy in his portion, and makes a fence around his words, and does not accredit good to himself, being loved, loving the Omnipresent One, loving his fellow [human] creatures, loving alms, loving equity, loving reproofs, distancing himself from honor, and not taking pride in his study, and not being happy in making a decision, bearing the yoke with his companion, weighing him in the balance of merit, and establishing him in truth, and establishing him in peace, and concentrating in his study, asking and answering, hearing and adding, the one who studies in order to teach, and the one who studies in order to do, and making his master wise, and directing his hearing, and the one who reports a matter in the name of the one who said it. For you have learned that everyone who reports a matter in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world, as it is said, And Esther said to the king in the name of Mordecai [Esth. 2:22]. (m. Avot 6:6 [ed. Blackman, 4:543-544])

Undoubtedly, Jesus would have agreed with many of the virtues mentioned in the rabbinic list, and some of them, namely “joy” and “a good heart,” occur in the Four Soils interpretation as appropriate ways of receiving God’s word, but of those items which the above-cited rabbinic tradition regards as virtues when taken in moderation—engaging in a trade or secular occupation and pleasure—the Four Soils interpretation warns that they may ensnare hearers of God’s word.[94]

L55 καὶ μέριμναι (GR). We suspect that Luke’s use of the passive voice in the seed-among-thorns explanation was due to the First Reconstructor’s attempt to polish the Greek style of his source. We have therefore changed GR in L55-62 to the active voice. We have omitted a definite article before μέριμνα (merimna, “thought,” “care”), which does appear in Mark and Matthew, supposing that the author of Mark added the definite article along with the qualifier τοῦ αἰῶνος (tou aiōnos, “of the age”) in L56.

וְהִרְהוּרִים (HR). In Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry we reconstructed the verb μεριμνᾶν (merimnan, “to think about,” “to be anxious about”) with הִרְהֵר (hirhēr, “think about,” “be anxious about”).[95] Here we have chosen to reconstruct μέριμνα, the cognate noun of μεριμνᾶν, with הִרְהוּר (hirhūr, “thought,” “anxious preoccupation”), the cognate noun of הִרְהֵר.

A saying of a Second Temple-period Jewish sage bears marked similarities to the Four Soils interpretation:

רבי חנניה סגן הכהנים אומר כל הנותן דברי תורה על לבו מבטלין ממנו הרהורין הרבה. הרהורי רעב. הרהורי שטות. הרהורי זנות. הרהורי יצר הרע. הרהורי אשה רעה. הרהורי דברים בטלים. הרהורי עול בשר ודם שכן כתוב בספר תהלים על ידי דוד מלך ישראל פקודי ה′ ישרים משמחי לב מצות ה′ ברה מאירת עינים. וכל שאינו נותן דברי תורה על לבו נותנין לו הרהורין הרבה. הרהורי רעב. הרהורי שטות. הרהורי זנות. הרהורי יצר הרע. הרהורי אשה רעה. הרהורי דברים בטלים. הרהורי עול בשר ודם. שכך כתוב במשנה תורה על ידי משה רבינו והיו בך לאות ולמופת ובזרעך עד עולם תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה′ אלהיך בשמחה ובטוב לב מרוב כל ועבדת את אויביך אשר ישלחנו ה′ בך ברעב ובצמא ובעירום ובחוסר כל.

Rabbi Hananyah the prefect of the priests says, “In the case of everyone who sets the Torah’s words on his heart, many anxious thoughts [הִרְהוּרִין] are banished from him: thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] hunger, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] foolishness, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] sexual impropriety, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] the evil inclination, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] an evil wife, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] idle matters, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] the yoke of flesh and blood. For thus it is written in the book of Psalms by David, king of Israel: The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, causing the eyes to be bright [Ps. 19:9].[96]

But in the case of everyone who does not set the Torah’s words on his heart, many anxious thoughts [הִרְהוּרִין] are given to him: thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] hunger, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] foolishness, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] sexual impropriety, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] the evil inclination, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] an evil wife, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] idle matters, thoughts of [הִרְהוּרֵי] the yoke of flesh and blood. For thus it is written in Deuteronomy by Moses our master: And they will be among you for a sign and for a wonder, and among your seed forever because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy, and with goodness of heart [וּבְטוּב לֵבָב], on account of the abundance of all things. And so you will serve your enemy, whom the LORD will send among you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things [Deut. 28:46-48].” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 20:1 [ed. Schechter, 70-71])

According to Hananyah the prefect of the priests, there is an antithesis between anxiety and taking the words of Torah to heart. Those who succeed in receiving God’s word are relieved of anxiety, whereas those who reject God’s word are overwhelmed by many and diverse anxieties. Note, moreover, the prominence given to the heart in Hananyah’s saying, which is similar to the pivotal role of the heart in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation. According to Hananyah’s saying, everything depends on whether one sets the Torah’s words on one’s heart. According to Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation, the only kind of hearing that matters is that which is done “with a good heart,” a phrase that is very close to one appearing in Hananyah’s prooftext: וּבְטוּב לֵבָב (ūveṭūv lēvāv, “and with goodness of heart”; Deut. 28:47). The similarities between Hananyah’s saying and the Four Soils interpretation convince us that הִרְהוּר is the best option for reconstructing μέριμνα in L55.

L56 τοῦ αἰῶνος (Mark 4:19). We suspect that the author of Mark added the qualifier “of the age” to “anxieties,” both because it was typical for the author of Mark to embellish Luke’s wording and because we have been unable to find an equivalent to αἱ μέριμναι τοῦ αἰῶνος (“the anxieties of the age”), such as הִרְהוּרֵי הָעוֹלָם (hirhūrē hā‘ōlām, “the anxieties of the world”), in Hebrew sources.[97] It is possible, however, that by adding τοῦ αἰῶνος to L56 the author of Mark preserved an echo of Anth.’s wording in L59, since we have not found a Hebrew equivalent to Luke’s “pleasures of life,” but there is a Hebrew equivalent to “pleasures of the world” (see below, Comment to L59). In any case, the author of Matthew accepted τοῦ αἰῶνος in L56 from Mark.

L57 καὶ ἡ ἀπάτη (Mark 4:19). The noun ἀπάτη (apatē, “trickery,” “deceit”) does not occur in the Synoptic Gospels apart from the Markan and Matthean versions of the Four Soils interpretation, neither does it occur in LXX with a Hebrew equivalent.[98] We believe the reference to “the deceitfulness of wealth” is probably a Markan embellishment of Luke’s wording.

L58 πλοῦτος (GR). The noun πλοῦτος (ploutos, “wealth”) is confined to the Four Soils interpretation in the Synoptic Gospels. We considered whether πλοῦτος in the Four Soils interpretation might have originated in FR as a replacement of μαμωνᾶς (mamōnas, mammon,” “wealth”), a word of Semitic origin that occurs in Matt. 6:24 // Luke 16:13 and also in Luke 16:9, 11. Since πλοῦτος occurs in LXX relatively frequently as the translation of עשֶׁר (‘osher, “wealth”), הוֹן (hōn, “wealth,” “property”) and various other Hebrew terms, however, we have preferred to retain πλοῦτος in GR.

וְהוֹן (HR). Since the LXX translators rendered both הוֹן and עשֶׁר with πλοῦτος more frequently than with any other Greek term,[99] either term is a viable candidate for HR. Our decision to reconstruct πλοῦτος with הוֹן was guided by its generally negative connotation in DSS in contrast to the overall positive connotation of עשֶׁר in rabbinic sources. As Flusser and Safrai have shown,[100] Jesus’ negative evaluation of wealth was probably influenced by Essene and hasidic thought, so it would not be surprising to find Jesus using the term הוֹן in a manner similar to that found in DSS.

In the Damascus Document הוֹן (“wealth” or, perhaps better, “private property”) is described as one of the nets—along with sexual transgression and defilement of the Temple—with which Belial (i.e., Satan) ensnares Israel (CD-A IV, 12-18).[101] Elsewhere in DSS we find references to הוֹן הָרִשְׁעָה (“the wealth of wickedness”; CD-A VI, 15; VIII, 5) and הוֹן חָמָס (“wealth of violence”; 1QS X, 19). And in the Thanksgiving Hymns we read:

ולא נתתה משעני על בצע ובהון [ — ל]בי ויצר בשר לא שמתה לי מעוז חיל גבורים על רוב עדנים [ — ]רוב דגן תירוש ויצהר ויתרוממו במקנה וקנין…נפש עבדכה תעבה הון ובצע וברום עדנים לא [ — ] שש לבי בבריתכה ואמתכ[ה] תשעשע נפשי

You have not made my support depend on robbery and on wealth [הוֹן] [ — ]my [h]eart and the inclination of the flesh you have not set for me as a refuge. The strength of the mighty is on the abundance of delicacies [ — ]abundance of grain, wine and oil, and they exult in possessions and acquisitions…. Your servant’s soul abhors wealth [הוֹן] and robbery and abundance of delicacies he does not [ — ] my heart rejoices in your covenant and your truth delights my soul. (1QHa XVIII, 22-25, 29-31; DSS Study Edition)

This distinctly negative evaluation of wealth in DSS stands in sharp contrast to the attitude of the rabbinic sages, which is reflected in sayings such as the following:

הַנּוֹי וְהַכֹּחַ וְהָעשֶׁר וְהַכָּבוֹד וְהַחָכְמָה וְהַזִּקְנָה וְהַשֵּׂיבָה וְהַבָּנִים נָאֶה לַצַּדִּיקִים וְנָאֶה לָעוֹלָם

Beauty and strength and wealth [הָעשֶׁר] and honor and wisdom and old age and grey hair and children are befitting to the righteous and befitting to the world. (m. Avot 6:8 [ed. Blackman, 4:547]; cf. t. Sanh. 11:8)

מצות כהן גדול להיות גדול מאחיו בנוי בכח בעשר בחכמה ובמראה

It is a commandment of the high priest to be greater than his brothers in beauty, in strength, in wealth [עשֶׁר], in wisdom, and in appearance. (t. Yom. 1:6; Vienna MS)

In the above rabbinic statements wealth is regarded not merely as desirable for the righteous, but even as a divine prerequisite demanded of candidates for the high priesthood.

Lindsey contrasted the message of Four Soils, which regards wealth as a hindrance to effective hearing of God’s word, with the following rabbinic statement, which presupposes that wealth is an aid to Torah study:[102]

רבי ישמעאל אומר אם למדת תורה בילדותך אל תאמר איני לומד בזקנותי אלא למוד תורה כי אינך יודע איזה יכשר אם למדת תורה בשעת העושר אל תשב לך בשעת העוני אם למדת תורה בשעת שביעה אל תשב לך בשעת רעבה אם למדת תורה בשעת הריוח אל תשב לך בשעת הדחק לפי שטוב לו לאדם דבר אחד בצער ממאה בריוח שנאמר בבקר זרע את זרעך ולערב אל תנח ידך

Rabbi Yishmael says, “If you studied Torah in your youth, do not say, ‘I am not studying in my old age,’ rather study Torah, for you do not know which will prosper [Eccl. 11:6]. If you studied Torah in a time of wealth [עוֹשֶׁר], do not sit by in a time of poverty. If you studied Torah in a time of satiation, do not sit by in a time of hunger. If you studied Torah in a time of ease, do not sit by in a time of emergency, for one thing [done] in trouble is better for a person than one hundred done in ease, as it is said, In the morning sow your seed and in the evening do not let your hand rest [Eccl. 11:6].” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 3:6 [ed. Schechter, 16])

The contrasting attitudes toward wealth that we discern in rabbinic literature and Jesus’ sayings in the Synoptic Gospels are a reflection of ideological differences, and probably also of class distinctions, between the rabbinic sages and Jesus and his followers.

L59 καὶ αἱ περὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἐπιθυμίαι (Mark 4:19). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s unusual phrase “and the desires concerning the rest” is less significant in L59 than in other cases because although Matthew does not agree with Mark, he does not agree with Luke either. A third item in the list of concerns that strangle the word of God is simply missing in Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation. We cannot know from Matthew whether Luke’s “and the pleasures of life” occurred in Anth., or whether Anth. read differently, or whether Anth. only mentioned two items. In any case, Mark’s αἱ περὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἐπιθυμίαι is un-Hebraic in construction and looks like a further example of Markan paraphrasing of Luke’s wording. We note, moreover, that the author of Mark had rejected Luke’s use of the adjective λοιπός (loipos, “remaining,” “rest”) in the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 8:10)—the pericope that comes immediately before the Four Soils interpretation in Luke—so it is possible that the author of Mark was looking for an opportunity to use this adjective, which is otherwise quite rare in his Gospel.[103]

καὶ ἡδοναὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (GR). Although there is not a precise Hebrew equivalent to Luke’s ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου (hēdonōn tou biou, “pleasures of life”), Gill noted that תַּעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם (ta‘anūgē hā‘ōlām, “the pleasures of the world”) affords a rough approximation.[104] We think that ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου could be the First Reconstructor’s paraphrase of ἡδοναὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (hēdonai tou aiōnos toutou, “pleasures of this age”) in Anth.[105] Such a reading in Anth. could have been the source of the τοῦ αἰῶνος (“of the age”) that the author of Mark attached to μέριμναι (“anxieties”) in L56, and it would also explain why the author of Matthew, who was unhappy with Mark’s αἱ περὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἐπιθυμίαι (“the desires concerning the rest”), decided not to copy Anth.’s reading instead, since ἡδοναὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (“pleasures of this age”) would sound redundant following his ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος (“the anxiety of the age”) in L55-56.[106]

וְתַעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה (HR). The noun תַּעֲנוּג (ta‘anūg, “pleasure,” “delight”) occurs in MT (Mic. 1:16; 2:9; Prov. 19:10; Song 7:7; Eccl. 2:8), Ben Sira (2QSir [2Q18] II, 9 [= Sir. 6:28]), DSS (1QSb IV, 2; 4QpPsa [4Q171] 1-2 II, 11; 4QInstructionb [4Q416] 2 II, 19) and rabbinic literature (e.g., m. Avot 6:6). Although תַּעֲנוּג can have a sexual connotation (cf. Song 7:7; Eccl. 2:8), it is also associated with gastronomic enjoyment. Thus, for example, we read the following advice:

אל תשביע לחם ואין כסות אל תשת יין ואין אכל אל תדרוש תענוג ואתה חסר לחם

Do not fill up on bread when there is no clothing; do not drink wine when there is no food; do not seek pleasure [תַּעֲנוּג] when you lack bread. (4QInstructionb [4Q416] 2 II, 18-20)

Likewise, in a pesher to Psalm 37 we read:

ואחר יתענגו כול [ — ]י הארץ והתדשנו בכול תענוג בשר

And afterward they all will take pleasure [ — ] the earth and they will become fat with all the pleasure [תַּעֲנוּג] of meat. (4QpPsa [4Q171] 1-2 II, 11-12)

The closest Hebrew parallel to Luke’s ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου (“pleasures of life”) is found in the following rabbinic statement:

רבי יהודה הנשיא אומר כל המקבל עליו תענוגי העולם הזה מונעין ממנו תענוגי העולם הבא וכל שאינו מקבל תענוגי העולם הזה נותנין לו תענוגי העולם הבא

Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi says, “Everyone who receives the pleasures of this world [תַּעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה] is denied the pleasures of the world to come [תַּעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא], but everyone who does not receive the pleasures of this world [תַּעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה] is allowed the pleasures of the world to come [תַּעֲנוּגֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא].” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 28:5 [ed. Schechter, 85])

Following the above rabbinic statement, life in this world is compared to preparing a feast, which the righteous will be allowed to enjoy in the world to come, but which the wicked will not enjoy at all. Thus, even in rabbinic literature תַּעֲנוּג is associated with the pleasure of food and drink. Since in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry we learn that the disciples were often troubled about how they would find the food and clothing they needed to sustain themselves, a reference to the pleasures of eating would not be out of place in the Four Soils interpretation. However, a broader meaning of “pleasure” may also have been intended: the life of discipleship was not one of ease and plenty, but one of rigor in which enough, rather than surplus, had to suffice.

The LXX translators generally rendered תַּעֲנוּג as τρυφή (trūfē, “delight,” “luxury”),[107] never as ἡδονή (hēdonē, “pleasure”), the noun in Luke 8:14. Thus, if our Hebrew reconstruction is correct, we have in Luke 8:14 a non-Septuagintal rendering of תַּעֲנוּג.

On reconstructing αἰών (aiōn, “age”) with עוֹלָם (‘ōlām, “age,” “world”), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L9.

L60 εἰσπορευόμεναι (Mark 4:19). Mark’s description of anxieties and passions entering and choking the word looks like the attempt of a Greek author to come to terms with Luke’s awkward “going, they are being choked.”[108] Because the verb εἰσπορεύεσθαι (eisporevesthai, “to enter”) occurs with a relatively high frequency in Mark compared to Matthew and Luke and because of the near total lack of Lukan-Markan agreement to write εἰσπορεύεσθαι it is likely that this verb is an indicator of Markan redaction.[109]

L60-61 πορευόμενοι συνπνείγουσιν (GR). As we stated in Comment to L55, we believe that the passive voice in Luke’s version of the seed-among-thorns explanation was introduced by the First Reconstructor. The active voice in the Markan and Matthean versions of the seed-among-thorns explanation might, therefore, be indebted to Anth.

הוֹלְכִים וְחוֹנְקִים (HR). On reconstructing πορεύεσθαι (porevesthai, “to go”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk,” “go”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2. Luke’s “going, they are being choked” looks like an attempt to render a Hebrew idiom for progressive action, which is expressed with a participial form of וְ- + הָלַךְ + participle/verbal adjective construction.[110] An example of this construction is found in the description of the theophany on Mount Sinai:

וַיְהִי קוֹל הַשּׁוֹפָר הוֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק מְאֹד

And the sound of the shofar got much stronger and stronger [הוֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק]. (Exod. 19:19)

The LXX translators were somewhat confounded by this Hebrew idiom, and often resorted to translating the participial form of וְ- + הָלַךְ + participle/verbal adjective construction as ἐπορεύετο + καί + finite verb, as we see in the following examples:

וְהַנַּעַר שְׁמוּאֵל הֹלֵךְ וְגָדֵל

And the boy Samuel grew more and more…. (1 Sam. 2:26)

καὶ τὸ παιδάριον Σαμουηλ ἐπορεύετο καὶ ἐμεγαλύνετο

And the boy Samuel was going [ἐπορεύετο] and growing…. (1 Kgdms. 2:26)

וְדָוִד הֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק וּבֵית שָׁאוּל הֹלְכִים וְדַלִּים

And David got stronger and stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. (2 Sam. 3:1)

καὶ ὁ οἶκος Δαυιδ ἐπορεύετο καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο, καὶ ὁ οἶκος Σαουλ ἐπορεύετο καὶ ἠσθένει

And the house of David was going [ἐπορεύετο] and strengthening, but the house of Saul was going [ἐπορεύετο] and weakening. (2 Kgdms. 3:1)

כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר

For the sea got stormier and stormier. (Jonah 1:11; cf. 1:13)

ὅτι ἡ θάλασσα ἐπορεύετο καὶ ἐξήγειρεν μᾶλλον κλύδωνα

Because the sea was going [ἐπορεύετο] and raised up more waves. (Jonah 1:11; cf. 1:13)

We believe that Luke’s “superfluous” participle πορευόμενοι (porevomenoi, “going”) reflects a similarly awkward attempt to put the Hebrew idiom for progressive action into Greek. In the LXX examples cited above, the verb πορεύεσθαι (“to go”) occurred as a third person imperfect, but there are other examples in which הֹלֵךְ (holēch, “going,” “walking”) in the aforementioned idiom was translated as a participle:

וְהָעָם הוֹלֵךְ וָרָב אֶת־אַבְשָׁלוֹם

And the people with Absalom were increasing more and more. (2 Sam. 15:12)

καὶ ὁ λαὸς πορευόμενος καὶ πολὺς μετὰ Αβεσσαλωμ

And the people with Absalom were going [πορευόμενος] and were many. (2 Kgdms. 15:12)

וַיְהִי יְהוֹשָׁפָט הֹלֵךְ וְגָדֵל

And Jehosaphat grew more and more…. (2 Chr. 17:12)

καὶ ἦν Ιωσαφατ πορευόμενος μείζων

And Jehosaphat was going [πορευόμενος] bigger…. (2 Chr. 17:12)

None of the attempts in LXX to render the participial form of וְ- + הָלַךְ + participle/verbal adjective construction into Greek are identical to Luke’s πορευόμενοι συνπνείγονται (“going, they are being choked”) or to our reconstruction of Anth.’s wording as πορευόμενοι συμπνίγουσιν (“going, they choke”), but the similarity is strong enough to convince us that these reflect a translation of הוֹלְכִים וְחוֹנְקִים (“choking more and more”).

In the Four Soils parable (L47) we reconstructed a different compound verb based on πνίγειν (pnigein, “to choke”) with חָנַק (ḥānaq, “choke,” “strangle”). Although the prepositions attached to the verb are different, the same Hebrew verb probably stood behind both ἀποπνίγειν (apopnigein, “to strangle”) in the Four Soils parable and συμπνίγειν (sūmpnigein, “to strangle”) in the Four Soils interpretation.

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.

L62 αὐτούς (GR). In each of the other scenario explanations the focus is not on the fate of the word but on the outcome for the various kinds of hearers. This is true even for the seed-on-the-path explanation, which describes Satan’s uprooting the word, since it is the barren condition of the hearer’s heart after the word’s removal that is the focus of the seed-on-the-path explanation. Therefore, it seems likely that it was the author of Mark who inserted τὸν λόγον in L62, making “the word” the object of the verb “to choke.” In Anth.’s version of the Four Soils interpretation it was probably worries, wealth and pleasure that choked the hearers, as, indeed, is the case in Luke’s version of the seed-among-thorns explanation. We have therefore added the pronoun αὐτούς (avtous, “them”) to GR. The First Reconstructor would have eliminated this pronoun when he restated the explanation of the seed-among-thorns scenario in the passive voice.

L63 καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν (Luke 8:14). The explanation in Luke about the failure to yield ripe fruit is written in good Greek style.[111] Luke’s verb τελεσφορεῖν (telesforein, “to bear mature offspring”) occurs nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels and is never found with a Hebrew equivalent in LXX.[112] While it is possible that the First Reconstructor merely paraphrased something in Anth., we think that to be unlikely. In addition to the good Greek style of Luke’s wording in L63, the explanation that “they do not bear ripe fruit” appears to be secondary because it blurs the distinction between the signifier (the seed scenario) and the signified (a type of hearer), which the Four Soils interpretation maintains in the seed-on-the-path and the seed-on-the-rock explanations. Luke’s phrase οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν (“they do not bear mature fruit”) is plural and must refer to the plural subject οἱ ἀκούσαντες (“the hearers”; L53) rather than to the seed, which in Luke’s version is singular (τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν [“the one falling into the thorns”]; L50-51). Strictly speaking, however, hearers do not bear fruit, and although bearing fruit is used elsewhere as a metaphor for doing good deeds (cf., e.g., Matt. 3:8 // Luke 3:8), resorting to metaphorical language is not really appropriate to the explanation of a parable.[113] It may be that the blurring of the distinction between the seed scenario (signifier) and the type of hearer (signified) in Luke’s version of the seed-among-thorns explanation, due to the First Reconstructor’s editorial activity, is what led the author of Mark to shift the focus away from the fate of the hearers onto that of the word (see above, Comment to L62).

καὶ ἄκαρπος γείνεται (Mark 4:19). Mark’s phrase “and it becomes unfruitful” is an adaptation of Luke’s “and they do not bear mature fruit,” but whereas Luke’s version describes the fate of the hearers, Mark describes the fate of the word. It is unlikely that the author of Mark drew upon Anth. for his wording in L63, since, on the one hand, adjectives formed with the privative prefix α-, such as ἄκαρπος (akarpos, “unfruitful”), are more typical of Greek composition than translation Greek,[114] and on the other hand, the use of the present tense γίνεται (ginetai, “he/she/it is/becomes”) in Mark is often a sign of Markan redaction.[115] The three Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark’s use of γίνεται (Mark 2:15 [cf. Matt. 9:10 // Luke 5:29]; 4:11 [cf. Matt. 13:13 // Luke 8:10], 37 [cf. Matt. 8:24 // Luke 8:23) and the fact that three of Mark’s seven uses of γίνεται occur in the Markan excursus on parables (Mark 2:15, 21; 4:11, 19, 32, 37; 11:23) suggest that the author of Mark’s use of γίνεται in the Four Soils interpretation is an example of his “homogenization” of the vocabulary within the Markan parables excursus (Mark 4:1-34).[116]

L64 καὶ ἐκεῖνοί εἰσιν (Mark 4:20). As with Mark’s introduction to the seed-among-thorns explanation, where he wrote “and others are” (L49), Mark’s opening of the seed-in-good-soil explanation in L64 with “and those are” is likely redactional. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit καὶ ἐκεῖνοί εἰσιν and their agreement to use the definite article + δέ + location formula instead (L65) strongly support this conclusion. Mark’s καὶ ἐκεῖνοί εἰσιν (“and those are”) is nothing more than a paraphrase of Luke’s οὗτοί εἰσιν (“these are”) in L67.

Seed-in-Good-Soil Explanation

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

L65 οἱ δὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ (GR). As noted in the previous comment, the Lukan-Matthean agreements in L65 confirm our reconstruction with the definite article + δέ + location formula, which conforms to our reconstruction of the openings of the seed-on-the-path (L26), the seed-on-the-rock (L36) and the seed-among-thorns (L50) explanations. We feel reasonably confident regarding our acceptance of Luke’s preposition ἐν (en, “in”), as opposed to the ἐπί (epi, “upon”) in the Markan and Matthean parallels, since it is unlikely that the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor would have gone out of their way to make the vocabulary used in the Four Soils interpretation differ from that in the Four Soils parable (L50), which in the Lukan and Markan versions had εἰς (eis, “into”). The same applies to our acceptance of the adjective καλός (kalos, “beautiful,” “good”) for GR, despite the use of ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”) in Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable (L50). What has given us pause is the un-Hebraic adjective→noun word order in Luke and Matthew (ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ [Luke]; ἐπὶ τὴν καλὴν γῆν [Matt.]), as opposed to the Hebraic noun→adjective word order in Mark (ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν). Mark’s wording in L65 is also more Hebraic than the Lukan and Matthean parallels in that he attaches a definite article both to the noun and to the adjective, as one would in Hebrew, whereas Luke and Matthew each have only one definite article (attached in both Luke and Matthew to the adjective).

We usually attribute Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark to the influence of Anth. (in Luke’s case via FR in the Four Soils interpretation), but could the authors of Luke and Matthew have arrived at their shared word order independently? We can easily imagine a scenario in which the First Reconstructor read ἐν τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ (en tē gē tē kalē, lit., “in the land the beautiful”) in Anth. and decided that ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ (en tē kalē gē, lit., “in the beautiful land”) sounded better to the Greek ear. We can also imagine the author of Luke accepting FR’s wording, but the author of Mark, who generally avoided copying Luke’s wording verbatim, changing the word order to τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν (tēn gēn tēn kalēn, lit., “the land the beautiful”) on the model of Anth.’s τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ. Finally, we can imagine the author of Matthew reading Mark’s ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν (epi tēn gēn tēn kalēn, lit., “upon the land the beautiful”) and deciding that ἐπὶ τὴν καλὴν γῆν (epi tēn kalēn gēn, lit., “upon the beautiful land”) would be more acceptable to his Greek readers. What makes such a scenario plausible is that the Lukan-Matthean agreement of word order would have been achieved because both the First Reconstructor and the author of Matthew independently decided to improve the Greek style of their respective sources.

We would regard with extreme skepticism an explanation of a Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark as having been achieved by both authors independently making the same change that resulted in poorer Greek style than the Markan parallel that accidentally happened to resemble Hebrew word order. On the other hand, two different Greek writers (here, the First Reconstructor and the author of Matthew) independently making an identical change that results in improved Greek style is conceivable. The question then comes down to which factor should be given greater weight for the purposes of reconstruction: Mark’s Hebraic word order or the Lukan-Matthean agreement of word order? In this particular case we think that the scale tips slightly in favor of Mark’s word order, since the Lukan-Matthean agreement to produce improved Greek word order could have been achieved independently.

וְהֵם בָּאֲדָמָה הַטּוֹבָה (HR). Whether we accept οἱ δὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ or οἱ δὲ ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ for GR, the word order of the Hebrew reconstruction is of necessity the same. On reconstructing γῆ (, “land,” “earth”) with אֲדָמָה (adāmāh, “land,” “ground”), see Four Soils parable, Comment to L50. On reconstructing καλός (kalos, “beautiful,” “good”) with טוֹב (ṭōv, “good”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12.

L66 σπαρέντες (Mark 4:20). As we discussed in Comment to L50-51, we believe Mark’s references to “sowing” in L27, L37, L51 and L66 are Markan additions, perhaps inspired by Luke’s reference to the seed “falling” in L51. These references to “sowing” were subsequently picked up by the author of Matthew.

L67 οὗτοί εἰσιν (GR). The partial Lukan-Matthean agreement in L67 assures us that Anth. read οὗτοί εἰσιν, just as in L26, L38 and L52.

אֵלּוּ (HR). Our reconstruction of οὗτοί εἰσιν (houtoi eisin, “these are”) with אֵלּוּ (’ēlū, “these [are]”) is identical to our reconstructions in L26, L38 and L52.

L68-74 It appears that the First Reconstructor substantially reworked the wording of Anth.’s version of the seed-in-good-soil explanation. Instead of reading “these are the ones who hear but…,” as in the explanations of the other scenarios, in FR’s version of the seed-in-good-soil explanation (as recorded in Luke) we find “these are whoever with a beautiful and good heart hear the word, hold fast and bear fruit in patience.” The sentence structure is un-Hebraic, the phrase “beautiful and good” alludes to a Hellenistic ideal of a gentleman of cultural refinement and moral perfection (see below, Comment to L69), and the explanation concludes with another blurring of the distinction between signifier and signified by referring to the hearers’ bearing fruit. We think that the First Reconstructor’s extensive reworking of the seed-in-good-soil explanation was due to his audience’s incomprehension of the Hebrew idiom “good heart,” with which we believe the original form of the explanation concluded without further elaboration.

That “with a good heart” was more or less incomprehensible to Greek readers is demonstrated by Mark’s omission of the reference to “a good heart” despite seeing it in Luke. Jesus’ Hebrew-speaking audience, on the other hand, would have understood that “with a good heart” meant “with the intention of putting God’s word into practice.” Since “with a good heart” did not convey this meaning in Greek, the First Reconstructor found Anth.’s conclusion of the Four Soils interpretation to be unsatisfactory. His reworking of the seed-in-good-soil explanation was an attempt to elucidate this Hebrew idiom for his Greek-speaking audience.

L69 ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ (Luke 8:15). The combination of the adjectives καλός (kalos, “beautiful,” “good”) and ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”) evoked a Greek philosophical concept greater than the sum of its parts.[117] According to Greek authors, a “beautiful and good” person was the ideal nobleman or gentleman, who combined good breeding and social graces with moral excellence.[118] According to Epictetus, the “beautiful and good” person knows his station in society, remains emotionally detached from his possessions and personal relationships, and leads an orderly life in obedience to the divine will (Discourses, 3:24 §95). The “beautiful and good” person possessed the quality of καλοκἀγαθία (kalokagathia), which, according to Aristotle, was the fusion of all the virtues into a single unified whole (Eudemeian Ethics, 8:3 §2 [1248b]).

Philo, a first-century Jewish philosopher from Alexandria, recast biblical heroes as the embodiment of καλοκἀγαθία (cf., e.g., Sobr. §65; Abr. §35; Jos. §37, 85; Mos. 1:59, 148) and pointed to the Essenes as contemporary paragons of καλοκἀγαθία on account of their reputation for austerity, piety and purity (Prob. §75, 91).[119] Philo explained the custom of reading and expounding upon the Torah on the Sabbath as a means of inculcating καλοκἀγαθία in Jewish society (Mos. 2:215-216). The First Reconstructor’s description of those who listen to the word of God with a “beautiful and good heart” (Luke 8:15) is similar to Philo’s understanding of the function of the Torah, and it is possible that when the First Reconstructor reworked the seed-in-good-soil explanation he drew on Hellenistic Jewish concepts in order to make the Four Soils interpretation comprehensible to his Greek-speaking audience.

L70 οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον (GR). The First Reconstructor omitted the definite article οἱ (hoi, “the”) before ἀκούσαντες (akousantes, “hearing”), having already written οἵτινες (hoitines, “whoever”) in L68. Otherwise, Luke’s wording in L70 preserves (via FR) that of Anth. Our reconstruction in L70 is identical to GR in L28, L40 and L53.

L71 καὶ συνιείς (Matt. 13:23). The author of Matthew’s reference to “understanding” reflects his sectarian view that only “insiders” are permitted to understand the divine mysteries concealed in Jesus’ parables, whereas “outsiders” are condemned to ignorance. This view is reflected in his reworking of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, which appears immediately before the Four Soils interpretation in all three Synoptic Gospels.[120] In Comment to L22, however, we suggested that both of Matthew’s references to “understanding” in the Four Soils interpretation were Matthean replacements of “receiving” in Anth.

καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν (GR). The First Reconstructor likely replaced “and they receive it” with “they hold fast” because he wished to explain the Hebrew idiom “good heart” to his Greek audience. Mark’s καὶ παραδέχονται (“and they receive”) comes very close to what we believe was the wording of Anth. The author of Mark merely replaced the simple verb δέχεσθαι (“to receive”) with the compound form παραδέχεσθαι (“to receive from,” “to take over”) and omitted the pronoun αὐτόν (avton, “it”).[121] Our Greek reconstruction of L71 is identical to GR in L54 (cf. GR in L29 and L42).

וּמְקַבְּלִים אוֹתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing δέχεσθαι (dechesthai, “to receive,” “to accept”) with קִבֵּל (qibēl, “receive,” “accept”), see above, Comment to L29.

L72 ἐν καρδίᾳ ἀγαθῇ (GR). We have restored the phrase “with a good heart” to what we believe was its original position in Anth., as the final words of the Four Soils interpretation, where they had the greatest rhetorical impact. The words “with a good heart” formed the climax of the interpretation of the Four Soils parable, which was told with the intention of producing hearers who willingly translated God’s word into action.

בְּלֵב טוֹב (HR). On reconstructing καρδία (kardia, “heart”) with לֵב (lēv, “heart”), see above, Comment to L32. On reconstructing ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”) with טוֹב (ṭōv, “good”), see Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L13. In Eccl. 9:7 we find an example of בְּלֵב טוֹב translated as ἐν καρδίᾳ ἀγαθῇ, as in our Greek reconstruction.

The Hebrew idiom לֵב טוֹב (lēv ṭōv, lit., “good heart”) is difficult to translate into English because we do not have a single corresponding word or phrase for the concepts it evokes. In Hebrew לֵב טוֹב has to do with a person’s disposition toward a duty or responsibility. It connotes a cheerful willingness and honest intention to pursue a given task or assignment in good faith. The breadth of the idiom “good heart” is illustrated in the following story about the first-century sage Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai and his five disciples:

אָמַ′ לָהֶם צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אֵי זוֹ הִיא דֶרֶךְ טוֹבָה שֶׁיִּדְבַּק בָּהּ הָאָדָם ר′ אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹ′ עַיִן טוֹבָה ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹ′ חָבֵר טוֹב ר′ יוֹסֵה אוֹ′ שָׁכֵן טוֹב ר′ שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹ′ הָרוֹאֶה אֶת הַנּוֹלָד ר′ {אֶ}לְעָזָר אוֹ′ לֵב טוֹב אָמַ′ לָהֶם רוֹאֶה אֲנִיּ אֶת דִּבְרֵי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עָרָךְ מִדִּבְרֵיכֶם שֶׁבִּכְלַל דְּבָרָיו {את} דִּבְרֵיכֶם

He [i.e., Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai—DNB and JNT] said to them, “Go out and see which is the best way for a person to adhere to.” Rabbi Eliezer said, “A good eye [i.e., a generous disposition—DNB and JNT].” Rabbi Yehoshua said, “A good friend.” Rabbi Yose said, “A good neighbor.” Rabbi Shimon said, “The one who sees the outcome.” Rabbi Eleazar said, “A good heart [לֵב טוֹב].” He [i.e., Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai—DNB and JNT] said to them, “I approve of the words of Eleazar ben Arach more than your words, for his words include yours.” (m. Avot 2:9)

This rabbinic account helps us to appreciate the breadth and richness of the Hebrew idiom לֵב טוֹב. According to Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, לֵב טוֹב encompasses the ideas of generosity of spirit (a “good eye”), foresight (“seeing the outcome”) and integrity (being a “good friend” and a “good neighbor”). A “good heart” means faithfully following through on one’s commitments in a joyful manner.

The coupling of “good heart” with “willing soul” in a fragmentary text from Qumran demonstrates that “willingness” is an aspect of the idiom לֵב טוֹב:

[–]והיו עמי ה [–] בלב טוב ובנ[פש חפצה –] וחבא כמעט ק

And the people of the […] will be […] with a good heart [בְּלֵב טוֹב] and a [willing] so[ul…] and it will hide for a little q[…]…. (4QpsEzeka 4 I, 3)

The pairing of “good heart” with “willing soul” in 4QpsEzeka appears to allude to David’s charge to Solomon recorded in 1 Chronicles:

וְאַתָּה שְׁלֹמֹה בְנִי דַּע אֶת אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיךָ וְעָבְדֵהוּ בְּלֵב שָׁלֵם וּבְנֶפֶשׁ חֲפֵצָה כִּי כָל לְבָבוֹת דּוֹרֵשׁ יי וְכָל יֵצֶר מַחֲשָׁבוֹת מֵבִין אִם תִּדְרְשֶׁנּוּ יִמָּצֵא לָךְ וְאִם תַּעַזְבֶנּוּ יַזְנִיחֲךָ לָעַד

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart [בְּלֵב שָׁלֵם] and a willing soul, for the LORD searches all hearts and every intention of our thoughts he understands. If you search for him he will be found by you, but if you forsake him he will reject you forever. (1 Chr. 28:9)

In this verse David urges Solomon to serve God with a “whole heart.” Perhaps the author of 4QpsEzeka regarded “whole heart” and “good heart” as synonyms, or perhaps he was familiar with a version of 1 Chr. 28:9 in which the Hebrew text read בְּלֵב טוֹב (“with a good heart”) instead of בְּלֵב שָׁלֵם (“with a whole heart”) as in MT.[122] In any case, David’s charge to Solomon to willingly serve God reminds us of a passage in Deuteronomy:

תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָבַדְתָּ אֶת יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוּב לֵבָב מֵרֹב כֹּל׃ וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶת אֹיְבֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ יי בָּךְ בְּרָעָב וּבְצָמָא וּבְעֵירֹם וּבְחֹסֶר כֹּל

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and with goodness of heart [וּבְטוּב לֵבָב] when you had an abundance of everything, you will serve your enemy, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst and in nakedness and in want of everything. (Deut. 28:47-48)

In the chapter to which these verses belong Moses warns Israel about the consequences of disobedience: their plans will be frustrated, their labor will be in vain, and they will be forced into exile. In the verses we quoted Moses rebukes Israel for their failure to willingly serve God in good faith under the ideal conditions of freedom and plenty. As a consequence, they will serve their enemies under conditions that are adverse in the extreme. We believe Jesus’ use of the Hebrew idiom לֵב טוֹב alludes to this warning. Hearing is not enough unless it is accompanied by joyful acceptance of the commandments and a willing determination to make a good faith effort to put God’s word into action. A good heart is what God desires of all hearers of his word.

Requests for a “good heart” are found in various ancient Jewish prayers, such as this one, which is recorded in the Jerusalem Talmud:

דבית ר′ ינאי אמרין…יהי רצון מלפניך ה′ אלהי שתתן לי לב טוב חלק טוב יצר טוב חבר טוב שם טוב עין טובה ונפש טוב ונפש שפלה ורוח נמוכה…ותן חלקנו בתורתך עם עושי רצונך בנה ביתך היכלך עירך ומקדשך במהרה בימינו

Those of the house of Rabbi Yannai say, “…May it be your will, O LORD my God, that you will give me a good heart [לֵב טוֹב], a good portion, a good inclination, a good companion, a good name, a good eye, a good soul, and a humble soul, and a lowly spirit. …And set our portion in your Torah with those who do your will. Build your house, your Temple, your city, and your sanctuary quickly and in our days.” (y. Ber. 4:2 [33a])

Notice how the request for a good heart in the above prayer is related to receiving the Torah and the performance of God’s will.

When Jesus interpreted the Four Soils parable in Hebrew to his Jewish audience, his explanation that the scenario of the seed-in-good-soil represented those who hear and receive God’s word “with a good heart” would have required no further explanation. They would have understood that “with a good heart” meant “with the intention of putting God’s word into action.” We believe the identification of the final class of hearers as those who hear “with a good heart” was the dramatic revelation of the Four Soils interpretation. Further elaboration would have been unnecessary and would even have detracted from the rhetorical impact of Jesus’ explanation.

L73-74 καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ (Luke 8:15). Whereas first-century Hebrew speakers would not have required further elaboration once it had been revealed that the seed-in-good-soil represented those who hear and receive God’s word with a “good heart,” Greek speakers, for whom “good heart” was a meaningless expression, did require further explanation. The First Reconstructor supplied it by describing the hearers as “bearing fruit in patience.” The First Reconstructor’s attempts to elucidate the Hebrew idiom “good heart” in terms of moral excellence (L69), steadfastness (L71), and the patient and persistent performance of good deeds, metaphorically described as “bearing fruit” (L73-74), were not incorrect, even if we do not regard them as original. The First Reconstructor did his best to capture the essence of the Hebrew idiom “good heart,” which, as we have seen, encompasses willingness, honesty, integrity and good faith toward one’s commitments, especially in relation to God and his Torah. It was undoubtedly these efforts to make the Four Soils interpretation comprehensible to Greek audiences that caused the author of Luke to prefer FR’s version to Anth.’s.

L73-78 The author of Mark accepted the image of the hearers’ bearing fruit from Luke, and went on to describe their magnificent yield, repeating the thirty-, sixty-, and one hundred-fold language he had used when paraphrasing Luke’s ending of the Four Soils parable.

L75 εν τριάκοντα (Mark 4:20). Since the ancient Greek MSS lack smooth and rough breathing marks, Mark’s εν in L75 could be read either as ἐν (en, “in”) or as ἕν (hen, “one”). In the former case we could understand Mark 4:20 as saying some seed yielded grain “in the amount of” thirty-, sixty-, or one hundred-fold. In the latter case we could understand Mark 4:20 as saying different seeds bore different amounts of fruit: one had a yield of thirty-fold, one had a yield of sixty-fold, and another one had a hundred-fold yield. The same ambiguity exists in Mark’s conclusion of the Four Soils parable (see Four Soils parable, Comment to L55-57).

L73-80 Making only a few adjustments, the author of Matthew accepted Mark’s conclusion of the Four Soils interpretation. These adjustments include changing the verb in L73 from a plural to a singular, adding the verb ποιεῖν (poiein, “to make”) in L77, reversing Mark’s ascending order (30→60→100) to a descending order (100→60→30) as he had done in the Four Soils parable, and improving Mark’s Greek style by replacing Mark’s ambiguous εν…καί construction (L75-78) with μὲν…δέ (L78-80). None of the changes in L73-80 of Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation appear to have been informed by Anth.

Redaction Analysis

The Four Soils interpretation presents numerous challenges to Hebrew reconstruction owing, in our opinion, to the fact that none of the synoptic writers relied directly on Anth. as his source for this pericope. Nevertheless, the presence of three striking Hebraisms in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation (“upon the rock” in L36, “going, they are choked” in L60-61, and “good heart” in L69) as well as several Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark (L5, L25/L32, L36, L50, L65, L67) lead us to conclude that behind the canonical versions of the Four Soils interpretation there stood a highly Hebraic Greek source (Anth.) ultimately derived from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Luke’s Version[123]

Pericope Title
Luke Anthology
Total
Words:
119 Total
Words:
123
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
79 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Luke:
79
%
Identical
to Anth.:
66.39 % of Anth.
in Luke:
64.23
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For the Four Soils interpretation the author of Luke relied on FR. The First Reconstructor had modified Anth.’s wording of the Four Soils interpretation with two purposes in mind. The first purpose was simply to improve the pericope’s Greek style. Examples of this type of redaction include the change from “they said” (GR, L7) to “they were asking” (Luke 8:9, L4) in the narrative introduction to the Four Soils interpretation, slight alterations of word order (L8, L14, L65), and the use of more refined vocabulary (L30, L59) or grammatical structures (L39-40, L50, L55, L65). The First Reconstructor’s second purpose in making changes to Anth.’s wording was to further clarify and explain the meaning of the Four Soils interpretation. The notice in L34 that the word is taken from the hearers’ hearts “in order that they might not believe and be saved,” which is worded in good Greek style, is an example of this type of redaction. Another example is the notice in L45 about the hearers represented by the seed on the rock, that “they believe for a time,” which picks up on the theme of belief, which the First Reconstructor introduced in L34. The First Reconstructor extensively revised the wording of the seed-in-good-soil explanation in order to clarify the Hebrew idiom “good heart” for his readers. Two other notable changes the First Reconstructor made to Anth. were the elimination of “receiving the word” in the seed-on-the path (L29), the seed-among-thorns (L54) and the seed-in-good-soil (L71) explanations, and the introduction of “bearing fruit” in L63 and L73, which blurred the distinction between the signifier (seed scenario) and the signified (types of hearers).

Despite the changes the First Reconstructor made to his source, the Hebraisms (“upon the rock” in L36, “going, they are choked” in L60-61, and “good heart” in L69) and the agreements with Matthew against Mark (L5, L25/L32, L36, L50, L65, L67) in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation reveal places where the First Reconstructor preserved Anth.’s wording intact.

Mark’s Version[124]

Four Soils interpretation
Mark Anthology
Total
Words:
158 Total
Words:
123
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
58 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Mark:
58
%
Identical
to Anth.:
36.71 % of Anth.
in Mark:
47.15
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Mark’s redaction of Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation was pervasive. Everywhere the author of Mark paraphrased Luke’s wording, switching word order, changing tense, and swapping vocabulary. One of the author of Mark’s most remarkable changes to the Four Soils interpretation was his revision of the seed-among-thorns explanation by echoing passages from the Pauline epistles (L46-47).

At a number of points, however, it seems likely that the author of Mark preserved an echo of Anth.’s wording that was lost in Luke’s version, as in L11 where Mark’s “and he says to them” might echo Anth.’s “and he said to them,” or in L55-56 where Mark’s “anxieties of the age” might echo Anth.’s “pleasures of this age” (L59). We also detected echoes of Anth. that had been lost in Luke in L40 and L53 where Mark mentions “the word,” in L42 where Mark has the pronoun “it,” and in L50 and L65 where Mark has the masculine plural form of the definite article. Likewise, Mark’s active voice in L55-61 is more likely to reflect Anth.’s wording than the passive voice in Luke’s parallel, and Mark’s word order “the land the good” in L65 definitely bears a stronger resemblance to Hebrew than Luke’s “the good land.” Finally, Mark’s καὶ παραδέχονται (“and they receive”) in L71 is closer to Anth.’s conjectured καὶ δέχονται αὐτόν (“and they receive it”) than is Luke’s κατέχουσιν (“they hold fast”).

Matthew’s Version[125]

Four Soils interpretation
Matthew Anthology
Total
Words:
140 Total
Words:
123
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
41 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Matt.:
41
%
Identical
to Anth.:
29.29 % of Anth.
in Matt.:
33.33
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Matthew’s version of the Four Soils interpretation is heavily indebted to Mark’s, although he took pains to improve upon Mark’s Greek style. Moreover, the author of Matthew took measures to more fully integrate the Four Soils interpretation with the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying. All of these factors led to considerable distance between the Matthean and Anthology versions of the Four Soils interpretation. Nevertheless, the author of Matthew had access to Anth. and consulted it frequently in his reworking of the Four Soils interpretation, with the result that there are numerous points of agreement between the Matthean and Lukan versions of the interpretation against Mark’s. For the purposes of reconstruction, Matthew’s primary value lies in confirming the wording we find in Luke.

Results of This Research

1. Why did the Four Soils parable require an interpretation? We believe the Four Soils parable was unique in that, rather than forming the conclusion of a teaching discourse, Jesus used the Four Soils parable to open his address to the audience that had gathered around him. Jesus intentionally suppressed references to the external reality the parable’s images represented until the parable’s conclusion. It was not until he alluded to the story of Isaac’s hundred-fold harvest and the aggadic traditions that went along with it that Jesus dropped a hint that the Four Soils parable was about hearing God’s word and putting it into action (see Four Soils parable, Comment to L57). Jesus then confirmed that the parable was about different types of hearers when he followed up his parable with the exhortation, “Let the one having ears hear!”

Withholding the vital information that the parable was about hearing until its conclusion was a rhetorical strategy Jesus employed to draw in his audience and capture their attention; it also required them to go back and think about the meaning of the parable now that they held the key to its interpretation. It is natural that the disciples would have wished to carefully go over the points of the parable with their master so as to absorb every bit of the parable’s significance. So it was because the Four Soils parable served a different rhetorical function than most other parables (i.e, as an opening rather than a conclusion) that it received an interpretation.

2. Is the message of the Four Soils interpretation consistent with the message of the Four Soils parable? The purpose of the Four Soils parable was to encourage Jesus’ audience to become hearers and doers of God’s word. This purpose is made clear by the allusion at the end of the Four Soils parable to the aggadic tradition about how Isaac, hearing the promise that God would increase his seed, was emboldened to act by sowing his fields. Because Isaac translated God’s word into action, he received a magnificent hundred-fold harvest. The Four Soils interpretation communicated the same message by alluding to Deut. 30:11-14 (“For this commandment…is not too wonderful for you [to perform]…that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and take it for us, that it might be proclaimed to us and we might do it?’ …For the word is…in your heart to do it”) in the seed-on-the-path explanation and by alluding to Deut. 28:47-48 (“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and with goodness of heart…”) in the seed-in-good-soil explanation. The Four Soils interpretation is focused on hearing and receiving God’s word with the sincere intention of putting the word into action. We therefore conclude that the message of the Four Soils interpretation is in perfect harmony with the Four Soils parable.

3. Should the Four Soils interpretation be traced back to Jesus? Some scholars have denied that Jesus ever offered interpretations of his parables. While there are good reasons to suspect that some parable interpretations—the interpretation of Darnel Among the Wheat (Matt. 13:36-43), for instance—are the literary creations of the Gospel writers, the Hebraisms embedded in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation, the Jewishness of the message to translate hearing into deeds, and the literary parallels in Jewish sources comparing four types of disciple with four types of fish or four types of kitchen utensil, all suggest that the Four Soils interpretation is at home in a first-century Jewish context. This conclusion, in turn, greatly increases the probability that the interpretation as well as the parable originated with Jesus.

Conclusion

Despite our original assumption that parable interpretations are unlikely to have occurred in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, and despite the challenges the Greek text of the Synoptic Gospels presents when attempting to revert the Four Soils interpretation to Hebrew, the Hebraisms embedded in Luke’s version of the interpretation, the subtle biblical allusions it contains, and the literary parallels to the Four Soils interpretation in Jewish sources all lead us to the surprising conclusion that the synoptic versions of the Four Soils interpretation probably were ultimately derived from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. The purpose of the Four Soils parable and its interpretation was to produce hearers who would put God’s word into practice—a message that is consistent with other sayings of Jesus.


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  • [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 Young, Parables, 273.
  • [6] The English translation is that which was provided by Young (Parables, 273).
  • [7] On FR as the source for Luke’s version of the Four Soils parable, see Four Soils parable, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.” On FR as the source of the Four Soils interpretation, see the discussion under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission” on this webpage.
  • [8] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [9] In an essay Malcolm Lowe co-authored with David Flusser, Lowe expressed his opinion that “the lengthy interpretation of the Sower is a thoroughly Greek composition which cannot be literally translated into any kind of Hebrew.” See Malcolm Lowe and David Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” New Testament Studies 29.1 (1983): 25-47, esp. 36. Evidently, Flusser did not fully accept Lowe’s opinion, since he had previously collaborated with Lindsey on a reconstruction of the Four Soils interpretation (see “Reconstruction” subheading above) and discussed the Jewish background of the Four Soils interpretation in the essay in which that reconstruction was published (Flusser, “The Parables of Jesus and the Parables in Rabbinic Literature,” 184-191[Hebrew]), as well as in his monograph, David Flusser, Die rabbinischen Gleichnisse und der Gleichniserzähler Jesus (Bern: Peter Lang, 1981).
  • [10] Unlike Payne, we distinguish between parable interpretations, in which the individual elements of a parable are identified and explained, and parable (or simile) applications, in which the correlation between the parable and the external reality is made explicit. Thus, according to our definition, “Let the one with ears to hear, hear!” is the application of the Four Soils parable, not its interpretation. Only two parables in the Synoptic Gospels—the Four Soils parable and Darnel Among the Wheat (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43)—receive fully developed interpretations. Bad Fish Among the Good (Matt. 13:47-50) receives something more than an application but less than a fully developed interpretation. We would classify the imperatives (“Ask and it will be given to you,” etc.) at the conclusion of Friend in Need (Luke 11:9-10) and the rhetorical question at the conclusion of Fathers Give Good Gifts (Luke 11:13) as applications rather than interpretations. See Philip Barton Payne, “The Authenticity of the Parable of the Sower and its Interpretation,” Gospel Perspectives 1 (1980): 163-207, esp. 171-172.
  • [11] See Flusser, “The Parables of Jesus and the Parables in Rabbinic Literature,” 183-191 [Hebrew].
  • [12] Young (Parables, 267 n. 34) questioned whether the attribution of this saying to Rabban Gamliel the elder might be a mistake. The class-oriented outlook that characterizes this saying seems more characteristic of Rabban Gamliel the elder’s grandson, Rabban Gamliel the younger, who adhered to the views of bet Shammai, which was of the opinion that only members of wealthy families should be admitted as disciples (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 3:1 [ed. Schechter, 14]). On Rabban Gamliel the younger’s adherence to the views of bet Shammai, see Shmuel Safrai, “Halakha,” in The Literature of the Sages (ed. Shmuel Safrai; CRINT II.3; 2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:121-209, esp. 192 n. 337, 193, 197.
  • [13] The key to understanding Rabban Gamliel’s fish metaphor is knowing that he evaluated disciples along two axes: socio-economic status (poor vs. rich) and ability (understanding and ability to answer). Thus, the four types of fish can be plotted on a diagram as follows:


    Rabban Gamliel assigned the non-kosher fish (i.e., a prospective disciple from the lower classes) zero marks. The kosher fish (i.e., a prospective disciple from the upper classes) received marks for his socio-economic status and for his ability to understand (but no marks for his ability to answer), but he had not been admitted to the most elite class of all (from Rabban Gamliel’s point of view), “the disciples of the sages.” The fish from the Jordan (i.e., an accepted disciple from the elite rabbinic class) is able to understand rabbinic discourse, but lacks the ability to contribute. The fish from the sea (i.e., an accepted disciple from the elite rabbinic class who excels in his studies) understands rabbinic discourse and actively participates in the discussions.

    In the Four Soils parable we also see a progression from worst to best-case scenario: the seed on the path did not even have a chance to germinate, the seed on the rock sprouted but quickly withered, the seed among the thorns grew but was eventually choked out, while the seed in good soil grew to full maturity.

  • [14] See Flusser, “The Parables of Jesus and the Parables in Rabbinic Literature,” 189-190 [Hebrew]. On Jesus’ affinities with this group of Galilean charismatics, see Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [15] On the designation of the Hasidim as “men of deeds” because of their involvement in public affairs, see Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33, esp. 16, 32.
  • [16] See Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” 16 n. 11; Notley-Safrai, 22-23.
  • [17] The Kaufmann and Parma MSS read בלמידים (“among learners”), whereas the Cambridge MS reads בתלמידים (“among disciples”).
  • [18] Examples of “four types”—two of which are average or mediocre, which are offset by an example of excellence and an example of utter failure—are found elsewhere in rabbinic sources: four types of temperament (m. Avot 5:11), four types of almsgiver (m. Avot 5:13) and four types of son (Passover Haggadah). Philo also discussed four types of son/student (Sobr. §35).
  • [19] Scholars regularly cite the lack of Hebraisms in the Four Soils interpretation as an argument against its originality. Cf., e.g., Taylor, 258; Davies-Allison, 2:397; Snodgrass, 164. But these scholars generally assume that Mark’s version is the earliest and closest to the original; as a consequence, the Hebraisms in Luke’s version of the Four Soils interpretation are ignored.
  • [20] On καί + participle + aorist as the translation equivalent of vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive, see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L1.
  • [21] On the omission of possessive pronouns equivalent to Hebrew pronominal suffixes by Greek translators and editors, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L10.
  • [22] See Lindsey, HTGM, 69-70.
  • [23] Below are all the examples of οἱ δώδεκα (“the Twelve”) used as a title for a select group of Jesus’ followers in the Synoptic Gospels:

    Matt. 20:17 (but critical eds. place μαθητάς in brackets after τοὺς δώδεκα in Matt. 20:17) TT = Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31

    Matt. 26:14 TT = Mark 14:10; Luke 22:3

    Matt. 26:20 TT = Mark 14:17 (cf. Luke 22:14 [οἱ ἀπόστολοι])

    Matt. 26:47 TT = Mark 14:43; Luke 22:47

    Mark 3:16 U

    Mark 4:10 TT (cf. Matt. 13:10 [οἱ μαθηταί]; Luke 8:9 [οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ])

    Mark 6:7 TT = Luke 9:1 (cf. Matt. 10:1 [τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ])

    Mark 9:35 TT (cf. Matt. 18:1 [–]; Luke 9:46 [–])

    Mark 10:32 TT = Matt 20:17 (but critical eds. place μαθητάς in brackets after τοὺς δώδεκα in Matt. 20:17); Luke 18:31

    Mark 11:11 TT (cf. Matt. 21:17 [–]; Luke 19:[–] [–])

    Mark 14:10 TT = Matt. 26:14; Luke 22:3

    Mark 14:17 TT = Matt. 26:20 (cf. Luke 22:14 [οἱ ἀπόστολοι])

    Mark 14:20 TT (cf. Matt. 26:23 [–]; Luke 22:21 [–])

    Mark 14:43 TT = Matt. 26:47; Luke 22:47

    Luke 8:1 U

    Luke 9:1 TT = Mark 6:7 (cf. Matt. 10:1 [τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ])

    Luke 9:12 TT (cf. Matt. 14:15 [οἱ μαθηταί]; Mark 6:35 [οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ])

    Luke 18:31 TT = Matt 20:17 (but critical eds. place μαθητάς in brackets after τοὺς δώδεκα in Matt. 20:17); Mark 10:32

    Luke 22:3 TT = Matt. 26:14; Mark 14:10

    Luke 22:47 TT = Matt. 26:47; Mark 14:43


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

  • [24] Examples of the question מַה הוּא in DSS include the following:

    ומה הוא איש תהו ובעל הבל להתבונן במעשי פלאך

    And what is a man of emptiness or the owner of fleetingness to understand your wonderful deeds? (1QHa XV, 32)

    מה הוא היותר

    What is the benefit? (1Q27 1 II, 3)

    ומה {ו}הוא אשר יעשה ג[בר — ]

    And what is it that a m[an] will do…? (4Q299 3 II, 7)

    מה הוא המצו[ה — ]

    What is the command[ment]? (4Q299 32 I, 2)

  • [25] For examples of מַה הוּא/מָהוּ with the sense “What is the meaning of…?” see Call of Levi, Comment to L63.
  • [26] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Redaction Analysis: Matthew’s Version.”
  • [27] Mark’s sentence, οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην (Mark 4:13), could be construed either as a statement or as a question. Plummer (Mark, 124) preferred reading it as a statement, noting that in Luke 20:44 and John 12:34 καὶ πῶς (“And how…?”; cf. L15) is preceded by a statement. Nevertheless, we think it is more likely that the author of Mark intended οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην to be understood as a question. First, the author of Mark had a habit of changing statements in Luke into questions (see Sign-Seeking Generation, L26-29; Temple’s Destruction Foretold, L14-15). Second, the author of Mark liked to include rapid-succession questions that gave the interrogated person no opportunity to respond. On the conversion of statements into questions as a redactional trait of the author of Mark and on rapid-succession questions as a stylistic feature of Mark’s Gospel, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [28] On the author of Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ character, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Portrait of Jesus.”
  • [29] See A. B. Bruce, 198; Bundy, 227 §132.
  • [30] Cf. McNeile, 193; Hagner, 1:377.
  • [31] Cf. Schweizer, 301; Nolland, Matt., 539; France, Matt., 519.
  • [32] See Jeremias, Parables, 83 n. 62; Albright-Mann, 168; Luz, 2:268 n. 13.
  • [33] The prozbol was a legal way (according to rabbinic halachah) of circumventing the biblical commands relating to the cancellation of debts.
  • [34] Additional examples of the explanatory phrase זֶה הוּא in the Mishnah include m. Yev. 3:8 (זֶה הוּא סְפֵק גֵּירוּשִׁין [“this is a doubtful divorce”]); m. Ned. 8:7 (וְזֶה הוּא כְבוֹדִי [“but this is my honor”]); m. Sanh. 7:10 (זֶה הוּא הָאוֹמֵ′ נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבוֹד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה [“this is the one who says, ‘Let us go and perform idolatrous worship’”]); m. Bek. 7:2 (אֵין לוֹ גְבִינִים אִם אֵין לוֹ אֶלָּא גְבִין אֶחָד זֶה הוּא הַגִבֵּן הָאָמוּר בַּתּוֹרָה [“If he has no eyebrows or if he has a unibrow, this is the gibēn spoken of in the Torah”]).
  • [35] Cf. Geza Vermes, The Religion of Jesus the Jew (London: SCM Press; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 96.
  • [36] Cf. David Wenham, “The Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower,” New Testament Studies 20.3 (1974): 299-319, esp. 307.
  • [37] On the genitive absolute as an indicator of Matthean redaction, see our LOY Excursus: The Genitive Absolute in the Synoptic Gospels, under the subheading “The Genitive Absolute in Matthew.”
  • [38] See Dalman, 95.
  • [39] For two examples of absolute uses of הַמַּלְכוּת (“the Kingdom”) in ancient Jewish sources, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L26. See also, Wenham, “The Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower,” 299-319, esp. 308 n. 1.
  • [40] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:630-648.
  • [41] See Dos Santos, 10. Dos Santos is, however, somewhat misleading. In addition to the entry for אֱלֹהִים, the entry for אֱלוֹהַּ must also be consulted.
  • [42] Cf. the LXX translation of כֹּל חָרֵד בְּדִבְרֵי אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל (“all who tremble at the words of the God of Israel”; Ezra 9:4) as πᾶς ὁ διώκων λόγον θεοῦ Ισραηλ (“everyone pursuing [the] word of [the] God of Israel”; 2 Esd. 9:4).
  • [43] Cf. b. Eruv. 13b; b. Yom. 35b; b. Git. 6b; y. Ber. 1:3 [9a]; y. Yev. 1:6 [9a]; y. Sot. 3:4 [16a].
  • [44] Cf. McNeile, 193; Luz, 2:238; Nolland, Matt., 539.
  • [45] Cf. Wenham, “The Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower,” 310.
  • [46] On אֵלּוּ (’ēlū, “these”) as the MH equivalent of BH אֵלֶּה (’ēleh, “these”), see Segal, 41 §72; Kutscher, 124 §203.
  • [47] Some scholars have noted this deficiency in the canonical versions of the Four Soils interpretation. Cf., e.g., A. B. Bruce, 519; Taylor, 259.
  • [48] On the importance of repentance for hasidic thought, see t. Suk. 4:2 and our discussion of that rabbinic text in relation to Jesus’ teaching in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L38.
  • [49] On the redactional use of εὐθύς in the Gospel of Mark, see the discussion in Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes.” See also the entry for Mark 1:10 in LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups; Yeshua’s Immersion, Comment to L24.
  • [50] The noun διάβολος occurs 5xx in Luke (Luke 4:2, 3, 6, 13; 8:12), and the noun σατανᾶς also occurs 5xx in Luke (Luke 10:18; 11:18; 13:16; 22:3, 31).
  • [51] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:299.
  • [52] See Dos Santos, 199.
  • [53] Cf., e.g., Plummer, Matt., 188.
  • [54] See Raymond E. Brown, “Parable and Allegory Reconsidered,” Novum Testamentum 5.1 (1962): 36-45, esp. 43; Michael P. Knowles, “Abram and the Birds in Jubilees 11: A Subtext for the Parable of the Sower?” New Testament Studies 41.1 (1995): 145-151.
  • [55] Fragments of Jubilees were discovered at Qumran. To what extent the Qumran library was representative of the literary interests of the wider society is another question.
  • [56] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:34-36.
  • [57] An example of עָקַר in an agricultural context is found in the book of Ecclesiastes:

    עֵת לָטַעַת וְעֵת לַעֲקוֹר נָטוּעַ

    A time to plant and a time to uproot the planting. (Eccl. 3:2)

    For additional examples of עָקַר in agricultural contexts, see Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L25.

  • [58] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:719-723.
  • [59] See Dos Santos, 97.
  • [60] We do, however, find an example of מִלְּבָבְךָ (milevāvechā, “from your heart”) in Deut. 4:9.
  • [61] The absolute use of ὁ λόγος in the Four Soils interpretation was one of the primary reasons that scholars such as Bultmann (187) and Jeremias (Parables, 77-78) denied that the interpretation could be traced back to Jesus. These scholars assumed that ὁ λόγος in the Four Soils interpretation was employed as a technical term for the Christian gospel (cf., e.g., ὁ λόγος τοῦ Χριστοῦ [ho logos tou Christou, “the word of Christ”]; Col. 3:16). Indeed, this might be how the authors of Mark and Matthew, and perhaps even the author of Luke, understood ὁ λόγος in the Four Soils parable. But as we have seen, in ancient Jewish sources “the words of God” (parallel to Luke 8:11) were equated with Torah (see above, Comment to L21). Likewise, the absolute use of הַדָּבָר (“the word”) in Deut. 30:14, to which the Four Soils interpretation alludes, refers to the Torah of Moses. Thus, in its earliest form the Four Soils interpretation referred not to the Christian Gospel but to the Jewish Torah. Bultmann and Jeremias were misled by their assumption of Markan priority to deny the authenticity of the Four Soils interpretation.
  • [62] In ancient Greek sources, as well as in Hebrew, the heart, rather than the brain, is the seat of the intellect. For examples in Greek sources, see LSJ, 877.
  • [63] In the Mishnah, for example, we find several instances of שָׂדֶה זְרוּעָה (“a sown field”; m. Kil. 2:3, 5; 3:3, 6, 7), as well as statements like שָׂדֶה תִיזָּרַע (“a field may be sown”; m. Shev. 4:2), שָׂדֶה נִיזְרַעַת (“a field is sown”; m. Ohol. 18:3, 4) or גָּנָּהּ קְטַנָּה שֶׁהִיא מּוּקֶּפֶת תִיזָּרַע (“a small garden that is walled in may be sown”; m. Edu. 2:4). By contrast, we have found only one example of a seed that is said to be sown: כִּיסְבָּר שֶׁהִיא זְרוּעָה בֶחָצֵר (“coriander that was sown in a courtyard”; m. Maas. 3:9).
  • [64] See P. B. Payne, “The Seeming Inconsistency of the Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower,” New Testament Studies 26.4 (1980): 564-568, esp. 565.
  • [65] “Believe and be saved” also occurs in the spurious ending of Mark (Mark 16:16), but since it did not belong to the original text of Mark this example is not relevant to the present discussion.
  • [66] Foerster and Fitzmyer attributed the wording in L34 to the author of Luke, whereas Young entertained the possibility that the author of Luke inherited this secondary addition from a source. See Werner Foerster and Georg Fohrer, “σῴζω, κτλ.,” TDNT, 7:965-1004, esp. 981; Fitzmyer, 1:713; Young, Parables, 271.
  • [67] In the Gospel of Mark there are two instances where σώζειν refers to deliverance from end-time upheavals (Mark 13:13, 20), both of which were picked up by the author of Matthew (Matt. 24:13 [cf. Luke 21:19], 22 [no Lukan parallel]). A similar usage of “to be saved” is found in 4 Ezra 9:7. Deliverance from end-time upheavals should be distinguished from eternal salvation in the eschatological age.
  • [68] See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L85-93.
  • [69] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1251-1252.
  • [70] See Dos Santos, 217.
  • [71] The noun עִקָּר occurs in m. Ber. 6:7; m. Kil. 6:1; 7:1, 2; m. Shev. 2:4; 7:2; m. Maas. 3:10; m. Orl. 1:7; m. Shab. 7:1; 14:3; m. Eruv. 3:6; 4:7; m. Pes. 4:5; m. Betz. 3:6; m. Avot 1:17; m. Kel. 19:9, 10; 20:1; 22:7; m. Neg. 4:4; m. Par. 2:5; m. Nid. 6:12.
  • [72] The baraita to which we refer states:

    והתנן זה הכלל כל שיש לו עיקר יש לו שביעית וכל שאין לו עיקר אין לו שביעית

    It was taught [in a baraita]: This is the general rule: Everything that has a root has Sabbatical year restrictions, and everything that has no root [אֵין לוֹ עִיקָּר] has no Sabbatical year restrictions. (b. Nid. 62a; cf. Shab. 90a; b. Avod. Zar. 14a)

  • [73] On the identification of the Shimon of m. Avot 1:17 as the son of Hillel, see R. Travers Herford, ed., The Ethics of the Talmud: Sayings of the Fathers (New York: Schocken, 1962), 35-37.
  • [74] The author of Mark likely picked up εἶτα (eita, “then”) from Luke 8:12, the Lukan version of the seed-on-the-path explanation (L30).
  • [75] Cf., e.g., Taylor, 260.
  • [76] In Acts the noun θλῖψις occurs 5xx (Acts 7:10, 11; 11:19; 14:22; 20:23); the noun διωγμός occurs 2xx (Acts 8:1; 13:50).
  • [77] The following table shows all the instances of θλῖψις in the Synoptic Gospels:

    Mark 4:17 TT = Matt. 13:21 (cf. Luke 8:13)

    Mark 13:19 TT = Matt. 24:21 (cf. Luke 21:23)

    Mark 13:24 TT = Matt. 24:29 (cf. Luke 21:25)

    Matt. 24:9 TT (cf. Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12)


    Key: TT = verse has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels

    From the data above we learn that the author of Matthew accepted θλῖψις wherever it occurred in Mark, and he added an additional instance of θλῖψις in Matt. 24:9. Although the instances of διωγμός are more limited, the pattern of distribution in the Synoptic Gospels is similar:

    Mark 4:17 TT = Matt. 13:21 (cf. Luke 8:13)

    Mark 10:30 TT (cf. Matt. 19:29; Luke 18:30)


    Key: TT = verse has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels

  • [78] See LHNS, 73 §93.
  • [79] For examples of בְּנִסָּיוֹן, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L22-23.
  • [80] Cf. Bovon, 1:309 n. 40.
  • [81] Delitzsch employed וּבְעֵת הַנִּסָּיוֹן as the translation of καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ in Luke 8:13.
  • [82] Examples of construct phrases built with שָׁעָה include בְּשַׁעַת חוֹבָתָהּ (“in the time of her obligation”; m. Peah 4:7); בְּשַׁעַת הַקְּצִירָה (“in the time of the harvest”; m. Peah 4:10); בְּשָׁעַת הַבְּצִירָה (“in the time of the grape harvest”; m. Peah 7:3); בְּשַׁעַת הַזֶּרַע (“in the time of seeding”; m. Shev. 5:8); בְּשַׁעַת הַקְּצִיעָה (“in the time of the fig harvest”; m. Maas. 2:7); בְּשָׁעַת סַכָּנָה (“in a time of danger”; m. Maas. Shen. 4:11); בְּשַׁעַת מְלָאכָה (“in a time of work”; m. Shab. 12:1); בְּשַׁעַת הָרֶגֶל (“in the time of a pilgrimage festival”; m. Shek. 7:2); בְּשָׁעַת הַהַלֵּל (“in the time for reciting Hallel”; m. Rosh Hash. 4:7); etc.
  • [83] See Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L28.
  • [84] See 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. 43-44.
  • [85] See Delitzsch’s translation of Rev. 3:10.
  • [86] The following table displays all the instances of the verb σκανδαλίζειν in the Synoptic Gospels:

    Matt. 5:29 Mk-Mt = Mark 9:47 (= Matt. 18:9)

    Matt. 5:30 Mk-Mt = Mark 9:43 (= Matt. 18:8)

    Matt. 11:6 DT = Luke 7:23

    Matt. 13:21 TT = Mark 4:17 (cf. Luke 8:13)

    Matt. 13:57 TT = Mark 6:3 (cf. Luke 4:22)

    Matt. 15:12 Mk-Mt (cf. Mark 7:17)

    Matt. 17:27 U

    Matt. 18:6 TT = Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2

    Matt. 18:8 Mk-Mt = Mark 9:43 (= Matt. 5:30)

    Matt. 18:9 Mk-Mt = Mark 9:47 (= Matt. 5:29)

    Matt. 24:10 TT (cf. Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17)

    Matt. 26:31 TT = Mark 14:27 (cf. Luke 22:31-34)

    Matt. 26:33 (2xx) TT = Mark 14:29 (1x) (cf. Luke 22:31-34)

    Mark 4:17 TT = Matt. 13:21 (cf. Luke 8:13)

    Mark 6:3 TT = Matt. 13:57 (cf. Luke 4:22)

    Mark 9:42 TT = Matt. 18:6; Luke 17:2

    Mark 9:43 Mk-Mt = Matt. 5:30; 18:8

    Mark 9:45 Mk-Mt (cf. Matt. 18:8)

    Mark 9:47 Mk-Mt = Matt. 5:29; 18:9

    Mark 14:27 TT = Matt. 26:31 (cf. Luke 22:31-34)

    Mark 14:29 TT = Matt. 26:33 (cf. Luke 22:31-34)

    Luke 7:23 DT = Matt. 11:6

    Luke 17:2 TT = Matt. 18:6; Mark 9:42


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

  • [87] On the phenomenon of “Markan stereotypes,” see Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes”; LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.
  • [88] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:184-185 (ἀφιστᾶν, ἀφιστάναι, ἀφιστάνειν).
  • [89] See Dos Santos, 140.
  • [90] See LHNS, 73 §93.
  • [91] See A. B. Bruce, 520; Marshall, 326.
  • [92] See Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, under the subheading “Results of This Research,” question 2.
  • [93] Knowles (“Abram and the Birds in Jubilees 11,” 149) noted that “the various impediments to the ‘seed’ are more at home in the itinerant ministry of a charismatic Galilean preacher than is usually allowed.”
  • [94] An alternate version of the tradition in m. Avot 6:6, which omits the theme of moderation, is found in Midrash Proverbs:

    א″ר ישמעאל גדולה היא התורה שהיא גדולה מן הכהונה וגדולה מן הכהונה ומלכות, שהמלכות נקנית בשלשים מעלות, והכהונה נקנית בעשרים וארבע מעלות והתורה נקנית בארבעים ושמונה דברים בישוב בשמיעת האוזן בעריכות שפתים ובהטבת פנים ובלב טוב ובדעה ובחכמה מכיר את מקומו וקונה לו חבר ומדקדק בתלמודו ומעין במשמעתו ואומ′ על הטמא טמא ועל הטהור טהור ועל הן הן ועל לאו לאו ואומ′ דבר משום אומרו שכל מי האומר דבר משום אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם שנ′ ותאמ′ אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי נושא בעול עם חבירו ומכריעו לכף זכות ומקביל פני חברים ואוהב פלפיל חכמים ושמח בתלמודו ואין גס לבו בהוראה ואין מורה לפני רבו ואין יושב במקום מי שהוא גדול ממנו ואוהב את הבריות ואוהב את התוכחות ומודה על האמת ונותן ונושא במשמעתו ומיסר בנו לתלמוד תורה יש לו תקוה ואחרית, שנ′ יסר בנך כי יש תקוה ואל המיתו אל תשא נפשך

    Rabbi Ishmael said, “Great is Torah, for it is greater than the priesthood, and greater than the priesthood and kingship. For the kingship is acquired with thirty virtues and the priesthood is acquired with twenty-four virtues, but the Torah is acquired with forty-eight things: with calmness, and with the hearing of the ear, and with the ordering of the lips, and with a gracious countenance, and with a good heart, and with knowledge, and with wisdom, knowing one’s place, and acquiring a companion, and precision in his study, and penetrating its meaning, and declaring impure the impure, and pure the pure, and ‘Yes’ when meaning ‘Yes,’ and ‘No’ when meaning ‘No,’ and reporting a matter in the name of the one who said it, for everyone who reports a matter in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world, as it is said, And Esther said to the king in the name of Mordecai [Esth. 2:22], bearing the yoke with his companion, and weighing in the scale of merit, and visiting friends, and loving the discussion of the sages, and being happy in his study, and his heart does not take pride in making decisions, and he does not teach in the presence of his master, and he does not sit in the place of one who is greater than he, and he loves his fellow [human] creatures, and he loves reproof, and he testifies to the truth, and he gives and takes the meaning, and he disciplines his son in the study of Torah, he has hope and a future, as it is said, Discipline your son, for there is hope, and do not set yourself [on a course] that will put him to death [Prov. 19:18].” (Midrash Prov. 19 [ed. Visotzky, 138])

  • [95] See Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, L4, L23, L30, L44, L60, L62.
  • [96] The connection between the proof text and Hananyah’s claim that the Torah banishes anxious thoughts is the enlightening of the eyes (מִצְוַת יי בָּרָה מְאִירַת עֵינָיִם; Ps. 19:9). According to 1 Sam. 14:29, the hungry Jonathan’s eyes became bright after he ate honey (אֹרוּ עֵינַי כִּי טָעַמְתִּי מְעַט דְּבַשׁ הַזֶּה). Note that in Ps. 19:11 the Torah is said to be sweeter than honey. Since the proof text only explains how the Torah can dispel anxious thoughts about hunger, it is possible that the other kinds of anxious thoughts enumerated in Hananyah’s saying (“thoughts of foolishness, thoughts of sexual impropriety…”) are a later addition.
  • [97] Marshall (326) noted that in Luke 16:8 and Luke 20:34 the author of Luke was willing to accept the qualifier τοῦ αἰῶνος (“of the age”) when it occurred in his source. Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that τοῦ αἰῶνος did not occur as a qualifier in FR’s version of the Four Soils interpretation.
  • [98] In LXX ἀπάτη occurs in Jdt. 9:3, 10, 13; 16:8; 4 Macc. 18:8.
  • [99] See Dos Santos, 48 (הוֹן), 163‎ (עשֶׁר).
  • [100] See Shmuel Safrai and David Flusser, “The Slave of Two Masters” (Flusser, JOC, 169-172); Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim,” under the subheading “Poverty and Wealth.”
  • [101] On this section of the Damascus Document, see Hans Kosmala, “The Three Nets of Belial: A Study in the Terminology of Qumran and the New Testament,” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute 4 (1965): 91-113.
  • [102] See LHNS, 73 §93.
  • [103] In Mark λοιπός occurs only in the Four Soils interpretation (Mark 4:19), the Gat Shemanim pericope (Mark 14:41 [= Matt. 26:45; no Lukan parallel]), and in the spurious ending of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 16:13).
  • [104] See Gill, 147.
  • [105] Note that the phrase ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου (“pleasures of life”; Luke 8:14), which occurs in an FR pericope, is similar to ἐν…μερίμναις βιωτικαῖς (“with…anxieties of life”; Luke 21:34), which also occurs in an FR pericope.
  • [106] On the other hand, the author of Matthew sometimes omitted the third item of a triplet for no apparent reason. For instance, he omitted the story of the third prospective disciple in Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, and he omitted the third condition for discipleship in Demands of Discipleship.
  • [107] See Dos Santos, 223. In LXX τρυφή not only renders תַּעֲנוּג, it also renders עֵדֶן (‘ēden, “delight,” “delicacy,” “Eden”) and its cognate מַעֲדַנִּים (ma‘adanim, “delicacies”). See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1377-1378. The nouns עֵדֶן and מַעֲדַנִּים (which occurs only in the plural form) also have a gastronomic connotation, as we see in Gen. 49:20 (מֵאָשֵׁר שְׁמֵנָה לַחְמוֹ וְהוּא יִתֵּן מַעֲדַנֵּי מֶלֶךְ [“Of Asher, his food will be rich, and he will give royal delicacies”]) and Jer. 51:34 (מִלָּא כְרֵשׂוֹ מֵעֲדָנָי [“he has filled his belly with my delicacies”]). The following rabbinic tradition concerning the serpent in the Garden of Eden presents us with a possible alternative for reconstructing “pleasures of life/this world”:

    מה חשב נחש הרשע באותה שעה. אלך ואהרוג את אדם ואשא את אשתו ואהיה מלך על כל העולם כולו ואלך בקומה זקופה ואוכל כל מעדני עולם א″ל הקב″ה…אתה אמרת אוכל כל מעדני עולם לפיכך עפר תאכל כל ימי חייך

    What did the wicked serpent think at that time? “I will go and kill Adam and I will marry his wife and I will become king over all the world and I will walk with a straight stature, and I will eat all the delicacies of the world [מַעֲדַנֵּי עוֹלָם].” The Holy One, blessed is he, said to him, “…You said, ‘I will eat all the delicacies of the world [מַעֲדַנֵּי עוֹלָם],’ therefore you will eat dust all the days of your life [Gen. 3:14].” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 1:7 [ed. Schechter, 5])

  • [108] Scholars have noted that Luke’s “going, they are being choked” is awkward in Greek. Cf., e.g., A. B. Bruce, 520; Nolland, Luke, 1:386. Markan priorists have failed to give a satisfactory explanation for why the author of Luke would have exchanged Mark’s wording for incomprehensible Greek.
  • [109] See Teaching in Kefar Nahum, Comment to L1.
  • [110] See Randall Buth, Living Koiné Greek: Part Two (2 vols.; Jerusalem: Biblical Language Center, 2008), 2:24. Cf. the Hebrew reconstructions of the Four Soils interpretation offered by Flusser-Lindsey and Young, cited in the “Reconstruction” section of this LOY segment.
  • [111] Cf. Creed, 116.
  • [112] The sole instance of τελεσφορεῖν in LXX occurs in 4 Macc. 13:20.
  • [113] Explaining a parable using the parable’s own imagery would be like defining a given term by using that term in the definition.
  • [114] Cf. Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L85-93. The adjective ἄκαρπος occurs 3xx in LXX, two of these in books originally composed in Greek (4 Macc. 16:7; Wis. 15:4). The remaining instance of ἄκαρπος occurs in Jer. 2:6, where the underlying Hebrew text reads צַלְמָוֶת (tzalmāvet, “deep darkness,” “shadow of death”).
  • [115] On γίνεται as an indicator of Markan redaction, see Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L17.
  • [116] On the author of Mark’s “homogenization” of the vocabulary within his parables excursus, see Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L11.
  • [117] See Creed, 117; A. B. Bruce, 520; Fitzmyer, 1:714; Nolland, Luke, 1:387.
  • [118] See Walter Grundmann and Georg Bertram, “καλός,” TDNT, 3:536-556, esp. 538-539. N.B.: In Nazi Germany Walter Grundmann served as director of the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben (Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life). All of Grundmann’s scholarship must, therefore, be approached with due caution. Our citation of Grundmann’s scholarship in no way endorses his anti-Semitic worldview. On Grundmann, see Susannah Heschel, “Nazifying Christian Theology: Walter Grundmann and the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life,” Church History 63.4 (1994): 587-605.
  • [119] Josephus, too, referred to the reputation of the Essenes for καλοκἀγαθία (Ant. 15:379). Wacholder argued that for their descriptions of the Essenes both Philo and Josephus relied on a common source, possibly a treatise by Nicolaus of Damascus. See Ben Zion Wacholder, Nicolaus of Damascus (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1962), 71-72.
  • [120] Cf. McNeile, 194; Luz, 2:238.
  • [121] The verb παραδέχεσθαι is rare in LXX, occurring 3xx (Exod. 23:1; 3 Macc. 7:12; Prov. 3:12). Therefore, like many other compound verbs, it is not typical of translation Greek.
  • [122] A prayer from the early Hasmonean period, which is preserved in Greek, also alludes to the phrase in question in 1 Chr. 28:9:

    καὶ ἀγαθοποιήσαι ὑμῖν ὁ θεὸς καὶ μνησθείη τῆς διαθήκης αὐτοῦ τῆς πρὸς Αβρααμ καὶ Ισαακ καὶ Ιακωβ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ τῶν πιστῶν· καὶ δῴη ὑμῖν καρδίαν πᾶσιν εἰς τὸ σέβεσθαι αὐτὸν καὶ ποιεῖν αὐτοῦ τὰ θελήματα καρδίᾳ μεγάλῃ καὶ ψυχῇ βουλομένῃ· καὶ διανοίξαι τὴν καρδίαν ὑμῶν ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τοῖς προστάγμασιν καὶ εἰρήνην ποιήσαι καὶ ἐπακούσαι ὑμῶν τῶν δεήσεων καὶ καταλλαγείη ὑμῖν καὶ μὴ ὑμᾶς ἐγκαταλίποι ἐν καιρῷ πονηρῷ.

    And may God do good to you, and may his covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, his faithful servants, be remembered. And may he give you all a heart to worship him and to do his will with a big heart and a willing spirit [καρδίᾳ μεγάλῃ καὶ ψυχῇ βουλομένῃ]. May he open your heart with his law and his ordinances, and may he make peace. May he listen to your prayers and be reconciled to you, and may he not forsake you in a time of evil. (2 Macc. 1:2-5)

    Either μέγας (megas, “big”) was intended as an equivalent of טוֹב or שָׁלֵם, or this prayer attests to yet another variant reading in 1 Chr. 28:9, בְּלֵב גָּדוֹל (“with a big heart”). Note, in any case, the connection that is made between having a “big heart” and doing God’s will by means of the Torah.

  • [123]
    Four Soils interpretation
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τίς αὕτη εἴη παραβολή ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες εἶτα ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν ἵνα μὴ πιστεύσαντες σωθῶσιν οἱ δ᾽ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον καὶ αὐτοι ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες καὶ ὑπὸ μεριμνῶν καὶ πλούτου καὶ ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου πορευόμενοι συνπνείγονται καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν τὸ δὲ ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ οὗτοί εἰσιν οἵτινες ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον κατέχουσιν καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἶπαν αὐτῷ τίς εἴηπαραβολὴ αὕτη καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς αὕτη ἔστιν ἡ παραβολή ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ οὐ δέχονται αὐτόν καὶ ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν μετὰ χαρᾶς καὶ ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται οἱ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτόν καὶ μέριμναι καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἡδοναὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου πορευόμενοι συνπνείγουσιν αὐτούς οἱ δὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν ἐν καρδίᾳ ἀγαθῇ
    Total Words: 119 Total Words: 123
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 79 Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 79
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 66.39% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 64.23%

  • [124]
    Four Soils interpretation
    Mark’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο κατὰ μόνας ἠρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν σὺν τοῖς δώδεκα τὰς παραβολάς καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην καὶ πῶς πάσας τὰς παραβολὰς γνώσεσθε σπείρων τὸν λόγον σπείρει οὗτοι δέ εἰσιν οἱ παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν ὅπου σπείρεται ὁ λόγος οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν εὐθὺς ἔρχεται ὁ σατανᾶς καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον τὸν ἐσπαρμένον εἰς αὐτούς καὶ οὗτοί εἰσιν ὁμοίως οἱ ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη σπειρόμενοι ὅταν ἀκούσωσι τὸν λόγον εὐθὺς μετὰ χαρᾶς λαμβάνουσιν αὐτόν καὶ οὐκ ἔχουσιν ῥίζαν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιροί εἰσιν εἶτα γενομένης θλείψεως ἢ διωγμοῦ διὰ τὸν λόγον εὐθὺς σκανδαλίζονται καὶ ἄλλοι εἰσὶν οἱ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας σπειρόμενοι οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὸν λόγον ἀκούσαντες καὶ αἱ μέριμναι τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου καὶ αἱ περὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἐπιθυμίαι εἰσπορευόμεναι συνπνείγουσιν τὸν λόγον καὶ ἄκαρπος γείνεται καὶ ἐκεῖνοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν σπαρέντες οἵτινες ἀκούουσιν τὸν λόγον καὶ παραδέχονται καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν εν τριάκοντα καὶ ἑξήκοντα καὶ ἑκατόν καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἶπαν αὐτῷ τίς εἴη ἡ παραβολὴ αὕτη καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς αὕτη ἔστιν ἡ παραβολή σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ οὐ δέχονται αὐτόν καὶ ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν μετὰ χαρᾶς καὶ ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται οἱ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτόν καὶ μέριμναι καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἡδοναὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου πορευόμενοι συνπνείγουσιν αὐτούς οἱ δὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν ἐν καρδίᾳ ἀγαθῇ
    Total Words: 158 Total Words: 123
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 58 Total Words Taken Over in Mark: 58
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 36.71% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Mark: 47.15%

  • [125]
    Four Soils interpretation
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ διὰ τί ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖς αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς οὖν ἀκούσατε τὴν παραβολὴν τοῦ σπείραντος παντὸς ἀκούοντος τὸν λόγον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ μὴ συνιέντος ἔρχεται ὁ πονηρὸς καὶ ἁρπάζει τὸ ἐσπαρμένον ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν σπαρείς ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη σπαρείς οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ εὐθὺς μετὰ χαρᾶς λαμβάνων αὐτόν οὐκ ἔχει δὲ ῥίζαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιρός ἐστιν γενομένης δὲ θλείψεως ἢ διωγμοῦ διὰ τὸν λόγον εὐθὺς σκανδαλίζεται ὁ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας σπαρείς οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου συνπνείγει τὸν λόγον καὶ ἄκαρπος γείνεται ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὴν καλὴν γῆν σπαρείς οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ συνιείς ὃς δὴ καρποφορεῖ καὶ ποιεῖ ὃ μὲν ἑκατόν ὃ δὲ ἑξήκοντα ὃ δὲ τριάκοντα καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἶπαν αὐτῷ τίς εἴη ἡ παραβολὴ αὕτη καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς αὕτη ἔστιν ἡ παραβολή ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ οὐ δέχονται αὐτόν καὶ ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν μετὰ χαρᾶς καὶ ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται οἱ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτόν καὶ μέριμναι καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἡδοναὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου πορευόμενοι συνπνείγουσιν αὐτούς οἱ δὲ ἐν τῇ γῇ τῇ καλῇ οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον καὶ δέχονται αὐτὸν ἐν καρδίᾳ ἀγαθῇ
    Total Words: 140 Total Words: 123
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 41 Total Words Taken Over in Matt: 41
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 29.29% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 33.33%

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  • David N. Bivin

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    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…
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    Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
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