Parable of the Sower

parable sower 1

Q. We heard a new interpretation of the parable of the Sower by a well-known preacher. He said the seed represents people carrying God’s word i.e. the messenger as opposed to the message. The 4 types of soil represent different situations the messenger is planted in, leading to varying results. Do you agree with this interpretation?

A. No, notwithstanding the preacher is world-renowned and I’m unknown, I disagree. Although tradition is not always right, I would be very careful before accepting novel interpretations, simply because the traditional understanding had been thoroughly tested over time. And while it is true that different circumstances do lead to different results in real life, this parable’s interpretation is not up to us to decide, because the Lord had already given us the interpretation Himself.

The parable of the Sower is given in all 3 Synoptic Gospels, in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. While the language in Mark 4 can be misconstrued to support interpreting the seed as people being sown:

Mk 4:15a Some people are like seed along the path, …
• Mk 4:16a Others, like seed sown on rocky places, …
• Mk 4:18a Still others, like seed sown among thorns, …
• Mk 4:20a Others, like seed sown on good soil, …

the wording in Luke 8 undeniably points to the traditional view:
Lk 8:11 The seed is the word of God.
• Lk 8:12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, …
• Lk 8:13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, …
• Lk 8:14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, …
• Lk 8:15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word,

The Lord Himself said the seed is the word of God, not the messenger. The 4 types of soil represent those who hear the word with different heart conditions. What the Lord said is determinative.

Secondly, just for the sake of argument, if the seed is the messenger, then it raises serious difficulties, e.g.
Mk 4:4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
• Mk 4:15b As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

The birds represent Satan. If the seed is the messenger, then the birds coming and eating up the seed would mean Satan coming and taking away the messenger, which does not make sense. It only makes sense when the seed is the word, the message, and the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved (Lk 8:12b).

A basic rule in interpreting Scripture is that for any given interpretation to be valid, it must mean consistently the same thing in a particular passage, and not different things within the same context. Otherwise there would be confusion as to what we are talking about. So based on the Lord’s own explanation and basic interpretation rules, I cannot accept the new interpretation.

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