The journey begins, 1:1-5:43

5. The good news of the kingdom, 4:1-34

i] The Parable of the Sower / Soils


Mark now draws aside from the narrative to give us an insight into Jesus preaching. Jesus is again teaching large gatherings, on this occasion, "beside the sea." His teaching is now in parables, riddles about the coming kingdom. Along with his riddles, Jesus tells a story about the sowing of seed and the different results achieved. Later, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables and he explains that it is so that those who "listen may not understand." Jesus then goes on to explain the story about the sower, reinforced by a set of sayings, the lamp and the measure.


Take heed to the Word of God. You have been warned!


i] Context: See 1:1-8. The parables of the kingdom fall within the first major section of the gospel of Mark. This is quite a large teaching unit in the gospel. Mark first presents The Parable of the Sower / Soils, a teaching parable about parables, and then explains the purpose of kingdom parables. He follows this with a set of sayings / mini parables to further explain the purpose of kingdom parables, and then concludes with two classic examples of kingdom parables, - The Growing Seed and The Mustard Seed.


ii] Background: Jesus' use of parables: There are basically two types of parables:

*teaching parables, stories which serve to illustrate a particular truth;

*kingdom parables, riddles which serve to present the gospel in a hidden form.

Teaching parables can be short pithy little illustrations, all the way up to extended allegories. Although rejected by some modern commentators (eg., Jeremias, reacting to a history of allegorical interpretations of the parable of the Sower, esp. the three levels of harvest = three orders of believers) Jesus does at times employ allegory. In this teaching form, various elements in the story are given meaning and together serve to teach a particular truth. Their interpretation must comply with the interpretation that Jesus supplies, and not be used as a platform for space-exploration!!

Kingdom parables, on the other hand, are usually introduced with the formula: "the kingdom of God / heaven may be compared to the situation where ....." Kingdom parables are similes, not allegories. They align with a Semitic marsal, riddle, and present as the gospel in the form of a riddle. As such, they simply announce that the kingdom is near at hand. A people whose ears have grown dull do not deserve a clear word from God, they deserve nothing more than riddles.

C.H. Dodd in The Parables of the Kingdom makes the point that Jesus' kingdom parables proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God; "Jesus is asserting that the time has come when the blessings of the reign of God are available to all men." The kingdom has burst in upon us and its affects are here and now. Dodd's realized eschatology has a powerful ring of truth to it, although we must never forget that the kingdom is also inaugurated - both now and not yet. The kingdom is indeed now, although its authentic presence is diluted by powers of darkness which seek to confuse. Confuse they may, but the coming day of judgement will sort all things out. So, Kingdom parables are all about eschatological-expectation.


iii] Structure: The preaching of Jesus:

Setting, v1-2;

The parable of the sower, v3-9;

The purpose of parables, v10-12;

The explanation of the parable of the sower, v13-20;

Sayings on the subject at hand, v21-25:

#1. A lamp is for light, v21;

#2. What is hidden must be disclosed, v22;

#3. A person is measured by their own measure, v24;

#4. Whoever has will be given more, v25.


iv] Interpretation:

Mark's account commences with an editorial note which provides the setting, v1-2. Some view this note as a Markan invention, although there is no reason why the mention of a large crowd beside the sea isn't part of Mark's received tradition, particularly in this case. Luke doesn't mention the sea. Then follows the parable proper, v3-9. The parable is best viewed as a teaching parable, in that it explains how people respond to the gospel / kingdom parables. The purpose of parables follows, v10-12. Jesus' words relate to kingdom parables and don't really apply to the parable of the sower, but it is likely that this pericope was attached to the parable during the period of oral transmission, long before Mark came to record it. The explanation of the parable follows, v13-20. This explanation is supported by the parabolic sayings of the lamp and measure, v21-25, likely placed here by Mark - they are used in different contexts by Matthew and Luke. These independent sayings of Jesus are framed by key phrases, eg., v23. The first saying, a lamp is for light, v21. The second, what is hidden must be disclosed, v22. The third saying, a person is measured by their own measure , v24. The final saying, whoever has will be given more, v25.

In The Parable of the Sower / Soils, and its attached four sayings, Mark tells us something about the communication of the Word of God / the gospel. The Word of God, concerning the new age of the coming kingdom, is spread like seed on a field; some ignore this message from God, some give it a moment of thought, while others begin to respond before being distracted, but there are some who accept it and bear fruit. In the same way as a person puts a lamp on a lamp-stand, the divine intention has always been to reveal the mystery of the coming kingdom, v21-22. Yet, we must carefully hear, for it is in accepting the Word / the gospel that the blessings flow, whereas in rejecting the word we are left with nothing, v24-25.

It is the attached independent sayings which serve to drive home this interpretation. Without the sayings, the parable could easily be addressing the eschatological harvest of the coming kingdom, or even something as mundane as explaining the different ways people respond to the gospel.


The purpose of kingdom parables, v10-12: What do we say of Jesus' purposeful hiding of the gospel in riddles (kingdom parables). Jesus states that the purpose of his kingdom parables (the gospel in the form of a riddle) is iJna, "in order that seeing they may see and not perceive ....." The new age of the kingdom is a time of fruitful harvest, but not for historic Israel. Jesus' ministry to Israel has, for the most part, been rejected, and so now in this second year of his ministry, Jesus preaches the gospel in riddles. Initially both Jesus and the Baptist proclaimed the coming kingdom openly, but now, in an act of judgment upon a people with thick ears, Jesus speaks in riddles, cf., Isa.28:11-12, ref. 1Cor.14:21, applied to the misuse of tongues.

It is rather paradoxical to place such a profound truth in the middle of a teaching parable concerning the varied responses prompted when God's Word is proclaimed. Marcus argues, "what was hidden was hidden only in order that it might come into the light." Verses 21-22 "pictures the Markan present as an epoch of revelation: the lamp of God's word has come into the room and is casting its light into every dark crevice." Israel was blind to the light and paid a deadly price; Mark warns his readers to not repeat Israel's error. Take care how you hear, for the not yet of the kingdom reminds us that we live in an age of "colliding realms of light and darkness, of divine and demonic sovereignty" (Marcus) where the whole person, with all their faculties, must chose to accept or reject the divine Word made known, v24-25.

So, the purpose of kingdom parables serves as a Targumic citation from Jesus, possibly included with the parable of the sower / seeds early in the received tradition, or possibly inserted by Mark.


Literary form of the Parable of the Sower / Soils: The parable of the sower / seeds presents as an allegory which requires an explanation of its hidden elements. Unlike kingdom parables, it does not address the coming kingdom, and as such, is not a riddle. It is, in a sense, an allegory about the impact of kingdom parables - only some get the message. Some commentators view the parable's explanation as a product of early church preaching, but there is no reason why it isn't a record of Jesus' explanation of the parable to his disciples.


v] Synoptics:

The parable of the sower and its explanation is also found in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, and Luke 8:4-8, 11-15. The purpose of parables is also found in Matthew 13:10-17 and Luke 8:9-10. The lamp and the measure, v21-25, consists of four independent sayings. The first saying, a lamp is for light, v21, is also found in Luke 8:16, 11:33 and Matthew 5:15. The second, what is hidden must be disclosed, v22, is also found in Luke 8:17, 12:2, and Matthew 10:26. The third saying, a person is measured by their own measure , v24, is also found in Luke 6:38 and Matthew 7:2. The final saying, whoever has will be given more, v25, is also found in Luke 8:18, and Matthew 13:12, 25:29. Mark's effective use of the saying material would imply Matthean priority, although it can be explained by the independent use of the extant oral tradition by all three synoptic evangelists.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The Parable of the Sower

Text - 4:1

The art of Word germination, v1-25: i] The parable of the sower / seeds, v1-9. Jesus is again teaching beside lake Galilee, and is again hemmed in by a large crowd. Using a method already employed, the disciples commandeer a boat for Jesus to use as a pulpit. They push the boat out a little way and the crowd gathers by the water's edge.

didaskeiv (didaskw) pres. inf. "[began] to teach" - [and again he began] to teach. Complementary infinitive completing the sense of the verb "to begin."

para + acc. "by" - beside [the lake]. Spatial.

pleistoV adj. "so large" - [and a] very large [crowd gathered together toward him]. Superlative adjective used for a comparative, so "very large" rather than "largest." The sense is that the crowds gathering to see Jesus are increasing in size such that this crowd is a very large crowd. So great, in fact, that Jesus is forced to preach from a boat mored on the lake.

wJste + inf. "that" - so that. Here consecutive, expressing result, "so that, having got into the boat, he sat in it on the lake"; "so that he got into a little boat on the lake and sat down", Phillips.

auton pro. "he" - he. Accusative subject of the infinitive kaqhsqai, "to sit."

embanta (emainw) aor. part. "got [into a boat]" - having embarked [into a boat]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verbal aspect of the infinitive "to sit"; "he got into a boat on the lake and sat down." It can also be treated as adverbial, temporal; "so that, after getting into the boat, he sat in it out on the lake."

en + dat. "out on" - [to sin] in, on [the lake]. Local, expressing space / sphere. The word order implies that Jesus kaqhsqai en th/ qalassh/, "sat on the sea", but the intention is "sat in the boat on the sea." The word order may allude to the idea of the voice of the Lord upon the waters, cf., Psalm 29. Sitting, rather than standing, is the correct posture for an authoritative teacher. Both Matthew and Luke omit en th/ qalassh/, "in the sea."

h\san (eimi) imperf. "[while all the people] were" - [and all the crowd] were. Although the subject "crowd" is singular, a plural verb to-be is used, given that "crowd" is a collective noun.

proV + acc. "along the shore" - toward [the lake]. Spatial; "next to, near the lake."

epi + gen. "at [the water's edge]" - upon, on [the land]. Spatial, "down upon."


Mark tells us that Jesus often used parabolaiV for teaching purposes, either teaching illustrations like the parable of the sower, or gospel riddles like the parable of the mustard seed.

edidasken (didaskw) imperf. "He taught [them]" - [and] he was teaching [them]. The imperfect here is sometimes taken as inceptive; "he began to teach them many things."

polla adj. "many things" - many things. The accusative adjective serves as the complement of the direct object "him", standing in a double accusative construction.

en + dat. "by" - in = with. Presumably instrumental, expressing means; "by means of parables."

parabolaiV (h) dat. "parables" - parables. "In the LXX and Jewish apocalyptic literature, (this word) becomes a term for a message, often encrypted in a comparison of some sort, that is difficult to comprehend and requires decipherment", Marcus. France argues that with the word "parable", "the emphasis [is] not so much on the teaching method as on the idea of obscurity." That, of course, is particularly so for kingdom parables, but not necessarily for teaching parables. None-the-less, although the parable of the sower is not a kingdom parable (note the missing "the kingdom of God is like .."), being an allegory, it requires interpretation. Both Matthew and Luke imply that the interpretation is not just to the apostles, but also the crowd. Mark does restrict the interpretation somewhat, but it is not just to the apostles, it is to "those who were around Jesus along with the twelve" (the twelve + seekers???).

en + dat. "in [his teaching]" - [and he was saying to them] in [the teaching of him]. Temporal use of the preposition, "when he was teaching them"; "this is what he said to them as he taught", Barclay / "in the course of his teaching", Cassirer.


ii] The parable of the sower / seeds, v3-9. The parable entails a simple agricultural illustration. A sower goes out to sow his field. As he scatters the seed, some of it falls on the pathway running through the field. The birds get to feed on those seeds. Some of the seeds fall on shallow ground. The thin layer of soil over the rock-shelf heats up quickly, the seeds sprout, but what moisture there is in the soil quickly dries out and the shoots wither and die. Some seed falls where there are still roots of wooded weeds. The weeds quickly shoot and strangle the sprouting seeds. But some seed falls on good ground and bears forth an abundant harvest.

oJ speirwn (speirw) pres. part. "A farmer" - the one sowing [went out]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to got out."

speirai (speirw) aor. inf. "to sow his seeds" - to sow. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to ..."


egeneto (ginomai) aor. "-" - [and] it became = it happened. "Listen! look!", Barclay.

en tw/ + inf. "as" - in [to sow]. This construction, en + the articular infinitive, introduces a temporal clause, contemporaneous time, "while he sowed"; "as he sowed", Moffatt, etc.

o} pro. "-" - which = this seed [fell]. The singular relative pronoun, "which", serves as a demonstrative pronoun, "this seed fell"; "this portion of seed fell", BAGD. A collective singular for what would be plural seeds.

men .... kai allo .... kai allo .... kai alla "some .... some .... other ... still other ..." - Introducing a coordinate series which runs through to v8. Usually men ....... de, adversative comparative, but here men ...... kai. "some seed fell on rocky ground ....... and other seed fell among thorns ....... and ......"

para + acc. "along [the path]" - beside [the way and came the birds and devoured it]. Spacial. The intent is surely "on the footpath", Berkeley.


kai allo "some" - and other seed [fell]. The coordinate series continues.

epi + acc. "on [rocky places]" - upon [stony ground]. Spacial. Referring to a thin layer of soil over bedrock, rather than soil with stones in it. "Some seed fell on ground where there was only a thin skin of earth over the rock", Barclay.

oJpou adv. "where" - where [it did not have much soil and immediately it sprang up]. Local adverb.

dia to + inf. "because" - because. Causal construction. In Spring, seed germinates more quickly in shallow soil over bedrock due to it warming up more quickly. A deep layer of soil takes time to warm up in Spring. "It quickly sprouted in the warm soil", Junkins.

mh "-" - [it did] not [have much]. This negation, rather than ou, is used with a non indicative.

ghV (h) gen. "the soil [was shallow]" - depth [of soil]. The genitive is adjectival, attributed; "deep soil."


oJte + ind. "when" - when. Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause, as NIV.

aneteilen (anatellw) aor. " came up" - [the sun] rose [it was scorched]. Not referring to dawn, but the increasing intensity of the sun as the season moves toward summer; "but as the season progressed."

dia to + inf. "because" - [and] because [it did not have a root it withered]. This construction serves to introduce a causal clause, as NIV; "because it did not have enough root", CEV. Luke, "because it did not have ikmada, moisture."


eiV "among" - [and other seeds fell] into [the thorn weeds]. Spatial, expressing direction toward and arrival at.

sunepnixan (sunpnigw) aor. "choked" - [and the thorns came up and] choked. Referring to woody weeds that are quick to develop, striving to choke out opposition, or more specifically, root-stock of thorn-bushes which has remained in the ground and then grows quickly to crowd out the seed, so that no crop is produced.

auto pro. "the plants" - it [and it did not give fruit]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to choke." Collective used of the singular pronoun.


alla adj. "still other seed" - [and] others [fell into the good soil]. This time the demonstrative adjective is plural rather than the collective singular "other seeds."

anabainonta (anabainw) pres. part. "it came up" - [and] rising up [it was giving fruit and growing]. As with auxanomena, "growing", the participle may be treated as attendant circumstance, or adverbial, temporal; "and other seed fell in the good earth and yielded a crop, as it sprang up and grew", Berkeley.

e}n ... e}n .... e}n "some ....., some ....., some" - [and it was bearing fruit] one [thirty], one [sixty and] one [one hundred]. Collective use of "one" = "some". Variant eiV ... en ... en, but unlikely. It is generally felt that this rather strange construction is Semitic = "thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold", TH. A yield of one hundred times the seed sown is well beyond the norm, but it is possible for one plant to yield one hundred seeds, even though a spectacular result. So, the story is not describing something beyond the bounds of nature. Luke has ekatontaplasiona, "a hundredfold", by itself. It has been suggested that the multiple yields were introduced to make the point "all good disciples are fruitful, but the performance may not necessarily be uniform", France. It seems most unlikely that this parable has anything to do with discipleship, especially "performance". Setting aside an eschatological harvest interpretation (abundant harvest = the kingdom of God at hand), we are left with something like the sown Word yields life / salvation / eternity / ... to those who hear aright.


Saying: In introducing the parable Jesus calls for attentive listening, akouete, "listen", v3. This saying, often viewed as a Markan inclusion, although obviously a punch-line used by Jesus in his preaching (cf., v23), calls for a considered response. It "leaves its hearers with the responsibility of discerning and applying its meaning", France.

akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "to hear" - [and he was saying, who has ears] to hear. The infinitive is most likely adverbial, expressing purpose, "in order to hear", but it may also be taken as epexegetic, "which hear", simply "to hear." Given the context, the point is that those who have the capacity to hear a word from God aught to pay attention to what he has to say.

akouetw (akouw) pres. imp. "let them hear" - let him hear. The imperative, although singular, is usually treated as collective, so "let them pay attention", TH. Yet, the singular imperative makes for a command that is pointed, forceful; "pay attention."


ii] The purpose of kingdom parables, v10-12. Jesus calls for attentive listening, but few are attentive. The reason for this lies in the hard hearts of the hearers resulting in the divine hand of judgment. A stiff-necked people who rebut the Word of God, face, in an act of judgment, a word in riddles. Jesus' messianic ministry is no longer welcome in Israel's synagogues and so he is forced into the open countryside. In an act of judgment he speaks in "parables", enigmas, riddles. Of course, the seeker after truth can unlock the riddle by coming to Jesus. Anyway, toiV dwdeka, "the twelve", and oi peri auton, "the ones around him" (seekers???) want to know about, or is it the meaning of the parables. Their question is about parabolaV, "parables", plural, not specifically the parable of the sower. They are probably asking Jesus why he preaches in riddles.

Of course, the parable of the sower is not a kingdom parable as such, so this explanation by Jesus is not directly applicable. Jesus' answer applies primarily to kingdom parables, parables like the Mustard Seed, which parables are "for those outside." See above.

oJte "when" - [and] when. Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause, as NIV.

kata monaV "alone" - [he became] according to alone = alone. Idiomatic; an adverbial, modal construction, with the adjective "alone", the manner of his "being"; "being by himself."

oiJ "-" - the ones. The article here serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrases "around him" and "with the twelve" into a substantival construction; "the ones / those who were around him with the twelve."

peri + acc. "around" - about, around [him]. Spatial.

sun + dat. "-" - with [the twelve]. Expressing association.

taV parabolaV (h) "parables" - [were asking him about / the meaning of] the parables. This noun may be classified as either the accusative complement of the direct object auton, "him", standing in a double accusative construction, or simply as an adverbial accusative, reference / respect, "they asked him about / concerning (even "the meaning of") the parables."


autoiV dat. pro. "[he told] them" - [and he was saying] to them. Dative of indirect object.

to musthrion (on) "the secret" - the mystery. Nominative subject of the verb "to give." A "mystery" is a secret now revealed; "a matter of hiddenness, not complexity", Boring. The content of the secret is the gospel - the kingdom is now. "The mystery of the kingdom is given to the disciples. They have been granted the insight that the kingdom of God that is to appear at the eschaton in power and is already dawning in the ministry of Jesus", Boring.

thV basileiaV (a) gen. "of the kingdom" - of the kingdom [of god]. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, limiting "secret" by specifying its nature / the particular secret in mind; "the mystery / secret which is all about the coming kingdom of God." For "the kingdom of God" see 1:15.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - [has been given] to you. Dative of indirect object / interest. Referring to the twelve and those others who have come to be peri, "about", Jesus, ie., disciples / seekers.

de "but" - but/and. Adversative, as NIV.

toiV dat. "to those [on the outside]" - to the ones [outside]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb exw, "outside", into a nominal phrase, "those who are not disciples", Barclay. Dative of indirect object / interest. "Those outside" are Israel's religious authorities and those who have aligned with them against Jesus the messiah, ie., unbelievers.

en + dat. "in [parables]" - [everything becomes, comes] in [parables]. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of parables", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of remaining, "everything remains in parables", Phillips.


A freehand version of Isaiah 6:9f. "In this text Jesus is portrayed as having taught in parables to keep people from understanding", Boring, so also Marcus. It is likely that the text explains the purpose of kingdom parables, namely, to blind / confuse the hearer, although it is possible to argue that this is but one purpose. It may be that these words only apply to those hostile to the gospel and as such serves as an act of judgment on them alone. As noted above, it does seem that kingdom parables are a blanket act of judgement on Israel itself, and thus on the people as a whole. Israel has rejected a clear word from God and so is subjected to riddles. Of course, this act of judgment does not stop the true seeker from finding the truth - they can always come to Jesus later and ask him to explain the meaning of the parable.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. This complex hina clause is formed with four subjunctives, two following mhpote, "lest". The construction is probably final, expressing purpose (God's purpose!), but a consecutive clause expressing result is possible. Mark is usually blamed for the insertion of hina, although it seems integral to the meaning of the pericope. Unable to abide the notion that Jesus purposely befuddles his hearers, Manson argue that iJna wrongly translates an Aramaic de which should have been translated oi{, "who". It is also possible, although unlikely, that iJna is recitative, introducing a dependent statement, direct quote; "that seeing they may see but not perceive." It is also possibly, although again unlikely, that the construction is epexegetic, explaining the operation of the divine will in Jesus' use of riddles. Note how both Matthew and Luke soften the statement; Matthew changes iJna to oJti, "because", and both drop mhpote "lest, otherwise." Anyway, it is likely that here, iJna + subj. expresses purpose, although as France notes, it is "not so much the purpose of the hiding, but rather what must inevitably follow (the rejection of God's Word)."

blepwsin (blepw) pres. part. "they may be ever seeing" - seeing [they may see]. The participle "seeing" may be taken as adverbial, concessive, "so that although they see they may not understand", but linked to the verb "to see" may well reflect an intensive Aramaic construction, so "they may indeed see", ESV.

kai "but" - and [may not perceive, and hearing them, may hear and may not understand]. Here adversative; "but not understand".

mhpote + subj. "otherwise" - lest. Introducing a negated purpose clause, iJna + mhpote, "in order that they not; "to make it certain that they should not turn towards God and have their deeds forgiven them", Cassirer.

epistreywsin (epistrefw) aor. subj. "they might turn" - they should turn back. Used in the the LXX of turning back to God, so with the sense of "repent".

afeqh/ (afihmi) aor. pas. subj. "be forgiven" - [and] it be forgiven. The sense is "and God should forgiven them."

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - them. Dative of direct object after the verb "to forgive."


iii] Jesus explains the parable, v13-20. "Have you worked out the riddle of the sower?" Obviously they hadn't. If the disciples can't unlock the meaning of the sower / soils, how will they unlock the meaning of Jesus' kingdom riddles? Jesus goes on to explain the riddle of the sower. The seed represents God's word, it represents the message to broken humanity contained in Jesus' riddles, namely, the gospel, the good news of God's coming kingdom, of his eternal reign of grace. The scattering of seed on the pathway may be compared with the situation where the gospel is communicated far and wide, people hear it, but it makes no impact. The scattering of seed on shallow ground may be compared to the situation where the gospel is communicated to people who, when they hear the message, receive it enthusiastically, but when trouble or persecution comes their way, they lose heart and melt away. The seed scattered into weedy ground may be compared with the situation where the gospel is communicated to people who take it in, but are overwhelmed with the worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The seed scattered in good soil may be compared with the situation where the gospel is communicated and some people take not of it, receive it and bear the fruit of faith in abundance.

The opening verse, consisting of two questions linked by kai, serves to compare a lesser with a greater; If a person can't understand the parable of the sower / seeds, what hope is there in understanding a kingdom parable / riddle? Some commentators have suggested that Jesus is indicating that the parable of the sower is the key to unlock the meaning of his kingdom parables. So for example, seed = word, therefore the parable of the mustard seed is about the growing impact of God's word. This seems unlikely. The issue probably concerns levels of sophistication - if you can't understand a simple illustration describing how people respond to the gospel / kingdom parables, then how will you ever understand the riddle of the gospel / kingdom parable itself?

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [jesus says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

ouk "don't" - [do you] not [know, understand this parable]? This negation is used in a question expecting a negative answer.

kai "-" - and. Here introducing a question; "then how will you understand .....?"

pwV "how" - how, in what way [will you come to know all the parables]? Modal interrogative particle. "Comprehend", Cassirer.


oJ speirwn (speirw) pres. part. "the farmer" - the one sowing [sows the word]. The participle serves as a substantive.


Many commentators argue that Mark identifies people with the soils, and it is certainly not unreasonable to handle the parable this way - it is an uncomplicated and effective approach. Yet, rather than soils, maybe Mark / Jesus wants us to identify with the situation, eg., seed scattered on a pathway which is quickly eaten by birds, well illustrates the situation where God's word is preached, but it makes no impact on the hearer - Satan whisks away the divine revelation.

Mark's syntax is challenging. Luke attempts to sort it out, but confuses us with short-talk; "The seed is the word of God. The ones beside the way are the ones having heard. Then comes the Devil ....." Presumably the sense is "the seed represents the word of God. The seed scattered on the pathway may be compared to the situation where a person hears what is proclaimed, but the substance of the message doesn't take root (the devil comes and takes away word from them)." Mark is trying to express the same point; "these ones (the seeds), which are sown beside the way, are (may be compared with the situation) where the word is sown in people (as seed is sown in soil) and when it is heard, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which was sown in them."

ou|toi masc. pro. "some people" - [but/and] these ones = seeds. The demonstrative pronoun is masculine, rather than neuter for "seeds", but of course, the seeds represent the Word, logoV, masculine, and so this may have prompted a masculine "these" for "seeds", rather than people / soils; "the seeds that fall by the roadside", Cassirer, so also Marcus - see Guelich for his take on the problem. Most translations follow the NIV, "people". The parallel construction with the adjectival participle speiromenoi, "being sown", found in v16, supports the view that "these seeds" is intended; "these seeds, the ones scattered beside the pathway." The NIV approach is commonly followed, eg., "Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them", Peterson.

oiJ "-" - the ones [beside the way]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase para thn oJdon, "beside the way", into an attributive modifier limiting "these seeds"; "these ones = seeds (words) which are scattered beside the way."

eisin (eimi) pres. "are like" - are = represent. Here introducing a comparison, as NIV. "The seeds which are scattered on the pathway, may be compared to the situation where the Word is sown .."

o{pou "where" - where [is sown the word]. Local conjunction; "where the Word is sown."

kai "-" - and. Coordinative, "and", rather than adversative, "but"; "the message is sown and as soon as it is heard", Berkeley.

oJtan + subj. "as soon as" - when. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, treated as definite.

akouswsin (akouw) aor. subj. "they hear" - they hear it. The subject is oJ logoV, "the word", so "when it is heard."

euquV adv. "-" - immediately [comes satan and takes the word]. Temporal adverb. "Satan comes at once and takes away what was sown in their minds", Phillips, but possibly just what happens next in the narrative; "then".

ton esparmenon (speirw) perf. pas. part. "that was sown [in them]" - having been sown [into, to them]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the word", as NIV. In much the same way as a person without a sense of humour will often miss the point of a joke, so a person who is not seeking after truth will fail to see its relevance even when thrust before them.


Mark's difficult syntax continues. Although often read as "these people are like / may be compared with the seed beside the path", the syntax implies "these ones (the seeds = word), which are sown on the rocky ground (shallow ground) are (may be compared to the situation) where the word is sown in people, who, when they hear the word, receive it joyfully." Either way, the point is clear enough.

kai "-" and. Coordinative; "similarly", Cassirer.

ou|toi pro. "others" - these ones. Demonstrative pronoun, as v15. Variant oJmoiV, "in like manner, likewise", is an attempt to sort out Mark's interesting syntax. As noted above, although the syntax implies that "these ones" = "the seeds" (God's words sown), the NIV provides a sensible translation; "And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it", Peterson.

oiJ ..... speiromenoi (speirw) pres. pas. part. "seed sown" - the ones being sown. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting ou|toi, "these"; "these ones = seeds which are sown upon rocky places / ground."

epi + acc. "on" - upon [rocky places]. Spatial.

eisin (eimi) pres. "like" - are = represent. "May be compared to the situation where ......", As v15.

oi} pro. "-" - who. Masculine relative pronoun; "may be compared to the situation where the word is sown in people who."

oJtan + subj. "-" - when [they hear the word]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, treated as definite; "when they hear the word."

meta + acc. "with joy" - [immediately receive it] with [joy]. The preposition is adverbial, modal, expressing manner. Taken with caraV, "joy", it forms a an adverb modifying the verb "receive"; "they enthusiastically receive it at once."


kai "but since" - and. The conjunction here serves an epexegetic function, introducing a kind of parenthesis explaining how a superficial person (ie., a person who, when they hear the word, receive it joyfully, but then when trouble or persecution arises because of the word, give up) is like seed growing in shallow ground; it is because seed growing in shallow ground has a limited root system and is short lived."

en + dat. "-" - [they do not have a root] in [themselves, but are temporary, transitory]. Local, expressing sphere, metaphorical; "within themselves

ei\ta adv. "-" - then. Temporal adverb, expressing what follows in time; "next". The seed falling on shallow ground, quickly sprouting, but quickly dying due to a stunted root system, is like / may be compared with the situation where a person accepts the word enthusiastically, but then, when the word brings trouble or persecution ......

genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. part. "when [trouble or persecution] comes" - [tribulation or persecution] coming about. The genitive participle, and its two genitive subjects, form a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

dia + acc. "because of" - because of [the word]. Causal; "because of, on account of." Luke expresses this time as a "time of testing."

skandalizontai (skandalizw) pres. pas. "they [quickly] fall away" - they [immediately] trip, stumble. Luke uses the verb afisthmi, with the sense "to fall away", "become apostate", BAGD. Mark's choice is, "to be ensnared, trapped", MM, moving to the sense "be offended", "of being offended and repelled to the point of abandoning", TH. "Stumble and fall", Berkeley.


alloi adj. "[still] others" - [and] others. The problem as to what is sown continues. Most assume the "others" are other people representing soil, but leaving aside the idea of soil being sown (or both soil and seeds, so Marcus), the "others" again probably refers to seeds (the masculine "others" reflecting the masculine logoV, "word"); "others (other seeds) which are sown into the thorns are (may be compared with the situation) where the word is sown in people. These people are the ones who hear the word, but ..." "The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it", Peterson.

oiJ ..... speiromenoi (speirw) pres. mid./pas. part. "sown" - the ones being sown [into the thorns]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "others = other seeds"; "other seeds which are sown among the thorns."

oiJ ..... akousanteV (akouw) pres. part. "hear [the word]" - [are = represent] the ones having heard [the word]. The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative.


kai "but" - and. Here adversative, "but", as NIV.

tou aiwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "of this life" - [the anxieties, cares, worries] of the age. The sense being "worldly life." The genitive may be taken as ablative, expressing source / origin; "the worries that come our way through the rough-and-tumble of life." Zerwick suggests verbal, objective, "for things of the world", or subjective, "which preoccupy men in the world." The NIV has translated the article tou as a demonstrative pronoun, "this age", rather than "the age."

tou ploutou (oV) gen. " of wealth" - [and the seduction, allurement] of riches. The genitive may again be taken as ablative, expressing source / origin, "the seduction which comes from wealth", Cassirer, but it is usually classified as verbal, objective.

peri "for" - [and the desires for the rest, what remains]. Reference / respect, "with reference to"; "passions for other interests", Berkeley.

eisporeuomenai (eisporeuomai) pres. part. "come in" - going in [choke the word]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to choke", as NIV.

akarpoV adj. "unfruitful" - [and it becomes] unfruitful. Predicate adjective.


kai "-" - and. Here adversative; "but".

ekeinoi pro. "others" - those [are]. Masculine demonstrative pronoun again, "those"; not "those people", but "those seeds", as above. The opening clause is again repeated, as above; "those (those seeds) which are sown on good soil are (may be compared with the situation) where the word is sown in people who hear the word and receive it and bear fruit, ....."

oiJ .... sparenteV (speirw) aor. pas. part. "seed sown" - the ones having been sown. The participle serves as a substantive.

epi + acc. "on [good soil]" - upon [the good soil]. Spatial.

oi{tineV pro. "-" - who [hear the word and receive it]. Indefinite relative pronoun.

karpoforousin (karpoforew) pres. "produce a crop" - [and] bear fruit. The issue of bearing fruit is usually taken to refer to discipleship, faithful Christian living, but it is more likely that faith is the harvest in mind, dependence on God's Word; "people who hear the gospel, accept it and put their faith in it." Of course, as we launch into space with our many and varied applications, we are bound to remember that the karpoV, "fruit", remains unstated. The text simply makes the point that when "the word falls on ....... good soil, it is amazingly productive", Boring.

e}n "some" - one [thirty and] one [sixty and ] one [one hundred]. For the Gk., see v8. It is more than likely that the varied results of the harvest are not in mind. The point is, the harvest is bountiful, even at "thirtyfold". Everyone knows that harvests are variable, but this one is bountiful, and that's what matters. None-the-less, if anything is to be made of the variable nature of the harvest, faith is observably variable. Some believers seem to exhibit exemplary faith, others, like me, rely on a faith as small as a mustard seed, infected with doubts and fears, but it is enough, because our salvation does not rest on the quality of our faith, but the quality of God's grace.


iv] The lamp and the measure, v21-25. Mark (Luke follows suit) now arranges four independent sayings to guide our understanding of the parable of the sower. "The word is meant to be heard, and finally will be. The hiding and hardening are only temporary and correspond to God's wisdom, not human common sense", Boring. So, "take care to understand the meaning of that which you hear", Cassirer, v24. "The divine gift of perceiving God's kingdom is not arbitrary, but is given to those who strive to understand and have developed their own insight....... Those who hear with insight receive more insight; those who hear only superficially have even that taken away from them", Boring.

Saying #1. Given that the function of a lamp is to give light, a person doesn't hide a lighted lamp. Given that the function of divine revelation is to enlighten humanity, God doesn't hide his Word - except in an act of divine judgement upon a people whose ears have grown dull, eg., kingdom parables. Have the ears of Western civilisation grown dull?

autoiV dat. pro. "[he said] to them" - [and he was saying] to them. Dative of indirect object. Is the antecedent the disciples or the gathered crowd along with the disciples?

mhti "-" - Used in a question expecting a negative answer; "you don't ...... do you?

ercetai (ercomai) "do you bring" - [the lamp] does [not] come. A rather strange expression, usually viewed as shaped by the original Aramaic. "Do you turn on a torch and then cover it with your hand, or do you let it light your way?"

iJna + subj. "to [put it]" - that = in order that [it may be placed]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that." There are four purpose clauses in this and the following three verses.

uJpo + acc. "under" - under [the measure bowl or] under [the bed]. Spatial, as NIV.

ouc "[do]n't" - not [that = in order that it may be placed upon the lamp-stand]. Used in a question expecting a positive answer; "does not the lamp come in order that it may be placed upon the lamp-stand?"


Saying #2: What is hidden will be revealed. Mark uses the saying to reflect on the hidden nature of kingdom parables, so establishing the point that with God, "nothing is kept hidden except with the intention that it should come into the open", Cassirer. This saying uses Hebraic parallelism.

gar "for" - Probably serving here as a stitching device, rather than expressing cause / reason. None-the-less, Mark wants v21 and 22 taken together and "for" in English serves this purpose. This saying is about uncovering, not covering.

ean mh "-" - [it is not something hidden] except. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception. "Nothing is hidden." Note the two negative, ou ..... mh, a construction where two negative = a positive.

iJna + subj. "is meant" - that [it may eventually be revealed]. Usually taken here as adverbial, introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that." The iJna is often viewed as an insertion by Mark to make the point that God may hide the truth for a time, but he does this in order to ultimately reveal it. Of course purpose can express inevitability, particularly with God. The so called Q version of the verse is usually taken as "nothing is covered that will not be revealed, and hid that will not be known." Is God the organiser of a treasure hunt, hiding things in order that they may be found?

egeneto (ginomai) aor. "is" - [nor] has it become [hidden]. Given that estin, "[there] is [not hidden] / [whatever] is [hidden]", is present tense, the intent of an aorist here is somewhat perplexing. Marcus thinks Mark is stressing a time signature, so the aorist here is serving as a past tense; "just as, in the past (during Jesus' lifetime), nothing was hidden except in order to become manifest, so it is in the present: all the hiddenness of the current age will ultimately serve the purpose of revelation", Marcus. It is more likely that the aorist is simply a punctiliar present and that what we have here is typical Semitic parallelism where the same point is made with slightly different words; the point being, what is hidden will be revealed. When????

all (alla) "-" - but [that it may eventually come into the open (that it may be known)]. Establishing a counterpoint.


A common saying used by Jesus to encourage attention; "pay attention."

ei + ind. "if" - if [anyone has ears]. Introducing a conditional clause 1st class where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, .... then [let them hear]."

akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "to hear" - to hear [let him hear]. The infinitive is probably adjectival, epexegetic, limiting by explaining / making specific "ears"; "ears that hear." Not just the capacity to hear, but more particularly, to hear the Word of God; "If you have ears attuned to the Word of God, then you had better listen to what I say."


Saying #3: "What you give is what you get, and even more." The saying, in general terms, applies to the whole of life, both practical and spiritual - results only come through applied effort. In the context, this principle applies to God's word. When we apply ourselves to God's word we will get understanding, and then some. Interestingly, Qumran texts make the same point, namely, "people will receive insight according to the measure of their attentiveness", Marcus. It should be noted that the usual application of this text ,when applied to Temple day, namely, that money given to the church will be returned in full, and then some, may help the church's bottom-line, but is certainly not an eternal verity!

blepete (blepw) pres. imp. "consider carefully" - [and he was saying to them] see, consider. "Pay attention to"; apply all our faculties to ...

tiv pro. "what"- what [you hear]. Not "how", Lk.8:18, but "what you hear", although possibly just standing in for o{, "that which", Zerwick. "In a world that is still, in a sense, Satan's house and dominion, not all the voices that may be heard ought to be heard", Marcus.

en + dat. "with" - in = by. Instrumental, expressing means, "with", as NIV.

w|/ metrw/ (on) "the measure" - [what] measure [you measure it will be measured]. A measure of something. The verb takes the sense of "give out / apportion / deal out", BAGD.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

prosteqhsetai (prostiqhmi) fut. pas. "even more" - [and] it will be put to, added to. In the sense of "given in addition to." The passive, as with "will be measured", may be taken as theological / divine; God does the measuring out and adding, adding more than we could ever have imagined. So Emily Dickinson on divine overcompensation:

As if I asked a common Alms,

and in my wondering hand

A Stranger pressed a Kingdom

And I, bewildered stand -

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of interest / direct object after the proV prefix verb "to add to."


Saying #4: "Them that's got shall get, Them that's not shall lose", Billie Holiday. Seemingly identifying the flaw in capitalism, namely "that inequality tends to be compounded rather than rectified", France, ie., the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But of course, context is everything, and so this saying again addresses the issue of the right hearing of the word of God. Those who apply themselves to the revealed word will be given more comprehension; those who ignore it will lose even the knowledge they have.

gar "-" - for. As v22, used here as a stitching device.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [whoever has it will be given] to him. Dative of indirect object.

kai "even" - [whoever does not have] and = even [what he has will be taken away]. Here ascensive; "even", as NIV. Given that it is not possible to take away something someone doesn't have, the sense is "whoever does not have much"; "A person who has very little, even the little they have will be taken away from them."

ap (apo) + gen. "from" - from [him]. Expressing separation; "away from." "The person who does nothing with the little that they retain of what they hear will be given nothing more; and even the little they have retained will be taken way from them", cf., Junkins.


Mark Introduction


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