Parables from Matthew 13 - Meaning and interpretation

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by steven-nemes, Jun 13, 2009.

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  1. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    Some debate arose between myself and some friends last night regarding the proper interpretation of the parables Jesus tells in Matthew 13, particularly these two:

    Now I don't have an official interpretation of the parable dealing with leaven and three measures of flour, but as far as the mustard seed one is concerned, I understand it thus: the mustard seed represents the true church in the New Testament era, which begins as a very small community, but gradually grows larger and larger than all other groups, and it is a benefit and a blessing to those who are even not a part of it (the birds).

    Now this is my untrained interpretation of it, which seems to me to be a common sense reading of the parable to anyone who has no real extensive knowledge. What is your (and perhaps major historical figures') take on it?
  2. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I think you're close, Steven. I would add that the kingdom of heaven looks small and insignificant to most people. And yet it will cover the entire earth one day. I think the birds are more part of the parable, and are not necessarily referring to something specific. The parable of the yeast is different, however, in that the significance lies in the secrecy of how the kingdom of God works. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of people, not in outward conquering of land and people.
  3. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore


    My friend, under the influence of a certain person who has been teaching at a local church lately, has interpreted the parable like this: firstly, there is no such thing as a mustard tree because mustard plants only grow to the size of six-foot bushes at best; so, he takes the mustard tree to be representative of an overly large community (basically, the "external" church, of which not every member is also a member of the "internal" or "real" church), and the birds are representative of dangerous reprobates who come in and spread false doctrines and teachings and such.

    I don't think that's a plausible reading at all of the text. His argument was along these lines: birds represent evil and destructive forces in a parable told earlier in the dialogue, and therefore they should also represent evil and destructive forces in this one, as well. I think that is invalid as I think it is the nature of a parable to be isolated and present a completed picture entirely on its own, not borrowing from previous stories or parables to attain a complete meaning.
  4. Rangerus

    Rangerus Puritan Board Junior

    Just to "add to" what greenbaggins is saying about the "birds of the air", this is from John Gill and quite interesting:

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