Remove The Snakeweed From The Mustard Seed

Enter the words “mustard seed” into a search engine and you will soon come across numerous articles alleging that Jesus Christ was, at the least, mistaken when He spoke of it in Matthew 13:31-32 and Mark 4:30-32. However, in this article we will bring out a point many others have missed in regard to these passages.
Remove The Snakeweed From The Mustard Seed
Source - Image owned, uploaded and copyrighted 2015 by the author, Peter P. Macinta (BrotherPete).

"Mustard seed” occurs a miniscule five times in the Holy Bible (Matthew 13:31, 17:20, Mark 4:31, Luke 13:19, and 17:6) but its scant occurrence has given occasion to some to find fault with Jesus and / or the Holy Bible due to what is recorded in two of those five passages. Those two passages are as follows, noting specifically verse 32 of Matthew 13 and verse 31 of Mark 4: 

Matthew (Mt.) 13:31-32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in

his field: 32  Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Mark (Mk.) 4:30-32 And he said, “Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32  But when it is sown, it grows up, and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”

The main objection some people have are in the words, “the least of all seeds” (Mt.) and “is less than all the seeds that be in the earth” (Mk.). While mustard seeds (in this case, the Salvadora persica) are 1 to 5mm in size, there are smaller seeds. Given that fact, some would have us to think that the Holy Bible is unreliable and full of error.

One of the first pages {1} I came across was a blog by a “Professor Olsen” that, though it would not dare attack Jesus, did attack the Holy Bible with the typical street-knowledge claim that the Holy Bible was copied so many times we do not know what Jesus actually said. Whoever this “professor” is they have little knowledge of bibliology and the work of textual criticism. As God leads, the street claim that the Holy Bible was copied so many times that we do not know what it says will be dealt with in another article. Our present concern are the two passages mentioned above. 

For “Professor” Olsen and those who are like-minded, according to a copy of The Greek New Testament printed in 1968 by the United Bible Studies which references over 4,000 manuscripts, you are dead wrong in thinking we do not know what Jesus said when it comes to these two passages. According to this tool all the manuscripts we had in 1968 have the same thing in the Greek.

Looking At The Ancient Greek

And that is the key. When most of us read the Holy Bible we are reading it in our native language. We do not see the Greek (when reading the New Testament). Worse yet is that we have various translations that, though some might mean well, move away from the ancient text. For example, instead of following the wording of Matthew 13:32 in the KJV, “the least of all seeds,” some versions have “the smallest of all seeds.”

Here are our two verses as rendered in Young’s Literal Translation*:

Matthew (Mt.) 13:31-32    Another simile he set before them, saying: ‘The reign of the heavens is like to a grain of mustard, which a man having taken, did sow in his field, 32  which less, indeed, is than all the seeds, but when it may be grown, is greatest of the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the heaven do come and rest in its branches.’

Mark 4:30-32    And he said, ‘To what may we liken the reign of God, or in what simile may we compare it? 31  As a grain of mustard, which, whenever it may be sown on the earth, is less than any of the seeds that are on the earth; 32  and whenever it may be sown, it comes up, and does become greater than any of the herbs, and does make great branches, so that under its shade the fowls of the heaven are able to rest.’

Notice that the idea of the “size” of the seed is not readily expressed. In other words, Young does not render the text to read that the mustard seed is small or smallest. He uses the term “less.”

That brings up the fact it would be most helpful to see the Greek. The Greek word translated in the KJV as “least” (Mt.) and “less” (Mk.) is “mikros” {2}. While it could be translated in regard to size it can also mean “of rank or influence.” An example of this is that “mikros” is used for the word “least” in Luke 9:48, “And said unto them, ‘Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receives Me: and whosoever shall receive Me receives Him that sent Me: for He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.’”

The preceding parables / similes support the claim that “rank” and not “size” was the intent of Christ’s statement. Whatever seed was mentioned in Matthew 13:1-9 the fact that which landed on good soil yielded crops ranging from thirty to a hundredfold is highlighted and evidently the crops were food for human consumption. Grain is the subject of 24 to 30. Just about the same sequence occurs in Mark except that the parable immediately preceding that of the mustard seed speaks of the growth of grain. Mustard seed is less significant than these.

Additionally, a number of commentators point out that Christ was using proverbial terminology. This affirms the point that “mikros” in these two passages refers to the significance of the mustard seed and not foundationally to its size.

Concerning the thought of being less than all seeds, think of yourself living in the Holy Land and having to survive. You would want to plant substantial food plants like lentils, rye, or wheat. Salvadora persica would probably be at the bottom of your list. However. to the birds, all sorts of birds, they felt it was great. This is not the mustard plant you might find in North America and elsewhere, but one that grew as a tree usually not taller than 25 feet with fleshy, 1.5 to 3-inch leaves--a splendid haven with ample food for birds.

An Awe Inspiring Parable

And that is the beauty of this parable. Like the mustard seed, Christ, to many people, was and is, insignificant. At what appeared to be the end of His life He did not have many followers and the ones He did have were fearful and in despair. He did not die as a warrior in battle but died the death of the lowest criminals. Today He is mocked and maligned by a majority, and many that name His Name really do not make Him King of their life.

However, after living the life we all should live in order to please the Father, He bore our sins and infirmities, was crucified and


buried, then was raised from death with new life for all. All people, regardless of their ethnicity or mental ability, are called to trust in Him. And no matter what sins we have, even in the worse case scenarios, we will receive His forgiveness if we truly repent.

When the birds rest upon the branches of the mustard tree they find both food and shelter. Perhaps, to them, it is the greatest place for them to live. So it is with Jesus Christ to all those who truly trust in Him. There is abundant spiritual food and blessed spiritual shelter. And, indeed, there is no better spiritual place to dwell.

The idea of spiritual shelter should not make us think we will be preserved from persecution. As it is written, all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). However, as we are persuaded to remain in Christ, nothing shall separate us from the complete love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

The Seed Of Christ

Before I close I want to point out that what was said of the mustard seed in regard to the Kingdom of God / Heaven can be associated with what the Holy Spirit said through the Apostle John in 1 John 3:1-9 regarding Christians:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3  And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5  And you know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6  Whosoever abides in him sins not: whosoever sins has not seen him, neither known him. 7  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8  He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9  Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

Did you see the word “seed” in verse nine? The small mustard seed has the ability to produce a large tree that provides food and shelter for various types of birds, and was likened to the Kingdom of God / Heaven by Christ. The “seed” of Christ is implanted in each person that truly trusts God through Christ and has repented of their sin. As that seed grows, each person projects the Gospel of Christ, becoming a mini-haven for those that want to come to Christ, are interested in His teaching, or are drawn to His presence.

Or, if you prefer, you can think of yourself as a branch in Christ if you are truly born again. For that concept prayerfully consider John 15:1-5. 

Summation

In regard to the parable of the mustard seed, as you see, there was nothing wrong with what Jesus said, and the Word of God was faithfully recorded for us. There are a lot of snakes and plenty of snakeweed in the world to hide the truth of the Word of God by casting doubt upon it. Do yourself well. Doubt man, not God nor His written Word. The Holy Bible is the sure Word of God.

Notes:

Remember that you can always check the Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew for yourself at http://blueletterbible.com , and we have provided you with a number of articles on how to correctly understand the Holy Bible. Links to those articles may be found at http://sapphirestreams.com/life/herm.html .

{1} I will not give the link for this page because I do not want to legitimize the source. It is bad enough I used his name, if that is his real name. At the time of this article’s creation, the man did not list his credentials as a professor on his blog. Also, he had “comments” turned off on the page that dealt with the mustard seed.

{2} From an electronic version of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong incorporated in the Online Bible program, and so throughout the article whenever the ancient language is referred to and no other authority is cited.

The following reference works were also consulted: 

The Greek New Testament printed in 1968 by the United Bible Studies. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikren, editors, in cooperation with The Institute For New Testament Textual Research 

Trench, R. C.: Notes On The Parables Of Our Lord (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1969) p40

Vine, W. E.: An Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words (Flemming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, NJ : 1966)

God willing, this article will be associated with an online message (sermon) which you will be able to hear by June 25, 2015 (hopefully much sooner) by selecting a link at http://www.sapphirestreams.com/life/audioM.html#M366 .

Unless otherwise noted all Holy Scripture is from the 1769 Authorized Version with spelling of some words updated for our time in addition to changing LORD to YHVH as it rightly should be when the text so indicates. An * next to the abbreviation for another translation or version indicates the same for the text presented.

Not responsible for lead picture after date of publication. Not responsible for any advertisements appearing with this article nor am I necessarily in agreement with any of them. The statements of this paragraph hold true not only for this article, but for everything I have placed on the Internet.



Article Written By BrotherPete

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having served over forty years as a pastor. I graduated from Northeast Bible College of Green Lane Pennsylvania and have a Bachelors Degree in Bible. I am enthused about the Word of God and how it can make a positive change in the life of anyone once it is teamed up with faith and the Holy Spirit. I am happily married. Visit www.sapphirestreams.com.

Last updated on 07-07-2016 185 1

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  • nbillett  28-12-2016
    Humankind is constantly changing, led on by events and technical evolution; differences in mentalities appear, revealing how ill-adapted are ancient structures to new situations.
    reply 0
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