Friday, August 24, 2007

Mark 4: Parable Of The Sower

Recently, Steven has too much time and nothing much to do, so he posted his wonderful thoughts on the parable of the sower and asked me to join him in the discussion. He made good points on the parable:

1) In the historical context, the parable is eschatologically laden. That means it has to do with YHWH judging and restoring Israel.

2) The difficult-est verses in the parable, Mark 4.11-12, paraphasing Isaiah 6 is about 'those on the outside' (probably those who were not in Jesus' circle, sharing his aspirations) are doomed to ignorant of the sower's parable, which is also the 'secret of the kingdom of god'.

3) The parable is about YHWH sowing his words, instead of the usual contemporary reading that the sower represents Christian evangelists.

I dont understand why did Steven say that this parable to Luke 19.11-27.

Anyway, after reading through the parable of the sower and isaiah 6 several time, i commented something. Not sure it makes sense but it does sounds 'fresh':

(Copied and pasted from from Steven's blog. So it has to be read as in the context of our discussion) Woo's) comment on your(Steven Sim's) view on the difficult-est passage is that i think you are right. Jesus was refering to 'the inauguration of the kingdom of god' as the 'secret of the kingdom of god'. He is clearly, as you had observed, incarnating Isaiah when he said that. But one difference between Jesus and Isaiah is that Jesus go further than Isaiah in his proclamation of judgement on Israel. He not only judge Israel but bring about the 'eschatological renewal' to Israel from an unthinkable perspective to the Jews (your term: eschatological sowing). Why is that so?

Look at Isa 6.13, the end of god's conversation with Isaiah. Although god proclaimed judgement to and reveal that he will punish Israel, nonetheless, god's word will remain and can still be found in Jerusalem (And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the *holy seed* will be the stump in *the land*.)

Whereas when Jesus revealed the secret of god's kingdom, he was proclaiming judgement and prophecising the punishement on Israel, but only this time, the seed appear to be everywhere (path, rocky places, thorns, good soil). It's not as Isaiah's generation to which salvation and renewal only happen in Jerusalem. This time, it is not 'land' anymore. It's on the various conditions of any places.

That means Jesus wasnt saying, like Isaiah said centuries earlier, that eschatological renewal happen only in Jerusalem. He is saying that, this time, god is sowing seeds at any places! Not that Jerusalem doesn't matter, but god has extend his kingdom beyond any particular place. God's kingdom is not in places but the condition of any places.

And this trans-Isaiah-nic proclaimation is the 'secret' to which many who has eyes to see but cant see, who has ears to hear, but can't hear.

In other words, the parable of sower is not merely on the restoration of Israel (or Jerusalem. I used Israel and Jerusalem interchangbly meaning the geographical nation). It comes together with the revelation that god had scattered his 'seed' differently this time; the restoration being extended beyond Jerusalem.

In that particular socio-religious context, this news was an exploding bomb that would had Jesus killed if it's not being broken in parables!

Not sure if anyone else attempt to read this parable in other ways, if do, pls de-freeze your fingers and start typing :)


Anonymous said...

Nice insights and thoughts on Mark 4...check out mine at


Sze Zeng said...

Hi Chip,

Thank you for dropping by and sharing your insights with me :)

Bless you.