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The Parable of the Sower

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus[a] from one town after another,[b] he spoke to them[c] in a parable: “A sower went out to sow[d] his seed.[e] And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled on, and the wild birds[f] devoured it. Other seed fell on rock,[g] and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns,[h] and they grew up with it and choked[i] it. But[j] other seed fell on good soil and grew,[k] and it produced a hundred times as much grain.”[l] As he said this,[m] he called out, “The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”[n]

Then[o] his disciples asked him what this parable meant.[p] 10 He[q] said, “You have been given[r] the opportunity to know[s] the secrets[t] of the kingdom of God,[u] but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.[v]

11 “Now the parable means[w] this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who have heard; then the devil[x] comes and takes away the word[y] from their hearts, so that they may not believe[z] and be saved. 13 Those[aa] on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while,[ab] but[ac] in a time of testing[ad] fall away.[ae] 14 As for the seed that[af] fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but[ag] as they go on their way they are choked[ah] by the worries and riches and pleasures of life,[ai] and their fruit does not mature.[aj] 15 But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing[ak] the word, cling to it[al] with an honest and good[am] heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.[an]

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  1. Luke 8:4 tn Grk “to him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  2. Luke 8:4 tn This phrase renders a distributive use of κατά (kata) with πόλις (polis), literally “according to [each] town.”
  3. Luke 8:4 tn The words “to them” do not appear in the Greek text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  4. Luke 8:5 sn A sower went out to sow. The background for this well-known parable is a field through which a well-worn path runs in the Palestinian countryside. Sowing would occur in late fall or early winter (October to December) in the rainy season, looking for sprouting in April or May and a June harvest. The use of seed as a figure for God’s giving life has OT roots: Isa 55:10-11.
  5. Luke 8:5 tn Luke’s version of the parable, like Mark’s (cf. Mark 4:1-9) uses the collective singular to refer to the seed throughout, so singular pronouns have been used consistently throughout this parable in the English translation. However, the parallel account in Matt 13:1-9 begins with plural pronouns in v. 4 but then switches to the collective singular in v. 5 ff.
  6. Luke 8:5 tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).
  7. Luke 8:6 sn The rock in Palestine would be a limestone base lying right under the soil.
  8. Luke 8:7 sn Palestinian weeds like these thorns could grow up to 6 feet in height and have a major root system.
  9. Luke 8:7 sn That is, crowded out the good plants.
  10. Luke 8:8 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in the final stage of the parable.
  11. Luke 8:8 tn Grk “when it grew, after it grew.”
  12. Luke 8:8 sn Unlike the parallel accounts in Matt 13:8 and Mark 4:8, there is no distinction in yield in this version of the parable.
  13. Luke 8:8 tn Grk “said these things.”
  14. Luke 8:8 tn The translation “had better listen!” captures the force of the third person imperative more effectively than the traditional “let him hear,” which sounds more like a permissive than an imperative to the modern English reader. This was Jesus’ common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 14:35).
  15. Luke 8:9 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
  16. Luke 8:9 tn Grk “what this parable might be” (an optative after a secondary tense, in keeping with good Koine style).
  17. Luke 8:10 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  18. Luke 8:10 tn This is an example of a so-called “divine passive,” with God understood to be the source of the revelation (see ExSyn 437-38).
  19. Luke 8:10 tn Grk “it has been given to you to know.” The dative pronoun occurs first, in emphatic position in the Greek text, although this position is awkward in contemporary English.
  20. Luke 8:10 tn Grk “the mysteries.”sn The key term secrets (μυστήριον, mustērion) can mean either (1) a new revelation or (2) a revealing interpretation of existing revelation as in Dan 2:17-23, 27-30. Jesus seems to be explaining how current events develop old promises, since the NT consistently links the events of Jesus’ ministry and message with old promises (Rom 1:1-4; Heb 1:1-2). The traditional translation of this word, “mystery,” is misleading to the modern English reader because this English word suggests a secret which people have tried to uncover but which they have failed to understand (L&N 28.77).
  21. Luke 8:10 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching. The nature of the kingdom of God in the NT and in Jesus’ teaching has long been debated by interpreters and scholars, with discussion primarily centering around the nature of the kingdom (earthly, heavenly, or both) and the kingdom’s arrival (present, future, or both). An additional major issue concerns the relationship between the kingdom of God and the person and work of Jesus himself. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.
  22. Luke 8:10 sn A quotation from Isa 6:9. Thus parables both conceal or reveal depending on whether one is open to hearing what they teach.
  23. Luke 8:11 tn Grk “is,” but in this context it is clearly giving an explanation of the parable.
  24. Luke 8:12 sn Interestingly, the synoptic parallels each use a different word for the devil here: Matt 13:19 has “the evil one,” while Mark 4:15 has “Satan.” This illustrates the fluidity of the gospel tradition in often using synonyms at the same point of the parallel tradition.
  25. Luke 8:12 sn The word of Jesus has the potential to save if it germinates in a person’s heart, something the devil is very much against.
  26. Luke 8:12 tn The participle πιστεύσαντες (pisteusantes) has been translated as a finite verb here. It may be regarded as an adverbial participle of attendant circumstance. From a logical standpoint the negative must govern both the participle and the finite verb.
  27. Luke 8:13 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  28. Luke 8:13 sn This time of temporary faith represented by the description believe for a while is presented rather tragically in the passage. The seed does not get a chance to do all it can.
  29. Luke 8:13 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
  30. Luke 8:13 tn Traditionally, “temptation.” Such a translation puts the emphasis on temptation to sin rather than testing of faith, which is what the context seems to indicate.
  31. Luke 8:13 sn Fall away. On the idea of falling away and the warnings against it, see 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 3:12; Jer 3:14; Dan 9:9.
  32. Luke 8:14 tn Grk “What”; the referent (the seed) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  33. Luke 8:14 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context.
  34. Luke 8:14 sn That is, their concern for spiritual things is crowded out by material things.
  35. Luke 8:14 sn On warnings about the dangers of excessive material attachments, described here as the worries and riches and pleasures of life, see Luke 12:12-21; 16:19-31.
  36. Luke 8:14 tn The verb τελεσφορέω (telesphoreō) means “to produce mature or ripe fruit” (L&N 23.203). Once again the seed does not reach its goal.
  37. Luke 8:15 tn The aorist participle ἀκούσαντες (akousantes) has been taken temporally, reflecting action antecedent (prior to) that of the main verb.
  38. Luke 8:15 sn There is a tenacity that is a part of spiritual fruitfulness.
  39. Luke 8:15 sn In an ancient context, the qualifier good described the ethical person who possessed integrity. Here it is integrity concerning God’s revelation through Jesus.
  40. Luke 8:15 sn Given the pressures noted in the previous soils, bearing fruit takes time (steadfast endurance), just as it does for the farmer. See Jas 1:2-4.