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Luke 8:4-8

The Parable of the Sower

8:4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus 1  from one town after another, 2  he spoke to them 3  in a parable: 8:5 “A sower went out to sow 4  his seed. 5  And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled on, and the wild birds 6  devoured it. 8:6 Other seed fell on rock, 7  and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture. 8:7 Other seed fell among the thorns, 8  and they grew up with it and choked 9  it. 8:8 But 10  other seed fell on good soil and grew, 11  and it produced a hundred times as much grain.” 12  As he said this, 13  he called out, “The one who has ears to hear had better listen!” 14 

1 tn Grk “to him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn This phrase renders a distributive use of κατά (kata) with πόλις (polis), literally “according to [each] town.”

3 tn The words “to them” do not appear in the Greek text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.

4 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 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 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 sn The rock in Palestine would be a limestone base lying right under the soil.

8 sn Palestinian weeds like these thorns could grow up to six feet in height and have a major root system.

9 sn That is, crowded out the good plants.

10 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in the final stage of the parable.

11 tn Grk “when it grew, after it grew.”

12 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 tn Grk “said these things.”

14 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).

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