Bible Study, Gospel of Matthew, Indwelling Spirit, Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Parables, Wheat and the Tares
Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I am continuing to look at the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
I do apologize to anyone who has come across this post as your first on Renaissance Woman. I do try to make each post stand on its own while at the same time building on everything that has come before. This post does not stand on its own. I would recommend reading last week’s post, The Seed Sown, before this one or there are going to be references that will make little sense.
There are two main schools of interpretation when it comes to this parable. The first says the wheat and the tares are two different kinds of people within the church. They sit side by side in the pews and are indistinguishable one from the other until Jesus returns and His angels send the tares to the fire and gather the wheat into the barn. The second disagrees with the first only in the location of the wheat and the tares. The field is not the church, they say, but the world. The wheat and tares represent believers and unbelievers which occupy the same world until Jesus returns and His angels send the tares to the fire and gather the wheat into the barn.
I can look at both interpretations and see where they are coming from. If the wheat and tares are indistinguishable one from the other then it would make sense that Jesus is describing the church. After all, can’t the argument be made that the difference between believers and unbelievers is obvious? And yet, Jesus Himself interprets this parable in Matthew 13:36-43 and clearly says “the field is the world” and “the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom but the tares are the sons of the wicked one” so that ought to prove the second interpretation is the correct one.
I have come across a third interpretation put forward by a woman named Dora Van Assen which suggests the parable is a description of what happened in the Garden of Eden. God created all things, including Adam, and saw it was all very good. As God fellowshipped with Adam in the garden, He was planting His good thoughts and spiritual understanding in Adam’s mind. But then, the Serpent came slithering and whispering into the garden and planted evil thoughts and understanding. Both types of thoughts occupied the same field i.e. the mind of Adam.
This interpretation is very different from anything I have ever heard preached within the confines of Churchdom and it does not appear to be supported by Jesus’ interpretation. But then, did Jesus truly make this interpretation or was it inserted into the manuscripts at a later date? I found this assertion made when I looked up the parable in the Abingdon Commentary. The copy I have was published in 1929 and states that “all scholars reject the genuineness of the explanation in vv. 36-43…” I mentioned last week my skepticism antennae quivered at “all scholars” because I cannot think of one subject where all scholars are in agreement.
I went searching for this assertion of “all scholars rejecting” the interpretation given in those passages and could not find a reference. That doesn’t mean that there are not scholars rejecting said passages just that it has been difficult for me to find them over the last week. I am thus left with a single resource stating the interpretation given for this parable in verses 36-43 is not genuine and, since our Bible warns against accepting the testimony of a single witness, I am shelving this. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open and may circle back to it but, for now, will proceed in the acceptance of Jesus’ interpretation.
If Dora Van Assen’s interpretation relied on Matthew 13:36-43 not being genuine, I would dismiss it out of hand. It does not. Her interpretation is shared in an article by J. Preston Eby (linked below) and neither make mention of these passages not being genuine. Both, in fact, treat them as being absolutely genuine.
Dora Van Assen writes, “Some may object to this interpretation of the tares, because Jesus in His explanation of the parable used the words, the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one’ (Mat. 13:38). That does sound as if they are two different kinds of people. And indeed they are! If we will just stop for a moment and think this through, we must admit that God is an invisible spirit, and Satan is likewise invisible spirit. Neither of these produce flesh and blood children of their own! The new creation is formed in a people who are ‘renewed in the spirit of their mind.’ So the term ‘children’ must be taken as a metaphor. The Holy Spirit deals with men in their minds and thoughts, and Satan can only attack man in his mind, giving false ideas and imaginations. These thought-pictures are often called ‘brain children.’ And these determine what manner of man a man is!”
I am (so far) inclined to accept Dora Van Assen’s interpretation. She points out that the tares never become wheat and the wheat never become tares. If the wheat and the tares do indeed represent two different kinds of people, there is no hope for the tares. They are similar in appearance to wheat but cannot ever convert into wheat. If the interpretations stating the wheat and the tares are the converted and the unconverted or believers and unbelievers, then does it not follow that evangelism is the greatest exercise in futility? You can share the gospel with another person until you are blue in the face but, if they are indeed a tare, all your sharing is for nothing because they cannot and therefore will not ever respond.
If though, Dora Van Assen’s interpretation is correct and the wheat and tares are symbolic of thoughts occupying the same field of a person’s heart and mind, then the good seed is there and you can share the gospel in the hope that your words are water falling on that good seed. I find her interpretation to be far more hopeful than any other I have come across. But then, it wouldn’t matter how much I liked and preferred it if she was the only source of such an interpretation.
She is not. I found her same thoughts echoed in the Commentary on this parable found in Barclay’s Daily Study Bible where I read: “It may well be said that in its lessons this is one of the most practical parables Jesus ever told. It teaches us that there is always a hostile power in the world, seeking and waiting to destroy the good seed. Our experience is that both kinds of influence act on our lives, the influence which helps the seed of the word to flourish and to grow, and the influence which seeks to destroy the good seed before it can produce fruit at all. The lesson is that we must be forever on our guard.”
Earlier in this post, I asked if the argument couldn’t be made that the difference between believers and unbelievers was obvious. I want to include one more quote from the Barclay’s Daily Study Bible: “it (the parable) teaches us how hard it is to distinguish between those who are in the Kingdom and those who are not. A man may appear to be good and may in fact be bad; and a man may appear to be bad and may yet be good. We are much too quick to classify people and label them good or bad without knowing all the facts.” This is something valuable to keep in mind.
I will continue looking at this parable next week but do want to add this as my closing thought: I find interpreting the parable of the wheat and the tares as thoughts resulting from spiritual influences has a direct correlation to the passage in Ephesians describing the armor of God. We believers are to take the helmet of salvation. A helmet’s purpose is to protect one’s head and I see a clear picture of the necessity to guard our minds from attack. But then, that is a subject worth many more weeks’ focus and so I will sign off with this prayer:
May the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that belongs entirely to Jesus which He has freely given to us, guard each of our hearts and minds every moment of every day.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Matthew 13 – Barclay’s Daily Study Bible – Bible Commentaries – StudyLight.org
KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES: THE FIRSTFRUITS, THE HARVEST, AND THE VINTAGE by J. Preston Eby (godfire.net)
What Does Tares Mean? Bible Definition and References (biblestudytools.com)
Tares – WebBible Encyclopedia – ChristianAnswers.Net
Eiselen, Frederick Carl, The Abingdon Bible Commentary, Abingdon Press, Nashville •New York, 1929, Page 977
You must be logged in to post a comment.