All by itself the soil produces grain

This is what the Kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain––first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. (Mark 4:26-28)

I came across this in my daily Bible reading today. In these verses, Jesus is not giving us a botany lesson. When he says “All by itself the soil produces grain,” he is not teaching that DNA in the seed is irrelevant to its growth. Rather he is using the incidental botany-of-the-day to teach us something about the kingdom of God. Scientific concordism falls short as an interpretive approach and fails to respect the ancient science through which Jesus delivers his intended message.

Jesus is teaching that the gospel is the means by which he will bring the advancement of his kingdom in the world. May we as his followers be used by him to faithfully live the gospel through lives of sacrificial love. Let us also be bold to proclaim “glad tidings of great things” to a lost, broken and hurting world. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”


Great insights. N. T. Wright also referenced that passage in this article here:

You brought out a little different thought from it however, and is much appreciated. It echos back to the first chapter of Genesis with the earth bringing forth life at the hand of God.



I sincerely am not sure I understand the point you are making here.

When I read Mark 4:26-28 and think about the Kingdom of God . . . the message I obtain from that text is that God is behind all things… and that simply scattering the seeds of God’s Kingdom will result in a bountiful crop - - because God will nurture the amazing potential of those seeds.

So… how does this invoke the buggaboo of “Scientific Concordism”?

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I am not insisting that the parable can only be understood in the way stated above. I would say there is actually more going on related to the mystery of the kingdom (as seen in several parable) but propose one practical application for exhort fellow believers.

In short, it is a scientifically inaccurate statement. Soil does not produce grain all by “itself.” But this is actually what the ancients believed. This is analogous to their belief that a woman’s womb was the only factor in fertility, which when functioning properly would bring forth offspring. He accommodates his message through their understanding.


Considering the deep thought behind Mark’s metaphor, I’m not sure this is the best example to use. I, for one, am perfectly content that Mark was making a theological point, and wasn’t trying to establish a principle of science.

Don’t you think the verses on the firmament fit your “concordist” concerns better? These texts are clearly presenting nature in a flawed manner.

Note that Jesus is the one delivering the metaphor (not Mark). This should be all the more troubling to a consistent scientific concordist. If it isn’t, they are being inconsistent in their concordism and actually employing an EC method of interpreting this biblical statement about nature. They are agreeing that God accommodates his message through scientific inaccuracy in the Bible.

The Bible is full of ancient science–reproductive biology, botany, taxonomy, and cosmology. We could cite dozens of examples. In this parable, Jesus wasn’t trying to establish a principle of science since it was already the common knowledge of the day. To them this phenomenological observation was an accepted fact. But you’re right, gbrooks9, other examples may be more compelling.

According to the Bible seeds die when they germinate, high mountains reach into heaven, the sky is solid, the sea has a boundary which it cannot pass and stars are angelic beings. See this thread for more information:

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As a non-attending member of the U.U. denomination, i am one of the first to point to Biblical errors. But I’m not so convinced that Mark is making an error here. It seems like a charming anecdote that points to God being in control - - and has nothing to do with an attempt by someone (Mark or by Jesus) to say that seeds are magical… or that the Earth is magical. Any observer of nature back then would know that seeds can germinate in a dish … without any Earth at all.

So, as I was saying, I don’t think this is the best example of Concordist mis-analysis. It might LOOK like an example, but really, I don’t think even the ancients missed the trick about germinating seeds with nothing but moisture.


I like the various references … except the one about seeds “dying”.

I don’t think the ancients literally thought anything was dying when seeds germinated. That wouldn’t make much sense even to a pagan.

But the poetic irony of a “seed disappearing” as “life appeared” … seems to be more an ironic novelty, rather than a firm position on botanical truths. I provide your entire list as a courtesy to the readers! I have marked in bold where I think the item is questionable… surprisingly few of those!

Old Testament:

Daylight independent from sun. (Genesis 1:3-5)
Earth formed before sun. (Genesis 1:16)
Sky requires supports. (2 Samuel 22:8)
Ocean in the sky. (Genesis 1:6-8, Psalm 148:4, Psalm 42:7)
Heavenly bodies are divine beings. (1 Kings 22:19)
Stars cause rain. (Judges 5:20)
Sky is flat. (Genesis 1:6-8)
Only 5 planets. (Zechariah 4:10)
Stars can fall and hit the earth. (Daniel 8:10)
Sky is solid (Isaiah 34:4)

Heart [is tjhe] seat of thought. (Genesis 6:5, Isaiah 14:13, Psalm 14:1)
Evil eye. (Deuteronomy 15:9)
Kidneys seat of thought. (Psalm 16:7)
Lagomorphs [i.e., rabbits!] ruminate (Leviticus 11:5-6)
Spontaneous generation (Genesis 1:20-24)
Ants lack leaders. (Proverbs 6:7) < < I have studied ants for years. I know the Queen is said to be their leader… but she really doesn’t issue commands… she just oozes pheramones. And the same for all the other “ant offices”.

Sea existed before land. (Genesis 1:2-10) < < Tricky one … but I like it!
Sea has boundary it cannot transgress. (Job 38:11) < < Indicating a flat earth, rather than a globe.
High mountains reach into heaven. (implication of Exodus 24:10) < < "reaching into the sky (rather than into Heaven) " is not an impossible observation.
Earth has pillars (1 Samuel 2:8)

New Testament

Sun is not a star. (1 Corinthians 15:41)
Earth created from water (2 Peter 3:5)

Eye emits light. (Matthew 6:22) < Oooo… that’s a good one!
Humans exist in the loins of their ancestors (Hebrews 7:9-10)
Mustard seeds are smallest seeds. (Mark 4:30-31) << absolutely. The Apologia for this are terrible.
Seeds die when they germinate. (John 12:23-24) << As I mention above… not quite the problem here.
Only soil contributes to growth of seed. (Mark 4:26-28) << No… I don’t buy it.
Female hair part of her genitalia. (1 Corinthians 11) < how odd?
Only men have seed, women simply nurture the child in the womb. (Hebrews 11:11)

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Interesting, care to explain how?

I disagree, in Exodus 24:10 the pavement of sapphire (the palace of God, or the firmament) is clearly visible from peak of the mountain.

I can’t prove it but I read somewhere that the ancients actually did think a seed died before germination could occur. They believed that a fertile ground was the key factor in bringing forth life. It definitely doesn’t make sense to us since we take basic science for granted. Life gives rise to life.


I have examined Exodus 24:10, and I was just about to agree with your conclusion, when I noted a key issue:
You say that the pavement of sapphire is clearly visible from the peak of the mountain. But, in fact, it seems that verse 10 refers to a view of God attained from below God’s throne!

Exodus 24:11-13 says:
And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.

So, while Verse 10 “lacks”, verse 13 clearly “saves”! I can’t quibble over this. It seems pretty clear that by the time we get to verse 13 (“And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.”)… Moses has, indeed, risen above the firmament… and thus not just “into the sky” … but “into Heaven” as modern English might intend it!

Because of the complexity of the situation, I would encourage you to edit that particular line in your post.

Instead of writing this somewhat vague observation:
High mountains reach into heaven. (implication of Exodus 24:10)

I would re-word it to say:
High mountain reaches above the firmament, which is the floor beneath God’s throne in Heaven (Exodus 24:10-13).

Below are all the leading translations of Exodus 24:10

Exo 24:10
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.

Other Translations for Exo 24:10

and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.

There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself.

and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.

and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself.

y vieron al Dios de Israel; y había debajo de sus pies como un embaldosado de zafiro, semejante al cielo cuando está sereno.

and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet [fn]there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, [fn]as clear as the sky itself.

and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself.

and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness.

and they see the God of Israel, and under His feet is as the white work of the sapphire, and as the substance of the heavens for purity;

and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were work of transparent sapphire, and as it were the form of heaven for clearness.

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire-stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness.

They saw the God of Yisra’el. Under his feet was like a paved work of sappir stone, like the skies for clearness.

et viderunt Deum Israhel sub pedibus eius quasi opus lapidis sapphirini et quasi caelum cum serenum est

וַיִּרְא֕וּ אֵ֖ת אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְתַ֣חַת רַגְלָ֗יו כְּמַעֲשֵׂה֙ לִבְנַ֣ת הַסַּפִּ֔יר וּכְעֶ֥צֶם הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם לָטֹֽהַר׃

καὶ εἶδον τὸν τόπον οὗ εἱστήκει ἐκεῖ ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Ισραηλ καὶ τὰ ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ ἔργον πλίνθου σαπφείρου καὶ ὥσπερ εἶδος στερεώματος τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῇ καθαριότητι

I am reminded of the deep blue you can see from an airliner as you fly above the clouds. Certainly, I suspect that deeper color could be seen from the high mountains in the dry clean air of the day.

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Hey, Mr Brooks, something we can agree on!
The text is clear - there are seeds being sown and one would expect it to grow. There’s no mistaking the ground being able to magically produce a produce out of nothing.
One thing we can certainly take away from this parable is that it is God who made the seed and it is God who supplied the water ( which he also made ) and it is God’s design that makes the plant utilize those elements to perform as required. Of course people back then really had no idea of all the involvement of bacteria in fixing nitrogen along with the chemical communication systems between plants and the like but that is another story all on its own.

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