The Mustard Seed is Smallest of Seeds


The contortions some YECs go through to make their interpretations of Scripture fit reality would put Gumby to shame.

That wasn’t a creationist.

Yup, that was me. It is just a basic feature of language. Everything has context. Even in a literal interpretation the most important three rules are context, context, context. Just to demonstrate I’m not idiosyncratic in this, @deuteroKJ or @jongarvey or @Eddie or anyone else with appropriate expertise, can you give your thoughts on my reading. is it valid?

Jesus says: “The mustard seed is the smallest seed on earth” (Mark 4:31). Jesus is correct, in his context. Broadening the context, however, we find that orchid seeds are smaller, but Jesus is not in scientific error because he is not making a global claim.


Not something I would like to argue about with you. I’ll just say that in my opinion your argument would be convincing only to someone who is already convinced that both the bible and Jesus must be considered infallible.


Jesus’ rhetoric easily fits with common/popular understanding in his own context. In this understanding, the “common man” would’ve assumed the mustard seed as the smallest (or maybe there was a well-known idiom saying the same). Whether Jesus believed this “public fact” himself or was speaking the common knowledge (despite knowing better) is irrelevant in terms of the “truthfulness” of his statement.

If I said pi was 3.14 would I be wrong? Or that the earth is a sphere? Or that the earth revolves around a stationary sun? Of course, none of these statements are technically correct from a precise, scientific viewpoint…but they are still “true” given most contexts in which I’d make such claims.


Of course, even in physics, few statements are completely true. Everything is an approximation at some level.


My PhD may be in Old Testament Theology, but my undergrad was physics & math. I guess God knew what he was doing by putting me on this crazy path :slight_smile: I remember the shock of finding out in college that much that I learned in high school physics was technically not true.


This is just a basic fact of linguistics. Though I do appreciate you are not arguing with me, and we can just leave it.


Surely this is an example of category confusion on the part of John and Timothy.

If I use an illustration from my surroundings, I am simply not making an absolute scientific statement, and neither was Jesus. I doubt that anybody in that conversation was quoting some naturalist on the smallest seed in nature: there was certainly some context, such as the mustard being the smallest seed commonly available for sowing or, as Ken says, some proverbial idiom.

If I were to use PT Barnum’s General Tom Thumb and Angus McAskill to show, for example, that God cares for the greatest and the smallest, it would be foolish for somone to dig out more extreme examples. Jesus was not teaching about mustard seeds, but about kingdoms illustrated by mustard seeds.


Even the Guardian headline was not “in error” when it said “Plastic now pollutes every corner of Earth.” Even they don’t think the earth is square.




If Jesus was truly human, why would this statement have to be “correct in its context”? If he truly grew in wisdom and knowledge, wouldn’t this mean that he was ignorant about certain things? Big bang cosmology, evolution, relativity, the conclusions of historical criticism regarding the authorship of the old testament books? That is a science afterall. The MEANING of those texts is bound up in Christ anyway, not historical-critical conclusions or archeology or scientific study.

What if his divinity was manifest with his statements related to his kerygma? Basically the proclamation of the gospel and its implications (which would include ethics- i.e. a theology of marriage would imply certain sexual acts would miss the mark).

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IN HIS HUMANITY, he would be ignorant of certain things. I need to specify that.

Could Jesus have measured incorrectly as a carpenter or accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer?


A deeper question would be whether Jesus really could’ve refrained from committing a sin after striking his thumb with a hammer or cutting a mismeasured plank. 'Cause being fully human, that’s just what we do. I’m just saying… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:



Yes but to give a real answer, to be TRULY human is NOT TO SIN! And Christ is the only TRULY HUMAN BEING! So yes! He could have refrained from an outburst of innapropriate anger!

So we now have at least five different justifications for Jesus’s statement:

  1. Smaller seeds had not yet evolved.
  2. When he said “the earth” he was referring to the immediate area only.
  3. He was not being technical.
  4. He was using a figure of speech.
  5. He was human and capable of error.

Of these, I think we can all agree that 1 is just ridiculous. So far nobody but Joshua has supported 2, which is less ridiculous but, I think, still forced. No objection to the rest.

I will add 6. Why would anyone argue over such a trivial matter?


Because there are a lot of interesting implications!

Doubtful. The only reason anyone brought it up is that somebody attacked the veracity of the bible based on it.

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