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The Leaven in Matt 13:33

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  • The Leaven in Matt 13:33

    In this brief parable, which is not followed up by an explanation from Jesus, we see a woman putting leaven in 'meal'...

    Scripture Verse: Matthew 13

    33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

    © Copyright Original Source



    Most commentaries I see them note that, even though 'leaven' is used elsewhere in the Bible, in this particular instance, Jesus is using 'leaven' in a good way, indicating that the Kingdom of Heaven will grow exponentially from small beginnings, just like bread rises when leavened (yeast is added).

    I'm having a really hard time with that, since leaven is so clearly identified pretty much every where else in the Bible as having to do with sin and/or corruption, both in the OT and new.
    In fact, just a few chapters before that, Jesus warns of the leaven of the Pharisees.

    We were discussing this Wednesday night at church, and a couple people insisted that it MUST be good because the verse starts off with "The kingdom of heaven is like...."

    The majority of the commentaries I've consulted seem to support the (I guess) standard explanation that the "exception" to leaven being, and Jesus is using it in a good sense.
    I've seen a few commentaries that support what I tend to believe - that Jesus would not suddenly take a concept that is so familiar to the Jews - leaven represents sin - and suddenly make it a good thing.

    I'm going to revisit this, so I'd appreciate some input.
    9
    The Leaven in Matthew 13:33 represents 'good', that the kingdom of heaven will grow
    66.67%
    6
    The Leaven in Matthew 13:33 represents a warning that the kingdom of heaven will have problems
    33.33%
    3
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

  • #2
    The only person I can remember preaching on this passage was J. Vernon McGee. He took the view that women and leaven in the Bible are both symbols for evil. So his interpretation was along the lines of an evil actor (the woman) took evil (the leaven) and put in into the church (the bread) and thus "corrupted it." Given the church is filled with sinners and as we've seen in the past couple of years (if not longer), outside forces are trying to change, remove, corrupt the message of the church, this becomes a reasonable interpretation based on real life experience. This also implies Jesus is talking about the kingdom on earth now and not the eternal Kingdom of God.

    On the other hand, I can see the good interpretation as well.

    As I voted I lean that this is a warning the kingdom of heaven (on earth) will have problems. I won't break fellowship with anyone simply they took the opposite view.

    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

    Comment


    • #3
      MacArthur notes on that verse:

      Here the Kingdom is pictured as yeast, multiplying quietly and permeating all that it contacts. The lesson is the same as the mustard seed. Some interpreters suggest that since leaven is nearly always a symbol of evil in scripture, it must carry that connotation here as well. They make the leaven some evil influence inside the kingdom.

      But that twists Jesus' actual words and violates the context, in which Jesus is repeatedly describing the Kingdom itself as the permeating influence.


      Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.

      Comment


      • #4
        This reminds me of my seminary professor who had a pet issue (which got him fired from Southwestern Seminary in Kentucky). He insisted that the real hero of the parable of the talents was the man who hid his talents, because in that culture, money was seen as a zero-sum thing, so he was fighting back against greed (to say nothing of Jesus's other teachings about money). I questioned him about it and he seemed to admit that no other commentators saw it that way, but stood firm. I think his interpretation is tortured, and I see no hint of it in the text.

        I think the clear teaching of the parable of the talents was to use our talents, even though Jesus may have been using an analogy that might have been uncomfortable to his audience. And I think the same thing is going on here. Even though they may be used to the kingdom of heaven being used as a strictly positive thing, I agree with CP's interpretation.
        "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
          The only person I can remember preaching on this passage was J. Vernon McGee. He took the view that women and leaven in the Bible are both symbols for evil. So his interpretation was along the lines of an evil actor (the woman) took evil (the leaven) and put in into the church (the bread) and thus "corrupted it." Given the church is filled with sinners and as we've seen in the past couple of years (if not longer), outside forces are trying to change, remove, corrupt the message of the church, this becomes a reasonable interpretation based on real life experience. This also implies Jesus is talking about the kingdom on earth now and not the eternal Kingdom of God.

          On the other hand, I can see the good interpretation as well.

          As I voted I lean that this is a warning the kingdom of heaven (on earth) will have problems. I won't break fellowship with anyone simply they took the opposite view.
          I should have started with the fact that this is certainly not in the "essentials" category, but something that kinda started formulating in my mind several years ago.
          I like to use "gotquestions.org" when I want to check something out, because they'll have a neat and tidy summary. They also seem to hold to the "exception to the rule" argument.

          I've been looking at this a lot more lately, and the more I study this, the more I become convinced that it's a warning.

          But - yeah - I certainly wouldn't make this a matter of contention - you're free to believe either explanation or BOTH!
          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by mossrose View Post
            MacArthur notes on that verse:

            Here the Kingdom is pictured as yeast, multiplying quietly and permeating all that it contacts. The lesson is the same as the mustard seed. Some interpreters suggest that since leaven is nearly always a symbol of evil in scripture, it must carry that connotation here as well. They make the leaven some evil influence inside the kingdom.

            But that twists Jesus' actual words and violates the context, in which Jesus is repeatedly describing the Kingdom itself as the permeating influence.
            I might have to disagree with St John on this one. I know you and I agree on a LOT, so let's follow this through and you (and others) can be my sounding board.

            So, let's discuss this, because Jesus has set the stage for the "kingdom of heaven" consisting of both good and bad people in the wheat and tares, and indicates that "at the end of the age" they will be separated.

            In the Bible, we see the "expositional constancy" of a term, when used as symbolism, consistently representing the same thing, with very few exceptions.
            Birds, for example, when used as symbols, represent evil - in Joseph's dream interpretations, in Ravens coming and eating the flesh, with the notable exception of the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove descending on Jesus.
            The birds nesting in the "tree" that grew from the mustard seed could represent the corruption that will come into the kingdom - and we see that "the kingdom" was perverted after the conversion of Constantine, resulting in the Dark Ages from 500 to 1500 Ad.

            And it's Matthew, who is obviously writing to Jews, who records that Jesus used "leaven" -- and the 'woman' "hid" the leaven -- an odd way of saying she was simply baking bread.
            Matthew's audience would be very familiar with leaven being used to represent sin and corruption, as in Passover, one has to make sure that all the leaven in the house is removed and swept out.

            Let me be clear -- I'm not taking a stand "THIS IS IT!!!", but I like to consider, from time to time, that just because a passage has been interpreted a certain way doesn't make it the correct (or only) interpretation.
            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
              This reminds me of my seminary professor who had a pet issue (which got him fired from Southwestern Seminary in Kentucky). He insisted that the real hero of the parable of the talents was the man who hid his talents, because in that culture, money was seen as a zero-sum thing, so he was fighting back against greed (to say nothing of Jesus's other teachings about money). I questioned him about it and he seemed to admit that no other commentators saw it that way, but stood firm. I think his interpretation is tortured, and I see no hint of it in the text.

              I think the clear teaching of the parable of the talents was to use our talents, even though Jesus may have been using an analogy that might have been uncomfortable to his audience. And I think the same thing is going on here. Even though they may be used to the kingdom of heaven being used as a strictly positive thing, I agree with CP's interpretation.
              Thanks - it's just odd to me that pretty much everywhere else in the Bible, leaven is very clearly identified with sin and/or corruption.

              And, yeah, I remember that incident - I attended a few semesters at Boyce Bible School in Columbus, which was an extension of Southwestern in Kentucky.
              "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mossrose View Post
                MacArthur notes on that verse:

                Here the Kingdom is pictured as yeast, multiplying quietly and permeating all that it contacts. The lesson is the same as the mustard seed. Some interpreters suggest that since leaven is nearly always a symbol of evil in scripture, it must carry that connotation here as well. They make the leaven some evil influence inside the kingdom.

                But that twists Jesus' actual words and violates the context, in which Jesus is repeatedly describing the Kingdom itself as the permeating influence.
                Here's another thought on that --- sure the 'kingdom of heaven' has grown rabidly (the yeast in the meal) but look at all it includes, and how much corruption is in 'the kingdom'. There are churches that preach a form of the gospel, but they often are filled with perversions of the Word.

                I think Jesus was warning -- again, this parable was given while he was till talking to the crowds, then they went in the house and Jesus began explaining the parables - that the kingdom of heaven would not be perfect while on earth (the visible kingdom) and was warning of corruption.
                I sure wish he had expanded on the parable of the mustard seed and the leaven!
                "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                  ... I attended a few semesters at Boyce Bible School in Columbus, which was an extension of Southwestern in Kentucky.
                  Oh, my aching back.... I was having second thoughts that Boyce Bible School (Now Boyce College) was actually an extension of Southwestern, so I went to their website to learn more...

                  And they have added this disclaimer...

                  Any historical record of the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Boyce College is incomplete without an honest telling of their complicity in American slavery and racism. For more on that story, read: Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


                  PLEASE don't tell Shuny!

                  "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think saying "the kingdom of heaven is like leaven" pretty clearly is saying that the leaven is the kingdom, which spreads through the flour (the world). The parable just before that is similar:


                    He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.

                    Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”


                    In order for the leaven to be bad, you would have to associate the good kingdom with the flour, which means Jesus would have said "The Kingdom of God is like 60 pounds of flour in which a woman has mixed 3 measures of leaven until it has worked it way through"






                    Last edited by Sparko; 03-05-2021, 12:41 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                      I might have to disagree with St John on this one. I know you and I agree on a LOT, so let's follow this through and you (and others) can be my sounding board.
                      Please don't call him St. John. He would be the first to not like that. He doesn't even like being referred to as Reverend or Doctor, but just plain Pastor John.

                      So, let's discuss this, because Jesus has set the stage for the "kingdom of heaven" consisting of both good and bad people in the wheat and tares, and indicates that "at the end of the age" they will be separated.

                      In the Bible, we see the "expositional constancy" of a term, when used as symbolism, consistently representing the same thing, with very few exceptions.
                      Birds, for example, when used as symbols, represent evil - in Joseph's dream interpretations, in Ravens coming and eating the flesh, with the notable exception of the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove descending on Jesus.
                      The birds nesting in the "tree" that grew from the mustard seed could represent the corruption that will come into the kingdom - and we see that "the kingdom" was perverted after the conversion of Constantine, resulting in the Dark Ages from 500 to 1500 Ad.

                      And it's Matthew, who is obviously writing to Jews, who records that Jesus used "leaven" -- and the 'woman' "hid" the leaven -- an odd way of saying she was simply baking bread.
                      Matthew's audience would be very familiar with leaven being used to represent sin and corruption, as in Passover, one has to make sure that all the leaven in the house is removed and swept out.

                      Let me be clear -- I'm not taking a stand "THIS IS IT!!!", but I like to consider, from time to time, that just because a passage has been interpreted a certain way doesn't make it the correct (or only) interpretation.
                      Hey, I'm good. As you have said, it's not an essential, and it certainly could be interpreted both ways. And it's interesting to think about.


                      Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mossrose View Post
                        Please don't call him St. John.
                        I was kidding - you and I know we believers are all saints.

                        He would be the first to not like that. He doesn't even like being referred to as Reverend or Doctor, but just plain Pastor John.
                        Yes'm

                        Hey, I'm good. As you have said, it's not an essential, and it certainly could be interpreted both ways. And it's interesting to think about.
                        As I study this, I'm finding more and more reason to believe it was a warning, and I'm certainly open to hearing the other side.
                        As I said, most commentaries - including the site GotQuestions.org - make this use of 'leaven' an exception.

                        "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                          I think saying "the kingdom of heaven is like leaven" pretty clearly is saying that the leaven is the kingdom, which spreads through the flour (the world). The parable just before that is similar:


                          He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.

                          Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”


                          In order for the leaven to be bad, you would have to associate the good kingdom with the flour, which means Jesus would have said "The Kingdom of God is like 60 pounds of flour in which a woman has mixed 3 measures of leaven until it has worked it way through"
                          Well, the birds nesting in the "tree" from the mustard seed is another hint, I think. Probably refers to the same birds (just a few verses before) that stole the seed - indicating the evil one.

                          I think the mistake that many people make is thinking that "the kingdom of heaven" (called the kingdom of God in the other Gospels) is only the saints. I think the parable of the wheat and tares indicates that the (earthly visible) kingdom includes people who will be "rooted out" at the end of the age.
                          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            And I really think I should included an option "could be either / I don't know", but, let's not worry about that now.
                            I'm fully prepared to be in the minority on this, just like Joshua and Caleb.
                            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                              Well, the birds nesting in the "tree" from the mustard seed is another hint, I think. Probably refers to the same birds (just a few verses before) that stole the seed - indicating the evil one.

                              I think the mistake that many people make is thinking that "the kingdom of heaven" (called the kingdom of God in the other Gospels) is only the saints. I think the parable of the wheat and tares indicates that the (earthly visible) kingdom includes people who will be "rooted out" at the end of the age.
                              I never read the birds as evil, just that the small seed became such a large tree that birds could nest in it's branches. The point being the kingdom would start small and grow into something big and powerful. The same point with the leavening.

                              What about my other comment? In order for the leaven to be bad, you would have to associate the good kingdom with the flour, which means Jesus would have said "The Kingdom of God is like 60 pounds of flour in which a woman has mixed 3 measures of leaven until it has worked it way through"

                              Comment

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