Parable of the Leaven

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Etching by Jan Luyken illustrating the parable, from the Bowyer Bible.

The Parable of the Leaven (also called the Parable of the yeast) is one of the shorter parables of Jesus. It appears in two of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. The differences between Gospels of Matthew (13:33) and Luke (13:20–21) are minor. In both places it immediately follows the Parable of the Mustard Seed, which shares this parable's theme of the Kingdom of Heaven growing from small beginnings.

A version of the parable also occurs in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas (96[1]).

Narrative[edit]

The parable describes what happens when a woman adds leaven (old, fermented dough[2] usually containing lactobacillus and yeast) to a large quantity of flour (about 8½ gallons or 38 litres[3]). The living organisms in the leaven grow overnight, so that by morning the entire quantity of dough has been affected.[2]

In the Gospel of Luke, the parable is as follows:

And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

— Luke 13:20-21, KJV

Interpretation[edit]

This parable is part of a pair,[4] and shares the meaning of the preceding Parable of the Mustard Seed, namely the powerful growth of the Kingdom of God from small beginnings.[2] The final outcome is inevitable once the natural process of growth has begun.[3]

Although leaven symbolises evil influences elsewhere in the New Testament (as in Luke 12:1),[2] it is not generally interpreted that way in this parable.[2][3][4][5][6][7] However, a few commentators do see the leaven as reflecting future corrupting influences in the Church.[8]

As with the Parable of the Lost Coin, this parable is part of a pair, in which the first parable describes Jesus' work in terms of a man's agricultural activities, and the second in terms of a woman's domestic activities.[4] Joel B. Green writes that Jesus "asks people — male or female, privileged or peasant, it does not matter — to enter the domain of a first-century woman and household cook in order to gain perspective on the domain of God."[5]

The large quantity of flour may hint at a planned festive occasion, since the bread produced could feed a hundred people.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]