The Parable of the Tares -- By: Mark L. Bailey

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 155:619 (Jul 1998)
Article: The Parable of the Tares
Author: Mark L. Bailey


The Parable of the Tares*

Mark L. Bailey

Mark L. Bailey is Academic Dean and Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

* This is article three in the eight-part series “The Kingdom in the Parables of Matthew 13.”

The parable of the tares of the field is the second parable Jesus “put” before the crowds (Matt. 13:24).1 Like the parable of the sower, this one conveys through an analogy truths relative to the kingdom of heaven. The parable of the tares appears only in Matthew (13:24–30) and is one of three (along with the sower and the dragnet) that Jesus interpreted (vv. 36–43). It continues the agricultural metaphor of seed and harvest.

Like the parable of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26–29), this parable too presents the relative “inactivity” between the sowing and the harvest. While Jesus may have used similar imageries on different occasions and for separate purposes, the differences between these two far outweigh the similarities.2 The parable in Mark makes no mention of enemy activity. Matthew’s parable concerns what the servants (disciples) should not be doing with regard to weeding, whereas Mark’s parable, by focusing on the miraculous growth of the seed, showed what was impossible for the servants to do—produce growth. Matthew’s parable addresses the simultaneous growth of good and bad seed. He was interested in showing the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, whereas Mark was showing the uninterrupted progress and growth of the kingdom.3

The parable of the tares of the field is also the first parable in a series that utilizes the likeness formula in reference to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:24). In this formula

of comparison the verb “to be like” (ὁμοιόω) is used, while in the next five parable introductions the adjective “like” (ὅμοιος) is used. The aorist passive form of the verb (ὡμοιώθη) indicates that Jesus viewed the kingdom of heaven as having present reality.4 This parable describes a stage in God’s kingdom program that has already...

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