A Continental Divide in Scripture Interpretation The Parable of the Leaven -- By: Warwick Aiken

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 095:378 (Apr 1938)
Article: A Continental Divide in Scripture Interpretation The Parable of the Leaven
Author: Warwick Aiken


A Continental Divide in Scripture Interpretation
The Parable of the Leaven

Warwick Aiken

The parables of our Lord have always been of deep interest. They are such beautiful word pictures of familiar scenes in nature or of circumstances in men’s lives that they are easily remembered and most Christians know many of them. They delight us and they enlighten us, for each one teaches a profound spiritual truth. Where the Lord has not interpreted the parables for his hearers and for the generations after, men have attempted to do so for themselves. So, seeking their meaning, men have studied them and have left many and varied conclusions as to what the Lord actually taught. Much controversy has been waged in the past over a very short one, the parable of the leaven, which contains only twenty-four words, and contrary and conflicting deductions have been arrived at by devout and learned men. It is the purpose of this paper to consider this parable.

Some student of the Holy Scriptures has pointed out that the Gospel of Matthew is the key to the Bible, and that the thirteenth chapter of Matthew is the key to that gospel. Another has gone further to explain that the parable of the leaven is the key to the thirteenth chapter and, of course, the meaning of the word leaven is the key to the parable. If this is true, this word becomes one of the most important expressions in the whole Bible. It must stand as a high peak in scriptural interpretation, or it may be likened to a long ridge, with its two sides facing naturally in opposite directions. I think of it in the latter sense.

In the broader aspect there are but two meanings for the word that are advanced. One is that it stands for “evil,” or what “evil” implies. The other is that it is the symbol of “good,” or something similar, as righteousness, or the Gospel. These two concepts are opposites and if this word is used as a starting point, it being a keyword in the Bible, the necessary result would be the formation of two schools of interpretation of the Scriptures which face in opposite directions. It is as with the Continental Divide of the United States in the Rocky Mountains. The rain that falls on one side of this divide finds its way to the Gulf of Mexico, that which falls on the other enters the Pacific Ocean. And so the conclusions reached when considering the two meanings applied to the word leaven are at opposite extremes, with a whole continent, as it were, between them. But may it be said at once, that it is a question of interpretation and not of salvation.

This becomes clear by considering quite briefly some of the foundational teachings of the two schools. The one holding the word to mean evil, takes the Bible as...

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