In Matthew 13, concerning the parable of the sower, Matthew says:

Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.

Now in verse 20 Jesus explains the parable (emphasis mine):

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, and endures only for a while. For when tribulation and persecution arises because of the word, he immediately stumbles.

I am having trouble with the first part of the explanation. What does "having a root in himself" mean? Does it mean just having the power/will to go on after he/she repents? Thanks.

2 Answers 2


The seed has roots but are those roots deeply rooted in the heart so that we can say we have a root that prevents us from being unrooted? I think this language is not commonly used in English. In English we might just say there is no sincerity in himself, or no substance in himself, no conviction in himself, but I guess we can add ' has no root in himself'. The image of something driving deep into our heart, being rooted into us, is captured by the Greek phrase 'has a root in himself' based on the usage of the word 'root' in Palestine.

On the study of the word for root (ριζαν) used here, we get the key at what we are inquiring about.

Since the flora of Palestine is often threatened by heat or drought, special attention is directed to the root as the part of the plant which guarantees the existence of the whole. (TDNT, Kittel)

The idea is common in the Hebrew scriptures, for example:

No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. (NIV, Proverbs 12:3)

Literally the man who has a root in himself, is a man who posses a root of faith within himself. The idea indicates more than the seed having roots, for a seed in shallow soil has many roots but they do not root down deep. When the seed roots deep in a person, the person is sincerely connected to the roots within himself so become a possessor of the deeply rooted material. In this sense the idea of the root, or rooting of the roots, is transferred from the seed to the person himself. Either he has a root in himself, or he does not. Either he had deeply received the truth through sincere faith, having a root, or he just superficially believes some aspects of the thing on the surface. As soon as anything makes him decide between giving up something he loves for the sake of his faith, he tosses his faith and is uprooted in himself.

  • Thanks. And can one increase the 'depth' of his soil so that the seed takes better root?
    – Ovi
    Jul 18, 2013 at 3:35
  • That's what I get from the meaning of the parable. Basically if you do not harden you heart like a layer of rock, but believe in the gospel, then nobody will be able to uproot you out of God's kingdom. The depth is the sincerity of your acknowledged need. If you do not deny you need saving, then your soil will be as deep as you do acknowledge it. Only self righteousness can fully harden you and this is the blindness of unbelief. Faith alone receives God's love, to relive the fear of his wrath for our huge sins.
    – Mike
    Jul 18, 2013 at 4:17
  • You said "Only self righteousness can fully harden you and this is the blindness of unbelief." I understand that we cannot be saved trough our own works, but you still have to try to keep God's commandments, right?
    – Ovi
    Jul 18, 2013 at 15:39
  • I understand your question the idea in the parable that addresses it I would think is that the plant itself coming up from the ground are the works that other's might see. They can't see the roots of faith from which the works spring, but they can see some of the results above the ground. In short from the plant is love as a result of faith deeply rooted in us.
    – Mike
    Jul 18, 2013 at 17:44

The King James Version, which you are quoting, is an archaic translation written in the language of 1600s. It also tried to do a literal word-for-word translation, which led to some unusual phraseology, even for its day.

If you look at a more modern translation, it is much more straightforward:

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (Matthew 13: 20-21. New International Version)

The meaning is that simply because the seed has no root - is not rooted in the ground - it withers when the sun comes out. Believers who are not deeply rooted in the word will also fall away when persecution comes.

  • So being deeply rooted means reading the Bible a lot?
    – Ovi
    Jul 18, 2013 at 3:35

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