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Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV):

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

In the famous Parable of the Weeds (or tares):

  1. What is meant by weeds?
  2. What is meant by wheat?
  3. Why would it be a wrong idea to uproot the weeds before the harvest? Verse 29 argues that "lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them", yet I fail to see the logic behind this argument. Why can't the weeds be uprooted right away without also uprooting the wheat? How does delaying the uprooting until harvest time somehow solve the problem?
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  • Much is answered a little further down - see verse 37-46 – Dave Apr 28 at 2:45
  • @Dave - right, but point 3 (which is the one that interests me the most) remains unanswered in my opinion. – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 28 at 2:48
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    Yes, me too! I’d be interested in responses to that third point! – Dave Apr 28 at 2:56
  • This is going to be a long answer. – carsonfel Apr 28 at 7:28
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    I have always seen this as a parable about the judgement - the judgement is only executed when the results are obvious and beyond dispute because each class of people reveal themselves. – Dottard Apr 28 at 9:11
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The Greek ζιζάνια for tares/weeds has often been understood as a reference to darnel (a type of ryegrass, see here). If so, the meaning is clarified.

Wheat & darnel look essentially the same in their early growth stages; they can be distinguished when they are mature. So trying to uproot the weeds right away would risk:

  1. Missing some of the weeds by mistaking them for wheat
  2. Uprooting some of the wheat by mistaking it for weeds.

The weeds are the children of the wicked one and the wheat are the children of the kingdom (aka the righteous), per verse 38.

Jesus taught true principles, but the devil has planted many counterfeits. Jesus makes the point that wickedness will proliferate in the world, but some who appear to be wicked will in the end be found to be valiant members of God's kingdom (the apostle Paul comes to mind).

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    This is my opinion of the answer as well. I would like to add to this that at the time of the harvest, the wheat actually bows down, while the tares stand straight. The symbolism of that is obvious, and sheds light on the true meaning of the parable. – user42370 May 20 at 18:37
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@HoldToTheRod did an excellent job of explaining the agricultural references being made.

I would just point out that the OT background for this parable includes:

[Jer 31:27 NASB20] 27 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of mankind and the seed of animals.

[Hos 2:23 NASB20] 23 "I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, '[You are] my God!'"

Jesus said that God was the Farmer and he was the True Vine:

[Jhn 15:1 HNV] 1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer.

Paul called the saints "God's field":

[1Co 3:9 NKJV] 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, [you are] God's building.

So the sower is God, through his proxy aka "the Rain and Snow" and produces wheat:

[Isa 55:10-11 NASB20] 10 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it produce and sprout, And providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word [IE: Logos] be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding [in the purpose] for which I sent it.

The enemy that sows unproductive and strangling ideas would be, in the context of the NT, the "synagogue of Satan" who send out the many antichrists that showed up in final hour before the destruction of the temple c. 70 AD/CE:

[Rev 3:9 NASB20] 9 'Behold, I will make [those] of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and [make them] know that I have loved you.

[1Jo 2:18 NASB20] 18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.

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    Good use of the passage from Hosea, upvoted +1 – Hold To The Rod Apr 28 at 18:43
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Parable: Tares Among the Wheat

Since the entire narrative is parabolic, we must interpret it as such. My version (NAS) reads:

Matthew 13:24-30: "Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Indeed, Christ has identified all the symbols used in the parable just a few verses later in Matthew 13:36-43:

1. vs. 37:  “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man";
2. vs. 38a: "[The] field is the world"; 
3. vs. 38b: "[The] good seed, [are] the sons of the kingdom (the faithful)"; 
4. vs. 38c: "[The] tares are the sons of the evil one (the faithless)"; 
5. vs. 39a: "[The] enemy who sowed [the tares] is the devil";
6. vs. 39b: "[The] harvest is the end of the age [the end of time, Christ's return]"; 
7. vs. 39c: "[The] the reapers" are angels.
8. vs. 40:  "[The] tares [faithless] will be gathered up and burned with fire [Hell]."    

@Hold to the Rod has articulated the literal problem of uprooting wheat along with tares.

In summation, upon the reappearance of Christ:

Matthew 13:41-42: "He (Son of Man, Christ) will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness [sin is lawlessness, 1 Jn. 3:4, cf. Matt. 7:23], and will throw them into the furnace of fire (Hell) [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Lastly, verse 43 speaks of the rewards of those saved:

Matthew 13:43: “[THE] RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father" - in reference to Daniel 12:3.

I hope I have not inadvertently misread the question.

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I think root systems can be another way to answer to your third question. Farmers sow wheat rather densely--certainly much closer than, e.g., maize corn; and thus, their root systems would become tangled underground early on. In a home garden, it can be difficult to correctly uproot an established weed sitting on top of a delicate vegetable plant with shallow roots. Imagine trying to do that for an entire field! Surely a lot of the wheat would be damaged. However, after harvest, the underground root systems no longer matter, and they can be separated with no risk to the wheat.

If this is correct, I believe the interpretation is that in the church, the lives of the truly saved and hypocrites are very intermingled, maybe more than we realize. True, the tares rob some nutrients from the wheat until the harvest; yet if God were to uproot all the hypocrites today--every hypocrite parent, teacher, evangelist, acquaintance, mentor--it would apparently do more harm than good for the genuine Christians as a whole. Only God knows how every possibility would play out in the end, and in this case, apparently it is best to leave both to grow together until the harvest, to be sorted out then.

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    Hi Peter, welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. This is an insightful observation, thanks, upvoted +1. Please be sure to take the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Thanks! – Hold To The Rod Apr 29 at 0:34
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Matthew 13:24-30 (New American Standard Bible 1995)

24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven [a]may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed [b]tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the [c]wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? [d]How then does it have tares?’

28 And he said to them, ‘An [e]enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Whenever I read the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares(Weeds) (Matthew 13:24-30), it seemed to emphasize the Godly nature of being slow to anger and being gracious towards sinners for a gracious period of time. Therefore, the correlated and supporting verses that come to mind are James 1:19 , Proverbs 16:32 , etc.

James 1:19

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

Proverbs 16:32

32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Furthermore, a really good example of Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Weeds) (Matthew 13:24-30) in action is the story of Abraham humbly & graciously requesting God to keep in mind that there were righteous people in Sodom, which in turn allowed for a grace period of time given for the angels to warn Lot and his family to flee from Sodom.

Genesis 18:16-33

16 Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and [a]mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 For I have [b]chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” 20 And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. 21 I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” ......... ............... 23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not [c]spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do [d]such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will [f]spare the whole place on their account.” ........... ............... 28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 ........... “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have [h]ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 ...... I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” 33 As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place.

To conclude, I viewed Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Weeds) (Matthew 13:24-30) as Jesus Christ's emphasis on how we Christians need to be gracious and slow to anger towards the sinner who is causing offense for a gracious period of time--because when we Christians cry out for judgement:

  1. We may also cause some who are innocent or lukewarm Christians to face judgement along with the sinner.
  2. We may not be giving sinners enough time to repent and ask for forgiveness and surrender to Jesus Christ.

That's my opinion

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In order to understand what was planted by the enemy in Verse 25, we first need to understand what was planted by the man in Verse 24. 

What was planted by the man?

Matt. 13:24 NKJV
24Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

What was planted by the man? Jesus said, "good seed".

Who is the man that planted the good seed?

Matt. 13:37-38(a) NIV
37He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38aThe field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom.
(The Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs, Colorado: International Bible Society, 1984.)

Who is the man that planted the good seed? Jesus said, "the Son of Man". Hence, the planter symbolizes our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who are symbolized by the good seed, which He planted? Jesus said, "the sons of the kingdom". 

Who are the sons to whom the kingdom would be given?

Luke 12:32 NKJV
32Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
Acts 20:28 Lamsa
28Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.
(Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text: George M. Lamsa’s Translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta. Philadelphia USA: A.J. Holman Co., 1968.)

Who are the sons to whom the kingdom would be given? Jesus called them, "little flock". What is the flock? Paul said, "the church of Christ."

What, then, does the act of planting symbolize?

Matt. 16:18 RSV
18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
(The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church, 1971.)

What, then, does the act of planting symbolize? Jesus said, "I will build my church". The seed which Christ planted was His Church, those who would inherit the kingdom, and the act of planting symbolized the building of His Church.

How many churches did our Lord Jesus Christ plant or build? How many churches were recognized by the Apostles?

Eph. 4:4 NKJV
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
Col. 1:18(a) NKJV
18aAnd He is the head of the body, the church,
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

How many churches were recognized by the Apostles? Paul said, "There is one body". What is that one body? Paul said, "the church". Hence, our Lord Jesus built only one body or church.

How many churches profess to be Christian today? Around 41,000. However, what should we take note of? What Christ built or planted was only one church, and not many. Where then did the other churches come from?

Who else would build or plant?

Matt. 13:25 NKJV
25but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

Who else would build or plant? Jesus said, "his enemy". What would he plant? Jesus said, "tares". What should we notice about what the enemy would plant? What he would plant is not just one tare or weed, but many. Hence, if the true church is one, what the enemy would plant are many.

When would the enemy do this? Jesus said, "while men slept".

Who is the enemy who would plant tares or weeds while men slept?

Matt. 13:38(b)-39 NIV
38bThe weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
(The Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs, Colorado: International Bible Society, 1984.)

Who is the enemy who would plant tares or weeds while men slept? Jesus said, "the devil". What do the weeds symbolize? Jesus said, "the sons of the evil one".

What is symbolized by the expression, "while men slept"? How does our Lord Jesus use the term "sleep" when speaking in parables? 

John 11:11-14 NKJV
11These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." 12Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

How does our Lord Jesus use the term "sleep" when speaking in parables? Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps." What did He mean? Jesus said, "Lazarus is dead". Hence, the sons of the wicked one would rise up following the deaths of certain men.

According to the Apostle Paul, who would rise up following his departure?

Acts 20:29-30 NKJV
29For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
II Tim. 4:6 Lamsa
6From henceforth I am ready to die, and the time of my departure is at hand.
(Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text: George M. Lamsa’s Translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta. Philadelphia USA: A.J. Holman Co., 1968.)

According to the Apostle Paul, who would rise up following his departure? Paul said, "from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves". Which departure was the Apostle Paul referring to? Paul said to Timothy, "I am ready to die". Hence, Paul is one of the men whose deaths would be followed by the emergence of the sons of the wicked one.

According to Church History, what did the church become following the deaths of not only the Apostle Paul but also the other apostles?

Story of the Christian Church, p. 41
For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul.
(The Story of the Christian Church, New and Revised Edition, by Hurlbut, Jesse Lyman, D.D., Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.)

According to Church History, what did the church become following the deaths of not only the Apostle Paul but also the other apostles? According to Hurlbut, "a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul. With what was this evident? According to Hurlbut, "with the writings of the earliest church-fathers". About when was this made apparent? According to Hurlbut, "about 120 A.D."

What are some doctrines of the Devil, which would be spoken by his sons to draw the disciples away from the faith?

I Tim. 4:1, 3 KJV
1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
(The Holy Bible: King James Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.)

What are some doctrines of the Devil, which would be spoken by his sons to draw the disciples away from the faith? Paul said, "Forbidding to marry". What else? Paul said, "commanding to abstain from meats". Were marriage and meats created by God to be abstained from? Paul said, "which God hath created to be received". Hence, we can use these two doctrines to identify one of the weeds planted by the Devil.

Have these weeds already been planted? Are there those today who practice these doctrines?

Hist. Dict. of Cath., p. 91
CELIBACY. (From Lt caelebs, "unmarried.") Abstention from marriage and sexual activity. … A movement toward celibacy of the clergy is first seen in the early fourth century. … It remains the norm of the Roman Rite: married men may not be ordained priests, though they may be ordained deacons. No one may marry after ordination.
(Historical Dictionary of Catholicism. By William J. Collinge. Second Edition. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2012.)

Are there those today who practice these doctrines? Yes. What we read is regarding a doctrine of the Catholic Church.

What is a doctrine practiced by the Catholic Church? According to Collinge, "Abstention from marriage". Whom do they command not to marry? According to Collinge, "the clergy".

What is another doctrine upheld by the Catholic Church?

Code of Canon Law, p. 173
Canon 1251: Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
(The Code of Canon Law. Collins Liturgical Publications: Piccadilly, London, 1983.)

What is another doctrine upheld by the Catholic Church? According to Canon 1251, "Abstinence from meat". When was this to be observed? According to Canon 1251, "on all Fridays". This was upheld for more than a thousand years before it was decided to only be observed on the Fridays of Lent.

Because the next part is controversial, I'll present it as a syllogism:

p1) Abstinence from marriage and meat are two doctrines of devils;
p2) The Catholic Church observes abstinence from marriage and meat;
c)  Therefore, the Catholic Church observes two doctrines of devils.

What then is the fulfillment of one of the weeds planted by the Devil? The Roman Catholic Church. What about the other weeds or churches? According to another prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are those which the Catholic Church would beget [which we can read more about here].

Because these were planted by the Devil, what did the servants in Jesus' parable ask regarding the weeds?

Matt. 13:28-29 NIV
28"'An enemy did this,' he replied. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 29'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.
(The Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs, Colorado: International Bible Society, 1984.)

Because these were planted by the Devil, what did the servants in Jesus' parable ask regarding the weeds? They said, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" However, what was the reply of our Lord Jesus? Jesus said, "No". Why not? Jesus said, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them." Hence, the sons of the kingdom, may be uprooted together with the sons of the wicked one.

Why is that so? From where would some of God's people be called?

Rev. 18:4 NKJV
4And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

From where would some of God's people be called? God said, "Come out of her, my people". This refers to those from among those churches who would be called into the one church planted by Christ [which would require further elaboration in another topic].

This is what our Lord Jesus Christ's parable was about.


You can also read here and here for more regarding the apostasy.

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  • "When did the last of the apostles pass away? Around 100 A.D." Paul doesn't say the last of the Apostles, he says his death. He died at latest in AD 64. – One God the Father Apr 28 at 18:20
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    @OneGodtheFather Yes, however the parable says, "while men slept". Paul was just one of many apostles whose presence kept the apostasy at bay. But I will make an edit, since I should be more precise in my wording. – carsonfel Apr 29 at 6:23
  • @carsonfel - If you don't want to investigate or answer nick's question then the polite response would be to simply say so. This is a community site and none of us are the sole authority on truth, so we would encourage members to take constructive comments on board and investigate them seriously, providing constructive responses in return. There are ample passages where Σπέρμα is clearly used as a plural: Mt 13:27, Jn 8:33, Ac 7:6, Ro 4:18. Just because Gal 3:16 makes a distinction does not annul the plain teaching of scripture elsewhere. – Steve Taylor Apr 30 at 8:30
  • @SteveTaylor I've already answered it. I never said that seed could not be collective, but as there's no explicit statement that the use of seed here is collective (v. 27 is still singular), it can be argued as singular as Paul does. Considering that it stands for the one church, it is a much more sound conclusion that it is being used in the singular, but even if it is not, it does not change the doctrinal truth of one Church. This answer was already edited days ago to accommodate nick's argument, out of respect. – carsonfel May 1 at 11:07
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    @SteveTaylor Many manuscripts actually say "κυριος," which has been interpreted by a great number of copyists as referring to "God." The "κυριος" however being referred to in Acts 20:28 is the one who shed His blood, which refers to "Christ." (I Pet. 1:18-19) – carsonfel May 4 at 8:36

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