Multiple times in the New Testament, it is being stated that a seed needs to die in order to be turned into a plant.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
John 12:24

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
1 Corinthians 15:36

That belief is obviously incompatible with modern biology. But where does it come from?

  • 6
    Just thinking off the cuff. When the seed grows into a plant, it ceases it's existences as a seed. In fact, it is split apart and its form is destroyed as it turns into the plant it is to become. So, depending on how you conceptualize death it can be said to actually die.
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 19:13
  • 1
    Don't expect science in literature. This site is for literary interpretation of ancient text, not scientific investigation. The buriel of the seed represents its death.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 7:47
  • 3
    Seeds become inert and they fall from the plant. They revive due to water, air, light and nutrients. The reason for the creation of this process was to teach a spiritual truth. I don't see that 'modern biology' has any problem with that.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 8:35
  • 1
    The idea is with grain such as wheat. In those day they had to give up part of their food supply to grow more wheat. It was in terms they understood back then, not in terms of modern biology.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 10:05
  • 1
    That a seed dies simply means that it ceases to be a seed, which it does when it start becoming a tree. One synonym word for death is decease. We have the two words ceased and seed baked into one here. Commented Feb 5 at 8:52

5 Answers 5


Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies (ἀποθάνῃ), it remains only a single seed. But if it dies (ἀποθάνῃ), it produces many seeds.

John 12:24 NIV

How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies (ἀποθάνῃ).

1 Corinthians 15:36 NIV

apothnéskó means so much more than merely ceasing to be alive.

599 apothnḗskō (from 575 /apó, "away from," which intensifies 2348 /thnḗskō, "to die") – properly, die off (away from), focusing on the separation that goes with the "dying off (away from)."

599 /apothnḗskō ("die off, from") occurs 111 times in the NT. It stresses the significance of the separation that always comes with divine closure. 599 (apothnḗskō) stresses the ending of what is "former" – to bring what (naturally) follows.

It is in this sense it is used in these examples :

But now, by dying (ἀποθανόντες) to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:6 NIV

For through the law I died (ἀπέθανον) to the law so that I might live for God.

Galatians 2:19 NIV

Neither of those examples involving a physical death, but pointing to a newness of life different from the previous creature.

apothnéskó is used in the sense of one thing ceasing to be, and particularly some other entity continuing from that process.
It is absolutely 100% the correct greek word for the sprouting of a plant from a seed. In which context it might be better translated as 'wither" or "decay".


I agree with @Austin - Jesus is not speaking biologically - He is speaking theologically by drawing a metaphorical point from what is familiar - the planting a growing of seeds.

The point is rather simple - a seed cannot germinate and grow into a plant unless it ceases to be a seed.

[Technically, and biologically, this means that the hard casing of the seed must be ruptured to enable germination to produce a plant.]

That is, when the seed germinates, produces roots, stems and leaves, etc, the seed does not and cannot exist - it has been destroyed and, metaphorically speaking, has died.

  • Jesus makes this point in John 12:24 to illustrate the truth that we must leave behind this life and body to receive a everything new in the next world
  • Paul makes the same point in 1 Cor 15:36 to illustrate the truth that unless we leave behind this earthly body, we will not be given a heavenly body

I had to search for some articles after reading the letter of #Paul in the #Bible1 Corinthians 15:36... as a pure science graduate I have learnt that #seed does "Not Die" to germinate since it requires a "Live Embryo" to "Survive", however it goes through #Dormancy, which helps the seed to remain "Alive" for long time as a result of impermeable layer formed around as a defensive mechanism from damage, fluctuating temperature and death for a delayed germination.

Nevertheless, each type of seed has its own period of Dormancy tolerance based on its environment. Some seeds can stay dormant up to 50 years and more.

Furthermore, here are some of main scientific #differences based phytologists between #dormant seeds and #dead #seeds are:


  1. Alive but temporarily inactive. Contain living embryos.
  2. Have protective mechanisms that prevent germination until conditions are right.
  3. Can survive for years without growing if moisture, temperature etc. are not adequate.
  4. Will sprout when dormancy is broken and given proper germination environment.
  5. Require patience or scarification methods to end dormancy.

#Dead Seeds:

  1. No longer alive or viable. Non-functional embryos.
  2. Have expired due to age, storage conditions, physical damage, disease etc.
  3. Cannot be revived or sprouted under any conditions. No cellular activity.
  4. Will deteriorate over time. Do not remain intact and protected like dormant seeds.
  5. Float in water while dormant seeds sink. No future viability.
  6. Nothing can be done to regain viability in dead seeds

In conclusion, Al though it is mentioned in the scriptures: ...."Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die".... For a seed to Germinate it must remain on it's state of "living" i.e "Life".

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Feb 5 at 3:47

All Spiritual Truth is parabolic, a specific word of God. Other ideas are humanistic words.

A parable is Heavenly Truth with Heavenly meaning sometimes using earthly illustrations. More often than not without the illustrations. However illustrations capture attention and get someone to think about what was said.

However, in Matthew ch. 13 Jesus said a parabolic Truth can only be known and understood in the Mind of God. And that all Saints possess The Mind of God. Sinners do not. Hence sinners ramble on with vain jangling or jabber without ever knowing or understanding Spiritual Truth.

Interestingly, Saints possess two spiritual souls and can think in the residue carnal mind (remaining from days as a sinner) and therefore think as when a sinner and not know or understand Spiritual Truth presented.

  • 1
    This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 14:49
  • Welcome to the site, Lee, and for your surprising answer. It is surprising because it goes way beyond an expected source for such parables as with this one about the seed dying. You pointed to the Mind of God as the origination. As this site seeks hermeneutic explanations, it would be good if you could add to the answer, supplying that (also for the claim about two spiritual souls - Matthew 13 does not say that, does it? Without such back-up, only an opinion is being given, which is not desirable on this site.
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 15:20
  • @ B .Lee McDowell - Thank you for your input. You accurately describe the "method" and "means" whereby we discern truth. However, the question put forth needs to be dealt with specifically, concerning the "seed." Keep doing research on the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jan 3 at 22:02

Most of the scriptures in the NT are not easily falsifiable, because they are religious assertions about invisible, intangible "things." But when Paul makes an assertion about botany and other actual functions of the actual world, his assertions don't hold water. For example, he asserts that "with the heart man believes." We know what he didn't know, that the heart is simply a fancy pump. The sun doesn't run across our sky like an athlete. And so on.

Notice that he calls his imaginary Jewish opponent a "fool" for not realizing that life comes from a dead seed, because God miraculously gives a new body as he sees fit. The one dead seed is divinely replanted.

You can hear him saying, "Now do you get it, idiot moron? Don't you know anything about the origin of life?":

[1Co 15:35-38 NASB20] [35] But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" [36] You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; [37] and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. [38] But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.

Workarounds are unfaithful to the text as it is written.

As to where this idea came from, it may have come from Aristotle, or Plato, I don't know, but it appears that he made it up. Plants do not come from dead seeds.

[Jhn 3:12 NASB20] [12] "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

So Paul's teaching to the "idiot moron" who didn't understand botany the way Paul understood it, his teaching, would be to a farmer, built on wood, hay and stubble, and will be burned up.

The only way it could be otherwise is if his analogy was actual, factual, which we know it is not:

[Pro 26:5-9 NASB20] [5] Answer a fool as his foolishness [deserves,] So that he will not be wise in his own eyes. [6] One who sends a message by the hand of a fool Chops off [his own] feet [and] drinks violence. [7] [Like] useless legs to one who cannot walk, So is a proverb in the mouths of fools. [8] Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is one who gives honor to a fool. [9] [Like] a thorn [that] sticks in the hand of a heavy drinker, So is a proverb in the mouths of fools.

  • apothnéskó means much more than ceasing to exist. Particularly it speaks of a cessation of existence from which comes something new. The NT is greek ... not english. Arguing against Paul on the basis of english translations is amateur. Arguing against him strongly on that basis is a fools errand. Proverbs 26:4-5 back at ya. "Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest." Proverbs 26:2 Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 15:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.