Some people harp on Jesus for incorrectly calling the mustard seed “the smallest seed.”

     Well, there is much that is wrong with the bible.  As reliability goes, it ranks a bit below “The Onion.”  But in this case, it is a translation error.  In Latin, and presumably in the old Greek as well, a superlative could be used in the sense of “very.”  So, Jesus was not saying that the mustard seed was the smallest seed, but only that it was a very small seed.  Of course the fact that modern believers treat such errors as infallible is still a problem.

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2 thoughts on “Some people harp on Jesus for incorrectly calling the mustard seed “the smallest seed.”

  1. I’ve listened to the audio book version Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus”. In it, he lists the mustard seed scripture as an example of Biblical inerrancy.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but …

    Can you point me to a source for the mistranslation idea here?

  2. Just consult any Latin or Greek grammar text and look up uses of the superlative. I know of no christian who endorses the possibility of it being a mistranslation. However, the raw translation does not fit what I know about Latin. Similarly, the passage about forgiving your brother “seventy times seven times” septuagiessepties would have been taken by a native speaker as “seventy-seven times.” I consider it highly unlikely that a multiplication problem was actually posed. The intent is the same. No one is going to count out 77 times. But christians think the wrong translation sounds more impressive.

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