File:Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (1624) Abraham Bloemaert.jpg

Jesus tells the Parable of the Tares in the Gospel of Matthew and in the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas. It refers to the coming of the Son of Man, when angels will separate the evil ones ("tares" or weeds) from the worthy (the wheat), and the evil ones will be destroyed.

The parable fits Matthew's theme of division and judgment.[1] The parable addresses concerns of the early Christian community (the fate of false Christians).

The parable is also known as the Parable of the Weeds, Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, or the Parable of the Weeds in the Grain.

The Greek word translated "tares" is ζιζάνια (zizania), plural of ζιζάνιον (zizanion). This word is thought to mean darnel (Lolium temulentum), a ryegrass.[2]

Some suggest that this word instead refers to some vetch species, perhaps motivated by the King James Version translation of ζιζάνιον as "tares", a common name for vetch.[3]

The parable

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? From whence then has it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay: lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew 13:24–30, KJV

A few verses later, an explanation is given:

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 13:36–43, KJV

Another version appears in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (Patterson-Meyer Translation):

Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a person who has good seed. His enemy came during the night and sowed weeds among the good seed. The person did not let the workers pull up the weeds, but said to them, 'No, otherwise you might go to pull up the weeds and pull up the wheat along with them.' For on the day of the harvest the weeds will be conspicuous, and will be pulled up and burned."


The meaning is quite complex: This is not just a heaven/hell exhortation to repentance, but an explanation of God's patience with the world's unbelief. The parable of the tares is also meant to explain the cause of hypocrisy within the Christian church. For mere social reasons, some who are actually nonbelievers put on a religious front. But their actions and attitudes often indicate that they are not real Christians.

Nevertheless, God is patient in judgment. Just as the man in the parable does not want his servants to accidentally root up the wheat, Jesus does not want his followers to conduct judgmental witch hunts for "hypocrites" in the church.

This theoretically prevents the expulsion of church members who live in open rebellion of orthodox interpretations of God's law.

Another interpretation is that the parable explains the history and plan of the world. The world is the field in which the seed was sown. That is, the world is God's creation that He made good. The evil one came and planted bad seed — that is, he led humans into sin. The present state of the world is that there exists good seed — those who ultimately stop rebelling against God and accept His grace — and bad seed — those who refuse to accept and instead persist in rebellion. The reason God did not just destroy everybody who was in rebellion of Him (the bad seed) is that some people exist who have not yet accepted His grace, but someday will. These people would be uprooted if harvested too early. Instead, He is bringing the world to a point (the harvest) in which everybody will have made their final decision and can then be sorted fairly.

Christians who oppose the Death Penalty use this parable to say Jesus did not favor executing anyone, for you deny them the chance to accept his grace and condemn them to an early hell. Christians who advocate the Death Penalty cite Matt. 10:29 (" sparrow shall not fall on the ground without your Father"), and Eph. 1:11 ("...God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will"), in order to deny that an "early hell" is possible.

Some who believe in a post-tribulation rapture (second coming of Christ) feel that this text supports their belief. “The tares are removed first and burned, then the remaining wheat are taken last,” supposing this refers to the rapture occurring after the lost are already in hell.

Roger Williams, a Baptist theologian and founder of Rhode Island, interpreted the Parable of the Tares to support government toleration of all of the "weeds" (heretics) in the world, because civil persecution often inadvertently hurts the "wheat" (believers) too. Instead, Williams believed it was God's duty to judge in the end, not man's. This Parable lent further support to Williams' Biblical philosophy of a wall of separation between church and state as described in his 1644 book, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution.[4]


Some attribute the parable and its explication not to the historical Jesus himself but to the early Christian community. This conclusion is based on several factors: that the concern of separating "true" from "false" Christians originated in the early Christian community, the parable does not feature Jesus' characteristic exaggeration and irony, and that it does not challenge social divisions.[5] Additionally, scholars that regard Jesus as not having preached the end times consider the parable to be outside Jesus' message.


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Parable of the Tares. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. See also in the judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46)
  2. Liddell H G and Scott R, A Greek-English Lexicon, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1843–1996, under "ζιζάνια". The plural form (Zizania) has in modern times been adopted as the botanical name for wild rice.
  3. Blue Letter Bible. "Lexicon / Concordance for Matthew 13:25 -- King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2009. 29 Mar 2009.
  4. James P. Byrd, The challenges of Roger Williams: religious liberty, violent persecution, and the Bible (Mercer University Press, 2002)[1] (accessed on Google Book on July 20, 2009)
  5. Funk, Robert W., Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar. The five gospels. HarperSanFrancisco. 1993. pages 194, 196.
Parable of the Tares
Preceded by
Parable of the Sower
Parables of Jesus
New Testament
Succeeded by
Parable of the Growing Seed
Parables of Jesus

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