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#81 - Is the biblical "mustard seed" the same as the spice sold at the grocery store?

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #81:

Is the mustard seed in McCormick's spice bottle the one mentioned by Christ Jesus? According to Dummelow's Commentary (pp. 673) it is the herb or plant, not of the tree. I wonder if McCormick's mustard is from the tree? I showed it to Sunday School children as the mustard seed in the parable. I may need to correct it."

Response #81:

Today's term "mustard" as contained in McCormick's spice bottle is defined as "a pungent powder or paste prepared from the seed of the mustard plant." (Random House Webster's College Dictionary, page 865.) In the gospels (Mat 13:31; 17:20; Mar 4:31; Luk 13:19; 17:6), the Greek word that is translated in the KJV and other versions as "mustard" is sinapi (Strong's #4615). In the Mat 13:32 and Luk 13:19), the Greek word that is translated in the KJV and other versions as "tree" is dendron (Strong's #1186). However, both Matthew's and Luke's version of the parable are based upon Mark's version, which does not refer to the mustard seed as producing "trees" but as "herbs" (KJV), "shrubs" (NRSV), "garden plants," or simply "plant/s" (NAB, REB, TEV).

The United Bible Society's Fauna and Flora of the Bible (NY: UBS, 1980, pages 145-146) writes:

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 3 (pages 476-477), adds:


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer