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The Parable of the Leaven Bread May Not Mean What You Think!

Don - April 29, 2006

The parable of the woman and the leaven bread is one of the 7 "Kingdon Parables".  They are so named because they are recorded together in Matthew and they start "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto…."

We have been taught that the bread is like unto the world and the leaven is the church.  But is that really true?

We are told that a little leaven, leavens the whole loaf.  That the little church placed in the world will eventually grow to fill the whole earth.  The same as the leaven spreads throughout the bread, the church will spead throughout the world.

Here’s some problems I see with that viewpoint.  First "leaven" in the scriptures always refers to sin. (except in this parable, if in fact this is an exception).  Christ on numerous occasions referred to the leaven of the scribes and or pharasees.  Leaven in the scriptures refers to sin because leaven corrupts the bead by puffing up….pride!  Unleaven bread is used in all the feasts of Israel except the feast of Pentecost. 

Second, and this is the point overlooked by every S.S. teacher etc.at church, and most bible commentators I’ve run across.  The point is that the woman hides the leaven in three measures of meal.  The "three measures of meal" have their origin in Genesis 18, where Abraham receives the famous three visitors.  From that day to this, in both the Jewish and Arab cultures, the "three measures of meal" are emblematic of a fellowship offering.  It is served to guests and does not have leaven in it!

So to Jewish ears, when Jesus described a woman putting leaven into three measures of meal, they probably gasped in horror!  It would indicate something is wrong with this picture.

So if this is a Kingdom Parable what could it mean?  How is this like unto the Kingdom of Heaven?  I would personally say that maybe it means that the church will have pride enter into it.  Maybe it will become corrupted and not be the true church (like this isn’t the true three measures of meal offering).  So maybe it refers to the apostacy.  Maybe it refers to the last days when pride fills the church.  Maybe I’m full of crap and hot air?  Any thoughts?


  1. Isn’t bread always a symbol of Christ? Why is it different here? Isn’t a stone or rock also a symbol of Christ? Why does it instead represent the Church in Daniel 2? What about the parable of the unrighteous judge representing Father in Heaven? Isn’t that a strange exception?

    Good questions. I sure don’t know the answers! Maybe God puts a few exceptions to rules in their just to keep us on our toes, or maybe so that we have to rely on the interpretations given to us by modern prophets instead of relying on our own judgment.

    Comment by Bret — April 29, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

  2. The second counselor in my ward is finishing his PH.D in Early Christian History and I asked him what he thought about this take. He says that there are two parables from the scriptures that talk about leaven and that one is a positive use and the other is a negative use. He comfirmed Don’s take that the negative one is basically saying “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — April 30, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

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