Why does Jesus use agricultural terms so often in his parables?

Jesus lived in an agrarian society in which the majority of people would have had experiences living on farms or working with food crops and/or livestock. His audiences would have included shepherds, grape growers, wheat farmers, laborers in fruit orchards, and families raising livestock as just a few examples.

As the son of a carpenter in the Middle East 2,000 years ago, Jesus would have had exposure to the agrarian lifestyle even if he never worked on a farm himself. His family might very well have raised chickens and tended a vegetable plot, which would have taught him about the manner of a hen mothering her flock, or the surprise of weeds growing up among the crop that had been sown, or how some seeds fall on good earth while others never produce or produce poorly. So it is natural that Jesus would have used concrete examples from his daily life and the lives of those around him in his teaching parables.

If Jesus were teaching in America today, he might rather use parables invoking things from the world of technology, music, sports, and fashion.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.