Questions From Readers
● Jesus spoke of mustard seeds as the smallest of all seeds. Are they actually the smallest seeds on earth?—Matt. 13:31, 32.
Likely, Jesus meant seeds of the black mustard plant (designated Brissica nigra or Sinapis nigra), which was then cultivated in Palestine. Being some 1 to 1.6 millimeters (0.039 to 0.063 inch) in diameter, they are indeed tiny.
Scientists have learned of plant seeds that are smaller, such as the fine-as-dust seeds of the orchid. In his textbook Botany, Professor R. D. Gibbs wrote: “A single ovary of the orchid Cynoches contains 3,770,000 seeds and . . . more than 300,000 of them weigh but 1 gm.!”
However, Jesus was not giving a precise lesson in botany. Nor was he speaking to persons who cultivated orchids. The Galilean Jews to whom he was speaking knew that of the various types of seeds that were gathered and sown by local farmers, the mustard seed was the tiniest. In fact, in the Jewish Talmud the mustard seed was used as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size.
So, bearing in mind Jesus’ audience and the meaning of his words to them, the mustard seed was truly “the tiniest of all the seeds” that ‘a man might be planting in his field.’