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seed must die before it grows

Science Friday

Author Hope Jahren explains how all seeds, seen or unseen, wait patiently for their chance to flourish.

The following is an excerpt from Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren.

A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance—to take its one and only chance to grow.

A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting. Their waiting differs, however, in that the seed is waiting to flourish while the tree is only waiting to die. When you go into a forest you probably tend to look up at the plants that have grown so much taller than you ever could. You probably don’t look down, where just beneath your single footprint sit hundreds of seeds, each one alive and waiting. They hope against hope for an opportunity that will probably never come. More than half of these seeds will die before they feel the trigger that they are waiting for, and during awful years every single one of them will die. All this death hardly matters, because the single birch tree towering over you produces at least a quarter of a million new seeds every single year. When you are in the forest, for every tree that you see, there are at least a hundred more trees waiting in the soil, alive and fervently wishing to be.

Lab Girl

A coconut is a seed that’s as big as your head. It can float from the coast of Africa across the entire Atlantic Ocean and then take root and grow on a Caribbean island. In contrast, orchid seeds are tiny: one million of them put together add up to the weight of a single paper clip. Big or small, most of every seed is actually just food to sustain a waiting embryo. The embryo is a collection of only a few hundred cells, but it is a working blueprint for a real plant with root and shoot already formed.

When the embryo within a seed starts to grow, it basically just stretches out of its doubled-over waiting posture, elongating into official ownership of the form that it assumed years ago. The hard coat that surrounds a peach pit, a sesame or mustard seed, or a walnut’s shell mostly exists to prevent this expansion. In the laboratory, we simply scratch the hard coat and add a little water and it’s enough to make almost any seed grow. I must have cracked thousands of seeds over the years, and yet the next day’s green never fails to amaze me. Something so hard can be so easy if you just have a little help. In the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.

After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed (Nelumbo nuci­ fera) and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell. And then one day this little plant’s yearning finally burst forth within a laboratory. I wonder where it is right now.

Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.

Excerpted from Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. Copyright © 2016 by Hope Jahren. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Science Friday Author Hope Jahren explains how all seeds, seen or unseen, wait patiently for their chance to flourish. The following is an excerpt from Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. A seed

Seed must die before it grows

New International Version
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

New Living Translation
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.

English Standard Version
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Berean Study Bible
Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Berean Literal Bible
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat, having fallen into the ground, should die, it abides alone; but if it should die, it bears much fruit.

King James Bible
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

New King James Version
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.

New American Standard Bible
Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

NASB 1995
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

NASB 1977
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Amplified Bible
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone [just one grain, never more]. But if it dies, it produces much grain and yields a harvest.

Christian Standard Bible
Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.

American Standard Version
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
“Timeless truth I speak to you: Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies in the ground, it remains alone, but if it dies, it yields much fruit.”

Contemporary English Version
I tell you for certain that a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies, it will produce lots of wheat.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die,

English Revised Version
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.

Good News Translation
I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain.

International Standard Version
Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces a lot of grain.

Literal Standard Version
truly, truly, I say to you, if the grain of the wheat, having fallen to the earth, may not die, itself remains alone; and if it may die, it bears much fruit;

NET Bible
I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.

New Heart English Bible
Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Weymouth New Testament
In most solemn truth I tell you that unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains what it was–a single grain; but that if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

World English Bible
Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Young’s Literal Translation
verily, verily, I say to you, if the grain of the wheat, having fallen to the earth, may not die, itself remaineth alone; and if it may die, it doth bear much fruit;

Romans 14:9
For this reason Christ died and returned to life, that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

1 Corinthians 15:36
You fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it stays alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.

Psalm 72:16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

1 Corinthians 15:36-38 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: …

John 12:32,33 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me…

Psalm 22:15,22-31 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death…

Isaiah 53:10-12 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand…

Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die. –The truth is one of those of the spirit-world, lying beyond the ordinary language of men. He prepares them for it by what we call the analogy of a physical law, but what is really an instance of the working of the great law of life, which God has given to the moral and physical worlds alike. All knew that a grain of wheat, though containing in itself the germs of life, would remain alone, and not really live unless it fell to the earth. Then the life-germs would burst forth, and the single grain, in its own death, would give life to blade, and stalk, and ear of corn. Its death then was the true life, for it released the inner life-power which the husk before held captive; and this life-power multiplying itself in successive grains would clothe the whole field with a harvest of much fruit.

This law Christ now teaches to be a law also of the moral world, and one to which His own life is subject. Here too life issues from death. The moral power which is the life of the world finds its source in the death of the Son of man. “He is life.” “In Him is life.” “He quickens whom He will.” “Whosoever believeth in Him hath eternal life.” These truths this Gospel has told us again and again: but Christ now tells that while He is still on earth this life exists, but in its germs; and that in His death it will burst forth, and grow up, and multiply itself in the great spiritual harvest of the world. Such was the prophecy. The history of all that is best, and truest, and noblest in the life of eighteen centuries comes to us as the fulfilment. Hearts hardened, sinful, dead, that have been led to think of His death, and in thoughts of it have felt germs of life springing up and bursting the husks of their former prison, and growing up into living powers which have changed their whole being; this is the individual fulfilment that has come to many and may come to all.

Verse 24. – The oracle is introduced with a solemn Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν : Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except the corn (or, grain ) of wheat, having fallen to the ground, die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it beareth much fruit. The simple illustration of life through death, life triumphing over death. “Even nature protests against the Hellenic fear of death” (Lange). As long as the corn of wheat is scrupulously kept from decomposition and death in the granary, the hidden germ is dormant; let it be sown as “bare grain” (1 Corinthians 15:36, etc.), then the strange force within it puts forth its hidden faculty, the outer covering of this point of energy falls away, and the new thing appears. God gives it a body, and much fruit is brought forth. Thoma suggests that the Johannist here is putting into the lips of Jesus the thoughts of Paul. How much more probable is it that Paul grasped the thought of Jesus, and applied a part of it to the grand argument for the resurrection, both of Christ and Christians! Compare with this the teaching of John 6, where the Bread of life is given for the food of men. Even the “bread-making” for man involves, in another way, the temporary destruction of the living germ in the grain of which it is composed, that it may become the life of men. Christ is himself the “Son of God,” the “Logos incarnate,” the “Son of man.” By becoming, in his death, the food of man’s soul, he created thus a new life in the hearts of men. Over and over again our Lord has declared himself to be “the Life,” and “the Source of life,” for men; but he here lays down the principle that this life-giving power of his is conditioned by his death. The great harvest will be reaped only when he shall have sacrificed his life and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is, too, only as every believing man dies to himself, is crucified with Christ, is dead with him to the world, that he rises again in the newness of life.

Truly,
ἀμὴν (amēn)
Hebrew Word
Strong’s Greek 281: Of Hebrew origin; properly, firm, i.e. trustworthy; adverbially, surely.

truly,
ἀμὴν (amēn)
Hebrew Word
Strong’s Greek 281: Of Hebrew origin; properly, firm, i.e. trustworthy; adverbially, surely.

I tell
λέγω (legō)
Verb – Present Indicative Active – 1st Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 3004: (a) I say, speak; I mean, mention, tell, (b) I call, name, especially in the pass., (c) I tell, command.

you,
ὑμῖν (hymin)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun – Dative 2nd Person Plural
Strong’s Greek 4771: You. The person pronoun of the second person singular; thou.

unless
ἐὰν (ean)
Conjunction
Strong’s Greek 1437: If. From ei and an; a conditional particle; in case that, provided, etc.

a kernel
κόκκος (kokkos)
Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 2848: A kernel, grain, seed. Apparently a primary word; a kernel of seed.

of wheat
σίτου (sitou)
Noun – Genitive Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4621: Wheat, grain. Also plural irregular neuter sita of uncertain derivation; grain, especially wheat.

falls
πεσὼν (pesōn)
Verb – Aorist Participle Active – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4098: A reduplicated and contracted form of peto; probably akin to petomai through the idea of alighting; to fall.

to
εἰς (eis)
Preposition
Strong’s Greek 1519: A primary preposition; to or into, of place, time, or purpose; also in adverbial phrases.

the
τὴν (tēn)
Article – Accusative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections; the definite article; the.

ground
γῆν (gēn)
Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 1093: Contracted from a primary word; soil; by extension a region, or the solid part or the whole of the terrene globe.

[and] dies,
ἀποθάνῃ (apothanē)
Verb – Aorist Subjunctive Active – 3rd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 599: To be dying, be about to die, wither, decay. From apo and thnesko; to die off.

it
αὐτὸς (autos)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun – Nominative Masculine 3rd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 846: He, she, it, they, them, same. From the particle au; the reflexive pronoun self, used of the third person, and of the other persons.

remains
μένει (menei)
Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 3306: To remain, abide, stay, wait; with acc: I wait for, await. A primary verb; to stay.

only [a seed];
μόνος (monos)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 3441: Only, solitary, desolate. Probably from meno; remaining, i.e. Sole or single; by implication, mere.

but
δὲ (de)
Conjunction
Strong’s Greek 1161: A primary particle; but, and, etc.

if
ἐὰν (ean)
Conjunction
Strong’s Greek 1437: If. From ei and an; a conditional particle; in case that, provided, etc.

it dies,
ἀποθάνῃ (apothanē)
Verb – Aorist Subjunctive Active – 3rd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 599: To be dying, be about to die, wither, decay. From apo and thnesko; to die off.

it bears
φέρει (pherei)
Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 5342: To carry, bear, bring; I conduct, lead; perhaps: I make publicly known. A primary verb.

much
πολὺν (polyn)
Adjective – Accusative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4183: Much, many; often.

fruit.
καρπὸν (karpon)
Noun – Accusative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 2590: Probably from the base of harpazo; fruit, literally or figuratively.

Seed must die before it grows New International Version Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces