What is the parable of the sower?
The parable of the sower was spoken by Jesus Christ and is recorded in Matthew 13:3-8 (also Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-8). All orthodox writers take the sower as a model both of narrative and interpretation, warranted by the Divine Master Himself. The general likeness between teaching and sowing is found in Seneca, "Ep. lxxiii"; and Prudentius, the Christian poet, has thrown the parable into verse, "Contra Symmachum", II, 1022. Salmeron comes near the method suggested above by which we get most profit from these symbols, when he declares that Christ is "the Sower and the Seed".
We are immediately reminded of the Greek Fathers who call our Redeemer the seed sown in our hearts, (logos spermatikos ), who comes forth from God that He may be the principle of righteousness in man (Justin, "Apol.", II, xiii, Athan., "Orat.," ii, 79, Cyril Alex., "In Joan.", 75; and see Newman, "Tracts", 150177). I Peter 1:1-23, reads like an echo of this parable. Note that our Lord does not use personifications, but refers good and evil alike to persons; it is the "wicked one" who plucks away the seed, not a vague impersonal mischief.
The rocky bottom, the burning wind and scorching sun, tell us of Palestinian scenery. We find "thorny cares" in Catullus (lxiv, lxxii) and in Ovid (Metamorp., XIII, 5, 483). Theologians warn us not to imagine that the "good and perfect heart" of the receiver is by nature such; for that would be the heresy of Pelagius; but we may quote the axiom of the Schools, "To him that does what he can God will not deny His grace." St. Cyprian and St. Augustine (Ep. lxix, Serm. lxxiii) point out that free will acceptance is the teaching of the Gospel; and so Irenaeus against the Gnostic forerunners of Lutheranism (V, xxxix).
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).