Yeast — Rising to the Occasion

Fermented drinks like beer have been used for almost thousands of years, but the function of yeast in its making was not known until recently. The same applies to bread. The biblical word used for yeast is leaven. But what is it?

Yeast is a they more than an it. Many bakers know that yeasts are microorganisms and that there are many different kinds. They make the bread dough rise and give it flavors, and are essential for fermented drinks.

People use yeast but may not know what it is. Many kinds are known and used in many ways, including bread, fermented drinks, and even medical research.
Bread Dough, Pexels / Vaibhav Jadhav

Fermentation may seem like a bad word to people who avoid alcoholic drinks, but it is actually a process that occurs naturally in many places. There are wild yeasts and some have been tamed by savvy wranglers; baker's yeast is a combination of domesticated yeasts. (I'll allow that it sounds unusual to say that single-celled organisms can be domesticated.) Yeast cells act very much like human cells and are useful in studying genetics.

Yeast (or at least its products) has been known and loved by human beings since ancient times. . . . mentioned in the Bible, and the word leaven is usually used as a symbol of transformation and influence. . . . The Bible uses yeast as a word picture to illustrate how a small object can highly influence the environment surrounding it, for good and bad. On the positive side, when added to dough, it makes bread . . . pizza crust, or cakes rise. Many other good foods also utilize yeast through the fermentation process. Its warm, slightly fruity smell is the result of live cells at work. On the negative side, certain yeasts such as Candida albicans cause disease and “corrupt” the body.

To read this surprisingly (well, at least to me) and informative paper, click on "The Transformational Power of Yeasts: One-Celled Creatures That Burst with Life." In Galatians 5:9, Paul says that a little leaven works through the whole batch of dough as a spiritual metaphor. Yeast grow and multiply, and I think you'll find this short video interesting.