by Alfred Edersheim
Philologos Religious Online Books
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
EVENING OF THE THIRD DAY IN PASSION-WEEK
ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
LAST PARABLES: TO THE DISCIPLES CONCERNING THE LAST THINGS
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
SUPPLEMENTARY PARABLE OF THE MINAS AND THE KING'S RECKONING WITH HIS SERVANTS AND HIS REBELLIOUS CITIZENS
(St. Matthew 25:1-13; St. Matthew 25:14-30; St. Luke 19:11-28.)
1. As might have been expected, the Parables concerning the Last Things are closely connected with the Discourse of the Last Things, which Christ had just spoken to His Disciples. In fact, that of the Ten Virgins, which seems the fullest in many-sided meaning, is, in its main object, only an illustration of the last part of Christ's Discourse.1 Its great practical lessons had been: the unexpectedness of the Lord's Coming; the consequences to be apprehend from its delay; and the need of personal and constant preparedness. Similarly, the Parable of the Ten Virgins may, in its great outlines, be thus summarised: Be ye personally prepared; be ye prepared for any length of time; be ye prepared to go to Him directly.
1. St. Matt. xxiv. 36-51.
Before proceeding, we mark that this Parable also is connected with those that had preceeded. But we notice not only connection, but progression. Indeed, it would be deeply interesting, alike historically and for the better understanding of Christ's teaching, but especially as showing its internal unity and development, and the credibility of the Gospel-narratives, generally to trace this connection and progress. And this, not merely in the three series of parables which mark the three stages of His History - the Parables of the Founding of the Kingdom, of its Character, and of its Consummation - but as regards the parables themselves, that so the first might be joined to the last as a string of heavenly pearls. But this lies beyond our task. Not so, to mark the connection between the Parable of the Ten Virgins and that of the Man without the Wedding-Garment.
Like the Parable of the Ten Virgins, it had pointed to the future. If the exclusion and punishment of the Unprepared Guest did not primarily refer to the Last Day, or to the Return of Christ, but perhaps rather to what would happen in death, it pointed, at least secondarily, to the final consummation. On the other hand, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins this final consumation is the primary point. So far, then, there is both connection and advance. Again, from the appearance and the fate of the Unprepared Guest we learned, that not every one who, following the Gospel-call, comes to the Gospel-feast, will be allowed to partake of it; but that God will search and try each one individually. There is, indeed, a society of guests - the Church; but we must not expect either that the Church will, while on earth, be wholly pure, or that its purification will be achieved by man. Each guest may, indeed, come to the banqueting-hall, but the final judgment as to his worthiness belongs to God. Lastly, the Parable also taught the no less important opposite lesson, that each individual is personally responsible; that we cannot shelter ourselves in the community of the Church, but that to partake of the feast requireth personal and individual preparation. To express it in modern terminology: It taught Churchism as against one-sided individualism, and spiritual individualism as against dead Churchism. All these important lessons are carried forward in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. If the union of the Ten Virgins for the purpose of meeting the Bridegroom, and their à priori claims to enter in with Him - which are, so to speak, the historical data and necessary premisses in the Parable - point to the Church, the main lessons of the Parade are the need of individual, personal, and spiritual preparation. Only such will endure the trial of the long delay of Christ's Coming; only such will stand that of an immediate summons to meet the Christ.
It is late at even - the world's long day seems past, and the Coming of the Bridegroom must be near. The day and the hour we know not, for the bridegroom has been far away. Only this we know, that it is the Evening of the Marriage which the Bridegroom had fixed, and that his word of promise may be relied upon. Therefore all has been made ready within the bridal house, and is in waiting there; and therefore the Virgins prepare to go forth to meet Him on His Arrival. The Parable proceeds on the assumption that the Bridegroom is not in the town, but somewhere far away; so that it cannot be known at what precise hour He may arrive. But it is known that He will come that night; and the Virgins who are to meet Him have gathered - presumably in the house where the Marriage is to take place - waiting for the summons to go forth and welcome the Bridegroom. The common mistake, that the Virgins are represented in verse 1 as having gone forth on the road to meet the Bridegroom, is not only irrational - since it is scarcely credible that they would all have fallen asleep by the wayside, and with lamps in their hands - but incompatible with the circumstance,2 that at midnight the cry is suddenly raised to go forth and meet Him. In these circumstances, no precise parallel can be derived from the ordinary Jewish marriage-processions, where the bridegroom, accompanied by his groomsmen and friends, went to the bride's house, and thence conducted the bride, with her attendant maidens and friends, into his own or his parents' home. But in the Parable, the Bridegroom comes from a distance and goes to the bridal house. Accordingly, the bridal procession is to meet Him on His Arrival, and escort Him to the bridal place. No mention is made of the Bride, either in this Parable of in that or the Marriage of the King's Son. This, for reasons connected with their application: since in the one case the Wedding Guests, in the other the Virgins, occupy the place of the Bride. And here we must remind ourselves of the general canon, that, in the interpretation of a Parable, details must not be too closely pressed. The Parables illustrate the Sayings of Christ, as the Miracles His Doings; and alike the Parables and the Miracles present only one or another, not all the aspects of the truth.
2. St Matt. xxv. 6.
Another archĉological inquiry will, perhaps, be more helpful to our understanding of this Parable. The 'lamps' - not 'torches' - which the Ten Virgins carried, were of well-known construction. They bear in Talmudic writings commonly the name Lappid, but the Aramaised from the Greek word in the New Testament also occurs as Lampad and Lampadas.3 The lamp consisted of a round receptacle for pitch or oil for the wick. This was placed in a hollow cup or deep saucer - the Beth Shiqqua4 - which was fastened by a pointed end into a long wooden pole, on which it was borne aloft. According to Jewish authorities,5 it was the custom in the East to carry in a bridal procession about ten such lamps. We have the less reason to doubt that such was also the case in Palestine, since, according to rubric, ten was the number required to be present at any office or ceremony, such as at the benedictions accompanying the marriage-ceremonies. And, in the peculiar circumstances supposed in the Parable, Ten Virgins are represented as going forth to meet the Bridegroom, each bearing her lamp.
3. Jer. Yoma 41 a, line 24 from top. 4. Kel. ii. 8. 5. See the Arukh, ad voc.
The first point which we mark is, that the Ten Virgins brought, presumably to the bridal house, 'their own6 lamps.' Emphasis must be laid on this. Thus much was there of personal preparation on the part of all. But while the five that were wise brought also 'oil in the vessels'7 [presumably the hollow receptacles in which the lamp proper stood], the five foolish Virgins neglected to do so, no doubt expecting that their lamps would be filled out of some common stock in the house. In the text the foolish Virgins are mentioned before the wise,8 because the Parable turns to this. We cannot be at a loss to interpret the meaning of it. The Bridegroom far away is Christ, Who is come for the Marriage-Feast from 'the far country' - the Home above - certainly on that night, but we know not at what hour of it. The ten appointed bridal companions who are to go forth to meet Him are His professed disciples, and they gather in the bridal house in readiness to welcome His arrival. It is night, and a marriage-procession: therefore, they must go forth with their lamps. All of them have brought their own lamps, they all have the Christian, or say, the Church-profession: the lamp, in the hollow cup on the top of the pole. But only the wise Virgins have more than this - the oil in the vessels, without which the lamps cannot give their light. The Christian or Church-profession is but an empty vessel on the top of a pole, without the oil in the vessels. We here remember the words of Christ: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in heaven.'9 The foolishness of the Virgins, which consisted in this that they had omitted to bring their oil, is thus indicated in the text: 'All they which [aitineV]10were foolish, when they brought their own lamps, brought not with them oil:' they brought their own lamps, but not their own oil. This (as already explained), probably, not from forgetfulness - for they could scarcely have forgotten the need of oil, but from the wilful neglect, in the belief that there would be a common stock in the house, out of which they would be supplied, or that there would be sufficient time for the supply of their need after the announcement that the Bridegroom was coming. They had no conception either of any personal obligation in this matter, nor that the call would come so suddenly, nor yet that there would be so little interval between the arrival of the Bridegroom and 'the closing of the door.' And so they deemed it not necessary to undertake what must have involved both trouble and carefulness, the bringing their own oil in the hollow vessels in which the lamps were fixed.
6. The better reading in ver. 1. and again in ver. 7, is not autwn 'their,' but eautwn.
7. The word autwn in ver. 4, 'their vessels,' is probably spurious. In both cases, as so often, the 'improving' copyists have missed the deeper meaning.
8. In ver.2, according to the better reading, the clauses should be inverted, and, as in ver. 3, 'the foolish' first mentioned.
9. St. Matt. v. 16. 10. quĉcunque, eĉ omnes quĉ.
We have proceeded on the supposition that the oil was not carried in separate vessels, but in those attached to the lamps. It seems scarcely likely that these lamps had been lighted while waiting in the bridal house, where the Virgins assembled, and which, no doubt, was festively illuminated: Many practical objections to this view will readily occur. The foolishness of the five Virgins therefore consisted, not (as is commonly supposed) in their want of perseverance - as if the oil had been consumed before the Bridegroom came, and they had only not provided themselves with a sufficient extra-supply - but in the entire absence of personal preparation,11 having brought no oil of their own in their lamps. This corresponds to their conducts, who, belonging to the Church - having the 'profession' - being bridal companions provided with lamps, ready to go forth, and expecting to share in the wedding feast - neglect the preparation of grace, personal conversation and holiness, trusting that in the hour of need the oil may be supplied out of the common stock. But they know not, or else heed not, that every one must be personally prepared for meeting the Bridegroom, that the call will be sudden, that the stock of oil is not common, and that the time between His arrival and the shutting of the door will be awfully brief.
11. So especially Goebel, to whom, in general, we would acknowledge our obligations.
For - and here begins the second scene in the Parable - the interval between the gathering of the Virgins in readiness to meet Him, and the arrival of the Bridegroom is much longer than had been anticipated. And so it came, that both the wise and the foolish Virgins 'slumbered and slept.' Manifestly, this is but a secondary trait in the Parable, chiefly intended to accentuate the surprise of the sudden announcement of the Bridegroom. The foolish Virgins did not ultimately fail because of their sleep, nor yet were the wise reproved of it. True, it was evidence of their weakness - but then it was night; all the world was asleep; and their own drowsiness might be in proportion to their former excitement. What follows is intended to bring into prominence the startling suddenness of the Bridegroom's Coming. It is midnight - when sleep is deepest - when suddenly 'there was a cry, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh! Come ye out to the meeting of Him. Then all those Virgins awoke, and prepared (trimmed) their lamps.' This, not in the sense of heightening the low flame in their lamps, but in that of hastily drawing up the wick and lighting it, when, as there was no oil in the vessels, the flame, of course, immediately died out. 'Then the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying: Not at all12 - it will never13 suffice for us and you! Go ye rather to the sellers, and buy for your own selves.'
12. Mhpote. See Grimm, ad voc. But it is impossible to give the full force of the word.
13. The better reading is ou mh, which double negation I have rendered, for want of better, by 'never.'
This advice must not be regarded as given in irony. This trait is introduced to point out the proper source of supply - to emphasise that the oil must be their own, and also to prepare for what follows. 'But while they were going to buy, the Bridegroom came; and the ready ones [they that were ready] went in with Him to the Marriage-Feast, and the door was shut,' The sudden cry at midnight: 'The Bridegroom cometh!' had come with startling surprise both to the wise and the foolish Virgins; to the one class it had come only unexpectedly, but to the other also unpreparedly. Their hope of sharing or borrowing the oil of the wise Virgins being disappointed, the foolish were, of course, unable to meet the Bridegroom. And while they hurried to the sellers of oil, those that had been ready not only met; but entered with the Bridegroom into the bridal house, and the door was shut. It is of no importance here, whether or not the foolish Virgins finally succeeded in obtaining oil - although this seems unlikely at that time of night - since it could no longer be of any possible use, as its object was to serve in the festive procession, which was now past. Nevertheless, and when the door was shut, those foolish Virgins came, calling on the Bridegroom to open to them. But they had failed in that which could alone give them a claim to admission. Professing to be bridesmaids, they had not been in the bridal procession, and so, in truth and righteousness, He could only answer from within: 'Verily I say unto you, I know you not.' This, not only in punishment, but in the right order of things.
The personal application of this Parable to the disciples, which the Lord makes, follows almost of necessity. 'Watch therefore, for ye know not the day, nor the hour.'14 Not enough to be in waiting with the Church; His Coming will be far on in the night; it will be sudden; it will be rapid: be prepared therefore, be ever and personally prepared! Christ will come when least expected - at midnight - and when the Church, having become accustomed to His long delay, has gone to sleep. So sudden will be His Coming, that after the cry of announcement there will not be time for anything but to go forth to meet Him; and so rapid will be the end, that, ere the foolish Virgins can return, the door has been for ever closed. To present all this in the most striking manner, the Parable takes the form of a dialogue, first between the foolish and the wise Virgins, in which the latter only state the bare truth when saying, that each has only sufficient oil for what is superfluous. Lastly, we are to learn from the dialogue between the foolish Virgins and the Bridegroom, that it is impossible in the day of Christ's Coming to make up for neglect of previous preparation, and that those who have failed to meet Him, even though the bridal Virgins, shall be finally excluded as being strangers to the Bridegroom.
14. The clause 'in which the Son of Man cometh' is spurious - an early gloss crept into the text.
2. The Parable of the Talents - their use and misuse15 - follows closely on the admonition to watch, in view of the sudden and certain Return of Christ, and the reward or punishment which will then be meted out. Only that, whereas in the Parable of the Ten Virgins the reference was to the personal state, in that of 'the Talents' it is to the personal work of the Disciples. In the former instance, they are portrayed as the bridal maidens who are to welcome His Return; in the latter, as the servants who are to give an account of their stewardship.
15. St. Matt. xxv. 14-30.
From its close connection with what precedes, the Parable opens almost abruptly with the words: 'For [it is] like a Man going abroad, [who] called His own servants, and delivered to them His goods.' The emphasis rests on this, that they were His own servants, and to act for His interest. His property was handed over to them, not for safe custody, but that they might do with it as best they could in the interest of their Master. This appears from what immediately follows: 'and so to one He gave five talents (about 1,170l.), but to one two (about 468l.), and to one one (=6,000 denarii, about 234l.), to each according to his own capability'16 - that is, He gave to each according to his capacity, in proportion as He deemed severally qualified for larger or smaller administration. 'And He journeyed abroad straightway.'17 Having entrusted the management of His affairs to His servants, according to their capacity, He at once went away.
16. kata thn idian dunamin.
17. Some critics and the R.V. have drawn the word 'straightway' to the next verse, as referring to the activity of the first servant. The reasons urged by Goebel against this seem to me quite convincing, besides the fact that there is no cause for thus distinguishing the first from the second faithful servant.
Thus far we can have no difficulty in understanding the meaning of the Parable. Our Lord, Who has left us for the Father's Home, is He Who has gone on the journey abroad, and to His own servants has He entrusted, not for custody, but to use for Him in the time between His departure and His return, what He claims as His own 'goods.' We must not limit this to the administration of His Word, nor to the Holy Ministry, although these may have been pre-eminently in view. It refers generally to all that a man has, wherewith to serve Christ; for, all that the Christian has - his time, money, opportunities, talents, or learning (and not only 'the Word'), is Christ's, and is entrusted to us, not for custody, but to trade withal for the absent Master - to further the progress of His Kingdom. And to each of us He gives according to our capacity for working - mental, moral, and even physical - to one five, to another two, and to another one 'talent.' This capacity for work lies not within our own power; but it is in our power to use for Christ whatever we may have.
And here the characteristic difference appears. 'He that received the five talents went and traded with them, and made other five talents. In like manner he that had received the two gained18 other two.' As each had received according to his ability, so each worked according to his power, as good and faithful servants of their Lord. If the outward result was different, their labour, devotion, and faithfulness were equal. It was otherwise with him who had least to do for his Master, since only one talent had been entrusted to him. He 'went away, digged up earth, and hid the money of his Lord.' The prominent fact here is, that he did not employ it for the Master, as a good servant, but shunned alike the labour and the responsibility, and acted as if it had been some stranger's, and not his Lord's property. In so doing he was not only unfaithful to his trust, but practically disowned that he was a servant who had received much, two others are introduced in the Parable, who had both received comparatively little - one of whom was faithful, while the other in idle selfishness hid the money, not heeding that it as 'his Lord's.' Thus, while the second servant, although less had been entrusted to him was as faithful and conscientious as he to whom much had been given, and while both had, by their gain, increased the possessions of their Master, the third had by his conduct rendered the money of his Lord a dead, useless, buried thing.
18. ekerdhsen - in the case of the first it was epoihsen, although even there ekerdhsen is probably the better reading.
And now the second scene opens. 'But after a long time cometh the Lord of those servants, and maketh reckoning19 with them.' The notice of the long absence of the Master not only connects this with the Parable of the Ten Virgins, but is intended to show that the delay might have rendered the servants who traded more careless, while it also increased the guilt of him, who all this time had not done anything with his Master's money. And now the first of the servants, without speaking of his labour in trading, or his merit in 'making' money, answers with simple joyousness: 'Lord, five talents deliveredst Thou unto me. See, other five talents have I gained besides.'20 We can almost see his honest face beaming with delight, as he points to his Master's increased possession. His approval was all that the faithful servant had looked for, for which he had toiled during that long absence. And we can understand, how the Master welcomed and owned that servant, and assigned to him meet reward. The latter was twofold. Having proved his faithfulness and capacity in a comparatively limited sphere, one much greater would be assigned to him. For, to do the work, and increase the wealth of his Master, had evidently been his joy and privilege, as well as his duty. Hence also the second part of his reward - that of entering into the joy of his Lord - must not be confined to sharing in the festive meal at His return, still less to advancement from the position of a servant to that of a friend who shares his Master's lordship. It implies far more than this: even satisfied heart-sympathy with the aims and gains of his Master, and participation in them, with all that thus conveys.
19. sunairei logon, confert, vel componit, rem seu causam.
20. ep autoiV should, I think, be retained in the text. It must at any rate be supplied.
A similar result followed on the reckoning with the servant to whom two talents had been entrusted. We mark that, although he could only speak of two talents gained, he met his Master with the same frank joyness as he who had made five. For he had been as faithful, and laboured as earnestly as he to whom more had been entrusted. And what is more important, the former difference between the two servants, dependent on greater or less capacity for work, now ceased, and the second servant received precisely the same welcome and exactly the same reward, and in the same terms, as the first. And yet a deeper, and in some sense mysterious, truth comes to us in connection with the words: 'Thou has been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things.' Surely, then, if not after death, yet in that other 'dispensation,' there must be work to do for Christ, for which the preparation is in this life by faithful application for Him of what He has entrusted to us - be it much or little. This gives quite a new and blessed meaning to the life that now is - as most truly and in all its aspects part of that into which it is to unfold. No; not the smallest share of 'talents,' if only faithfully used for Christ, can be lost, not merely as regards His acknowledgement, but also their further and wider employment. And may we not suggest, that this may, if not explain, yet cast the halo of His purpose and Presence around what so often seems mysterious in the removal of those who had just attained to opening, or to full usefulness, or even of those who are taken from us in the early morn of youth and loveliness. The Lord may 'have need' of them, where or how we know not - and beyond this working-day and working-world there are 'many things' over which the faithful servant in little may be 'set,' that he may still do, and with greatly enlarged opportunities and powers, the work for Christ which he had loved so well, while at the same time he also shares the joy of his Lord.
It only remains to refer to the third servant, whose sad unfaithfulness and failure of service we already, in some measure, understand. Summoned to his account, he returned the talent entrusted to him with this explanation, that, knowing his Master to be a hard man, reaping where he did not sow, and gathering (the corn) where He did not 'winnow,'21 he had been afraid of incurring responsibility,22 and hence hid in the earth the talent which he now restored. It needs no comment to show that his own words, however honest and self-righteous they might sound, admitted dereliction of his work and duty as a servant, and entire misunderstanding as well as heart-alienation from his Master. He served Him not, and he knew Him not; he loved Him not, and he sympathised not with Him. But, besides, his answer was also an insult and a medacious pretext. He had been idle and unwilling to work for his Master. If he worked it would be for himself. He would not incur the difficulties, the self-denial, perhaps the reproach, connected with his Master's work. We recognise here those who, although His servants, yet, from self-indulgence and wordliness, will not do work for Christ with the one talent entrusted to them - that is, even though the responsibility and claim upon them be the smallest; and who deem it sufficient to hide it in the ground - not to lose it - or to preserve it, as they imagine, from being used for evil, without using it to trade for Christ. The falseness of the excuse, that he was afraid to do anything with it - an excuse too often repeated in our days - lest, peradventure, he might do more harm than good, was now fully exposed by the Master. Confessedly, it proceeded from a want of knowledge of Him, as if He were a hard, exacting Master, not One Who reckons even the least service as done to Himself; from misunderstanding also of what work for Christ is, in which nothing can ever fail or be lost; and, lastly, from want of joyous sympathy with it. And so the Master put aside the flimsy pretext. Addressing him as a 'wicked and slothful servant,' He pointed out that, even on his own showing, if he had been afraid to incur responsibility , he might have 'cast' (a word intended to mark the absence of labour) the money to 'the bankers,' when, at His return, He would have received His own, 'with interest.' Thus he might, without incurring responsibility, or much labour, have been, at least in a limited sense, faithful to his duty and trust as a servant.
21. diaskorpizein here in the same sense in which the LXX. render the Hebrew hrz in Ezek. v. 2, comp. Trommius Concord., and Grimm ad verb.
22. Goebel exaggerates in supposing that the servant had done so, because any possible returns for the money would not be his own, but the Master's.
The reference to the practice of lodging money, at interest, with the bankers, raises questions too numerous and lengthily for full discussion in this place. The Jewish Law distinguished between 'interest' and 'increase' (neshekh and tarbith), and entered into many and intricate details on the subject.23 Such transactions were forbidden with Israelites, but allowed with Gentiles. As in Rome, the business of 'money-changers' (argentarii, nummularii) and that of 'bankers' (collectarii, mensularii) seem to have run into each other. The Jewish 'bankers' bear precisely the same name (Shulchani, mensularius, trapezithV). In Rome very high interest seems to have been charged in early times; by-and-by it was lowered, till it was fixed, first at 8½, and then at 4 1/6, per cent. But these laws were not of permanent duration. Practically, usury was unlimited. It soon became the custom to charge monthly interest at the rate of 1 per cent a month. Yet there were prosperous times, as at the close of the Republic, when the rate of interest was so low as 4 percent; during the early Empire it stood at 8 per cent. This, of course, in what we may call fair business transactions. Beyond them, in the almost incredible extravagance, luxury, and indebtedness of even some of the chief historical personages, most usurious transactions took place (especially in the provinces), and that by people in high position (Brutus in Cyprus, and Seneca in Britain). Money was lent at 12, 24, and even 48 per cent.; the bills bore a larger sum than that actually received; and the interest was added to the capital, so that debt and interest alike grew. In Greece there were regular State banks, while in Rome such provision was only made under exceptional circumstances. Not unfrequently the twofold business of money-changing and banking was combined. Such 'bankers' undertook to make payments, to collect moneys and accounts, to place out money at interest - in short, all the ordinary business of this kind.24 There can be no question that the Jewish bankers of Palestine and elsewhere were engaged in the same undertakings, while the dispersion of their race over the world would render it more easy to have trusted correspondents in every city. Thus, we find that Herod Agrippa borrowed from the Jewish Alabarch at Alexandria the sum of 20,000 drachms, which was paid him in Italy, the commission and interest on it amounting to no less than 8 1/2 per cent. (2,500 drachms).25
23. Babha Mez. iv. and v., especially v. 6, and the Gemara, especially Babha M. 70 b &c.
24. Comp. Marquardt, Handb. d. RAlterth. vol. v. 2, pp. 56-68.
25. Jos. Antiq. xviii. 6. 3.
We can thus understand the allusion to 'the bankers,' with whom the wicked and unfaithful servant might have lodged his lord's money, if there had been truth in his excuse. To unmask its hollowness is the chief object of this part of the Parable. Accordingly, it must not be too closely pressed; but it would be in the spirit of the Parable to apply the expression to the indirect employment of money in the service of Christ, as by charitable contributions, &c. But the great lesson intended is, that every good and faithful servant of Christ must, whatever his circumstances, personally and directly use such talent as he may have to make gain for Christ. Tried by this test, how few seem to have understood their relation to Christ, and how cold has the love of the Church grown in the long absence of her lord!
But as regards the 'unprofitable' servant in the Parable, the well-known punishment of him that had come to the Marriage-Feast without the wedding-garment shall await him, while the talent, which he had failed to employ for his master, shall be entrusted to him who had shown himself most capable of working. We need not seek an elaborate interpretation for this. It points to the principle, equally true in every administration of God, that 'unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall be placed in abundance;26 but as to him that hath not,27 also what he hath shall be away from him.' Not a cynical rule this, such as the world, in its selfishness or worship of success, caricatures it; nor yet the worship of superior force; but this, that faithful use for God of every capacity will ever open fresh opportunities, in proportion as the old ones have been used, while spiritual unprofitableness must end in utter loss even of that which, however humble, might have been used, at one time or another, for God and for good.
26. perisseuqhsetai. 27. So the better reading, tou de mh econtoV.
3. To these Parables, that of the King who on his return makes reckoning with His servants and His enemies may be regarded as supplemental. It is recorded only by St. Luke, and placed by him in somewhat loose connection with the conversion of Zacchĉus.28 The most superficial perusal will show such unmistakable similarity with the Parable of 'The Talents,' that their identity will naturally suggest itself to the reader. On the other hand, there are remarkable divergences in detail, some of which seem to imply a different standpoint from which the same truth is viewed. We have also now the additional feature of the message of hatred on the part of the citizens, and their fate in consequence of it. It may have been that Christ spoke the two Parables on the two different occasions mentioned respectively by St. Luke and St. Matthew - the one on the journey to Jerusalem, the other on the Mount of Olives. And yet it seems difficult to believe that He would, with a few days of telling the Parable recorded by St. Luke, have repeated it in almost the same words to the disciples, who must have heard it in Jericho. This objection would not be so serious, if the Parable addressed, in the first instance, to the disciples (that of the Talents) had been afterwards repeated (in the record of St. Luke) in a wider circle, and not, as according to the Synoptists, the opposite. If, however, we are to regard the two Parables of the Talents and of the Pieces of Money as substantially the same, we would be disposed to consider the recension by St. Matthew as the original, being the more homogeneous and compact, while that of St. Luke would seem to combine with this another Parable, that of the rebellious citizens. Perhaps it is safest to assume, that, on His way to Jerusalem, when his adherents (not merely the disciples) would naturally expect that He would inaugurate His Messianic Kingdom, Christ may have spoken the latter Parable, to teach them that the relation in which Jerusalem stood towards Him, and its fate, were quite different form what they imagined, and that His Entrance into the City and the Advent of His Kingdom would be separated by a long distance of time. Hence the prospect before them was that of working, not of reigning; after that would the reckoning come, when the faithful worker would become the trusted ruler. These points were, of course, closely connected with the lessons of the Parable of the Talents, and, with the view of presenting the subject as a whole, St. Luke may have borrowed details from that Parable, and supplemented its teaching by presenting another aspect of it.
28. St. Luke xix. 11-28.
It must be admitted, that if St. Luke had really these two Parables in view (that of the King and of the Talents), and wished to combine them into new teaching, he has most admirably welded them together. For, as the Nobleman Who is about to entrust money to His servants, is going abroad to receive a Kingdom, it was possible to represent Him alike in relation to rebellious citizens and to His own servants, and to connect their reward with His 'Kingdom.' And so the two Parables are joined by deriving the illustration from political instead of social life. It has been commonly supposed, that the Parable contains an allusion to what had happened after the death of Herod the Great, when his son Archelaus hastened to Rome to obtain confirmation of his father's will, while a Jewish deputation followed to oppose his appointment - an act of rebellion which Archelaus afterwards avenged in the blood of his enemies. The circumstance must have been still fresh in popular remembrance, although more than thirty years had elapsed. But if otherwise, applications to Rome for installation to the government, and popular opposition thereto, were of such frequent occurence amidst the quarrels and intrigues of the Herodians, that no difficulty could have been felt in understanding the allusions of the Parable.
A brief analysis will suffice to point out the special lessons of this Parable. It introduces 'a certain Nobleman,' Who has claims to the throne, but has not yet received the formal appointment from the suzerain power. As He is going away to receive it, He deals as yet only with His servants. His object, apparently, is to try their aptitude, devotion, and faithfulness: and so He hands - not to each according to his capacity, but to all equally, a sum, not large (such as talents), but small - to each a 'mina,' equal to 100 drachms, or about 3l. 5s. of our money. To trade with so small a sum would, of course, be much more difficult, and success would imply greater ability, even as it would require more constant labour. Here we have some traits in which this differs from the Parable of the Talents. The same small sum is supposed to have been entrusted to all, in order to show which of them was most able and most earnest, and hence who should be called to largest employment, and with it to greatest honour in the Kingdom. While 'the Nobleman' was at the court of His suzerain, a deputation of His fellow-citizens arrived to urge this resolution of theirs: 'We will not that this One reign over us.' It was simply an expression of hatred; it stated no reason, and only urged personal opposition, even if such were in the face of the personal wish of the sovereign who appointed him king.
In the last scene, the King, now duly appointed, has returned to His country. He first reckons with His servants, when it is found that all but one have been faithful to their trust, though with varying success (the mina of the one having grown into ten; that of another into five, and so on). In strict accordance with that success is now their further appointment to rule - work here corresponding to rule there, which, however, as we know from the Parable of the Talents, is also work for Christ: a rule that is work, and work that is rule. At the same time, the acknowledgment is the same to all the faithful servants. Similarly, the motives, the reasoning, and the fate of the unfaithful servant are the same as in the Parable of the Talents. But as regards His 'enemies,' that would not have Him reign over them - manifestly, Jerusalem and the people of Israel - who, even after He had gone to receive the Kingdom, continued the personal hostility of their 'We will not that this One shall reign over us' - the ashes of the Temple, the ruins of the City, the blood of the fathers, and the homeless wanderings of their children, with the Cain curse branded on their brow and visible to all men, attest, that the King has many ministers to execute that judgment which obstinate rebellion must surely bring, if His Authority is to be vindicated, and His Rule to secure submission.