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Chapter 25

25:1 Ten virgins [deka parthenois]. No special point in the number ten. The scene is apparently centered round the house of the bride to which the bridegroom is coming for the wedding festivities. But Plummer places the scene near the house of the bridegroom who has gone to bring the bride home. It is not pertinent to the point of the parable to settle it. Lamps [lampadas]. Probably torches with a wooden staff and a dish on top in which was placed a piece of rope or cloth dipped in oil or pitch. But sometimes [lampas] has the meaning of oil lamp [luchnos] as in Ac 20:8. That may be the meaning here (Rutherford, New Phrynichus).

25:3 Took no oil with them [ouk elabon meth’ heautōn elaion]. Probably none at all, not realizing their lack of oil till they lit the torches on the arrival of the bridegroom and his party.

25:4 In their vessels [en tois aggeiois]. Here alone in the N.T., through [aggē] in 13:48. Extra supply in these receptacles besides the oil in the dish on top of the staff.

25:5 They all slumbered and slept [enustaxan pāsai kai ekatheudon]. They dropped off to sleep, nodded (ingressive aorist) and then went on sleeping (imperfect, linear action), a vivid picture drawn by the difference in the two tenses. Many a preacher has seen this happen while he is preaching.

25:6 There is a cry [kraugē gegonen]. A cry has come. Dramatic use of the present perfect (second perfect active) indicative, not the perfect for the aorist. It is not [estin], but [gegonen] which emphasizes the sudden outcry which has rent the air. The very memory of it is preserved by this tense with all the bustle and confusion, the rushing to the oil-venders. Come ye forth to meet him [exerchesthe eis apantēsin]. Or, Go out for meeting him, dependent on whether the cry comes from outside the house or inside the house where they were sleeping because of the delay. It was a ceremonial salutation neatly expressed by the Greek phrase.

25:7 Trimmed [ekosmēsan]. Put in order, made ready. The wicks were trimmed, the lights being out while they slept, fresh oil put in the dish, and lit again. A marriage ceremony in India is described by Ward (View of the Hindoos) in Trench’s Parables: “After waiting two or three hours, at length near midnight it was announced, as in the very words of Scripture, ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.’”

25:8 Are going out [sbennuntai]. Present middle indicative of linear action, not punctiliar or aoristic. When the five foolish virgins lit their lamps, they discovered the lack of oil. The sputtering, flickering, smoking wicks were a sad revelation. “And perhaps we are to understand that there is something in the coincidence of the lamps going out just as the Bridegroom arrived. Mere outward religion is found to have no illuminating power” (Plummer).

25:9 Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you [mēpote ou mē arkesei hēmŒn kai humŒn]. There is an elliptical construction here that is not easy of explanation. Some MSS. Aleph A L Z have [ouk] instead of [ou mē]. But even so [mē pote] has to be explained either by supplying an imperative like [ginesthō] or by a verb of fearing like [phoboumetha] (this most likely). Either [ouk] or [ou mē] would be proper with the futuristic subjunctive [arkesei] (Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 192; Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1161,1174). “We are afraid that there is no possibility of there being enough for us both.” This is a denial of oil by the wise virgins because there was not enough for both. “It was necessary to show that the foolish virgins could not have the consequences of their folly averted at the last moment” (Plummer). It is a courteous reply, but it is decisive. The compound Greek negatives are very expressive, [mēpote—ou mē].

25:10 And while they went away [aperchomenōn de autōn]. Present middle participle, genitive absolute, while they were going away, descriptive linear action. Picture of their inevitable folly. Was shut [ekleisthē]. Effective aorist passive indicative, shut to stay shut.

25:11 Afterward [husteron]. And find the door shut in their faces. Lord, Lord, open to us [Kurie, Kurie, anoixon hēmin]. They appeal to the bridegroom who is now master whether he is at the bride’s house or his own.

25:12 I know you not [ouk oida humās]. Hence there was no reason for special or unusual favours to be granted them. They must abide the consequences of their own negligence.

25:13 Watch therefore [grēgoreite oun]. This is the refrain with all the parables. Lack of foresight is inexcusable. Ignorance of the time of the second coming is not an excuse for neglect, but a reason for readiness. Every preacher goes up against this trait in human nature, putting off till another time what should be done today.

25:14 Going into another country [apodēmōn]. About to go away from one’s people [dēmos], on the point of going abroad. This word in ancient use in this sense. There is an ellipse here that has to be supplied, It is as when or The kingdom of heaven is as when. This Parable of the Talents is quite similar to the Parable of the Pounds in Lu 19:11-28, but they are not variations of the same story. Some scholars credit Jesus with very little versatility. His goods [ta huparchonta autou]. His belongings, neuter participle used as a substantive.

25:15 To one [hōi men, hōi de, hōi de]. Demonstrative [hos], not the relative. Neat Greek idiom. According to his several ability [kata tēn idian dunamin]. According to his own ability. Each had all that he was capable of handling. The use that one makes of his opportunities is the measure of his capacity for more. One talent represented a considerable amount of money at that time when a [denarius] was a day’s wage. See on 18:24 for the value of a talent.

25:16 Straightway [eutheōs]. Beginning of verse 16, not the end of verse 15. The business temper of this slave is shown by his promptness. With them [en autois]. Instrumental use of [en]. He worked [ērgasato], did business, traded with them. “The virgins wait, the servants work” (Vincent). Made [epoiēsen]. But Westcott and Hort read [ekerdēsen], gained, as in verse 17. [Kerdos] means interest. This gain was a hundred per cent.

25:19 Maketh a reckoning [sunairei logon]. As in 18:23. Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 117) gives two papyri quotations with this very business idiom and one Nubian ostracon with it. The ancient Greek writers do not show it.

25:21 The joy of thy lord [tēn charin tou kuriou sou]. The word [chara] or joy may refer to the feast on the master’s return. So in verse 23.

25:24 That had received the one talent [ho to talenton eilēphōs]. Note the perfect active participle to emphasize the fact that he still had it. In verse 20 we have [ho—labōn] (aorist active participle). I knew thee [egnōn se]. Second aorist active indicative. Experimental knowledge [ginōskō] and proleptical use of [se]. A hard man [sklēros]. Harsh, stern, rough man, worse than [austēros] in Lu 19:21, grasping and ungenerous. Where thou didst not scatter [hothen ou dieskorpisas]. But this scattering was the chaff from which wheat was winnowed, not the scattering of seed.

25:26 Thou wicked and slothful servant [ponēre doule kai oknēre]. From [ponos] (work, annoyance, disturbance, evil) and [okneō] (to be slow, “poky,” slothful). Westcott and Hort make a question out of this reply to the end of verse 26. It is sarcasm.

25:27 Thou oughtest therefore [edsi se oun]. His very words of excuse convict him. It was a necessity [edei] that he did not see. The bankers [tois trapezeitais]. The benchers, money-changers, brokers, who exchanged money for a fee and who paid interest on money. Word common in late Greek. I should have received back [egō ekomisamēn an]. Conclusion of a condition of the second class (determined as unfulfilled). The condition is not expressed, but it is implied. “If you had done that.” With interest [sun tokōi]. Not with “usury” in the sense of extortion or oppression. Usury only means “use” in itself. The word is from [tiktō], to bring forth. Compound interest at six per cent doubles the principal every twenty years. It is amazing how rapidly that piles up if one carries it on for centuries and millenniums. “In the early Roman Empire legal interest was eight per cent, but in usurious transactions it was lent at twelve, twenty-four, and even forty-eight” (Vincent). Such practices exist today in our cities. The Mosaic law did not allow interest in dealings between Hebrews, but only with strangers (De 23:19,20; Ps 15:5).

25:30 The unprofitable [ton achreion]. Useless [a] privative and [chreios], useful) and so unprofitable, injurious. Doing nothing is doing harm.

25:32 All the nations (panta ta ethnē). Not just Gentiles, but Jews also. Christians and non-Christians. This program for the general judgment has been challenged by some scholars who regard it as a composition by the evangelist to exalt Christ. But why should not Christ say this if he is the Son of Man and the Son of God and realized it? A “reduced” Christ has trouble with all the Gospels, not merely with the Fourth Gospel, and no less with Q and Mark than with Matthew and Luke. This is a majestic picture with which to close the series of parables about readiness for the second coming. Here is the program when he does come. “I am aware that doubt is thrown on this passage by some critics. But the doubt is most wanton. Where is the second brain that could have invented anything so original and so sublime as vv. 35-40,42-45?” (Sanday, Life of Christ in Recent Research, p. 128). As the shepherd separates [hōsper ho poimēn aphorizei]. A common figure in Palestine. The sheep are usually white and the goats black. There are kids [eriphōn, eriphia] which have grazed together. The goats devastate a field of all herbage. “Indeed they have extirpated many species of trees which once covered the hills” (Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, pp. 89f.). The shepherd stands at the gate and taps the sheep to go to the right and the goats to the left.

25:34 From the foundation of the world [apo katabolēs kosmou]. The eternal purpose of the Father for his elect in all the nations. The Son of Man in verse 31 is the King here seated on the throne in judgment.

25:36 Clothed me [periebalete me]. Second aorist middle indicative, cast something around me. Visited me [epeskepsasthe me]. Looked after, came to see. Our “visit” is from Latin viso, video. Cf. our English “go to see.”

25:40 Ye did it unto me [emoi epoiēsate]. Dative of personal interest. Christ identifies himself with the needy and the suffering. This conduct is proof of possession of love for Christ and likeness to him.

25:42 No meat [ouk edōkate moi phagein]. You did not give me anything to eat. The repetition of the negative [ou] in 42 and 43 is like the falling of clods on the coffin or the tomb. It is curious the surprise here shown both by the sheep and the goats. Some sheep will think that they are goats and some goats will think that they are sheep.

25:46 Eternal punishment [kolasin aiōnion]. The word [kolasin] comes from [kolazō], to mutilate or prune. Hence those who cling to the larger hope use this phrase to mean age-long pruning that ultimately leads to salvation of the goats, as disciplinary rather than penal. There is such a distinction as Aristotle pointed out between [mōria] (vengeance) and [kolasis]. But the same adjective [aiōnios] is used with [kolasin] and [zōēn]. If by etymology we limit the scope of [kolasin], we may likewise have only age-long [zōēn]. There is not the slightest indication in the words of Jesus here that the punishment is not coeval with the life. We can leave all this to the King himself who is the Judge. The difficulty to one’s mind about conditional chastisement is to think how a life of sin in hell can be changed into a life of love and obedience. The word [aiōnios] (from [aiōn], age, [aevum, aei] means either without beginning or without end or both. It comes as near to the idea of eternal as the Greek can put it in one word. It is a difficult idea to put into language. Sometimes we have “ages of ages” [aiōnes tōn aiōnōn].

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