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Monday, November 3, 2008

†  P E N T E C O S T † XXVI †

Lexegete™ | Year A | Matthew

November 9, 2008 (Lectionary 32)

Complementary Series

Amos 5:18-24 or Wisdom 6:12-16
Psalm 70 (5) or Wisdom 6:17-20 (17)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Semicontinuous Series

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 178:1-7 (4)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

1a. CONTEXT - Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Maidens is unique to Matthew. It occurs in
the last of his five teaching discourses, the discourse on Eschatological
Admonitions. It addresses the problem of the delay of the parousia. The
focus of the discourse is on practicing and keeping what has been
commanded by Jesus. The theme of dividing echoes 24:40-43, 45 and
25:21, 26. Other themes of the discourse included here are the coming of
the master and the theme of eschatological judgment, especially in light
of the delay in parousia. We are to wait in WATCHFULNESS and
PREPAREDNESS where the second is especially central to this parable

The genre of this pericope is debated. No longer can one simply say
that there is a clear distinction between a parable and an allegory. This
pericope has elements of both. It is a parable because it "upsets the
world" (Tilley, STORY THEOLOGY, p. 39), and an allegory because unless we
understand what the various parts meant to Matthew's audience, we cannot
appreciate its centrality to Matthew. (Donfried) With Ricoeru and
regardless of the genre, we must note that Jesus is not describing the
kingdom of God, he is merely saying what it is like. Furthermore, he is not
saying that it is like a bridal party; rather he is saying that it is like the
action in this story: a story which at once challenges and reimages the
world of the early church.

Mt. 7:13-27 and this pericope contain many common themes and
share the same conclusion. The rejection of the foolish is because they
have not adequately prepared, not that they have not prepared. If they had
had sufficient oil, then they would have done the will of the Father. Thus,
Christians are to continue faithful in all that they do even if the end is
delayed and even if some die before the parousia. (Donfried)

1b: TEXT: Matthew 25:1-13

ESV Bible:

25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps [1] and went to meet the bridegroom. [2] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

[1] 25:1 Or torches
[2] 25:1 Some manuscripts add and the bride

1τοτε ομοιωθησεται η βασιλεια των ουρανων δεκα παρθενοις, αιτινες λαβουσαι τας λαμπαδας εαυτων εξηλθον εις υπαντησιν του νυμφιου. 2πεντε δε εξ αυτων ησαν μωραι και πεντε φρονιμοι. 3αι γαρ μωραι λαβουσαι τας λαμπαδας αυτων ουκ ελαβον μεθ εαυτων ελαιον: 4αι δε φρονιμοι ελαβον ελαιον εν τοις αγγειοις μετα των λαμπαδων εαυτων. 5χρονιζοντος δε του νυμφιου ενυσταξαν πασαι και εκαθευδον. 6μεσης δε νυκτος κραυγη γεγονεν, ιδου ο νυμφιος, εξερχεσθε εις απαντησιν [αυτου. 7τοτε ηγερθησαν πασαι αι παρθενοι εκειναι και εκοσμησαν τας λαμπαδας εαυτων. 8αι δε μωραι ταις φρονιμοις ειπαν, δοτε ημιν εκ του ελαιου υμων, οτι αι λαμπαδες ημων σβεννυνται. 9απεκριθησαν δε αι φρονιμοι λεγουσαι, μηποτε ου μη αρκεση ημιν και υμιν: πορευεσθε μαλλον προς τους πωλουντας και αγορασατε εαυταις. 10απερχομενων δε αυτων αγορασαι ηλθεν ο νυμφιος, και αι ετοιμοι εισηλθον μετ αυτου εις τους γαμους, και εκλεισθη η θυρα. 11υστερον δε ερχονται και αι λοιπαι παρθενοι λεγουσαι, κυριε κυριε, ανοιξον ημιν. 12ο δε αποκριθεις ειπεν, αμην λεγω υμιν, ουκ οιδα υμας. 13γρηγορειτε ουν, οτι ουκ οιδατε την ημεραν ουδε την ωραν.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 25:1-13

Matt. 25:1 - The type of lampas is debated with Jeremias TDNT stipulating
that it is a storm lantern. The nymphios is generally assumed to be the
Messiah despite the absence of OT or Rabbinical parallels. There are
however Pauline parallels for the understanding of Christ as the
Bridegroom. Exactly what happened this evening is muddled in the story.
The bridegroom customarily went to the bride's home and brought her to
the feast at his home. Presumable the maidens/virgins were friends of
the bride who joined in in this procession. It is not necessary to
understand the local custom to grasp the meaning. No significance should
be drawn from the departure from custom.

25:2,3 - The distinction is clear from the start. Some are moros and some
are phronimos. The oil here will stand for keeping the customs passed on
by Jesus (cf. Donfried for argument) standing parallel to the "fruits which
befit repentence." Those with insufficient oil stand for those who have
not taken their Christianity seriously.

25:5 - chronizo - refers to the delay in the parousia and katheydo is a
euphemism for dying. We know from the Epistles that this is a concern for
the early church.

25:7 - Elsewhere in the portions unique to Matthew egeirw means to be
resurrected. Given the interpretation of sleep as death what Matthew here
refers to is the resurrection of the elect.

25:10 - On the exchatological day the thura will be closed (Mt. 7:13f.,
24:33). Judgment must be taken seriously, no cheap grace in this passage.

25:11 - kyrie kyrie (cf. 7:22) - It is not enough to know the name of the
Lord; one must live a life which reveals that knowledge. As the foolish
virgins reveal, no on else can live it for you.

25:12 - amen lego humin, ouk oida humas. (cf. 7:23) - To hear this parable
is to know that one's life is taken seriously.


The lectionary is focussed on anticipation of the Feast of Christ the
King. Most Americans are strong proponents of individual right,
self-determination, and free-will. This pericope embraces these concepts.
The preacher must however be careful in the use of this passage to not
preach works righteousness. Rather, the path is simply that, a path, and it
is one's direction on the path which matters. Unlike most popular
philosophy, our choices in theology are two. We can either be for God, or
against God, there is no, "I don't know what I believe," middle ground.

One can illustrate this passage with an appeal to siphoning gas out
of the gas tank. Unless I have a locking gas cap, my tank is open and
unguarded almost all of the time, and the thief can expect to get away
uncaught, if not undetected. Many of us look at sin the same way. But this
pericope denies this possibility. We are not only detected, the virgins ran
out of oil; we are caught, the door was closed. This text expects a sermon
on conversion in which we become aware of the implications of our
actions. The placement of this text with Amos 5:18-24 cries out for this
interpretation. The parallels between our time and his are fertile ground
for drawing out challenges. But the preacher must be aware that Amos
was with the people in the problem, not above them in a pulpit. We are one
of the maidens and not the bride.


Donfried, K.P. "The Allegory of the 10 Virgins as a Summary of Matthean
Theology," JBL 93(1974), pp. 415-428.

Jeremias, J. "nymphh, nymphios," in TDNT. Grand Rapids, MI. Vol.
IV1099-1105, 1967.
__________. THE PARABLES OF JESUS. New York: Scribner, 1972.

Ricoeur, P. "Kingdom," in THE PARABLES OF JESUS. ATR. 63(1981), pp.

Tilley, T.W. STORY THEOLOGY. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1985.


SLEEPERS, WAKE! is the obvious choice for this day (The Hymnal 1982,


If one accents the call for ethical behavior, then FATHER ETERNAL, RULER
OF CREATION supports the thrust (The Hymnal 1982 #573).


(The Hymnal 1982, #589) is appropriate in light of the lesson from Amos.

Exegete: Peter R. Powell, Jr.

For biography, see:




Dartmouth,MA 02747-1925


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