§ 81. Speech of Jesus about the last things

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 81.

Speech of Jesus about the last things.

Matth Ch. 24. 25.

1. Introduction.

In a gospel where Jesus spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and his return as two related events (Matthew 23:38-39), it seems quite strange when, immediately after Jesus again mentions the destruction of Jerusalem, the disciples ask him when it will happen. Similarly, it is strange for the same question to be asked in another gospel (Luke 21:7), where there has already been a detailed discussion of Jesus’ return and its timing (Luke 17:22-37). Since a clear sign of the Messiah’s return was also discussed earlier in Luke, it is a new contradiction for the disciples to ask again about the sign of the end times and fulfillment. The contradiction is heightened in another way when Matthew has the disciples ask: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
These are already dogmatic expressions that arise only when the view they represent has developed to the point that the word finally finds a conventional way to remind everyone who hears it of everything related to that view. And yet, in both Matthew’s and Luke’s scriptures, Jesus’ statement that his return is rather the sign of the end times appears as something new and unexpected. In short, Luke and Matthew were not right to share speeches that undermine the character of the new and unexpected content of the latter, before conveying the speech about the end times to Mark.

*) Luk 21,7: πότε ούν ταύτα έσται; και τι το σημείον, όταν μέλλη ταύτα γίνεσθαι.

**) Matth 24, 3: και τί το σημείον της σής παρουσίας και της συντελείας του αιώνος.


Jesus was teaching in the temple when he raised the question about the Messiah being called the son of David and gave the speech about the scribes. After this speech he sat down opposite the treasury, saw how the people threw money into it, how the rich sacrificed much, and praised the widow who threw two farthings into it! As he left the temple, one of the disciples drew his attention to the mighty building of the temple. Jesus answered that not one stone of this building would be left upon another, and when he had sat down on the Mount of Olives in view of the temple – the appropriate scene for the following speech – the four most respected disciples, Peter, Jacob, John and Andrew, asked him apart from the others when this would happen and what the sign was that all this would be accomplished *).

*) Mark 13, 4: είπε ημίν, πότε ταύτα έσται; και τί το σημείον, οταν μέλλη πάντα ταύτα συντελείσθαι και


Matthew had no more space for the little picture of the widow after his speech against the Pharisees had been excessively extended. Besides, he wanted to immediately connect the speech about the last things with the last sentence of the speech against the hypocrites, which also talks about the destruction of Jerusalem and the return of Jesus. Therefore, he immediately jumps to the note that Jesus left the temple when one of his disciples – he says the disciples in general did it – drew his attention to the buildings of the temple, and Jesus prophesied their destruction. However, he forgot to write down the note to Mark (Chapter 12, Verse 35) that Jesus was last in the temple. Later, he does mention that Jesus sat down on the Mount of Olives, but he fails to note that it happened in view of the temple. And when he says “the disciples” asked him “privately,” he has copied a keyword from Mark and made it meaningless, as he no longer has a contrast to explain the meaning of “privately.”

Luke has also treated the matter very carelessly and copied it. He damaged the frame for the little picture of the widow – he does not say that Jesus was sitting opposite the treasury and saw the crowd throwing their gifts into it – he does not say that Jesus had occasion to speak about the destruction of the temple when he left it, and he also does not mention that the revelation about the last things happened on the Mount of Olives. He has copied it very carelessly: he does not even mention the disciples, only saying that some people, not focusing on what was relevant here and to which Jesus’ answer, “not one stone upon another,” also refers, drew attention to the mighty structure of the temple, not its decoration, “the beautiful stones and the offerings.”


The fourth [Evangelist]—this is important for the decision about the story of the adulteress—has learned from Luke and Mark that Jesus once gave a speech himself in “God’s treasury”!! *)

*) John 8, 20, ταύτα ελάλησεν εν τω γαζοφυλακίω, διδάσκων εν τω ιερω.
Mark 12, 35, διδάσκων εν τω ιερώ; V. 41, καθίσας κατέναντι του γαζοφυλακίου.
John 8, 2 [corrected from 3], καθίσας


2. The context of the speech.

The task of criticism with regard to the speech about the last things is greatly complicated by the nature of the three relationships in which we read it. If we want to know the general structure of the speech, we must first have anatomized the individual parts, and yet we cannot truly understand them in their correct or crippled organism if we have not already gained a view of the overall organism. We could perhaps help ourselves by first focusing our attention on the structure of the whole, without neglecting the examination of the individual parts, and then examining the details more closely without giving up the view of the whole – but what about the three different relationships! This zigzag of jumping back and forth, the interest in the question of when this speech, when each individual relationship of it was created, and also the prejudices that are rooted in the previous critical consideration of this speech!

We dare to do this in the following way, by first leaving aside the final passage, where Jesus addresses the disciples again with the parable of the fig tree and exhorts them to watchfulness.


a. The account of Matthew.

Matth. 24, 4 – 31.

Behold. There will come many who will pretend to be the Christ, and they will deceive many. You will hear rumours of war. Take heed that ye be not troubled. For all things must come to pass, but it is not yet the end. For nation shall rise against nation. There will be famine, pestilence and earthquakes here and there. All these are the beginning of the travail. (V. 4-8.)

“Then” – afterwards or at the same time? the progress is not made clear – you “will” be delivered up to tribulation and death. Dead? Then the whole of the following explanation, the following instruction as to how they should behave, is highly superfluous! And what is the tribulation they will suffer? It is not said! You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake! How will they come into contact with the nations? It is not said. Many will be united and will betray and hate one another. Love will grow cold, lawlessness will take over. Many false prophets will arise! Why false prophets again? The deceivers have already been mentioned above! He who endures to the end will be blessed! And the Gospel must be proclaimed throughout the whole earth to all nations! And then comes the end! But why are these two things connected? Do the disciples have nothing to do with this proclamation? It is not said! (V. 9-14.)

When you see the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place, then it is high time to flee. But why “therefore”? Has this abomination and the fact that it will stand in the holy place been spoken of before? No! Or since it was said immediately before: “then comes the end”, is this rising of the abomination the end? No! For in what follows it is explained that this appearance of the abomination is only the increase of the misery, and only after this misery shall the end come with the coming of the Son of Man”! So there is no connection! “Then comes the end! “is said too early in v. 14. So escape is urgently necessary, and it is fortunate if one can escape comfortably. The distress will be as great as it has never been and will never be again. There follows another warning against false messiahs and false prophets. Why this warning three times? Then follows the description of the coming of the Son of Man – although it is a warning, so that no one will be deceived by the false Messiahs – but the description immediately ceases to be a parenthetical one, it even wants to be an inner link in the progress of the context, when with the words: “for where the carrion is, the eagles gather” it is explained that this coming is necessarily demanded and can certainly be expected, if all conditions for it are fulfilled. (V. 15 – 28.)


Only after the distress of those days will the sign of the Son of Man be seen and he himself will appear to hold judgment (V. 29-31). So how can his arrival be announced beforehand, when his sign is only now being given? And furthermore, why give the condition for the arrival of the Son of Man – “where the carcass is, there the vultures will gather” – if the condition on which the disciples should take notice was already given beforehand?

Matthew has confused the matter to the highest degree. Luke has done no better.

b. Luke’s account.

21, 8 -28.

Beware and be not deceived! Many are coming in my name, saying, I am! “And the time has come!” Why this remark? It goes without saying that Jesus wants to describe the future in which the crisis will occur. What is the point of this remark, then, if it is only to say that this is the beginning of the development of the catastrophe? But is that all it wants to say? It is disturbing and clumsy when the main thing, the arrival of the Son of Man, takes place only after several preludes. “But when you hear of wars and upheavals, do not be afraid. For this must happen first, but it is not yet the end. “(V. 8. 9.) Why not the end? Luke is silent and does not say that this is the beginning of the travail.


“Then said Jesus unto them,” he continues, “one nation shall rise up against another, and there shall be great earthquakes, and famines, and pestilences, and great terrors and signs shall appear in heaven.” (V. 10. 11.) But why here, when a great discourse is to be communicated, this interruption by the formula: then said etc. ? May the notice that people will rise against people be separated from the preceding warning not to be afraid because of the rumours of war? When it is added to that warning: “for this must happen first” – must not then, for the sake of emphasis, be followed immediately by the assurance: “for one nation will rise against another”? And what is the purpose of the signs and terrifying images in the sky, since now and in the following only the confusion on earth is described and is to be described? Only at the end, when the Son of Man is to appear, are the signs in the sky in their place; Luke also mentions them again at the end (v. 25-27), so he has placed them here much too early.

Therefore, because he has mentioned the heavenly signs at the wrong time, he must now, if he wants to describe the persecutions which the apostles will have to endure, take a new approach or rather jump backwards and let the Lord say: “But before all this (v. 12) they will lay their hands on you”, and it does not even help him to turn back in this way. For who will lay hands on them? Shall it happen before the nations and kingdoms rise up against each other and the Apostles are drawn into the turmoil of the general tumult? But it is only in this turmoil that it is possible, as Luke himself adds later, for the disciples to be led before kings and princes. It is not too much to ask if we think that for orientation and so that we can reflect in the confusion of this tumult, the necessity must be stated why the disciples must endure these sufferings; if Luke therefore merely adds the remark: But it will be a testimony to you (v. 13)”, this is not only too little, this suggestion of a success brought about by chance is not only very weak, but we can also be sure that Luke has overlooked how the sufferings of the disciples must rather serve as a testimony to the nations, princes and kings. After the remark that the disciples should not worry about how they could answer for themselves, for he, Jesus, would give them mouth and wisdom, they are still informed that they would be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends: too much! For it was already said above that they would be handed over; too late! For in the meantime many other things have come in between; too crowded! When parents, brothers, etc. are mentioned, it is rather to be expected that a general war of all against all is to be described. That the remark, “and not a hair of your head shall perish,” is a later insertion, we will assume to the honour of Luke, and thus admit to Wilke; the oversight would be very great indeed, since it was just said that some of them would be killed. (V. 12-19.)


But when you see Jerusalem besieged – it says in the place where this “when you see” occurs in Matthew – then – we should expect what follows later, may one only flee, no! then – know that her desolation has come. As if this were such a difficult conclusion that Jesus had to impress it on the disciples beforehand. By this alone is this mention of Jerusalem judged. Then follows the reminder that the flight can no longer be postponed – as if this reminder were necessary! – For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people: thus Jerusalem, the Jewish people, form the centre of interest here. They shall fall by the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem shall lie trodden down with the nations, until the time be ready. Now follows the indication of the signs that will appear, the description of the fear that will seize all nations when the Son of Man comes – i.e., the fear that will be felt by all nations when the Son of Man comes. Luke does not say that after the distress which the disciples will suffer during the general warfare of all nations, and after the distress which will follow the desolation, the signs will appear in the sky announcing the coming of the Messiah, for he has already given a time when he says that Jerusalem will lie desolate until the time of the nations also comes; But he has not clearly stated this information, because it is supplemented and more closely determined for his person from another scripture, and he thinks that what he knows and darkly implies, every one of his readers would also know. (V. 20 – 27.)


When it is further said: “When all these things begin, lift up your heads on high, for your deliverance draws near! “(v. 28), and when only v. 29, after the interjection : And when, in v. 29, after the interjection “He spoke a parable to them” (v. 29), the disciples are admonished to watch for the signs of the times, there is no mistaking the overflow; the first admonition is Luke’s later addition, and it is he who, with his usual formula, has introduced the original admonition, thus interrupting the connection of the discourse very untimely.

If we now remove all the contradictions caused by the negligence of the two compilers or their late tendencies, if we give each member its true expansion by separating out the later insertions or by restoring to their true development the sentences that are constricted, often even stifled, by these insertions, we have again the original account that we read in the writing of Mark.


c. The Original Account.

Mark 13, 5 -27.

First the disciples are warned not to be deceived by false Messiahs and to be frightened by rumours of war; “for this must come to pass, but it is not yet the end; for nations shall rise against nations, etc.”. This is the beginning of the travail! ” (V. 5 – 9.)

They should only take care of themselves. For it will also come to them. They will be handed over to the synagogues and so on. They will stand before princes and kings “for a testimony unto them, and the gospel must first be preached among all nations. “But they shall not take care what they shall say then; they shall be given what they shall say, etc. General betrayal and warfare of the relatives against one another. He who endures to the end will be saved. (V. 9 -13.)

But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not stand, then it is the last time to flee. For in these days there will be a distress such as has never been and will not be again. God has shortened these days for the sake of the elect (vv. 14-20).

But in those days, after that trouble, the heavenly signs will appear, the Son of Man will be seen coming, and He will gather His elect through His angels (vv. 24-27).

These are four parts which are really connected and each of which has the right relationship to the other.

Luke has confused them all: he divided the first in half and already included the signs of the fourth in the second half. He had to force the transition to the second part, precisely because of those signs, and he poorly and uncertainly developed that part because he had already led the disciples to powers and authorities and had caused divisions among close relatives in the previous section (referring to Luke 12:11-12, 12:52-53). He made the third and fourth parts connected by forcefully inserting references to Jerusalem.


Matthew has dislocated and amputated the second member so much because he had already copied the saying about the apostles’ responsibility before the temporal authorities and about the war between the relatives from Mark above (C. 10, 17-22) and now only throws lost key words of the original relationship through each other in a colourful way in order not to let everything perish. In order to fill the gap to some extent, he forms the saying (v. 12): because lawlessness is rampant, the love of the many will grow cold *).

*) After the pattern of Jer. 7, 28: ἐξέλιπεν ἡ πίστις. Ps. 12, 1: εκλέλοιπεν ο όσιος, ώλιγώθησαν αι αλήθειαι των υιών των ανθρώπεν verse 2 of the same Psalm.

Matthew has unhappily changed the transition to the third member: when you see “thus”. It was Matthew who first added to the abomination of desolation “spoken of through Daniel the prophet”, Matthew emphasised the reference to Daniel’s prophecy more strongly when he said: “stand in the holy place,” Matthew then added the admonition: “Let him who reads it take heed! “(v. 15.) The later copyist, who inserted the same formulas into the writing of Mark (C. 13, 14), did not consider, as Wilke rightly remarks **), that Mark does not cite the Old Testament views crudely, but works them freely and sets them in flow with the body of his work.

**) p. 262.

Then one is to flee when one sees the abomination of desolation: “but pray, says Mark at the close of this exhortation, that your flight be not during the winter,” “nor also, adds Matthew v. 20, on the Sabbath.” How appropriate! The flight is not agreed upon in one day, but requires several days, so the winter, which has a longer duration, can be called an unfavourable time. Or should we think of the moment when the flight begins, well, then, if the Sabbath were really an insurmountable obstacle, it would be time to flee beforehand, since the appearance of the abomination of desolation is the warning sign that the distress will reach its peak. Matthew, however, only wanted to prove to us what he has already proved far too often, much to our chagrin, that it is precisely those who come later who use the circumstances of earlier times as categories and, if they are as clumsy as Matthew, use them very inappropriately.


Luke omitted the thought that the days of the need of the elect would be shortened (Mark 13, 20), because his diatribe about the fate of Jerusalem occupied him too much, and on the contrary, he put the matter very vaguely, when he says that Jemsalem would be trampled underfoot by the people, “until their time also shall be fulfilled. “In return, he has not worked out very clearly the thought which he has suppressed here, namely, not with a clear lind carried out relation to the last future (C. 18, 1-8).

The warning against false prophets and Messiahs, which follows in Mark (C. 13, 21 – 23) and is even more extensive in Matthew (C. 24, 23-26), has the more definite trait that the false Messiahs would live in the wilderness and in chambers and would try to lure people there – we do not read this warning in Luke’s speech and it is only a later insertion in the writing of Mark, as Wilke has correctly noted. Mark has settled the matter of the false Messiahs in the beginning of the speech, and he is not the man who is so easily guilty of tautologies. Luke, on his own hand, made a variation on the speech of Jesus about the last things in that monstrous travelogue and also introduced this variation with a warning against the false Messiahs (C. 17, 22 – 24), Matthew inserted this passage here so incongruously, elaborated it even further and, since it is once in the course, also the comparison that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the sudden and all-illuminating shining of lightning, and finally even the conclusion of that earlier speech of Luke – where the carrion is, the eagles gather (Luke 17, 37) – is immediately added (C. 24, 23-28): this is where the unbelievable confusion comes from, which we have already characterised as such above *).

*) Luke had already used the image of the lightning earlier: Jesus says: he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (C. 10, 18. Cf. Is. 14, 12: πώς εξέπεσεν εκ του ουρανού και έωςφόρος). It is he who first used the same for the appearance of the Messiah. He took the saying about the eagles from Hab. 1, 8. Job 39, 30.


We only note that Matthew first speaks of a sign of the Son of Man, which will then appear when those signs are seen in heaven – as if these heavenly signs were not the last sign of the imminent coming of the Messiah! – We note only briefly that Matthew will know very little to answer the curious people who want to ask him what this sign consists of and how it relates to the preceding heavenly signs and then to the actual appearance of the Messiah – after all, his mention of this sign is only a reworking of the saying about the lightning, which he had just copied from Luke – we note just as briefly that Matthew used Luke’s note of the fear of the people at that time as a signpost to that saying of Zechariah that the tribes will lament **); we note at last that we have the decision on the question suggested by Wilke, whether the repeated mention of the false prophets (C. 24, 11. 24) already originated with Matthew or only with a late Glossator, we gladly leave, although we believe Matthew to be capable of everything and have come to know him as the master of incoherent exposition, to a time to decide which has less important and urgent things to deal with than ours, and now, after all these miserable drudgeries which the confusion of secondary relations had loaded from our throats, we pass on to the explanation of the primordial account.

**) Zacharias speaks of πασαι αι φυλαι, namely of Israel, and says of them κοψονται, C. 12, 10 – 14. Matth. 24, 30 has made it: κόψονται πάσαι αι φυλαί της γης.


3. The Resolution of the Original Account.

When the mystery of the origin of the Synoptic Gospels is solved, the question of the origin and meaning of the discourse on the coming of the Son of Man has not only received its proper form, but also its solution. The question is not only whether Luke, by virtue of his late experience, was able to confuse the original relation by the forcible mention of the destroyed Jerusalem, but rather, now that we have been freed from all groundless transcendence and are in a position to speak rationally and intelligently,
we must ask whether Mark’s speech looks as if it were written before the destruction of Jerusalem. Do we still consider answering the question with a decisive “No”? How? The speech is prompted by the fact that Jesus’ attention is drawn to the greatness and power of the temple building, he declares that not one stone of it will be left out of another, he sits down on the Mount of Olives in the face of the temple to speak of the last things and his Second Coming, and yet in the speech itself Jerusalem is not mentioned? Why is the temple, the holy city, the Jewish state not remembered? Because all this had long since come to an end! Because everything that was necessary had been agreed in the entrance when Jesus said: “Not one stone will be left upon another! An evangelist who wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem would have taken quite a different view of the temple, of Jerusalem, of the Jewish people. In that preliminary utterance of Jesus, Mark did enough to satisfy his interest, which demanded that the Lord had prophesied the destruction of the temple, now long past; now, however, in the speech proper, he describes the catastrophe – well, which one? – the one prophesied by the prophets, whose image he only gives more support by the force of the Christian principle *) and for whose representation he uses more limited empirical circumstances – such as those in Judea may flee to the mountains! – were used as illustrations or processed into categories. Those Jewish magicians who appeared as prophets and promised to redeem their people **) have become such a category; the desecration and destruction of the temple has also already become such a category – as a sign of the last crisis – hence that cautious and general expression “standing where it must not stand”, which Luke and Matthew no longer knew how to appreciate – and under the influence of this category is also formed the circumstance that Jesus held this speech in the face of the temple.

*) Just to remind you of a few things! That the messengers of salvation will be placed before kings, but will also stand before the highest worldly court, Mark learned from Ps. 119, 46: ελάλουν εν τοις μαρτυρίοις σου εναντίον βασιλεων και ουκ ηοχυνομην. That the people of Judea flee to the mountains Ezekiel 7, 16 taught him. To Mark 13, 15. 16 compare further : Jer. 6, 25: μη εκπορεύεσθε εις αγρών και εν ταις οδούς μη βαδίζετε, ότι δομφαία των εχθρών παροικεί κύκλωθεν; the latter provision Mark has not used, e, because he does not want to bring out the empirical conditions in their seriousness, rather he is far beyond them. Luke 21, 28 – Is. 51, 6. the signs of heaven find described Is. 31, 10. the eternity of the word of Jesus – Is. 51, 6. Is. 40, 8. Ps. 119, 89.

**) Compare Joseph. bell, Jud. Lib. VII, XI, 1. II, XIII, 5.


Mark has forestalled all dangerous questions about the length of the crisis by appealing to the divine reckoning of time and, moreover, he rejects them completely with the remark that one cannot know how soon the crisis will be resolved and with the admonition that one should rather pray and watch, since the hour could strike at any moment.


4. Exhortation to vigilance.

Mark I3, 28 -37.

But in the same generation, Mark thinks, in which he lives and writes, the crisis would come. Just as one can see from the transformation of the fig tree that summer is near, so also the disciples, when they see all this happening – so now it has not yet happened – should be certain that the end is near. But this generation would not pass until all things were done. Let this be as certain as the word of the Lord is steadfast and grounded. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not even the angels which are in heaven, save the Father. Watch and pray! You do not know when the time is. It is just as when a householder goes away and leaves his house, and gives his power to his servants, and tells each one his business, and the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore! Ye know not when the master of the house cometh, lest, when he cometh suddenly, he find you asleep. But what I say unto you, Jesus must say at the end, lest Mark betray the late age in which he wrote this discourse, I say unto all: Watch!

If patience were absolutely and in all cases necessary, then we have violated such a law by immediately setting our eyes on the original report and not working our way to it through Matthew’s confused account. But if we have violated one law, we can now all the more easily obey the one which requires brevity of us. We therefore only briefly note that this section of the speech of Mark is not only simple, clear and coherent, but also has a suitable conclusion and is in proper proportion to the form and extent of the preceding sections; of Luke’s revision of the passage we only note that he left the first half of it (Luk. 21, 29-33) intact, at least in terms of its limb structure, but that he reworked the second half into a very sluggish sermon on watchfulness, omitting the parable of the householder, deleting the remark that this applies to all, and in the middle between the two halves omitting the saying that no one knows the hour (vv. 34-36). We now proceed immediately to Matthew, and since we can no longer be alienated by the mass of repetitions and disturbing, at least progress-disturbing episodes in his work, since we can expect such a mass and torrent from the outset, we immediately set to work to explain how Matthew again arrived at such a superfluous accumulation of material.


The first section – the parable of the fig tree, the remark that everything will certainly be expected in this generation, but that no one except the Father, not even the angels – “not even the Son” in Mark’s scripture is a late interpolation – will know anything about the hour and day (Matthew 24:32-36): all of this is faithfully copied from Mark. However, when it says further: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the coming of the Son of Man,” and this comparison is further developed on the side of the image (v. 37-39), it is firstly disturbing that it is not further developed on the side of the matter, and disturbing that it is only later remarked: “You do not know when your Lord is coming” (v. 42), and the confusion reaches its highest point when the thought that then things will go miraculously and one will be accepted while the other is abandoned, which is not directly connected with either of the two remarks (v. 40-41), is developed in the middle. Matthew enriched and confused Mark’s speech by adding sayings from that variation which Luke composed using some of the same motifs, but in a different place. Luke, who also created the saying about the days of Lot, borrowed the saying about the days of Noah and the two people, one accepted and the other rejected (Luke 17:26-30, 34-36). (For the latter saying, compare Amos 4:7.)


Watch, Matthew continues, since you do not know at what hour your Lord is coming. Your Lord! Since the disciples, as servants of the Lord, are to be exhorted to watchfulness, how does the following parable of the householder, who would have watched if he had known when the thief was coming, fit in? It does not fit. Then comes a parable of the faithful servant, who is praised for his good fortune, because in the absence of his lord he obediently carried out his lord’s orders: But when that worthless servant says to himself, “The Lord will not come for a long time,” i.e. when in this way the transition is made to the counterpart, to the parable of the worthless servant, the confusion is delicious, for not a word had been said before about “that” servant. (Matth. 24, 42 – 51). But the matter does have meaning and context in Luke’s writing, which Matthew has so deliciously copied this time. Jesus had just spoken about his return and exhorted his followers to be watchful through a parable. Then Peter asked (that is, Luke is now processing the conclusion of Mark’s speech): “Lord, are you telling this parable to us or to everyone?” Jesus responds with the parable of the servant who faithfully carries out his master’s orders. Luke continues by describing the fate of the same servant based on his behavior; if that servant says in his heart, “My master is taking a long time to come,” he is given a different fate. But Matthew keeps the transition: “But if that servant” and makes him a servant whose fate is decided from the beginning, so he cannot explain how “that wicked servant” suddenly appears. (Luke 12:41-46.) In the speech about the last things, Luke leaves out the parable of the householder and the servant, and uses it to create the parable of the faithful or worthless servant. He adds the image of the householder and the thief (v. 39-40), and to keep the keyword “night watch” from being lost, he also creates another parable about the servants who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast. And what about Matthew? Because the Lord begins this parable with the exhortation, “Let your lamps be burning” (Luke 12:35-38), Matthew turns it into the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, by adding the contrast of the third parable (v. 42-46) to the situation and keywords of the first parable of Luke (v. 35-36).


5. The foolish and the wise virgins. 

Matth. 25, 1 -13.

Instead of dwelling on the remark that the exhortation to watchfulness had already extended far beyond all measure before the parable of the virgins, so that now the last thought of a measure is mocked by the new addition, we would rather draw attention to the fact that Matthew has not been able to fully process Luke’s parable, which he now wants to use for a new one.

It is usually assumed, or rather it is the generally prevailing explanation, that the virgins are the bridesmaids. But where is it heard that bridesmaids catch up with the bridegroom? Rather, he and his friends catch up with the bride. Is being clever or foolish of such extraordinary importance for the bridesmaids? We would think only for the bride; for her alone is it important to receive the bridegroom at the right time, and for her alone is the call: the bridegroom is coming! as all-important as it is assumed in the parable. Finally, how can bridesmaids so urgently, as the five in the parable do, demand to be admitted to the bridegroom, and what do the bridegroom’s words mean: I do not know you! if they are to be spoken to bridesmaids?

So nothing about bridesmaids! The bridegroom’s relationship to the bride is the basis of the collision of the parable. But does the bridegroom only come to the bride in the night to celebrate the wedding? And ten brides? Matthew has done nothing right in this parable. Instead of behaving like bridesmaids, the ten virgins behave like brides, and brides they are not, since, not to mention their number, they are treated like maids and servants by the Lord when he demands that they receive him with lamps on his nightly arrival. We have already explained the confusion when we said that the key words of Luke’s parable of the servants, “lamp, wedding, arrival of the Lord, late night”, ran together in Matthew’s mind, but did not unite into a sensible whole. Where he got the ten virgins from, he tells us himself when he immediately follows with the parable of the talents and suppresses Luke’s note that there were ten servants whom the Lord used for money transactions.


6. The talents.

Luke 19, 1,-28. Matth. 25, 14-39.

The king of Luke, on his departure, gives ten servants each a mina. When he returns, he calls them before him; the first, who gives account, has made ten minae, the second five, the third has kept his mina in the sweat cloth, and must now, while the other two are set over as many cities as they have gained minae, give his to him who has ten minae: for to every one that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

In the end, where things become serious, Luke only allows three servants to appear – at the beginning, he mentions ten servants to create the contrast that the first one who comes out later has earned as much with his share as all of them had received at the beginning together. Therefore, Matthew thought he could suppress the number ten and use it differently, and to completely suppress it, he only uses the more specific numbers of Luke to the extent that he entrusts five talents to one of the three, two to the second, and only one to the last. He could not give each of them only one and the same amount, as he no longer had that contrast at the beginning, so he gives them different sums of money, and then has to let the first win five talents, the second two talents, while the last buries his in the ground. He has thus given the parable a new turn, making the difference in earnings a difference in initial endowment from the outset, without, however, giving this new turn any particular support, since he only follows Luke’s one moral, that to those who have, more will be given, and vice versa. The determination that each would be given according to their particular ability (v. 15) had only unconsciously forced him into it, due to his preferred structure of the entire narrative.


By the way, he has made the matter more abstract. The Lord is not a king, but, in order to be like the Lord of Mark (Mark 13, 34), only a man who travels. He therefore does not let the talented servants be set over cities, but enter into the joy of the Lord, and the talentless servant he sends to that place which he has learned to know from Luke (Luke 13, 28) and to which – again according to his abstract manner – he so often sends inhabitants, the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke has added a second interest to the parable, that the king returns because his citizens proclaim obedience to him by a message, and afterwards, when he had given an account to his servants, executes the disobedient subjects. Matthew was not able to make this move this time, and he made it much more inappropriate than Luke in this, or rather in that other parable of the wedding, and turned it into a formal war campaign against the rebels.

Matthew very wrongly believed himself justified in placing it here by the already unfortunate superscription which Luke gave to the parable, for even if Luke says that Jesus found himself moved to recite this parable in order to refute the opinion that the kingdom of God would be revealed immediately and not only after much labour, even Matthew did not dare to insert into the parable the remark that the Lord suddenly returned home – or he forgot it.

But with forethought he did not set the servants, who (v. 21, cf. Luke 16:10) were to be faithfully set over many things in small things, over so many cities as they had acquired talents, as Luke did, but “entered into the joy of the Lord,” because he has in mind the conclusion of the discourse, which describes the judgment and speaks of the sheep entering into the kingdom prepared for them, and of the goats being condemned to eternal punishment.


7. The sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left.

Matth. 25, 31-46.

If one would have asked Matthew how the present account of the judgment related to the one given above (C. 24, 31), he would have been very surprised, for he had long since forgotten it, when he now thought it fitting that the long discourse should finally end with an account of the judgment. Luke had encouraged him in this thought when he concluded his discourse on the last things with the exhortation that the disciples should make themselves worthy of being “brought before the Son of Man” (Luk 21:36). Matthew specifies that when the Son of Man (Mark 8, 38) comes in His glory, all nations will be brought “before Him” and when they are sorted out, the sheep will be placed at His right hand and the goats at His left. To this separation between sheep and goats the prophet Ezekiel had brought him (Ezek. 34, 17). The blessed of the Lord have done what the prophets Isaiah 58:7 and Ezekiel 18:7 commanded, and if in their righteous modesty they cannot find their way into their immense praise, the Lord reminds them of what He once said to the tongues, that the good that is done to the least of His brethren is done to Himself. Finally, the Lord thunders at the wicked on the left with the same words with which he had threatened earlier and which the righteous man of the O.T. had already called out to the wicked: “Depart from me, you wicked, you cursed! *)

*) Matth. 25, 41; πορευεσθε απ εμου οι κατηραμενοι (contrast ευλογημένοι v. 34).
Matth. 7, 23: αποχωρείτε απ’ εμού οι εργαζόμενοι την ανομίαν.
Ps. 119, 115: έκκλίνατε απ’ εμού πονηρευόμενοι.



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Neil Godfrey

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