« PreviousContinue »
the last and greatest of the line of its prophets and teachers than as the founder of a new kingdom. In that, a parable of the law, God appears demanding something from men; in this, a parable of grace, God appears more as giving something to them. There he is displeased that his demands are not complied with, here that his goodness is not accepted; there he requires, here he imparts. And thus, as we so often find, the two mutually complete one another; this taking up the matter where the other left it.” 1 purpose in both parables was to make conspicuous the shameful character and conduct of those who were under great obligation to show all possible respect and loyalty. The conduct of the husbandmen was atrocious in the extreme; but it may be said that a claim of rent was demanded of them, and there was some supposable motive to treat the messengers of the owner of the vineyard with disrespect. Not so, however, with those bidden to the royal marriage feast. That guests, honoured by an invitation from the king to attend the marriage of his son, should have treated such in. vitation with wilful refusal and contempt, and even have gone to the extreme of abusing the royal servants who came to bid them to the marriage, and of putting some to death, seems hardly conceivable. But this very feature which seems so improbable in itself is a prominent part of the parable, and designed to set in the most odious light the conduct of those chief priests and Pharisees who were treating the Son of God with open contempt, and would fain have put him to death. Such ingratitude and disloyalty deserved no less a punishment than the sending forth of armies to destroy the murderers and to burn their city (verse 7).
When now we compare the parable of the marriage of the king's Parables of Mar- son with that of the great supper (Luke xiv, 16) we riage of King's find they both agree (1) in having a festival as the Supper com basis of their imagery, (2) in that invitations were sent pared.
to persons already bidden, (3) in the disrespect shown by those bidden, and (4) the calling in of the poor and neglected from the streets and highways. But they differ in the following particulars: The parable of the great supper was spoken at an earlier period of our Lord's ministry, when the opposition of chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees was as yet not violent. uttered in the house of a Pharisee whither he had been invited to eat bread (verses 1, 12), and where there appeared in his presence a dropsical man, whose malady he healed. Thereupon he addressed a parable to those who were bidden, counselling them not to recline on the chief seat at table unless invited there (verses 7–11). He
Notes on the Parables, p. 180.
Son and Great
COMPARISON OF PARABLES.
also uttered a proverbial injunction to the Pharisee who had invited him to make a feast for the poor and the maimed rather than kinsmen and rich friends (verses 12--14); and then he added the parable of the great supper. But the parable of the marriage of the king's son was uttered at a later period, and in the temple, when no Pharisee would have invited him to his table, and when the hatred of chief priests and scribes had become so bitter that it gave occasion for ominous and fearful words, such as that parable contained. We note further that, in the earlier parable, the occasion was a great supper (dɛītvov), in the latter a wedding (yáuos). In the one, the person making the feast is simply “a certain man” (Luke xiv, 16), in the other he is a king. In the one the guests all make excuse, in the other they treat the royal invitation with contempt and violence. In the one those who were bidden are simply denounced with the statement that none of them shall taste of the supper; in the other the king's armies are sent forth to destroy the murderers of his servants and to burn their city. In the earlier parable there are two sendings forth to call in guests, first from the streets and lanes of the city, and next from the highways and hedges-intimating first the going unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. x, 6; xv, 24), and afterward to the Gentiles (Acts xiii, 46); in the latter only one outgoing call is indicated, and that one subsequent to the destruction of the murderers and their city. In that later prophetic moment Jesus contemplated the ingathering of the Gentiles. Then to the later parable is added the incident of the guest who appeared without the wedding garment (Matt. xxii, 11-14), which Strauss characteristically conjectures to be the fragment of another parable which Matthew by mistake attached to this, because of its referring to a feast. But with a purer and profounder insight Trench sees in these few added words
a wonderful example of the love and wisdom which marked the teaching of our Lord. For how fitting was it in a discourse which set forth how sinners of every degree were invited to a fellowship in the blessings of the Gospel, that they should be reminded likewise, that for the lasting enjoyment of these, they must put off their former conversation-a most needful caution, lest any should abuse the grace of God, and forget that while as regarded the past they were freely called, they were yet now called unto holiness.
The parable of the barren fig-tree (Luke xiii, 6–9) had its special application in the cutting off of Israel, but it is not necessarily limited to that one event. It has lessons of Fig-tree. universal application, illustrating the forbearance and longsuffering * Life of Jesus, $ 78.
Notes on the Parables, pp. 179, 180.
of God, as also the certainty of destructive judgment upon every one who not only produces no good fruit, but “also cumbers the ground" (kai Ti yñ katapyei). Its historical occasion appears from the preceding context, (verses 1-5), but the logical connexion is not so apparent. It is to be traced, however, to the character of those informants who told him of Pilate's outrage on the Galileans. For the twice-repeated warning, “ Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (verses 3 and 5), implies that the persons addressed were sinners deserving fearful penalty. They were probably from Jerusalem, and representatives of the Pharisaic party who had little respect for the Galileans, and perhaps intended their tidings to be a sort of gibe against Jesus and his Galilean followers.
The means for understanding the occasion and import of Nathan's Old Testament parable (2 Sam. xii, 1–4) are abundantly furnished in parables. the context. The same is true of the parable of the wise woman of Tekoah (2 Sam. xiv, 4-7), and that of the wounded prophet in 1 Kings xx, 38-40. The narrative, in Eccles. ix, 14, 15, of the little city besieged by a great king, but delivered by the wisdom of a poor wise man, has been regarded by some as an actual history. Those who date the Book of Ecclesiastes under the Persian domination think that allusion is made to the delivery of Athens by Themistocles, when that city was besieged by Xerxes, the great king of Persia. Others have suggested the deliverance of Potidæa (Herod., viii, 128), or Tripolis (Diodor., xvi, 41). Hitzig even refers it to the little seaport Dora besieged by Antiochus the Great (Polybius, v, 66). But in none of these last three cases is it known that the deliverance was effected by a poor wise man; and as for Athens, it could hardly have been called a little city, with few men in it, nor could the brilliant leader of the Greeks be properly called “a poor wise man.” It is far better to take the narrative as a parable, which may or may not have had its basis in some real incident of the kind, but which was designed to illustrate the great value of wisdom. The author makes his own application in verse 16 : “ Then said I, Better is wisdom than strength; yet the wisdom of the poor is despised, and his words—none of them are heard.” That is, such is the general rule. A case of exceptional extremity, like the siege referred to, may for a moment exhibit the value of wisdom, and its superiority over strength and weapons of war; but the lesson is soon forgotten, and the masses of men give no heed to the words of the poor, whatever their wisdom and worth. The two verses that follow (17 and 18) are an additional comment upon the lesson taught in the parable, and put its real meaning beyond all reasonable doubt. But it is a misuse of the parable, and a
PARABLE OF LABOURERS.
All Jesus' para
pressing of its import beyond legitimate bounds, to say, with Hengstenberg: “The poor man with his delivering wisdom is an image of Israel. . . . Israel would have proved a salt to the heathen world if ear had only been given to the voice of wisdom dwelling in his midst.” I Still more unsound is the spiritualizing process by which the besieged city is made to represent “the life of the individual: the great king who lays siege to it is death and the judgment of the Lord.” ?
All the parables of our Lord are contained in the first three Gospels. Those of the door, the good shepherd, and the vine, recorded by John, are not parables proper, bles in the Sybut allegories. In most instances we find in the imme- noptic Gospels. diate context a clue to the correct interpretation. Thus the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. xviii, 23–34) has its occasion stated in verses 21 and 22, and its application in verse 35. The parable of the rich man who planned to pull down his barns and build greater in order to treasure up all the increase of his fields (Luke xii, 16–20), is readily seen from the context to have been uttered as a warning against covetousness. The parable of the importunate friend at midnight (Luke xi, 5–8) is but a part of a discourse on prayer. The parables of the unjust judge and the importunate widow, and of the Pharisee and the publican at prayer (Luke xviii, 1-14), have their purpose stated by the evangelist who records them. The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke x, 30–37) was called forth by the question of the lawyer, who desired to justify himself, and asked, “Who is my neighbour ?”
The parable of the labourers in the vineyard (Matt. xx, 1-16), although its occasion and application are given in the context, has been regarded as difficult of interpretation. Labourers It was occasioned by the mercenary spirit of Peter's question in chap. xix, 27), “What then shall we have p” and its principal aim is evidently to rebuke and condemn that spirit. But the difficulties of interpreters have arisen chiefly from giving undue prominence to the minor points of the parable, as the penny a day, and the different hours at which the labourers were hired. Stier insists that the penny (Smáplov), or day's wages (wodós), is the principal question and main feature of the parable. Others make the several hours mentioned represent different periods of life at which men are called into the kingdom of God, as childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. Others have supposed that the Jews were denoted by those first hired, and the Gentiles by those who were
1 Commentary on Ecclesiastes, in loco.
* Wangemann, as quoted by Delitzsch, in loco.
Parable of the
in the Vineyard.
called last. Origen held that the different hours represented the different epochs of human history, as the time before the flood, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ, etc. But all this tends to divert the mind from the great thought in the purpose of the parable, namely, to condemn the mercenary spirit, and indicate that the rewards of heaven are matters of grace and not of debt. And we should make very emphatic the observation of Bengel, that the parable is not so much a prediction as a warning. The fundamental fallacy of those exegetes who make the penny the most prominent point, is their tacit assumption that the narrative Mistakes of in
of the parable is designed to portray a murmuring and terpreters. fault finding which will actually take place at the last day. Unless we assume this, according to Stier, “no reality would correspond with the principal point of the figurative narration.' Accordingly, the ümaye, go thy way (verse 14), is understood, like the Topevegte, depart (of Matt. xxv, 41), as an angry rejection and banishment from God; and the ápov tò góv, take thine own, mean nothing else than what, at another stage, Abraham says to the rich man (Luke xvi, 25): What thou hast contracted for, with that thou art discharged; but now, away from my service and from all further intercourse with me!” So also Luther says that “the murmuring labourers go away with their penny and are damned.” But the word úmáyw has been already twice used in this parable (verses 4 and 7) in the sense of going away into the vineyard to work, and it seems altogether too violent a change to put on it here the sense of going into damnation. Still less supposable is such a sense of the word when addressed to those who had filled an honourable contract, laboured faithfully in the vineyard, and “borne the burden of the day and the burning heat” (verse 12).
Let us now carefully apply the three principles of interpretation enunciated above to the exposition of this intricate parable. First,
the historical occasion and scope. Jesus had said to the
young man who had great possessions: “If thou wouldst be perfect, go (@traye), sell thy possessions and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt. xix, 21). The young man went away sorrowful, for he had many goods (kthuara tozá), and Jesus thereupon spoke of the difficulty of a rich man entering into the kingdom of heaven (verses 23–26). “Then answered Peter and said to him, Lo, we forsook all things and followed thee: what then shall we have?” Ti åpa šotal nuiv; what then shall be to us?—that is, in the way of compensation and
1 Non est praedictio sed admonitia. Gnomon, in loco.
Occasion and scope.