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Rethinking the parable of the talents?

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  • Rethinking the parable of the talents?

    My New Testament professor has a different take on the Parable of the Talents than what I have understood to be the historical interpretation. He views the third servant, who is traditionally thought of as the "villain", as the hero. He says that we have allegorized the text instead of taking it for what it actually means. His arguments are as follows:

    1) We view this text through an economic lens that would have been alien to that society.
    2) Money was thought of as a limited good in that society, and the people trading would be making money unscrupulously that they did not earn (Matthew 25:24).
    3) Traders were thought of as ungodly, according to Bruce Malina.
    4) In Jesus's parables, the final person mentioned tends to be the one to be emulated (I'm not sure I buy this argument because in the other parables in Matthew 25, the opposite seems to be the case).
    5) Matthew 25:24 does not describe the character of God; in fact, it seems to be the opposite of what the Bible reveals about God's character.
    6) Weeping and gnashing of teeth is assumed to be a reference to hell, but it is really the shame of being cast out.
    7) Jesus's point is that doing the right, ethical thing may not lead to any tangible rewards here on Earth. My professor sees a reference to Jesus as a suffering servant.

    This is interesting, and completely new to me. Does anybody know about this interpretation?
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    My New Testament professor has a different take on the Parable of the Talents than what I have understood to be the historical interpretation. He views the third servant, who is traditionally thought of as the "villain", as the hero. He says that we have allegorized the text instead of taking it for what it actually means. His arguments are as follows:

    1) We view this text through an economic lens that would have been alien to that society.
    2) Money was thought of as a limited good in that society, and the people trading would be making money unscrupulously that they did not earn (Matthew 25:24).
    3) Traders were thought of as ungodly, according to Bruce Malina.
    From what little I've read of this, I understand that one of the underlying assumptions is that the society is agrarian in nature with limited trade (except perhaps barter trade). However, given Israel's own history of trading, enhanced by its geographical location I think it likely that the assumption doesn't hold.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
      My New Testament professor has a different take on the Parable of the Talents than what I have understood to be the historical interpretation. He views the third servant, who is traditionally thought of as the "villain", as the hero. He says that we have allegorized the text instead of taking it for what it actually means. His arguments are as follows:

      1) We view this text through an economic lens that would have been alien to that society.
      2) Money was thought of as a limited good in that society, and the people trading would be making money unscrupulously that they did not earn (Matthew 25:24).
      3) Traders were thought of as ungodly, according to Bruce Malina.
      4) In Jesus's parables, the final person mentioned tends to be the one to be emulated (I'm not sure I buy this argument because in the other parables in Matthew 25, the opposite seems to be the case).
      5) Matthew 25:24 does not describe the character of God; in fact, it seems to be the opposite of what the Bible reveals about God's character.
      6) Weeping and gnashing of teeth is assumed to be a reference to hell, but it is really the shame of being cast out.
      7) Jesus's point is that doing the right, ethical thing may not lead to any tangible rewards here on Earth. My professor sees a reference to Jesus as a suffering servant.

      This is interesting, and completely new to me. Does anybody know about this interpretation?
      What did you think it initially meant? Please don't say you believed it pertained to actual financial investing.
      "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

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      • #4
        Inconsistent with the passages where Jesus directs His followers to do something.
        "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" appears elsewhere and does not seem to be mere disgrace.

        "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot


        "Forgiveness is the way of love." Gary Chapman

        My Personal Blog

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Teallaura View Post
          Inconsistent with the passages where Jesus directs His followers to do something.
          "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" appears elsewhere and does not seem to be mere disgrace.
          It is my understanding that the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" refers to the "hell fire."
          . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

          . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

          Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by seanD View Post
            What did you think it initially meant? Please don't say you believed it pertained to actual financial investing.
            Investment of energy into the Kingdom of God, perhaps with a focus on evangelism.
            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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            • #7
              Gnashing of teeth seems to represent anger (see Acts 7:54, where hell is clearly not in mind).
              "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

              Comment


              • #8
                For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

                And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

                Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

                And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

                But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

                After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

                And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

                His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

                He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

                His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

                Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

                And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

                His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

                Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

                Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

                For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

                And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
                So Jesus is tossed into the outer darkness? What is everything else analogous to then? Who tosses Jesus into the outer darkness? How is hiding the talent in a hole equivalent to Jesus's mission? The text calls the parable an analogy of the Kingdom of Heaven, so the kingdom of heaven means you will get cast into the outer darkness if you do the right thing? I don't think there's any merit to the interpretation in the OP.
                "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

                There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                  Investment of energy into the Kingdom of God, perhaps with a focus on evangelism.
                  Okay. I was just curious because there are actually Christians that believe it's about material investing and use it as a justification to defend the wealthy class. I don't agree with your professor's interpretation of it; I think yours is closer to actual meaning. It fits in the context of the 10 Virgins parable. 10 Virgins lived a life of faith in their deeds and actions, while the other five went on with their daily lives and rarely thought about it. Then when the end times came, the other 5 decided to get super spiritual but it was too late by then.
                  "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I am not certain this is relevant. In 1 Kings 3, God appeared to King Solomon in a dream. God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon asked for wisdom to make the right decisions for his people. God was pleased and said, "I will also give you what you did not ask for: riches and honor." Y'all know the result: Solomon's kingdom became fabulously wealthy and greatly admired worldwide.
                    [quotations from NCV.]
                    The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                    [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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                    • #11
                      It is worth noting that Craig Keener, who knows background material as well as anybody, apparently holds to the "traditional" view.
                      "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I agree that it does not refer to hell. However, the similar story in Luke 19 makes it clear that the distributor of money is Jesus.

                        Luke 19
                        25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
                        26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
                        27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
                          I agree that it does not refer to hell. However, the similar story in Luke 19 makes it clear that the distributor of money is Jesus.

                          Luke 19
                          25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
                          26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
                          27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
                          The version in Luke 19 is more complex because the king there is an allusion to the brutal and cruel Herod Archelaus.

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                          • #14
                            Are you denying then that it refers to Jesus?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
                              I agree that it does not refer to hell. However, the similar story in Luke 19 makes it clear that the distributor of money is Jesus.

                              Luke 19
                              25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
                              26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
                              27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
                              Luke 19 is not that parable, nor a parallel account of Jesus telling of that parable being as told unique to Matthew's account.
                              . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

                              . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

                              Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

                              Comment

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