PRELIMINARY NOTE. In this chapter of Matthew there are no TJ cognates. Hence this implies that the entire chapter was the handiwork of the writer of Matthew. Below are the "valid" objections found by Francis Beare and other scholars to this chapter. The criteria for scholarly assumptions not considered valid are listed in the Introduction to the Mt-TJ verse comparisons.
Mt 25:1-13 1"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom...."
THE PROBLEMS. Beare (p. 480) found several reasons why this parable of the ten maidens does not hold together well: (1) This is a story about a marriage, but the bride is never anywhere around; (2) The ten maidens should have carried torches on their nocturnal trek to meet the groom, as small oil lamps would not be suitable; (3) The reason for the bridegroom's great delay, until midnight, in arriving at the unspecified meeting place is not supplied; and (4) It is odd that the five wise maidens would tell the other five to go to the village to buy oil for their lamps, since it would be silly to think that the shops would be open after midnight. In the end, Beare agreed with another scholar, Thomas Manson, that "this parable is a curiously involved mixture of ideas drawn from various sources."
Mt 25:14-30 14"For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability... 24He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man.... 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant.... 28So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given... 29...but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.'"
THE PROBLEMS. This is the parable of the talents given to the three servants to invest. Beare (p. 487) believed it all to be an embellishment of some earlier parable, and that even before the compiler got hold of it, it may already have been embellished. He thus did not think it likely to be a genuine saying of Jesus. In its verse 25:15 there is the phrase "to each according to his ability" that Beare specifically suggested is a Matthean addition. And he noted that the saying of 25:28-29, which is akin to "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," doesn't really fit the basis of the parable in which all the servants were initially poor. Instead, it is a repeat, or doublet, of Mt 13:12.
Moreover, the phrase "there men will weep and gnash their teeth" occurs in Matthew three times before this: in 8:12 where there was no strong reason for rejecting its genuineness, and in 22:13 and 24:51 where there were good reasons. Such redundancy lends further grounds for believing this parable to be an invention of the compiler, who wished to explain "For to him who has will more be given" of Mt 13:12.
It is of special interest to notice that in the Lukan parallel to this parable, in which its writer altered Matthew's three servants into ten and altered talents into pounds, among other things (Lk 19:12-26), its writer betrayed his plagiarism of Matthew. This occurred by speaking of how the first servant fared with the pound given to him, how the second servant similarly fared, and then how the other fared (Lk 19:20). He had forgotten that he had allowed for seven other servants to receive a pound each, and instead followed Matthew's story, with its three servants, too closely here. This alone is strong evidence that the writer of Luke both made use of Matthew while writing his own gospel, and in so doing didn't mind heavily altering Matthew's story. (One may notice that the editors/translators of the RSV Bible obscured this problem by using "another" here rather than using a correct translation of the Greek "the other.")
Mt 25:31-34 31"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'"
THE PROBLEMS. This beginning section of the "parable" of the sheep and the goats is Matthew's vision of the Final Judgment. Its reader will notice that it starts out by talking about the Son of man, which refers to the resurrected Christ, but then suddenly talks about "the King" without identifying him. The reader must wonder whom this refers to before deciding it must mean Christ again. However, nowhere else is "King" alone used to refer to Jesus or Christ. Scholar J.A.T. Robinson finds this to be suspicious, and J. P. Brown finds Mt 25:31 itself to be a "secondary editing of sayings."
Moreover, this passage is distinctly Matthean thinking, with its emphasis on the Final Judgment and its simple delineation between those to be blessed (sheep) and those to be eternally cursed (goats), including whole nations to be placed in either one category or the other. The compiler's inspiration here for the Son of man's glory likely came from the Old Testament book of 1 Kings:
1 Kgs 22:19 I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left.
Matthew's sheep-and-goats pericope might be thought to imply that the compiler was now treating gentiles favorably, in contrast to his various anti-gentile statements. However, he apparently expected the God of Israel to be the God over all other nations, too, and so he included "all nations" here even if he did not wish discipleship extended to the gentiles of these other nations. It is quite likely he anticipated that most gentile nations would fall into the left-hand category of "goats."
Mt 25:35-43 35"'for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink'... 40And the King will answer them, 'as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,...'"
THE PROBLEMS. As noted by A. Powell Davies, it is almost a certainty that Mt 25:35-36 is based upon a passage from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Joseph i, 5-6). That passage is:
I was sold into slavery and the LORD of all made me free; I was taken into captivity, and his strong hand succored me. I was beset with hunger, and the LORD Himself nourished me. I was alone and God comforted me; I was sick and the LORD visited me; I was in prison, and my LORD showed favor to me.
Of course, Mt 25:37-39,42-44 repetitiously involves the same verses and is therefore also a part of the writer's editorial insertion.
These Testaments are believed to have been written by Pharisees at the height of the Maccabean dynasty, around 109-106 B.C. Thus they were available for an early Christian scribe of Jewish background to utilize in substituting for heretical material in his source document. We also see the handiwork of the compiler in splitting people into two camps—either absolutely righteous or absolutely unrighteous, in Mt 25:37-46. And Beare had no difficulty spotting Mt 25:41, involving the "eternal fire," as a construct of the writer of Matthew, while refusing to speculate on just what the writer's ideas may have been regarding the devil, his angels and their relationship to the punishment of eternal fire.
Mt 25:44-45 44"Then they will also answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'"
THE PROBLEM. These verses are clearly part of the same pericope, and thus are redactions along with the rest of the pericope. They mimic the wording in verses 39-40.
Mt 25:46 46"And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
THE PROBLEM. Beare (p. 496) doubted that Jesus could have said this, allowing only a slim possibility that Jesus shared this conception of the fate of the wicked, a concept that remained popular for centuries. Again, the compiler's problem was illogically thinking of people as either wholly righteous or wholly unrighteous, and connecting this to the false concept of hell.
DISCUSSION OF MT 25. J. M. Court has concluded that the entire parable of the sheep and the goats, terminated by the above verse, is a "substantial Matthean redaction." E. P. Sanders finds all of Mt 25 to be inauthentic. The TJ's lack of cognates to Matthew's chapter 25 supports these conclusions.
With respect to the hoax hypothesis, though we see very strong evidence that the two parables and the last-judgment pericope could not have been uttered by a wisdom teacher, a hoaxer could well have rewritten these in order for them to make sense to him. For example, in the first parable he might have invented a bride, or have the maidens carry torches instead of small oil lamps, and/or invented a reason for the bridegroom's delay, or have altered all the foolish maidens into wise maidens, or have changed the punch line. And similarly for the other parable and the pericope. Thus the probability that a hoaxer would have done such is at least as great as that he would have omitted all of chapter 25 from his fraudulent product. Upon allowing a hoax probability of 0.45 to each of the three pericopes, one finds that all three together, upon accumulating them, yield PHoax ≈ 0.35.
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1. Manson, Thomas Walter, The Sayings of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1949), p. 242.
2. Jeremias, J., The Parables of Jesus, 6th ed. (ET, London: SCM, 1963), p. 61.
3. Robinson, J.A.T., "The parable of the sheep and the goats," NTS 2 (1956), pp. 225-237.
4. Brown, John Pairman, "Mark as witness to an edited form of Q," JBL 80 (1961), pp. 29-44; see p. 38.
5. Recall that Mt 15:24 states, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
6. Davies, A. Powell, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: New American Library, 1956), p. 104.
7. Court, J. M., "Right and left: the implications for Matthew 25:31-46," NTS 31 (1985), pp. 223-233; see p. 230.
8. Sanders, E. P., Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), p. 222.