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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 25

 

 


Introduction

CHAPTER 25

Matthew 25:1.(19) ἀπάντησιν] Lachm. and Tisch. 8 : ὑπάντησιν, following B C א, 1, Method. Had this been the original reading, it would also have forced its way into Matthew 25:6, in which latter, however, it is found only in 157, Cyr.

Matthew 25:2. Lachm. and Tisch. 8 : πέντε δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦσαν ΄ωραὶ καὶ πέντε φρόνι΄οι, following B C D L Z א, min. and vss. (also Vulg. It.). Considering what a preponderance of evidence is here, and seeing how ready the transcribers would be to place the wise first in order, the reading of the Received text must be regarded as a subsequent transposition.

Matthew 25:3. For αἵτινες there are found the readings (glosses): αἱ δέ in Z, Vulg. codd. of the It. Lachm., and αἱ γάρ in B C L א, Tisch. 8; likewise αἱ οὖν in D.

Matthew 25:4. In witnesses of importance αὐτῶν is wanting after ἀγγείοις, so that, with Lachm. and Tisch. 8, it is to be deleted as a common interpolation.

Matthew 25:6. ἔρχεται] is wanting in such important witnesses (B C* D L Z א, 102, Copt. Sahid. Arpo. Cant. Method. Ephr. Cyr.), and has so much the look of a supplement, that, with Lachm. and Tisch. 8, it should be erased. But the αὐτοῦ after ἀπάντ., which Tisch. 8 deletes, is wanting only in B א, 102, Meth. Cyr.

Matthew 25:7. For αὐτῶν it is better, with Lachm. and Tisch., to read ἑαυτῶν, following A B L Z א. The reflective force of the pronoun had never been noticed, especially with Matthew 25:4 preceding it, in which verse ἑαυτῶν instead of αὐτῶν after λα΄π. (so Tisch. 8) is supported only by the evidence of B א.

Matthew 25:9. For οὐκ, as in the Received text, there is a preponderance of evidence in favour of reading οὐ ΄ή, which Griesb. has recommended, and which Lachm., Tisch. 7, and also Scholz have adopted. The ΄ή, which Fritzsche and Tisch. 8 have discarded, was omitted from its force not being understood.

δέ after πορεύεσθε (in Elz., Tisch. 7) would be just as apt to be inserted as a connective particle, as it would be ready to be omitted if πορεύεσθε, κ. τ. λ. was taken as the apodosis. Accordingly, the matter must be decided by a preponderance of evidence, and that is in favour of deleting the δέ.

Matthew 25:11. καὶ αἱ] Lachm. has simply αἱ, but against decisive evidence; and then think how readily καί might be dropped out between TAI and AI!

Matthew 25:13. After ὥραν Elz. inserts ἐν υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεται, words which, in accordance with a decided preponderance of evidence, are to be regarded as a gloss (Matthew 24:44).

Matthew 25:16. ἐποίησεν] A** B C D L א** min.: ἐκέρδησεν. Recommended by Griesb. and Schulz, adopted by Lachm. Gloss derived from what follows.

The omission of the second τάλαντα by Lachm. is without adequate authority, nor had the transcribers any motive for inserting it; comp. Matthew 25:17.

Matthew 25:17. καὶ αὐτός] is wanting in important witnesses, and is erased by Lachm. and Tisch. 8; but, owing to the circumstance of ὡσαύτως καί having preceded, it may very readily have been left out as superfluous and clumsy.

Matthew 25:18. Lachm. inserts τάλαντον after ἓν, only on the authority of A, It.; but ἔκρυψεν (Lachm. Tisch.) for ἀπέκρυψεν is supported by such a preponderance of evidence that it is unnecessary to regard it as taken from Matthew 25:25.

Matthew 25:19. It is better, with Lachm. and Tisch., to adopt in both cases the order πολὺν χρόνον and λόγον ΄ετʼ αὐτῶν, in accordance with preponderating evidence.

Matthew 25:20. ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς] is omitted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8, both here and in Matthew 25:22, following B D L א, min. and vss., while E G, min. read ἐν αὐτοῖς; but D, Vulg. It. Or. insert ἐπεκέρδησα before the ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς. Later variants are interpretations of the superfluous (and therefore sometimes omitted) ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς

Matthew 25:21. δέ, which Elz. inserts after ἔφη, has been deleted, in accordance with preponderating evidence, as being an interpolation of the connective particle (so also Griesb., Scholz, Fritzsche, Lachm., Tisch.).

Matthew 25:22. λαβών] is wanting in A B C L δ א, min. Syr.utr.; a few min. have εἰληφώς. Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. Correctly; a supplement.

Matthew 25:27. For τὸ ἀργύρ. ΄ου Tisch. 8 reads τὰ ἀργύριά ΄ου, following B א*, Syr.p. Correctly; the plural would be apt to be replaced by the singular (comp. Luke), because it is a question of one talent, and because of the τὸ ἐ΄όν following.

Matthew 25:29. ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ] B D L א, min.: τοῦ δέ. Approved by Griesb., adopted by Fritzsche, Lachm., Tisch.; the ordinary reading is by way of helping the construction.

Matthew 25:30. ἐκβάλετε for ἐκβάλλετε (in Elz.) is confirmed by decisive evidence.

Matthew 25:31. Elz. Scholz insert ἅγιοι before ἄγγελοι, in opposition to B D L π* א, min. and many vss. and Fathers. An adjective borrowed from the ordinary ecclesiastical phraseology, and which, though it might readily enough be inserted, would scarcely be likely to be omitted. Comp. Zechariah 14:5.

Matthew 25:40. τῶν ἀδελφῶν ΄ου] wanting only in B* and Fathers. Bracketed by Lachm. But comp. Matthew 25:45.

Matthew 25:41. οἱ κατηρα΄.] Tisch. 8 has deleted the article, in accordance with B L א, and that correctly; it is taken from Matthew 25:34.


Verse 1

Matthew 25:1 f. An additional exhortation to watchfulness in consequence of the day and hour of the advent being unknown, and embodied in the parable of the ten virgins, extending to Matthew 25:13, which parable is peculiar to Matthew (having been taken from the collection of our Lord’s sayings); for it is not the echoes of the present narrative, but something essentially different, that we meet with in Mark 13:35-37 and Luke 12:35-38.

τότε] then, i.e. on the day on which the master will return, and inflict condign punishment upon his worthless slave. Not: after inflicting this punishment (Fritzsche), for the parable is intended to portray the coming of the Messiah; but neither, again, is it to be taken as pointing back to Matthew 25:37 and Matthew 25:14 of the previous chapter (Cremer), which would be an arbitrary interruption of the regular sequence of the discourse as indicated by τότε.

ὁμοιωθήσεται] will be made like, actually so; see on Matthew 7:26.

βασιλ. τῶν οὐραν.] the Messianic kingdom, in respect, that is, of the principle of admission and exclusion that will be followed when that kingdom comes to be set up.

ἐξῆλθον εἰς ἀπάντ. τοῦ νυμφ.] Here the marriage is not represented as taking place in the house of the bridegroom, in accordance with the usual practice (Winer, Realw. I. p. 499; Keil, Arch. § 109), but in that of the bride (Judges 14:10), from which the ten bridesmaids set out in the evening for the purpose of meeting the expected bridegroom. The reason why the parable transfers the scene of the marriage to the home of the bride, is to be found in the nature of the thing to be illustrated, inasmuch as, at the time of His advent, Christ is to be understood as coming to the earth and as setting up His kingdom here below, and not in heaven. Comp. also the following parable, Matthew 25:14 ff.

ἐξῆλθον] they went out, namely, from the bride’s house, which is self-evident from the context ( εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου). Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 112 f.,—who, like the majority of expositors, supposes that what is here in view is the ordinary practice of conducting the bride from her own house to that of the bridegroom (but see on Matthew 25:10),—and Ewald understand ἐξῆλθον of the setting out of the maids from their own homes to go to the house of the bride, in order to start from the latter for the purpose of meeting the bridegroom as he comes to fetch home his bride. But the meaning of the terms forbids us to assume different starting-points for ἐξῆλθον and εἰς ἀπάντησιν (Acts 28:15); this is further precluded by the supposition, in itself improbable, that the foolish virgins could not have obtained a fresh supply of oil at the house of the bride.

Whether ten was the usual number for bridesmaids cannot be determined; but generally “numero denario (as the base of their numeral system) gavisa plurimum est gens Judaica et in sacris et in civilibus,” Lightfoot. Comp. Luke 19:13.

φρόνιμοι] Comp. Matthew 24:45, Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26. This second virtue belonging to a right ἑτοιμασία (see on Matthew 24:45), viz. practical wisdom, is here intended to be made specially prominent. The idea of a contrast between chastity and its opposite (Cremer) is quite foreign to the context. Comp. κοράσιον φρόνιμου, Tobit 6:12.


Verse 3

Matthew 25:3. αἵτινες μωραί] sc. ἦσαν, quotquot erant stultae.

ἔλαβον they took, on setting out; not for the pluperfect (Erasmus, Vatablus).

μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν] with themselves, namely, besides the oil that was burning in their lamps.


Verse 5-6

Matthew 25:5-6. The virgins, who, Matthew 25:1, have left the house of the bride (in opposition to Cremer and Lange, who suppose ἐξῆλθον to contain a prolepsis), and therefore are no longer there, have betaken themselves to some house on the way [ ἐξέρχεσθε, observe), in order there to await the passing by of the bridegroom. The coming of the latter was delayed on till midnight; the maids who sat waiting began to get wearied, they nodded (aorist), and slept (imperfect). Comp. Isaiah 5:27; Psalms 21:4. Vulgate: “dormitaverunt mines et dormierunt.”

ἰδοὺ νυμφίος (without ἔρχεται, see critical remarks): behold the bridegroom! The cry of the people who see him coming a little way off. They are made aware of his approach from seeing the light of the torches or lamps carried by those who accompanied him in the procession.


Verse 7

Matthew 25:7 f. ἐκόσμησαν] they put in proper order, namely, by trimming the wick and such like, they dressed them.

ἑαυτῶν (see critical remarks): each one her own; betokening the individual preparation that was now going on.

σβέννυνται] are just on the point of going out.


Verse 9

Matthew 25:9. ΄ήποτεὑμῖν] Since οὐ μή is the correct reading (see critical remarks), and seeing that the ἀρκέσῃ following cannot be regarded as dependent on μήποτε, but only on οὐ μή, the punctuation should be as follows: μήποτε· οὐ μὴ ἀρκέσῃ, κ. τ. λ.: never (shall we give you of our oil): there will certainly not be enough for us and you! For the absolute negative μὴ, comp. Matthew 26:5; Exodus 10:11; Matthiae, p. 1454; Kühner, II. 2, p. 1047. Correctly Bornemann, as above, p. 110; Bleek, Lange, Luthardt. Comp. Winer, p. 556 [E. T. 632]; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 107.


Verse 10

Matthew 25:10 f. While they were going away, came (not: advenerat, Fritzsche).

εἰσῆλθον μετʼ αὐτοῦ] namely, into the house of the bride, whither the bridegroom was on his way, and to which the maids were conducting him, with a view to the celebration of the marriage. The idea of the bridegroom’s house being that referred to (see on Matthew 25:1) is precluded by the correlation in which ἦλθν νυμθίος and εἰσῆλθον μετʼ αὐτοῦ stand to each other.

κύριε, κύριε] expressive of most urgent and anxious entreaty. Comp. Matthew 7:21.


Verse 12

Matthew 25:12 f. οὐκ οἶδα ὑμᾶς] because ye were not amongst the bridesmaids who welcomed me, ye are to me as entire strangers whom I do not know, and who, therefore, can have no part in the marriage! The knowledge of experience arising out of the intercourse of life (Matthew 7:23; 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Galatians 4:9) is the point intended to be thus illustrated. Besides, Jesus might also have said (in opposition to Cremer): οὐκ ἔγνων ὑμ. (I have not known you).

οὖν] because the foolish virgins were shut out, and because something corresponding to this would happen to you unless you watch.

According to Matthew 25:13, the teaching of the parable is: that the moral preparedness that continues to maintain itself up till the moment of the advent, the day and hour of which do not admit of being determined, will lead to participation in the Messianic kingdom, whereas those in whom this preparedness has not been maintained till the end will, when surprised by the sudden appearing of the Lord, experience in themselves the irreparable consequences of their foolish neglect, and be shut out from, His kingdom. This latter is a negative expression of condemnation, not, as Olshausen supposes notwithstanding the ἐκλείσθη θύρα, merely a way of designating such a salvation as is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:15. More specific interpretations—of the virgins, the lamps, the oil, the κραυγή, etc.—are to be found not only in Origen, Hilary, Cyrill, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Augustine, Jerome (see Cremer, p. 156 ff.), but also in Olshausen, von Meyer, Cremer, Lange, Auberlen. In those interpretations subjective opinion has, in most diverse and arbitrary fashion, exceeded the limits indicated by Jesus in Matthew 25:13. Calvin well remarks: “Multum se torquent quidam in lucernis, in vasis, in oleo. Atqui simplex et genuina summa est, non sufficere alacre exigui temporis studium, nisi infatigabilis constantia simul accedat.” Neither is the falling asleep of the virgins intended to be specially significant; for, as it happened in the case of the exemplary wise ones as well, it cannot represent any moral shortcoming.


Verse 14

Matthew 25:14. The parable of the talents, extending to Matthew 25:30,(20) is introduced as an additional ground for the γρηγορεῖτε, and that by viewing it as a question of work and responsibility. The parable in Luke 19:12 ff., which, notwithstanding the differences in regard to individual features, resembles the present in its leading thoughts and illustrations, is to be regarded as a modification, arising in the course of the Gospel tradition, of the more original and simpler one before us (in opposition to Calvin, Olshausen, Neander, Holtzmann, Volkmar), and which Luke also represents as having been spoken at a different time; comp. Weizsäcker, p. 181. In this latter Gospel we have what was originally an independent parable (that of the rebellious subjects) blended with that of the talents (Strauss, I. p. 636 f.; Ewald, p. 419 f.; Bleek, Keim, Weiss, 1864, p. 128 ff.). If it be maintained, as Kern, Lange, Cremer, are disposed to do, that in Matthew and Luke we have two distinct parables, spoken by Jesus on two different occasions, then there is no alternative but either to accept the unnatural view that the simpler (Matthew’s) is the later form, or to suppose, in opposition to what is recorded, that Jesus spoke the parable in Matthew, where, however, the connection is perfectly apposite, somewhat earlier than that in Luke (Schleiermacher, Neander). The one view as well as the other would be all the more questionable, that the interval during which Christ “intentionally employs the same parabolic materials for the purpose of illustrating different subjects” (Auberlen) would thus comprise only a few days. Mark 13:34 is extracted from what Matthew has taken from the collection of our Lord’s sayings.

ὥσπερ, κ. τ. λ.] a case of anantapodosis similar to that of Mark 13:34, and doubtless reproducing what already appeared in the collection of sayings from which the passage is taken. Comp. Romans 5:12. Fritzsche on Matthew 25:30. At the outset of the discourse it would be the intention to connect the whole parable with ὥσπερ, and, at the conclusion, to annex an apodosis by means of οὓτως (probably οὓτω καὶ υἱὸς τ. ἀνθρώπου ποιήσει, or οὓτως ἔσται καὶ παρουσία τ. υἱοῦ τ. ἀνθρ).; but, considering the somewhat lengthened character of the parable, this had to be omitted.

ἀποδη΄.] on the point of going abroad (Matthew 21:33).

τοὺς ἰδίιους δούλους] not strangers, such as exchangers, but his own servants, of whom, therefore, he had a right to expect that they would do their best to lay out for his advantage the money entrusted to them.


Verse 15

Matthew 25:15. κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν] not arbitrarily, therefore, but according to each one’s peculiar capabilities (“prudentia et peritia,” Beza) for doing business. The different charismatic gifts are bestowed in a manner corresponding to the varying natural aptitudes of men. Those endowments are conferred according to an individualizing principle. “Nemo urgetur ultra quam potest,” Bengel.

εὐθέως] immediately, therefore without making any further arrangements for disposing of the money. Fritzsche, Rinck, and Tisch. 8 agree with B and several codd. of the It. in connecting εὐθέως with what follows. In that case it would be necessary either to insert the δέ of Matthew 25:16 before πορευθ. ( א**), or, with Tisch., to delete it altogether ( א*). However, the evidence in favour of this view is quite inadequate. And it is precisely in connection with ἀπεδήμησεν that εὐθέως is seen to have a peculiar significance, that, namely, of showing that absolute independence was allowed in regard to the way in which the money was to be employed by those to whom it had been entrusted, which is admirably in keeping with κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν.

τάλαντα] see on Matthew 18:25.


Verse 16

Matthew 25:16. εἰργάσατο] traded with them ( ἐν αὐτοῖς, instrumental). Very common in classical writers (especially Demosthenes) with reference to commerce and matters of exchange, though usually with the simple dative of the instrument.

ἐποίησεν] he acquired, gained; as in German: er machte Geld (he made money). See instances in Wetstein and Kypke. So also the Latin facere.


Verse 18

Matthew 25:18. ἀπελθών] he went away, removed to a distance. How entirely different in the case of the two first, Matthew 25:16! They started upon a journey ( πορευθ.).

ὤρυξεν ἐν τ. γῇ] he digged, i.e. he made a hole in the earth. The reading γῆν, which Tisch. adopts, following B L א (C*: τὴν γῆν), but from which the vss. deviate, would mean: he dug up the earth (Plat. Euthyd. p. 288 E).

τὸ ἀργύρ. τοῦ κυρ. αὐτ.] brings out emphatically the idea of responsibility and dereliction of duty.


Verse 20

Matthew 25:20 f. ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς] in addition to them; comp. on Colossians 3:14. The ἵδε points the master to what had been gained; the boldness of a good conscience.

εὖ] is generally taken absolutely: excellent! that is right! But this would have required εὖγε (Plat. Gorg. p. 494 C Lach. p. 181 A Soph. Phil. 327), which reading (taken from Luke 19:17, where εὖγε is the original one) Fritzsche actually adopts, following A*, Vulg. It. Or. (once). Consequently we should connect εὖ with ἦς πιστός: Thou wast admirably (probe) faithful in regard to a little. For εὗ when separated from the word to which it belongs, comp. Xen. Cyr. i. 6. 24; Mem. ii. 1. 33, and Kühner thereon. ἀγαθέ and πιστέ represent the genus and species of an upright character. The opposite of this: Matthew 25:26.

εἰς τὴν χαρὰν τοῦ κυρίον σου] χαρά is not to be understood of a feast (Clericus, Schoettgen, Wolf, Michelsen, Kuinoel, Schott), a sense in which the word is not used (LXX. Esther 9:17 is an inaccurate rendering), and which the context does not sanction any more than it countenances the idea of a festival in honour of the master’s return (in opposition to de Wette and Lange); but what is meant is that the slave is invited to participate in the happiness which his master is enjoying (Chrysostom admirably: τὴν πᾶσαν μακαριότητα διὰ τοῦ ῥήματος τούτου δεικνύς), thus exhibiting the thought of Romans 8:17. The use of the expression εἴσελθε is, in that case, to be regarded as due to the nature of the thing which the parable is meant to illustrate (the Messianic kingdom).


Verse 24

Matthew 25:24 f. ἔγνων σε, ὅτι] well-known attraction. Winer, p. 581 [E. T. 781]. The aorist is not used here in the sense of the perfect, I know thee (Kuinoel), but: I knew thee, and hid.

What follows characterizes, in proverbial language (by a figure taken from farming), a man unconscionably hard to please, and demanding more than is reasonable.

συνάγων ὅθεν οὐ διεσκόρπ.] gathering (corn into the ἀποθήκη) from a place where you have not threshed (with reference to the threshing-floor of another man’s farm). διασκορπίζειν, to scatter so as to separate from each other (for the classical character of which expression see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 213), is expressly used in the present instance, because it forms a better contrast to συνάγων than λικμᾶν (Matthew 21:44). If it were to be taken as equivalent to σπείρειν, the result would be a tautological parallelism (in opposition to Erasmus, Beza, de Wette).

The entire excuse is a false pretext invented by moral indolence,—a pretext which is reduced ad absurdum in Matthew 25:26-27.

φοβηθείς] namely, of losing the talent in business, or of not being able to satisfy thee.

τὸ σόν] self-righteous.


Verse 26

Matthew 25:26 f. The master chastises the worthless and indolent (Romans 12:11) servant with his own weapons.

ᾔδεις, κ. τ. λ.] question of astonishment, which is more spirited and more in keeping with the surprising nature of the excuse than to understand the words in a conceding sense (Kuinoel, de Wette), or as an independent hypothesis (Bernhardy, p. 385), in which case the οὖν of the apodosis would be deprived of its force (see Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 22 f.; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 718 f.).

βαλεῖντοῖς τραπεζ.] flinging down upon the table of the money-changers, represents the indifference of the proceeding.

ἐγώ] is emphatic as related to the preceding ἴδε, ἔχεις τὸ σόν, Matthew 25:25. To it likewise corresponds τὸ ἐμόν, to which, however, σὺν τόκῳ is now added for sake of emphasis.


Verses 28-30

Matthew 25:28-30. οὖν] because his conduct was so inexcusable.

Matthew 25:29. Justification of this mode of proceeding, by appealing to a principle founded on universal experience, and which was to find its verification in the case before us. Comp. Matthew 13:12.

τοῦ δὲ μὴ ἔχοντος] see critical remarks. The genitive, here placed first for sake of emphasis, might be regarded as dependent on ἀρθήσεται (Fritzsche), in accordance, that is, with the construction of verbs of depriving with τινός τι (Kühner, II. 1, p. 282). Inasmuch, however, as the ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ which follows would thus be superfluous and clumsy, it is better to take the genitive as absolute: as for him who has not (the poor man); comp. Thuc. v. 18. 8, and Krüger thereon. We thus obtain “duobus membris factis ex uno oppositio nervosior” (Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 272). For ἔχων, the rich man, comp. Isocr. vii. 55 and Benseler thereon.

For Matthew 25:30, comp. Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 24:51. The verse is not here out of place, but acquires a certain solemnity from its resemblance to the conclusion of ch. 24. (in opposition to Weiss, 1864, p. 129).

Teaching of the parable.

By a faithful use, after my departure, of those varied endowments which I have bestowed on each of you according to his special capacity, you are to do your utmost to promote my cause. For when I return and reckon with you (Matthew 25:19), then those who have exerted themselves in a dutiful manner will receive a distinguished reward in the kingdom of the Messiah; but those who have allowed their gifts, however small, to lie unused, will be deprived of that which has been entrusted to them, and be cast into Gehenna. For more minute and specific interpretations, all of them of a more or less arbitrary character, see Origen, Chrysostom, Theophylact. The reference to all Christian endowments generally (1 Corinthians 12), is to be regarded rather as an application of the parable in a more comprehensive sense.


Verse 31

Matthew 25:31 ff. It is unnecessary to suppose that this utterance about the judgment—an utterance taken, like the preceding, from the collection of our Lord’s sayings ( λόγια)—should be immediately connected with Matthew 24:30 f. (Fritzsche, de Wette) or with Matthew 24:51 (Ewald). The coming of the Messiah and His judicial dealing with His servants had been portrayed immediately before, and now the prophetic glance extends and takes in the judgment of all nations,—a judgment which is to be presided over by the Lord when He returns in His glory. This is the grand closing scene in which the eschatological predictions are all to be realized, and depicted too with a simplicity and beauty so original that there is but the less reason for imagining that this discourse about the judgment is the product of the apostolic period (Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, Scholten, Wittichen, Keim).

It is usual to understand those who are being judged as representing men generally, Christians and non-Christians alike (see, among modern expositors, Kuinoel, Fritzsche, de Wette, Lange, Weizel, as above, p. 603; Kaeuffer, de ζωῆς αἰων. not. p. 44; Hofmann, Schriftbew. p. 645), Bleek arbitrarily assuming that the evangelists have extended the application of what originally referred only to Christians. On the other hand, Keil (in the Opusc., ed. Goldh. p. 136 ff., and Anal. 1813, III. 177 ff.) and Olshausen, as well as Baumgarten-Crusius, Georgii in Zeller’s Jahrb. 1845, p. 18 f.; Hilgenfeld, Weizsäcker, Volkmar, Keim, Wittichen, Auberlen, Cremer, understand all who are not Christians to be referred to, some of them, however, expressly excluding the Jews. But non-Christians could not have been intended, because it would be improper to say that the Messianic kingdom has been prepared for such, to say nothing of the ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, Matthew 25:34, in which the idea of the ἐκλεκτοί is exclusively involved; further, because it would be no less improper to suppose, without more ado, that non-Christians are intended by the οἱ δίκαιοι of Matthew 25:37, which latter we are not at liberty to understand in a generalized sense, but only as equivalent to the elect; again, because those things which Jesus represents (Matthew 25:35-36; Matthew 25:40) as manifestations of love toward Himself cannot possibly be conceived of as done by those who, nevertheless, continued to remain outside the Christian community; finally, because both sides of the assemblage use such language (Matthew 25:37 ff., Matthew 25:44) as compels us to acknowledge their belief in the Judge before whom they now stand. Their language is the expression of a consciousness of their faith in the Messiah, towards whom, however, they have had no opportunity of displaying their love. If the Messianic felicity were here adjudged to pure heathens according to the way in which they may have acted toward Christians (Hilgenfeld), this would be to suppose a “remarkable toleration” (Keim) altogether at variance with the whole tenor of the New Testament, and such as even Revelation 21:24 (see Düsterdieck on that passage) does not countenance,—a humanity which does not need faith, because it compensates for the want of it by its love (Volkmar, p. 546). If, after all this, we cannot suppose that a judgment of non-Christians is here meant, we may even go still further, and say that non-Christians are not included at all, and so we must also reject the view usually adopted, since Chrysostom and Augustine, that what is here exhibited is a judgment of all men, believers and unbelievers alike. For, so far from the mention of the divine ἐκλογή, Matthew 25:34, or the idea of the δίκαιοι, Matthew 25:37, or what Jesus says at Matthew 25:35, or the answer of those assembled before the Judge, Matthew 25:37; Matthew 25:44, or the entire omission generally of any distinction between belief and unbelief, harmonizing with the notion of a mixed body consisting of Christians and non-Christians, they entirely exclude the latter. We should therefore return to the very old view (Lactantius, Instit. vii. 20; Jerome, Euthymius Zigabenus), which, though it had been neglected in consequence of the prevalent eschatology, was preserved by Grotius, the view, namely, that what Jesus is here depicting is the judgment of Christians: περὶ τῶν χριστιανῶν δὲ μόνων λόγος ἐνταῦθα, Euthymius Zigabenus, who proves this, above all, from Matthew 25:35-36. All the points previously adduced as arguments against the other explanations combine to favour this view. It is confirmed by the whole fundamental idea on which the Judge’s sentence turns (the determining principle being the love manifested toward Jesus), by the figure of the shepherd and his sheep, and finally, and at the same time somewhat more definitely, by the fact that those who are being judged are called πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. For the latter words are not intended to limit the reference expressly to the Gentiles, but they are to be taken as assuming the realization of the universality of Christianity. by the time of the advent when all the nations of the earth ( ἔθνη, as expressing the idea of nation, does not exclude the Jews; comp. Matthew 28:19, Matthew 24:9, and see on John 11:50) will have heard the gospel and (to a proportionable degree) received Christ (Matthew 24:14; Romans 11:25). Jesus, then, is here describing the universal judgment of those who have believed in Him, in whom, as they will be gathered around His throne, His prophetic glance beholds all the nations of the world (Matthew 28:19). Comp., for the judgment of Christians, 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10. The judgment of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 6:2; comp. on Matthew 19:28), who are not in question at present, forms a distinct scene in the universal assize; and hence in the preceding parable also the reference is to His servants, therefore to believers. Neither here nor in the passages from Paul do those different judgment scenes presuppose anything in the shape of chiliastic ideas. The Messianic judgment is one act consisting of two scenes, not two acts with a chiliastic interval coming in between. See, on the other hand, Matthew 13:37 ff.

πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι] “omnes angeli, omnes nationes; quanta celebritas!” Bengel.

τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων] sheep and goats (Sirach 47:3; Genesis 38:17) are here represented as having been pastured together (comp. Genesis 30:33 ff.). The wicked are conceived of under the figure of the ἔριφοι, not on account of the wantonness and stench of the latter (Grotius), or in consequence of their stubbornness (Lange), but generally because those animals were considered to be comparatively worthless (Luke 15:29); and hence, in Matthew 25:33, we have the diminutive τὰ ἐρίφια for the purpose of expressing contempt.

For the significance attached to the right and left side (Ecclesiastes 10:2), see Schoettgen and Wetstein on our passage. Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § xxxviii. 9 f. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 614 C Virg. Aen. vi. 542 f.


Verse 34

Matthew 25:34. βασιλεύς] because Christ is understood to have appeared ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ, Matthew 16:28, which fact is here self-evident from Matthew 25:31.

οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου] the blessed of my Father (for “in Christo electi sumus,” Bengel), now actually so (see on Ephesians 1:3) by being admitted into the Messianic kingdom that has been prepared for them. On the use of the participial substantive with a genitive, see Lobeck, ad Aj. 358; Winer, p. 178 [E. T. 236].

ἡτοιμασμένην] not merely destined, but: put in readiness; comp. Matthew 20:23; 1 Corinthians 2:9; John 14:2. καὶ οὐκ εἶπε λάβετε, ἀλλά· κληρονομήσατε, ὡς οἰκεῖα, ὡς πατρῷα, ὡς ὑμέτερα, ὡς ὑμῖν ἄνωθεν ὀφειλόμενα, Chrysostom. This κληρονομία is the fulfilment of the promise of Matthew 5:5, κληρονομήσουσι τὴν γῆν. Comp. Matthew 19:29.

ἀπὸ καταβ. κ.] Matthew 13:35, not equivalent to πρὸ κ. κ., when the election took place (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20). For the order of the words, comp. Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. iv. 2. 18.


Verse 35

Matthew 25:35 f. συνηγάγετέ με] ye have taken me along with, introduced me, that is, into your family circle along with the members of your family. This meaning, but not that of Fritzsche: “simul convivio adhibuistis,” is involved in the idea of ξένος. For συνάγω, as used with reference to a single individual who is gathered in along with others, comp. Xen. Cyrop. v. 3. 11; LXX. Deuteronomy 22:2; 2 Samuel 11:27; Judges 19:18; Sirach 13:15. For instances of Rabbinical promises of paradise in return for hospitality, see Schoettgen and Wetstein.

γυμνός] “Qui male vestitum et pannosum vidit, nudum se vidisse dicit,” Seneca, de benef. v. 3; James 2:15. Comp. on John 21:7; Acts 19:16.


Verse 37

Matthew 25:37 ff. Not mere modesty (not even, according to Olshausen, unconscious modesty), but an actual declining with humility, on the ground that they have never rendered the loving services in question to Christ Himself; for they do not venture to estimate the moral value of those services according to the lofty principle of Christ’s unity with His people, Matthew 18:5, Matthew 10:40. The Lord Himself then explains what He means, Matthew 25:40. Hence it does not follow from this passage that these δίκαιοι “have not as yet been consciously leading the New Testament life” (Auberlen, Cremer). Bengel well remarks: “Fideles opera bona sua, impii mala Matthew 25:44, non perinde aestimant ut judex.”

πότε σὲ εἴδομεν] three times, earnestly, honestly.

ἐφʼ ὅσον] in quantum, inasmuch as; see on Romans 11:13.

ἐποιήσατε] ye have done it, namely, the things previously mentioned.

ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων] to a single one of these my brethren, and that of the most insignificant of them. Those words, which are referred by Keil, Olshausen, Georgii, Hilgenfeld, Keim (see on Matthew 25:31 f.), to Christians in general; by Cremer, to the elect; by Luthardt, to the Christian church in its distress; by Auberlen, to their poor miserable fellow-men (comp. de Wette, Ullmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1847, p. 164 ff.),—do not admit of being also referred to the apostles (Matthew 28:10; 1 Corinthians 4:13), to whom, as surrounding His judgment-throne, Christ is supposed to point; for the amount of love shown to the apostles cannot be taken as the universal standard of judgment; and though the apostles themselves, appearing here, as they do, in their relation to the rest of Christians, may well be called the brethren of Christ (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17); yet they would certainly not be described by Him as the least of such brethren. No; as during His earthly life Christ is always surrounded by the obscure and despised (the poor, the humble, publicans and sinners, and such like), who seek their salvation through Him; so He also represents Himself as still surrounded by such as these on the occasion of the judgment (comp. Ewald, p. 420). In consequence of their longing after Him, and of their love for Him, and the eternal salvation to be found in Him (as ἠγαπηκότες τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ, 2 Timothy 4:8), they here come crowding around the throne of His glory; and to these He now points. They are the πτωχοί, πενθοῦντες, πρᾳεῖς, δεδιωγμένοι of the Sermon on the Mount, who are now on the point of receiving the promised bliss.


Verse 41

Matthew 25:41. οἱ κατηραμένοι] opposite of οἱ εὐλογημένοι. This consigning to everlasting destruction is also a reality, and the doing of God. But the words τοῦ πατρός μου are omitted this time, because the idea of πατήρ accords only with the loving act of blessing. The divine κατάρα, is the effect of holy wrath and the consequence of human guilt.

τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον] not this time ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου; this the hearer knew as matter of course. The Rabbins are not agreed as to whether Gehenna, any more than paradise and the heavenly temple, came into existence before or after the first day of creation. See the passages in Wetstein. From our passage nothing can be determined one way or another, especially as it is not the aorist participle that is made use of. Observe, however, that, in this instance, Jesus does not follow up ἡτοιμασμ. with ὑμῖν, as in Matthew 25:34, but with τῷ διαβόλῳ, κ. τ. λ.; because the fall of the angels (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4), which Scripture everywhere presupposes in its doctrine of the devil and his kingdom (Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 313 ff.), took place previous to the introduction of sin among men (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3), so that it was for the former in the first instance that the everlasting fire was prepared; comp. Matthew 8:29. But as men became partakers in the guilt of demons, so now are they also condemned to share in their punishment. For ἄγγελοι τοῦ διαβ., comp. 2 Corinthians 12:7; Revelation 12:7.


Verse 44

Matthew 25:44. Self-justification, by repelling the accusation as unwarranted.

καὶ αὐτοί] they too; for their answer is in exact correspondence with that of the righteous.

πότεκαὶ οὐ διηκονής. σοι] when saw we Thee hungry, etc., without ministering to Thee? What was the occasion on which, according to Thy accusation, we saw Thee hungry, and did not give Thee food? Such an occasion never occurred; as we have never seen Thee in such circumstances, so can we never have refused Thee our good services. In this self-justification it is assumed that if they had seen Him, they would have shown their love toward Him.


Verse 46

Matthew 25:46. Comp. Daniel 12:2. The absolute idea of eternity, in regard to the punishment of hell (comp. Matthew 25:41), is not to be got rid of either by a popular toning down of the force of αἰώνιος (Paulus), or by appealing (de Wette, Schleiermacher, Oetinger) to the figurative character of the term fire and the supposed incompatibility between the idea of eternity and such a thing as evil and its punishment, any more than by the theory that the whole representation is intended simply by way of warning (according to which view it is not meant thereby to throw light upon the eternal nature of things, but only to portray the κρίσις, i.e. the cessation of the conflict between good and evil by the extinction of the latter); but is to be regarded as exegetically established in the present passage (comp. Matthew 3:12, Matthew 18:8) by the opposed ζωὴν αἰώνιον, which denotes the everlasting Messianic life (Kaeuffer, as above, p. 21); comp. also Weizel in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 605 ff.; Schmid in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1870, p. 136 ff.

οἱ δὲ δίκαιοι] “hoc ipso judicio declarati,” Bengel. Comp. Romans 5:19.

REMARK.

Because the judgment is a judgment of Christians (see on Matthew 25:31), faith is presupposed though not formally mentioned. The truth is, the Judge regulates His decision according to the way in which faith has been evidenced by love (1 Corinthians 13:1 ff.; John 13:35), without which as its necessary fruit faith does not save (Galatians 5:6). Comp. Apol. Conf. A, p. 138. The manifestations of love, as forming the principle of the Christian’s life, accordingly constitute the πρᾶξις by which he is to be judged (Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Comp. Matthew 5:7. But, in so far as, according to this concrete view of the judgment, Jesus bases His sentence upon the principle that love shown to or withheld from the least of His brethren is the same as love shown to or withheld from Himself, He does so in harmony with the view contained in Matthew 18:5, Matthew 10:40. Comp. John 13:20.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 25:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-25.html. 1832.

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Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
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