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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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POUND (μνᾶ).—The value of the denarius (Authorized Version ‘penny’) being about 9½d., the mina (Authorized Version ‘pound’), which was 100 of these, was = £4 in our money. It was the 60th part of a talent. The only Gospel reference in this sense is in the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27). ‘Pound’ as a weight (λίτρα = 12 oz. avoird.) is alluded to in John 12:3; John 19:39 (see artt. Money and Weights and Measures.

Modern commentators of repute. (including Calvin) treat the story of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27) as a variant of the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). and prevailing theories on the origin of the Gospels as we have them tend to the confirmation of this view. In Mt. the parable appears as part of the prophetic discourse delivered at Jerusalem, when days of disaster were impending, and our Lord’s absence from this mortal scene became naturally an impressive theme (see art. Talents). Here in Lk., while activity during that absence is enjoined as a duty, colour is added to the story from local reminiscence. Jericho (Luke 19:1) owed its magnificent palace to the son of Herod the Great, Archelaus, facts from whose history seem clearly drawn upon in the narrative. The Herodian princes, on coming to office (Luke 19:12), went to Rome to receive imperial investiture (Josephus Ant. xiv. xiv. and xvii. xi. 4), and this same Archelaus was in such bad odour that an embassy of protest followed him (xv. xi. 1, etc.). Compare with this the action of the citizens, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’ (Luke 19:14). As if to accentuate the variation between Mt. and Lk., we have a further modification of the figures in the Gospel according to the Hebrews (c [Note: circa, about.] . [Note: circa, about.] 20 a.d.), where one servant wastes the goods of his lord among harlots and flute-players, another multiplies the pound, while a third conceals it; in the end, one is acknowledged, another reproved, and the third committed to prison. That Jesus uttered the parable is not to be doubted, but there seems some uncertainty in the details. The harshness of Matthew 25:27, however, as coming from His lips, can be escaped, on the theory that these words were used with reference to Archelaus, who had proved himself amply capable of cruelty.

The entire sovereignty of the Christ being not yet manifested, the broad lesson stands forth, and is unexhausted in our age, that the true note of faithfulness is active zeal in His cause (Luke 19:13). Means diligently improved yield rich results (Luke 19:17 and Luke 19:19); and although these may vary among individual men, rewards are in all cases manifold (Luke 19:17 and Luke 19:19). The highly informing contrast conies when we turn to the Pharisaic class,—specially abhorrent to Jesus,—who not only do no sacrificing deeds, but even glory complacently in negative propriety (Luke 19:20). The ultimate reason of their remissness is the wrong idea of God (Luke 19:21), whom they figure as a taskmaster who exacts, instead of a kindly father who bestows. Hence the note of the ‘austere,’ which passes by reflexion into their own sorry travesty of the eternal life. Daily deeds of love are the familiar exchange (Luke 19:23),—a mart which such religionists thoroughly neglect, since none are harder with their fellows. But innate law must prevail (Luke 19:26), and indifference never ends in itself—the callous soon betray diminished receptivity. Steel rusts when never out of the sheath, and the saddest cases in religion are seen in those who start fair, but achieve nothing. The figure of reaping where one has not sown (Luke 19:21), charged falsely against the master, tells truly on the critics themselves. The seed of truth lay to their hand, but it could not grow and reproduce till it was planted in the soil. Cherished mechanically, in their fashion, it was bound to shrivel into a withered husk, from which the germ of life had expired. Hence the verdict of the Master, that in spite of all appearances to the contrary, only the semblance of spiritual power remained—‘even that he hath shall be taken away from him’ (Luke 19:26). Conversely, the more actively men employ the graces of the Christian life, the more susceptible their souls become to higher things. It is in order to emphasize this fact—and for no other purpose—that the gainers of the ten pounds and the five pounds respectively are specified and put side by side in the story. The forfeited 100 drachms are awarded to the former, not to the latter, for ‘unto every one that hath shall be given’ (Luke 19:28). Life for us all means stewardship, and psychology more and more reveals a delicate and automatic system of rewards and punishments, under sanction of the One Supreme Being, who is revealed in teaching such as this, and who offers all men the saving presence of His Spirit.

Literature.—Trench and Bruce in their works on the Parables, in loc.; Lynch, Serm. for my Curates, 103 ff.

George Murray.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Pound'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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