Matthew 25
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.


CHAPTER 25:1–13

(The Gospel for the 27th Sunday after Trinity)

1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which [who] took their [own]1 lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.2 2And five of them were 3wise [foolish], and five were foolish [wise].3 They that were foolish4 took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4But the wise took oil in their [the]5 vessels with their lamps. 5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered [nodded, ἐνύσταξαν] and slept [fell asleep, ἐκάθευδον]. 6And at midnight there was a cry [a cry was] made, Be hold, the bridegroom cometh;6 go ye out to meet him. 7Then all those virgins arose,and trimmed [adorned, ἐκόσμηοαν] their [own, ἑαυτῶν] lamps. 8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out [going out, σβέννυται].7 9But the wise answered, saying, Not so [Not so, μήποτε·];8 lest there be not [there will not be, οὐ μή9 enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11Afterward came also the other virgins [the rest of the virgins, αἱ λοιπαὶ παρθένοι], saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12, 13But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore ; for ye know neither [not, οὐκ] the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.10


Matthew 25:1. Then shall be likened.—Fritzsche rightly notes a hint of sequence in the τότε. After the judgment upon the servants and the office, following the judgment upon the people generally.11 The figure introduces females, in conformity with the idea of the Church.

Ten virgins.Ten, the number of developed secular life; and thus the number of the completed secular development of the Church. It was termed by the Rabbins the “all comprehending number.” What goes beyond ten returns to units again. Hence the ten commandments, the harp with its ten strings,12 the ten Sephiroth of the Cabbalists, etc13 (Comp. NORK: Etymologisch-symbolisch-mythologisches Real-wörterbuch, sub Zehn.) Five, the number of freedom as half -consummation, and of the course of the world in motion: hence also the number of punishment or compensation, Exod. 22:1 (five senses, five fingers, etc.); compare Luke 19:19. The virgins are not merely companions of the bride, but representatives of the bride, the Church.14 See the prophetical type in 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4. Virginity signifies Christianity as separation from the world, as restraint from all worldly contamination. See Ezek. 23; Hos. 1.; Rev. 17.; comp. Matthew 14:4.15Concerning the relation of the virgins to the bride, we must bear in mind the analogy of the marriage supper of the king’s son and his guests. The Church, in her aggregate and ideal unity, is the bride; the members of the Church, as individually called, are guests; in their separation from the world, and expectation of the Lord’s coming, they are His virgins. Virginity, waiting for the Lord, and festal joy, they share with the bride. Bengel, in his Discourses on the Revelation (p. 1039), distinguishes between such Christians as belong to the bride and such as belong only to the number of guests. This is so far true, as the perfect experience of Christianity finds its proper centre only in the elect. But we are not authorized to make a full separation between the two, but must assume a gradual rising.

Their own lamps.—A feature of the custom which is significant. Propriety, individuality, preparation, independence of others. Vocation to a peculiar and personal spiritual life. There was a kind of torch amongst the ancients, which consisted of a long, thick wooden staff, in the upper end of which a vessel was inserted, having a wick sustained by oil: thus they were at once lamps and torches. [Alford on the contrary: These were not torches or wicks fastened on staves, but properly lamps, and the oil vessels (which is most important to the parable) were separate from the lamps; the lamps being the hearts lit with the flame of heavenly love and patience, supplied with the oil of the Spirit.—P. S.]

And went forth.—“Here the customs of a solemn bridal procession in the night are presupposed. 1 Macc. 9:37 gives us an example of such a procession in daylight. Among the Greeks and Romans, the bride was brought home by night: hence the torches of which so much is said. Comp. R. Salomo, ad Chelim, ii.8 (see Wetstein and Lightfoot) witnesses the same practice in Palestine. Ordinarily, the bride was fetched by the bridegroom and his friends (domum ducere); but here it is the office of the virgins (comp. Ps. 45:15, Grotius) to fetch the bridegroom, and the wedding seems to take place in the house of the bride, as in Judg. 14:10.” De Wette. Similarly Meyer. The figure generally is modified by the circumstance, that the bridegroom comes from afar, as in Judg. 14. This brings in the festal going forth to meet him, in which the virgins represent the bride; it also indicates the long tarrying of the bridegroom; and finally, though less markedly, that the marriage takes place in the house of the bride. Compare the art. Hockzeit in WINER’S Bibl, Realwörterbuch [and the art. Marriage in SMITH’S Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 240 sqq.]

Matthew 25:3. They that were foolish took their lamps.—We must carefully note the contrast: In the case of the foolish virgins, the taking of the lamps is everything (λαβοῦσ αι τὰς λαμπά δας ἑαυ τῶν); but in the case of the wise, it is the taking of oil in their vessels. The foolish are thus represented as being vain and thoughtless, looking only at appearances, and only in haste going forth through excited feeling.

Matthew 25:5. While the bridegroom tarried.—Meyer supposes that the virgins had set forth from the house of the bride, and had gone into another house by the way. This strange notion is needless, when it is considered that the virgins secretly provide their own lamps, and then betake themselves to the bride’s house. The ἀξῆλθυν of Matthew 25:1 does not mean that they had already gone forth some distance on the way: it is a preliminary description of the great event of the parable.—They all nodded and fell asleep.—An intimation of weakness indeed, yet expressing the great delay of the bridegroom rather than censure.16 Certainly the slumbering was perilous, since it took away the possibility of repairing, in haste, the lack of oil. [NAST: The expression denotes the gradual approach of sleep to such as occupy a sitting posture, and strive at first to withstand the disposition to slumber. These virgins made efforts to keep awake, but finally yielded to the influence of seep. ALFORD: Being weak by nature, they gave way to drowsiness; as indeed the wakefulness of the holiest Christian, compared with what it should be, is a sort of slumber. D. BROWN: Two stages of spiritual declension—first, that half-involuntary lethargy or drowsiness which is apt to steal over one who falls into inactivity; and then a conscious yielding to it after a little vain resistance.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:6. At midnight.—Significant, The most unfit time to obtain what they had omitted.—A cry was made.—The greater the apparent delay, the more intense the surprise at the cry of the heralds sent forward.

Matthew 25:7. Adorned their own lamps.—The trimming17had probably taken place before. The adornment of the lamp was the kindled festal flame, in the light of which it shone. Hence, afterward, extinction is spoken of at once, σβεννυται: they burn dimly, and will go out.18

Matthew 25:9. Not so!—Since οὐμή is the correct reading in the following clause, μήποτε is not dependent on ἀρκέσ ͅη, but has the force of a strongly repelling negative: By no means!

Matthew 25:10. They that were ready went in with him.—It is presupposed that they first went out to meet him with their festal lamps. It is not needful to explain, with Bornemann, “into the house of the bridegroom;” nor, with Meyer, to suppose that they had gone back from the imaginary midway house to that of the bride.

Matthew 25:12. I know you not.See Matthew 7:23, p. 145. [Here—Non agnosco, I do not acknowledge you as mine. This as well as the ἐκλεισθη ἡ θύρα, bears rather strongly against the view of Olshausen, Alford, and others, who suppose that the foolish virgins were only excluded from the millennium, but not from the ultimate kingdom of glory in heaven. (See below, Doctrinal Thoughts, No. 5.) Alford tries to evade the difficulty by making an essential distinction, which is hardly justified, between οὐκοιδαὑμᾶς in this passage, and ουδέ ποτε έ̀γν ωνὑμᾶς in Matthew 7:23.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:1–12. THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE.—The leading idea is the readiness of the Church for the coming of the Lord: but that rather viewed intenally than externally; not in its extension, but in its intensity.19 The Lord had made it very clear that the question was not of a mechanical millennarian preparation; for He represented all the virgins as asleep, the wise in common with the foolish. Internal preparation is before all things dependent on the possession of the oil. The oil signifies the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which de Wette denies in vain, This explanation is founded upon the constant typical meaning of the oil in the Old and New Testaments. See Heb. 1:9; comp. Ps. 45:7, 8; Acts 10:38. The name of the Messiah shows that the oil of unction was a symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But the oil which fed the lamps could have no other meaning; for even the olive-tree partook of the same significance. See Zech. 4:2, 3; Rev. 11:4. Now, if the oil signifies the true inward life of faith, the spiritual life, the interpretation of the lamps is not far off: they denote the form of faith.20 Hence it is significant that the foolish virgins were very careful to secure their lamps, but neglected the oil; while the wise virgins took oil in their vessels with their lamps. They did not neglect the lamps, but their chief concern was about the oil. Olshausen gives the right interpretation of the oil; but he improperly makes the lamp mean the heart;21 observing that in the foolish virgins faith had its root only in the feeling. Chrysostom gives an arbitrary explanation: with him the oil is alms; and so on with the rest of the particulars. Luther inversely makes the lamps good works, and the oil-vessels faith. Meyer is against all interpretation of the details, and appeals to Calvin: “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.” But in this constancy, externally regarded, the foolish virgins are not by any means wanting. They pray, they even run in the very midnight to the sellers. It would be out of the question to suppose that even, after all, they obtained a supply, and came with their oil after the rest. This is not in the parable; and the simple point remains, that they troubled themselves about the oil too late. The division of the virgins into two classes must therefore have this meaning, that one part of the Church is living, while the other lives in only appearance, because it lives only to appearance. Hence the distribution into two halves must not be literally pressed. Midnight is a late and dark season, a season of sleep and the danger of surprise. “The ancient Church took the word literally; and hence the origin of the vigiliæ.” Heubner. The cry at midnight cannot refer to the ecclesiastical watchers exclusively; but, in connection with them, to the cosmical signs of the parousia which have been already mentioned. The sellers have been interpreted of the Holy Scripture and its writers.22 The means of grace generally, or prayer, will obviously be thought of; but this is a trait in the parable which scarcely endures interpretation. The sleeping of the virgins was very inappropriately referred by Chrysostom to their bodily death;23 and by Calvin to “occupationum hujus mundi distractio.” But it seems best to understand it of an involuntary entanglement in the world and its spirit of carnal security,24 to which even believing Christians are liable. Heubner: “The sleepiness is not the relaxation or decline of Christianity, 25 but the remission of a definite expectation of the near approach of Christ’s coming. We can easily understand how this expectation has decreased with increasing ages; it is not found now among all faithful Christians, of whom very few can bring themselves to think that we may live to see the last day. But this sleepiness does not exclude the general preparation of Christians in other respects, that is, their faith and love.”


1. The Judgment on the Church.—The ten virgins signify not merely a part of the Church, as Olshausen contends for, but the whole of it. This is evident, first, from the number ten, which points to the perfect secular development of the Church. Further, the circumstance that individual traits are not at all exhibited; the five virgins on the one side, and the five virgins on the other, being altogether alike respectively. And, lastly, the position of this parable between that of the two servants and that which follows concerning the entrusted talents; that is, between the judgment upon the ministerial office, and the judgment upon individual Christians.

2. The Significance of the Individual Traits of the Parable.—The three most essential points are: 1. The ten virgins; 2. the delay of the bridegroom, and the midnight; 3. the oil in the vessels in relation to the lamps. Of the first we have spoken already. As it regards the second, the two great things—the delay of the bridegroom, and midnight—coalesce in one, the second being the consequence of the first. The midnights in the history of the kingdom of God, are each the last late season of a slowly-expiring age Hence, the time of the last kings of Israel, before the Lord’s coming in the Babylonian captivity, or in the Messianic prophecies; still more, the time of the crucifixion of Christ; the end of the Middle Ages; and especially the final period before the end of the world. It is midnight for the Church of Christ, when the worldly spirit is so far in the ascendency as to make it seem that the history of the Church will fall into the common course of the world and of nature, that the kingdom of heaven is not to be consummated in the judgment and renewal of the world, and that Christ is not to come or to return. In such a season the faithful are more than ever tempted to give up the feeling, that they live in the midst of the great preparation for the marriage supper, and the Christian glorification of the world; and gradually to surrender their firm hold on their vocation, which is to represent the solemn festive character26 of the work of Christ. But more than once has arisen, in the midnights of Christian history, the cry, the Bridegroom cometh! The cry without doubt must signify, in. such cases, the prophetic warnings of faithful watchmen, in connection with the solemn signs of the times, which likewise preach. Heavy judgments and great awakenings testify the nearness of the Lord, until He really come. In such times the Church is sifted.

3. And the decisive test is not the lamp, but the oil-vessel,—the Spirit, the spiritual life.

4. But, as the wicked and the faithful servants are sundered, and the wicked are cut in two, so will the Church through that sifting be divided into a dying and a living portion. “This distinction is always present. But as time runs on it becomes more manifest; and at the end it will be seen in all its fearfulness, as the ground of the judgment which the Church must undergo. They all have the lamps: the forms of faith, ecclesiastical confession and position. But then the question comes as to whether the form is filled with the eternal substance of the Spirit of Christ. The foolish virgins lack the Spirit of Christ; they have no lights, no evidences of love, no hymns of praise to welcome the Lord in His coming.” (From the author’s Leben Jesu.)

5. According to Olshausen, this judgment is only preparatory, only an exclusion from the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7).27 But what else is the marriage of the Lamb, but the festival or at least the fore festival, of eternal blessedness? Olshausen thinks that the foolish virgins had faith (κύριε, κίριε, Matthew 25:11), and that they lacked only sanctification. But they are without the Spirit, and therefore without the reality of faith. The saving: “Lord, Lord,” saves not in the judgment. Only this much may be admitted, that this parable, like the preceding and the following, primarily delineates a historical judgment which introduces the final one, but is not the final and conclusive one itself. These three preliminary judgments, however, are introductory to the final judgment; and they are themselves so far final and decisive, as the want of the Spirit (oil), consummated unfaithfulness in office, and the squandering of the gifts of grace, fit the soul for condemnation. Only with reference to the possibility of individual conversions must a distinction be allowed between the preliminary judgments and the last end.


The judgment of the Church.—1. The impending coming of the Bridegroom to the marriage; 2. the five foolish and the five wise virgins; 3. the delay of the Bridegroom, and the midnight, 4. the cry at midnight; 5. the want of oil, and the lamps going out; 6. the feast of the wise, and the exclusion of the foolish virgins.—What is the great essential for the Church, waiting for the Lord? 1. The vessel of oil with the lamps: the spiritual life and the form of faith. 2. The oil before the lamps: the spiritual life above the form of faith. 3. The oil in the vessel: the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the confession.—The Church always divided into foolish and wise members.—The characteristics of the foolish virgins: 1. Hasty external equipment for the feast, which takes care of the appearance (the lamps), but forgets the essence (the oil). 2. Relaxation and drowsiness after the first excitement, affecting even the wise also. 3. False and anxious efforts at last, to repair the irreparable loss of spiritual life.—The characteristics of the wise virgins: 1. Divine preparation for eternity: the oil and the lamps. 2. Human infirmity in the course of life (slumbering). 3. Christian conduct in every hour of decision: burning lamps; refusal of ruinous fellowship with the unprovided.—Comparison of the wise and foolish virgins: 1. The prevailing similarity in externals; 2. the unapparent and yet decisive difference in secret.—The judgments of the Lord, especially the last, make a severance between the dead and the living members of the Church.—The severe test which the Church sustains, through the increase of worldliness and the apparent delay of the Lord.—The midnight in the history of the Church.—The cry at midnight: The Bridegroom cometh!—Joyful expectation of the advent, the burning festal lamp with which the Christian goes to meet the Lord.—The right preparation for His coming.—The hour of judgment makes the internal difference between living Christians and hypocrites apparent. 1. The former find themselves prepared with the great essential, which the others lack,—the Spirit, and spiritual fellowship with the Lord. 2. The former lift up their heads, because their redemption draws nigh; the others are overwhelmed and abandoned. 3. The former advance toward their Lord with the festal light of joy and praise; the others seek their help apart from Him.—The seemingly severe word of the wise virgins, a word of truth and gentleness. For, 1. The spiritual life, which makes Christians what they are, cannot be externally transmitted, but must be internally experienced; 2. it cannot be divided and diminished without perishing; 3. every attempt of the wise to have fellowship with the foolish in the hour of judgment, must be destructive to both parties alike; 4. if salvation were yet possible, it would be only in the ordinary way of repentance and conversion.—Ruinous delay for the Lord’s feast.—What should be the effect of the Lord’s sacred delay: not a hurtful delay in caring for what is needful, but a saving diligence.—The highest internal life is the most extreme watchfulness.

Starke:—Zeisius: The visible Church of Christ upon earth consists of true and false, dead and living, members,—of wise and foolish Christians.—The Church is divided into two halves: the true and the hypocritical.—The externals of Christianity are nothing before God, where the heart is not truly sanctified through the Holy Spirit.—The slumbering must be explained with a difference. With the ungodly, it is a godless security: with the faithful, it is a spiritual lethargy; which, however, is consistent with true love to Christ.—Canstein: The tarrying of the Bridegroom is not delay; but a pausing, in merciful desire to save.—Christ will come at a time when the Church is secure and asleep.—Quesnel: The pious are reputed fools and miserable; but the time will come when men will wish to be sharers of their goods and blessedness.—Every man must live by his own faith.—The sacred oil of joy may be bought without money but it must be in time.—Cramer: Let him who would repent, take it in good season.—The Lord knoweth his own, 2 Tim. 2:19.—Spiritual watchfulness is most needful.

Gossner:—The same judgment will come upon all Christians, who hold only to the form of religion (the lamps) without caring for the spirit (the oil in the lamps).

Gerlach:—Every soul is accepted for himself, and cannot represent others in judgment28—Jesus knows those only for His own who have lived and persevered in living fellowship with Him.

Heubner:—To be a virgin, is the destination of a Christian: he is called to purity, sanctification, abstinence from spiritual whoredom, idolatry.—He is consecrated to the Lord.—Not all who have externally left Babylon, or the world, are true virgins.—Christ does not speak of unbelievers, but of those who once had faith.—perfect unbelievers, who are without any expectation of the Lord, belong to neither class29 of virgins.—Expectation of the Lord’s advent a necessary mark of the Christian.—The lamp is the external form, the vessel for inward Christianity.… Without the lamp the oil is wasted, but without the oil the lamp will not burn.—Take care not to despise external Christianity (baptism, confession, church-going, partaking of the holy communion); but take care also not to be satisfied with it, and to rest upon it.—The two olive-trees, Rev. 11:1–6.—True Christians unite both external and internal Christianity.—The extinction of the lamps, the painful feeling of emptiness in the spirit.—Hence the anguish and despondency of to many dying people.—How many send for the minister, and frantically desire spiritual good, when too late!

Fritsch: The constant preparation for death.—Schenkel: The false security of the converted.—Lisco: The parable an exhortation to true preparation for the end.

[QUESNEL (in addition to those extracts given by Starke above):—Man’s life is one continual preparation for the marriage-supper of eternity. His heart is his lamp. [So also Olshausen and Alford, but not Lange, see above.] By the motions and desires of his soul, he goes forth to meet the bridegroom, and hastens toward heaven by the virgin purity of his life.—The Church, before the marriage-supper of eternity, is always divided and mixed.—True wisdom consists in being always ready, and in constant remembrance of the bridegroom’s coming.—A heart without charity [faith] is a lamp without oil.—The holiness of others will not avail us at the hour of death.—The door is shut! Dreadful and fatal words! No hope remains. Nothing but death shuts this door; but death may surprise us in our sins, and then de spair is our portion.—To watch is to employ ourselves chiefly about the business of our salvation. But, alas, how many who slumber! How many asleep! How many seized with lethargy! How many quite dead!—BURKITT:—Some Christians, like foolish virgins, content themselves with a blazing lamp of an outward profession, without securing an inward principle of grace and love, which should maintain that profession, as the oil maintains the lamp. Hence the true wisdom consists in taking care that the vessel of his heart may be furnished with the graces of the Holy Spirit, as a prevailing and abiding principle.—The Bridegroom will certainly come, though at His own time: 1. Reason says: He may come (God is just and will reward, etc.); 2. faith says: He will come; 3. happy are those who go forth to meet Him.—The lamp of profession will certainly go out, which has not a stock of grace to feed it.—Those who would have grace, must have timely recourse to them that sell, i.e., to the ordinances and means of grace.—The door is shut against them: the door of repentance; the door of hope; the door of salvation; shut for ever; shut by Him that shutteth and none can open.—NAST:—Three great evils fell upon the unwise virgins: 1. Their labor was lost, all the preparations they had made, the lamps which they had purchased, the amount of oil consumed, the cold, dark hours of watching; 2. the opportunity of redress; 3. their hope was lost for ever.—P. S.]


[1]Matthew 25:1.—[The best ancient authorities and the critical editions read: ἑαυτῶν, for the lect. rec: αὐτῶν, in Matthew 25:1 and 7. Dr. Lange also adopts it in his German Version; while Dr. Conant overlooks this difference of reading.—P. S.]

[2]Matthew 25:1 —The addition: καὶ τῆς νύμφης(et sponsœ), is poorly attested and disturbs the sense. [TRENOII, Notes on the Parables, p. 287, thinks otherwise, and approves, as to sense, the reading: and went forth to meet the bridegroom AND THE BRIDE. Maldonatus likewise favors it propter veteres interpretes. It was the custom among the Jews and Greeks that the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, went to the house of the bride, to lend her to his own home, and was joined by the virgins, the friends of the bride, not on his going to fetch the bride, but on his returning, with her, to his own house. A similar custom seems to prevai in Sicily even to this day. Comp. HUGHES, Travels in Sicily, vol. ii. p. 20 (quoted by Trench): “We went to view the nocturnal procession which always accompanies the bridegroom in escorling his betrothed spouse from the paternal roof to that of her future husband. This consisted of nearly one hundred of the first persons in Joannina, with a great crowd of torch-bearers, and a band of music. After having received the lady they returned, but were joined by an equal number of ladies, who paid this compliment to the bride.” These ladles, Trench think, correspond to the virgins here, and join the procession on the return of the bridegroom, with the bride, to his own and her new home. Other commentators, however, among them Lange, assume here a modification of the usual custom, and a procession of the virgins to meet the bridegroom on his way to the house of the bride. See the Exeg. Notes.—P.S.]

[3]Matthew 25:2.—Codd. B., C., D., L., Z., Lachmann. Tischendorf, put μωραί first [So does Cod. Sinait, and Alford Conant ignores this difference in the position of μωραί and φρονιμοι.—P.S.]

[4]Matthew 25:3.—The readings: αἱ γάμ [text. rec: αἵτινες,]—αἱ δέ, αἱ οδν appear to be interpretations. [Tischendorf, de Wette, and Meyer regard αἱ γάρ as an emendation of αἵτινες. But Codd. B., C., L., and Sinait. sustain αἱ γάν, and it is more natural to suppose, with Alford, that δἐ, οὖν, και, αἵτινες, were substituted because γάρ was not understood.—P. S.]

[5]Matthew 25:4.—[The text. rec. inserts αύτῶν, or αὑτῶν, ἀγγείοις after, but it is wanting in Codd. Sinait, B., D., L, and omitted by Lachmann and Alford, while Tischendorf reads αυτων. Lange retains it, but in parenthesis and in small type.—P. S.]

[6]Matthew 25:6.—The word: ἔρχεται (cometh). is omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf, according to decisive authorities. [See also Tregelles and Alford. Conant, simply: Behold, the bridegroom!—P. S.]

[7]Matthew 25:7.—[Alford emphasizes the present tense, and finds in it the important truth, that the lamps of the foolish virgins were not extinguished altogether.—P. S.]

[8]Matthew 25:9.—[Not no is italicised in the English Version as an interpolation, because, it follows the text. rec: μήποτε οὐκ ἀρκέσῃ, and makes αρκεσῃ depend upon υήποτε But the correct reading, according to the best critical authorities is: υήποτε οὐ υὴ ἀρκεσῃ, and μήποτε is to be taken as an independent exclamation: By no means! Not so! There will not be enough, etc. Meyer: Nimmermehr; wird gewisslich nicht hinreichen! Lange: Misnichten! Es würde sicher nicht ausreichen.—P. S.]

[9]Matthew 25:9.—Read ου μή [for αὐκ without μτ] according to B., C., D., Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Tregelles, Alford].

[10]Matthew 25:18.—The words. wherein the Son of Man cometh, are wanting in Codd. A., B., C., D., [Cod. Sinait], in Lachmann und Tischendorf: [also in the text of Tregelles and Alford, and the revised translation of Matthew by Conant and the N. T. of the Am. Bible Union.—P. S.]

[11][Millennarian interpreters refer the then, and the whole section from Matthew 24 to 25:30 to Christ’s coming before the millennium, or the judgment which precedes His personal reign on earth, as distinct from His final coming.— P.S.]

[12][The Edinb. trsl. not knowing the difference between Saiten (string) and Seiten (side, page), renders Lange’s “Psalter [i.e., ψαλτήριον, the stringed instrument, or ψαλτήρ, which also means sometimes the instrument, though more freque tly the performer, the harper] mit 10 Saiten:” “the Psalter with, its ten leaves!” According to Joseph. Antiq. vii. 12, 3, the Jewish harp, כִּנּיֹר, like the Greek κινύρα, the Latin cithara (hence guitar), had ten strings. To this the original no doubt refers.—P. S.]

[13][Ten formed a company with the Jews, also a family to oat the passover; ten Jews living in one place formed a congregation and should be provided with a synagogue; ten lamps or torches were the usual number in marriage processions. See WETSTEIN in loc.. VITRINGA: de Synagoga, p. 232 sq . and on the biblical symbolism of numbers the remarks in this volume, p. 183 sq.—Tertullian (De anima, c. 18) ascribe to some of the Gnostics a curious mystic interpretation of the ten virgins: the five foolish virgins signify the five senses which are easily deceived and often misled. the five wise virgins are the reasonable powers which are able to comprehend ideas. Jerome. Augustine, Gregory, and Beda. on the contrary, refer the number ten to the five senses under two aspects, viz.: in their right use and in their abuse. On this Maldonatus makes the remark: “Probabilia hœc sunt [?]; sed potius credo, propterea denario numero parabolam fuisse propopitam, ut omnium hominum multitiudo atque universitas significetur, quœ per hunt numerum declarari solet”—P. S.]

[14][According to the millennarian theory the bride is the restored Jewish Church and the ten virgins represent the Gentile congregations accompanying her. Alford is inclined to take a similar view: “In both the wedding parables (see Matthew 22) the bride does not appear, for she, being the church, is in fact the aggregate of the guests in the one case, and of the companions in the other [so Lange, see above]. We may perhaps say. that she is here, in the strict interpretation, the Jewish Church and these ten virgins Gentile congregations accompanying her.’—P.S.]

[15][Clirysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zig., and Gregory, also Augustine in one place (but differently in another), are certainly wrong in taking rirgins in the literal sense, and every other trart of the parable in a figurative sense. This contracted view (as even Maldonatus admits it to be) is closely connected with the ascetic overestimate of celibacy. Hilary, on the other hand, expands the meaning of virgins so as to comprehend omnes homines, fideles et infideles. Origen, Jerome, and Maldonatus justly limit the title to all belivers.—P. S.]

[16][Lange: Andeutung der Schwachheit freilich, sonst aber mehr die gross Verspätung des Bräutigams uls sinen bestimmteren Tadel aussprechend. The Edinb. edition misunderstands this passage entirely in translating: “but also declaring their more express fault to have been the retarding of the bridegroom.”—P. S.]

[17][Not: “the personal festal array,” as the Edinb. trsl. renders: Das Aufputzen. Dr. Lange no doubt refers to the preparation of the lamps by pouring on fresh oil, and removing the fungi about the wick, which was done by a sharp-pointed wire attached to the lamp (as still seen in ancient bronze lamps in sepulchres). He translates ἐκόσμησαν (which the English Version renders trimmed) literally: sie schmückten.—P. S.]

[18][Alford emphasizes the present tense: they are going out. See the Crit. Note above. The English Version certainly conveys a false sense, and it is surprising that such a scholar as Dr. Wordsworth should base an interpretation on a false translation, when he remarks to σβεννυνται: “i.e., they had died in a careless unprofitable condition, and these lamps were gone out, and now It was too late to ask for oil.”—The foolish virgins still had the outward appearance and profession of Christianity, but in its last stage of consumption.—P. S.]

[19][Calvin and Alford put the lesson of the parable in the blessedness of endurance unto the end. But Lange in right, as appears from Matthew 25:13 which contains the lesson of the parable, as Maldionatus correctly observe.—P. S.]

[20][Here lies the principal difference between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Evangelic ] interpretation of the parable of the Ten Virgins.—a difference which is similar to that concerning the Wedding Garment Matthew 22:11. Origen, Hilary, Jerome, Maldonatus, and many Catholic interpreters (including Quesnel, the Jansenist), make the oil the symbol of good works or charity, without which faith is dead and hence cannot burn (James 2:26), and the lamps the symbol of faith, which was common to all virgins. It is only a modification of this exposition if Chrysostom. Ambrose, and other fathers refer the oil more particularly to eleomosyna et misericordia. The reformers and most of the Protestant commentators, on the contrary, more naturally understand the oil to signify the principle of a living faith, or the unaction of the Holy Spirit, or more generally: inward spiritual life the grace of God in the heart, and the lamps, the outward Christian appearance and profession (Luther, less aptly: good works). The fathers, however, can hardly be quoted as a whole in favor of the Roman interpretation, since they differ very widely in their exposition and explication. Tous the lamps mean, according to Hilary, the human bodies, in which the divine light burns; according to Jerome, the senses of the body. Augustine, who varies in his interpretation of this parable, in one place approaches the Protestant view, when he makes the oil to mean bonam intentionem mentis, and the lamps bona opera (Ep. cxl. 33; Serm. cxlix. 11). If we are authorized to press every feature in this parable, and to make it, as it wore, (sil venia verbo!) walk on all fours, the exposition of Dr. Lange is the most ingenious and plausible—P. S.]

[21][So also Quesnel and Alford.—P. S.]

[22][So Olshansen. Somewhat differently Alford: οἱ πωλοῖντες are the ordinary dispensers of the means of grace (which he thinks supplies no mean argument for a set and appointed, and moreover a paid ministry; for if they sell, they receive for the thing sold). Better with Lange the means of grace themselves (including the Scriptures and the ministry). This is certainly a far more sensible interpretation than that of Chrysostom, Hilary, and other fathers, who take the sellers of oil to signify the poor, who receive the alms the oil) of the faithful, and sell the oil in return for the relief afforded to their wants!—P.S.]

[23][So also Basil, Hilary, and Augustine, as well as Wordsworth and other modern commentators. This exposition would imply that at the time of the Lord’s coming none of the faithful would be living on earth. Trench, on the other hand, regards the falling asleep merely as a circumstance required by the convenience of the parabolic narration, and Nast is inclined to the same view. But the exposition of Lange (see above, comp. also Stier and Heubner) is the most plausible—P.S.]

[24][In German Sicherheit, security, not severity, as the Edinb. transl. reads.]

[25][In German: Das Schläfrigwerden ist, nicht Erschlaffen (relaxation, abatement) des Christenthums; in the Edinb. trsl.: the profound sleep of Christendom (which would require in German: der tiefe Schlaf der Christenheit.—P. S.]

[26][In German: die Festlichkeit a favorite term with Dr. Lange), which the Edinb. trsl. mistook for Festigkeit and rendered: stability!—P. S.]

[27][Similarly ALFORD: “We are not told that they could not buy—that the shops were shut—but simply that it was too late—for that time. For it is not the final coming of the Lord to judgment, when the day of grace will be past, that is spoken of—except in so far as it is hinted at in the background.”—Poiret (as quoted by Trench. p. 237 Fr. VON Meyer, and millennarian commentators, take the same view and generally assume that the five foolish virgins will be excluded only from the blessedness of the first resurrection and the thousand years’ reign of Christ on earth, but not from final salvation and the glory of leaven. It may be urged in favor of this view that the virgins are not divided into good and bad, but into wise and foolish virgins, and that the later are not represented as unbelievers. But compair against this interpretation the remarks of Dr. Lange above, and also Dr. Nast on Matthew 25:12, and the passage from Bengel quoted there.—P. S.]

[28][Comp. the remark of Jerome on Matthew 25:9: “Unus quisque pro operibus suis mercedem recipiet, neque possuns in die judicii aliorum virtutes aliorum vitia sublevare.—P. S.]

[29][In German: zu keiner Klasse: in the Edirb. trsl to one class, which must be a mere printing error.—P. S.]

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.


CHAPTER 25:14–30

14For the kingdom of heaven is [he is] 30 as a man travelling into a far country [going abroad, ἀνθρ. ἀποδημῶν], who [. He] called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability [his own ability, κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν]; and straightway took his journey [he went abroad, ἀπεδήμησεν]. 16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same [with them, ἐν αὐτοῖς], and made them 17[gained]31 other five talents. And likewise [Likewise also, Ὡσαύτως καί] he that had received two [the two, ὁ τὰ δύο],32 he also gained other two. 18But he that had received 19one [talent]33 went and digged [dug] in the earth, and hid34 his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And so he that had received [the] five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them35 five talents more 21[other five talents beside them, ἄλλα πέντε τάλ. ἐκέρδησα ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς]. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou36 good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things:37 enter thou into the joy of thy 22lord. [And] He also that had received [the] two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23His 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:38 enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24Then he which [who] had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed:39 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the 26earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine [thou hast thine own, ἔχεις τὸ σόν]. [And] 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 strewed: [?]40 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put [thrown, βαλεῖν]41 my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury [interest].42 28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which [that] hath [the] ten talents. 29For 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. 30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into [the, τὸ] outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


The Signification of the Parable of the Talents.—In this parable the idea of retribution, as affecting individual Christians, comes prominently forward; as the first referred that retribution to office-bearers in the Church, and the second to the Church itself as a whole. As there the former parable laid the stress upon the watchfulness, internal religion, here we have the requirement of watchfulness in persevering, unwearied fidelity and activity through the Spirit. [Compare the remarks of Trench: While the virgins were represented as waiting for the Lord, we have here the servants working for Him. There the inward spiritual rest of the Christian was described—here his external activity. There, by the end of the foolish virgins, we are warned against declensions and decays in the inward spiritual life—here against sluggishness and sloth in our outward vocation and work. That parable enforced the need of keeping the heart with all diligence—this the need of giving all diligence also to the outward work, if we would be found of Christ in peace at the day of His appearing. Alford likewise refers this parable to the active side of the Christian life, while the preceding parable sets forth the contemplative side. “There, the foolish virgins failed from thinking their part too easy—here the wicked servant fails from thinking his too hard. The parable is still concerned with Christians (τοὺς ἰδίους δούλους), and not the world at large. We must remember the relation of master and slave, in order to understand his delivering to them his property, and punishing them for not fructifying with it.” But this may be understood as well from the stand-point of free labor.—P. S.]

As it respects the relation of the parable of the Talents, to the parable of the Pounds (Minœ) in Luke 19:2–27, it is somewhat analogous to the relation of the parable of the marriage of the King’s Son, Matthew 22:2, to the parable of the Supper, Luke 14:16. We must not be misled by the appearance of likeness into a denial of the fact, that we have to do here with an altogether new and different parable. Meyer says: “The analogous parable in Luke 19 is to be regarded as a modification, which arose, in evangelical tradition, of our present original and simpler parable. In its form in Luke, probably an original and independent parable (concerning the rebellious subjects) had become blended with that of the talents (comp. Strauss, i:636 sq.; Ewald, p. 339 sq.).” Such perfect confusion of parable with fiction would be discarded at once by a careful estimate of the practical doctrinal scope of the former. That would altogether set aside the following alternative (of Meyer): “If we entertain the thought that the parables in Luke and those in Matthew were delivered by Christ at different times, we must either admit the unnatural supposition that the simpler form in Matthew was the later (as Kern maintains), or contradict the narrative by assuming that Jesus delivered the parables in Matthew earlier than those in Luke (Schleiermacher, Neander).” The idea of “simpler” has nothing to do here, where, as even de Wette acknowledges, the parables are internally different in their scope. The differences are plain: 1. As to their respective motives. In Luke, Jesus designs to repel the supposition that the advent would soon, or immediately, in a chronological sense, make its appearance; in Matthew, He intends to quicken the expectation that, in a religious sense, it would soon come. 2. In the former, the Lord is a high-born noble, who was to receive a kingdom; here, He is simply a landowner. There, the Lord’s absence is distance in space; here, it is length of time (there: ἐπορεύθη εἰς χώρας μακράν; here: μετὰ χρόνον πολὺν ἔρχεται). There, the servants are ten, the number of the world’s age (see the ten virgins); here, they are three, the number of the Spirit. In the former, all the servants receive one pound—doubtless the one equal office of testimony; here, the first servant receives five talents, the second two, the third one—thus noting individually different endowment, diverse degrees of the gift of the Spirit and grace. There, the gain is not in relation to the pounds—there are ten pounds from the the one, five pounds from the one—because the result of official blessing may be past all reckoning; here, the gain is proportioned to the gift—five pounds from five, two from two—because the gift of the Spirit as such can have an objective blessing only according to its subjective degree. There, the last servant lays up the one pound, which mikes him equal to the rest, in a napkin, unused, signifying his idleness; here, he buries it in the earth, signifying the prostitution of spiritual gifts to the service of the world and the flesh. There, the recompense of fidelity is the extension of the charge and vocation, the being placed over ten and over five cities; here, it is an entrance into the joy of their Lord:—the former in harmony with official relation, and the latter in harmony with the personal spiritual life. There, the die servant was punished by the pound being taken from him (removal from office); here, he is cast into the outer darkness, condemned to eternal woe. In Luke, the parable closes with the nobleman being changed into a king, who punishes his rebellious servants; in Matthew, it closes with the just administration of the landowner—although the king comes into all the more glorious prominence in the last parable, Matthew 25:31 seq. The resemblance in the tone of the wicked servant’s words, and the Lord’s rejoinder, can have no effect in disturbing our conviction of the distinctness of the two parables. And upon this point, it is to be carefully noted that the servant in Luke, in accordance with the official relation, wraps his pound in a napkin; while the servant in Matthew, in accordance with the spiritual relation, hides it in the earth; further, that the former ought to have put his gold into the bank (the office is given back to the Church); while the latter should have taken it to the exchangers (spiritual gifts are quickened by contact with earnest leaders and members of the Church). Thus the former parable sets before us simply the external, social, official side of the Christian calling; the latter, the internal and the individual. This explains the difference between the gain of fidelity in the one case and in the other: and, further, that the slothful servant in office and the slothful servant in the service of the Spirit for the most part coincide, although in individual traits they differ. Official vocation produces its outward results broadly through the world; and an apostle might gain half the population of the earth, or bring the whole generation under his own influence. On the other hand, the spiritual gift works inwardly in the spiritual domain. In this it gains just so much life as corresponds with its related capacity of the Spirit. Externally, this gain may seem less; but in the estimate of the kingdom of grace it is otherwise. It is a higher reward to enter into the joy of our Lord, than to be set over the cities in the other world. In harmony with this distinction, the one slothful servant did not work at all; the other hid his spiritual gift in the earth. This πονηρός, too, has a specific predicate attached to him, ὀκνηρός; and his requital is not merely discharge from office, but spiritual woe.

Matthew 25:14. For he is as a man.—Here it is customary to explain the construction as an abrupt transition and an incomplete clause (an anantapodoton), as in Rom. 5:12. But the previous verse is latently carried on in the sense: you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh; for He is, etc.

Delivered unto them his goods.—The spiritual blessing of His life and salvation. Christ entrusts to Christians in this world the treasure of His spiritual life.

Matthew 25:15. To every man according to his own ability, κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δίναμιν.—Spiritual gifts are regulated by the kind and degree of personal susceptibility and capacity. Compare the doctrine of the χαρίσματα 1 Cor. 12 [“There is no Pelagianism in this; for each man’s powers are themselves the gift of God.” Alford. But the words ἑκάστῳ κατ’ ἰδίαν δύναμιν imply that every man has a natural endowment, a sacred trust and mission to fulfil in this world.—P. S.]

And straightway he went abroad.—The nearest possible approximation of the parable to the fact, that the ascension and Pentecost are closely connected; although the order is inverted.43 There had been, however, a preparatory bestowment of the Spirit before the ascension. See the farewell discourses in John, and Matthew 20. Meyer: “Straightway, without precise orders for the application of the money.” But some general orders are presupposed by the subsequent judgment; while the particular employment of the personal endowment is entrusted to the individual. Every one must know his peculiar vocation.

Ver 18. Hid his lord’s money.—Contrary to duty and to dignity. The money in the earth is the spirit in the flesh.

Matthew 25:20. Gained beside them, ἐ π’ αὐτοῖς.—In addition to what was entrusted, and by means thereof. [Comp. the plainer statement in Luke 19:16 : “Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds,” and John 15:5: “Without Me, ye can do nothing” Every gift of God may be doubled and even increased tenfold by faithful and conscientious use, while it may be lost by neglect. This is true of spiritual and temporal gifts of all kinds.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:21. The Vulgate and Cod. A.44 read εὖγε, which may stand absolutely, as in Luke 19:17; the εὖ, on the other hand, as Meyer observes, must be connected with the verb. [Alford, however, thinks that εὖ, according to later Greek usage, need not be connected with ἐπὶ ὀλιγα ἦς πιστός, but may bear the sense of εὖγε: well done! as in the English Vers.—P. S.]

[I will set thee over much.—This implies new spheres of activity and usefulness in the kingdom of glory in heaven; or—according to Stier, Alford, and all who refer this and the preceding parable to the pre-millennial advent—in the millennium on earth.—P. S.]

Into the joy of thy Lord.—De Wette: “Kuinoel and others interpret after Esth. 9:17 (Sept.), where χαρά=מִשְּתֵּח, entertainment; better, probably, from the feast of joy which the lord would celebrate on his return; Fritzsche, after Chrysostom, of the Messianic blessedness,—the parable passing over into the reality.” Doubtless, the Lord’s joyful festival is meant; but this signifies the inheritance of Christ. [Alford refers the χαρά not to a feast, but to the joy arising from the completion of the work and labor of love, of which the first sabbatical rest of the creation was typical, Gen. 1:31; 2:2; Heb. 4:3–11; 12:2; Rev. 3:21.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:24. That thou reapest where thou hast not sown.—The picture of a hard, and withal selfish man. The saying shows: 1. That the servant, as a self-seeker, separated his own interest from his lord’s, and therefore reckoned his lord to be a self-seeker also; 2. that he promised himself no personal spiritual joy in trading with the entrusted pound; 3. that he would tacitly reproach his lord with having given him too little: 4. that he would not only self-righteously excuse his own slothfulness of spirit, but also overrule and censure his lord; 5. that, with all this, he realty held his master to be not an over-hard man, but an over-gentle man, against whom he could dare to use such language with impunity.—Where thou hast not strewed.—Meyer understands here again, as in Matthew 21:43, a winnowing, against Erasmus, Beza, and others, who interpret the δια σκορπιζειν of sowing; thinking that otherwise there would be a tautological parallel. But the new idea introduced is that of intensification: sowing and reaping, abundantly scattering and bringing into the barn. In winnowing, it is the straw that is scattered, and not the wheat. [Alford directs attention to the connection of thought between the last parable of our Lord with His first on the Sower (Matthew 13:3–9). He looks for fruit where He has sown, but not beyond the power of the soil. He expects not so much success, as faithfulness which does not depend on the absolute amount, but is measured by the degree of ability and opportunity. Hence He says: good and faithful (not: successful) servant.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:25. And I was afraid.—De Wette and Meyer: He might have lost the talent in trading. But that would have been in some sense praiseworthy. His fear was more abject: he would not take trouble for the benefit of a selfish lord.*

Matthew 25:26. Thou knewest that I reaped.—Kuinoel and de Wette: Concessively and ironically spoken; but according to Meyer, a question of surprise. Doubtless de Wette is right. The servant has condemned himself as a liar. If he really regarded his lord as a hard man, and yet would risk nothing in trade, he might have adopted a safe method of gain for his master, and placed the money into the hands of the changers. Thus at least the interest would have been secured.

Matthew 25:27. Thrown my money to the bankers.—Meyer: Throw it on the money-table; βαλεῖν exhibits the sloth of his manner. The changers held a public bank among the ancients, at which they received and lent money. [Olshausen and Trench apply the τραπεζῖται to those stronger characters who may lead the more timid to the useful employment of gifts which they have not energy to use. Alford objects to this interpretation, and refers to the machinery of religious and charitable societies in our day as very much in the place of the τραπεζ͂ῖται.”—P. S.]

I might have received mine own.—If thou didst thus separate thy interest from mine, thou wast bound to give the money to the changers, that I might have received mine with interest. A striking rebuke ex concessis!

Matthew 25:28. Take from him therefore.—The negative punishment, entering into the judgment of the servant himself: separation.—And give it to him that hath the ten talents—Thus even his judgment passes over into the praise of God.

Matthew 25:29. For unto every one that hath.See Matthew 13:12, p. 240.


1. On the meaning of the parable, see the Exegetical Notes. All its individual traits are regulated by the different relation of the talents; as in Luke 19 they signify offices, and here the individual gifts of grace. Thus, the concluding circumstance, that the one pound is given to him who had ten pounds, has in the two cases a diverse significance. In Luke, the sense of the parable is this, that the neglected office devolved or passed over to the highest fidelity; in Matthew, the truth is set forth, that the unfaithfulness of the slothful servant increases the spiritual life of the faithful, as affording him matter of constant warning and spiritual meditation, and the means of enlarging his knowledge of the divine government of souls.

2. If we refer this parable to the doctrine of election, we find in it the unlimited differences which the Scripture teaches, as opposed to the unlimited contrast of destiny which the Augustinian doctrine of predestination maintains. Each has his special religious talent or capital (the ἰδία δύναμις, Matthew 25:15) in his original nature, and this becomes to him in the Church a charisma or gift (ἔδωκεν ἑκάστῳ). The destination to salvation is thus universal: the capability and the call to fidelity in all the same, the measure of the gift is different, as are the degrees of glory. But if the least endowed in regard to fulness of life (for in reference to truth and fidelity no one is less endowed than another) scorns and neglects his pound, that was not his destiny, but is his fault. The less richly he was provided in himself, the more anxious should he have been to enrich himself by connection with the more eminent members of the Church. (Comp. the author’s Positive Dogmatik, p. 956 sqq.)


The judgment of the Lord upon all the individual members of the Church: 1. Its rightful ground: the appointment and the obligation of the servants. 2. Its test: the true application of gifts. 3. Its universality: the most richly and the least endowed are brought to account. 4. Its requital: on the one hand, the praise and the joy of the Lord; on the other hand, the despoiling and casting out into the fellowship of the lost.—Thy gifts are entrusted to the day of reckoning.—Manifold gifts, but one duty and one spirit.—The endowment of a Christian is a call to work for the Lord.—Every one receives the pound of the heavenly spiritual life according to the measure of his capacity.—The double obligation which the absence of the Lord imposes upon Christians: 1. They are bound to fidelity, because the Lord is so far (and has committed to them all His interests in this world); 2. they are bound to fidelity, because He is so near (invisibly present in His gifts, and may come at any moment to reckon).—The grand and stimulating thought, that Christ has committed to His servants in this world all His goods.—The confidence of the Lord the source of His servants’ fidelity.—Trading with the riches of Christ the highest and noblest gain.—Christ’s business prospers only through fidelity.—The Church is a place of trade, the noblest and the richest.—The principles of commerce with spiritual gifts: 1. As regards God: giving up all, to gain all. 2. As it respects our neighbor: to give is more blessed than to receive. 3. As it respects ourselves: to gain the one thing needful in exchange for many things.45 4. As it respects the world: to give up the visible for the invisible.—Trading with spiritual gifts the most perilous and yet the safest commerce.—The praise and the reward of the faithful servants of Christ in the hour of reckoning: 1. The praise, of having been faithful over a little; 2. the reward, of being set over much, and of entering into the joy of the Lord.—The end of our spiritual work a divine rest forever, a Sabbath of God.—The wicked servant; or, let no man undervalue the gift which God has entrusted to him.—How far a grudge against Christ underlies all unfaithfulness in the use of spiritual gifts.—Man becomes wicked evermore through thinking evil of God.—The Christian becomes wicked evermore through thinking evil of Christ.—The self-seeker ascribes his own self-seeking to God also, to excuse himself.—The unfaithful are obliged to condemn themselves at last by their own excuses.—The frightful pit of earth in which the heavenly gifts of the Christians are buried.—The infinite spiritual woes which must be entailed by the prostitution of spiritual light to the service of the flesh.—The nameless work without which the slothful will have to do when the faithful rest.

Starke:—We men in the world are stewards of the manifold gifts of God, 1 Cor. 4:1–4; Luke 16:2.—Hedinger: God distributes His gifts strangely, but holily: let no man think that he has received too little, Rom. 12:6.—In the gifts of God no one must be vain, or envious; but every one must use his own portion to the glory of God and the good of his fellows.—God bestows his gifts and goods on men, not that they may be buried, wasted, appropriated to self, or imagined their own, but that they may faithfully trade with them, 1 Cor. 12:7.—Of a steward nothing more is expected, and nothing less, than fidelity, 1 Cor. 4:2.—Canstein: Few gifts may be turned to much account.—Truth does not shun the light, but comes to it, John 3:21.—He buries his Lord’s goods who seeks only his own.—He who neglects nothing in his Christianity, will have confidence in the day of judgment, 1 John 3:21.—In the future reckoning no man will be forgotten or overlooked, 2 Cor. 5:10.—To be called a good and faithful servant of God, is a title more honorable than any that this world can give, Ps. 116:16.—The wicked servant does not know Jesus as a merciful Master, but as another Moses who requires more than man has strength for.—When we do not see the gracious countenance of God in Christ, God appears to us hard and fearful.—Slothfulness and baseness the two characteristics of the unfaithful servant.—Luther: His knavery consisted in this, that he condemns his Lord for hardness, and scorns the way of grace (self-denial).—How many, who now receive an unlimited number of honorable names, will one day be called, Thou fool!Hedinger: He who makes a good use of the first beginnings of grace, will go on well and soon grow rich; he who lets his grace decline within him, will soon be without it altogether.

Braune:—There is no standing still, either progress and gain, or retrogress and loss. [Forward and finally all, or backward and finally nothing.]

Lisco:—The humility of the faithful servants, who attribute all blessing and increase not to themselves, but to the entrusted pounds.—It does not depend upon whether one has effected much or little according to the measure of his power and his sphere, but whether he has been faithful and diligent or not: the spirit is the main thing.—This servant represents such as excuse their neglect in various ways: by pleading the little which has been entrusted to them, or the fear they had of encountering the dangerous influences of the world, or the consequent necessity which they felt of retreating into solitude and quiet piety.

Gerlach:—Unbelieving despondency is always connected with slothfulness, when unbelief becomes a permanent condition.

Heubner:—Fidelity in little things is a pearl of great price.—There, thou hast thine own: perfect breach with God; he throws up his service altogether .—Wicked (πονηρέ) he is called, because his heart was false, attributing falsely to God this unloving hardness. His conscience smote him in secret, and testified to him that God was not as he painted Him.—When God lays much upon us, He offers us abundance of strength to do and to bear.

[BURKITT (condensed):—1. Christ the Lord of the universe, and owner of all His servants’ goods. 2. Talents: riches, honors; gifts of mind, wisdom, learning; gifts of grace. 3. Freedom of distribution to all, but in different measure. 4. Every talent is given to improve for our Master’s use. 5. Every one is accountable for every talent. 6. All faithful servants will be rewarded with the joy of their Lord. 7. No excuses shall serve the slothful or unfaithful servant at the bar of Christ. 8. The unfaithful servant will be punished (a) negatively, by the loss of his talent, (b) positively, by suffering the misery of hell with gnashing of teeth, i.e., rage and indignation against God, the saints, and against himself.—(Similar practical remarks with a more minute analysis, see in MATTHEW HENRY.)—D. BROWN (condensed):—1. Christ exhorts us in this parable, not “Wait for your Lord,” but “Occupy till I come.” Blessed is he whom the Lord shall find working (as well as watching, according to the preceding parable). 2. Christians are all servants of Christ, but differ in natural capacity, acquirements, providential position, influence, means, and opportunities. 3. Fidelity will be rewarded, not the amount or nature of the work. 4. Idleness and unprofitableness in the Lord’s service is sufficient to condemn.—W. NAST:—1. The talents of all men are free gifts of God, so that there is no room either for self-boasting, or for self-reproach; 2. they are given in trust, the Giver still retaining a claim upon them; 3. they are given to be employed and turned to the best account for the glory of the Giver.—P. S.]


[30]Matthew 25:14.—[The interpolation of the Authorized Version is unwarranted and unnecessary, and not found in the earlier English Versions. Lange inserts he is (viz., the Song of Solomon of Man, ver 13); others: it is: Ewald and Conant omit all insertions, and translate simply: For as a man going abroad (Ewald: Denn sowie ein Verreisender, etc.). See Lange’s Exeg. Notes. Meyer in loc. takes ὥ σπερ as anantapodoton, as Mark 13:34; comp. Rom. 5:12. It was intended to connect the whole parable with ὥσπε, and then to add a οὕτως with an apodosis such as: οὕτως καὶ ὁ υιὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου ποιήσει, or οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ἡ παρουσία το͂υ υἱοῦ τ. ἀνθο., which was given up on account of the length of the protasis. Alford thinks, the ellipsis is rightly supplied in the Authorized English Version.—P. S.]

[31]Matthew 25:16.—[Codd. A. , B., C., D., L., Lachmann, and Tregelles, read: ἐνερδητεν, he gained. Alford thinks, it was inserted from Matthew 25:17 and 22. The reading of the text, rec.: ἐροίησεν, is sustained by Cod. Sinait., and retained by Tischendorf and Alford. But the meaning is the same: he made, i.e., he produced, he gained, and was so rendered by the English Versions preceding that of the Bishops. See Conant in loc.—P. S.]

[32]Matthew 25:17.—[Comp. ὁ τὰ πεντε, the fire, Matthew 25:16. The λαβών is necessarily implied in the second clause, and hence the interpolation had received (or rather in the imperf.: received) is justified. The verb can be easily spared in Greek. Ewald imitates the Greek brevity in his version: Ebenso gewann auch der die zwei andere zwei. But this is too harsh, and would not do at all in English. Some MSS. add after δύο: τάλαντα λαβών, which is thrown out by the text. rec., Tischendorf, Alford, etc. Lachmann and Tregelles omit also the words: καὶ αὐτός, he also, in which they are sustained by Codd B., C., and also by Cod. Sinaiticus.—P. S.]

[33]Matthew 25:18.—Lachmann adds τάλαντον after A. and ancient versions.

[34]Matthew 25:18.—Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Tregelles, Alford], read: ἔκρυψε, for the lect. rec.: ἀπέκρυψε, according to most witnesses. [Cod. Sinait. likewise reads: ἔκρυψε.—P. S.]

[35]Matthew 25:20.—The words: ἐ π’ αὐτοῖς, beside them [the enabling cause of his gain], here and in Matthew 25:22 are omitted in Codd. B., D., L., al., [also in Cod. Sinait.], and stricken by Lachmann and Tischendorf. They may have been added to increase the modesty of the expression.

[36]Matthew 25:21.—[Thou is an unnecessary interpolation, and should be omitted, as in Matthew 25:23.—P. S.]

[37]Matthew 25:21.—[Lit.: thou wast (hast been) faithful over little, I will set thee over much, ἐπὶ ὀλίγα ἦς πιστὸς, ἐπὶ παλλων σε καταστήσω. So the German Versions of Luther, de Wette, Ewald, Lange; also the English Versions of Coverdale, Kendrick, Conant.—P. S.]

[38]Matthew 25:23.—[Comp. note 8. Matthew 25:21.—]

[39]Matthew 25:24.—[The British Bibles here and in Matthew 25:26 read strawed, the rarer form for strew, streuen. I followed here, as elsewhere, the spelling of the Am. Bible—P. S.]

[40]Matthew 25:26.—[A question of surprise and displeasure, and hence with an interrogation mark, as in the Lat. Vulg., Coverdale, Campbell, Conant, and nearly all the German Versions. De Wette and Lange, however, regard it as an ironical concession, in which case the punctuation of the Am. Bible Society’s edition (colon) is correct. The British Bibles have a period.—P. S.]

[41]Matthew 25:27.—[Lange: hinwerfen. The verb βαλεῖν expresses not the worthlessness of the money which was a good gift of God, but the perfect ease with which it might have been made to produce interest in the hands of brokers and bankers, who then as now received money on deposit at interest and lent it to others at higher rates.—P. S.]

[42]Matthew 25:27.—[Σὺν τόκῳ, from τόκος (τίκτω, τετοκα), birth; child; gain, interest, in the LXX for נֶשֶׁךְ. The passage implies the lawfulness of taking interest. There was a saying in the ancient Church, γίνεσθε δόκιαοι τραπεζῖται (Origen, on Matt. 22), which was attributed to Christ, and may possibly have been derived from this verse, as expressing the moral lesson of this and the kindred parable in Luke 19. See SUICER’S Thesaurus, sub τραπεζ.—P. S.]

[43][Comp. the remarks of TRENCH: “In the things earthly the householder’s distribution of the gifts naturally and of necessity precedes his departure; in the heavenly it is not altogether so; the Ascension, or departure, goes before Pentecost, or the distribution of gifts; yet the straightway still remains in full force: the interval between them was the smallest, one following hard upon the other, however the order was reversed. The four verses which follow (16–19) embrace the whole period intervening between the first and second coming of Christ.”—P. S.]

[44][There is an inconsistency between that pretended fear and this insolent speech, which betrays the falsehood of the πονηρὸς δοῦλος.—P. S.]

[45][In German: “Das Eine erkaufen um das Viele” (no doubt an allusion to Luke 10:32), which the Edinb. translator has upset thus: to sell one thing, to gain much! He probably mistook erkaufen for verkaufen.—P. S.]

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:


CHAPTER 25:31–46

(The Gospel for the 26th Sunday after Trinity.)

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy46 angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all [the] nations [πάντα τὰ ἔθνη]: and he shall separate [divide, ἀφοριεῖ] them one from another, as a [the, ] shepherd divideth [ἀφορίζει] his [the] sheep [τὰ πρόβατα] from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them [those] on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was a hungered [hungry, ἐπείνασα], and ye gave me meat [to eat, φαγεῖν]:47 I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a hungered 38[hungering, πεινῶντα], and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? [And, δέ] When 39saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,48 ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them [those] on the left hand, ,Depart49 from me. ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was a hungered [hungry], and ye gave me no meat [did not give me to eat, οὐκ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν]: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not:50 sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a hungered [hungering], or athirst [thirsting], or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, an I did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment [eternal punishment, κόλασιν αἰών]: but the righteous into life eternal [eternal life, or everlasting life, ζωὴι αἰώον]51


THE FINAL JUDGMENT. General Remarks.—The new salient points of the last judgment are: 1. The Son of Man as Judge unfolds His perfect kingly and judicial glory. 2. He exercises judgment now upon all the nations of the earth, and upon all the generations of men. 3. He judges individuals according to their personal conduct, with as much strictness and reality as He judges the collective whole. 4. He finds in all the consummate character of their inner life and nature so expressly stamped upon them, that He can divide them as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. 5. He judges, therefore, according to the perfected consummation of the spiritual life in the works, and according to the fundamental idea of all good works—love and mercy. 6. He judges according to the standard of the universal life of Christ among men of all times, as well as of the historical Christ. 7. His sentence introduces a separation which must bring the earth itself, in its ancient form, to an end; for, the good are received into the kingdom of the Father, and the wicked are cast into hell.—Thus viewed in all its extension, it presupposes the general resurrection, and forms the conclusion of the Lord’s coming and parousia in this present state of things, of the one last day of a thousand years in a symbolical sense, that is, of a full and perfect judicial æon. Thus, as the first parable (Matthew 24:45) must be placed at the beginning of these thousand years, and the second and third exhibit the further development of the kingly, judicial administration of Christ, this last judgment forms the great conclusion, as it is exhibited in 1 Cor. 15:24 and Rev. 20:9.

This decides the question as to whether it is merely a judgment upon Christians, or upon other than Christians, or upon all, both Christians and not Christians. The first was maintained by Lactantius, Euthymius, Grotius, and others; the second, by such as Keil, Olshausen, Crusius;52 the third, by Kuinoel, Paulus, Fritzsche. In favor of the first view—that Christians alone are here judged—it is alleged that the doctrine of the divine election comes in, Matthew 25:34, of the righteous, Matthew 25:37, etc. But, on the other hand, such also are spoken of as never had the consciousness of being in personal relation with Christ. It is supposed to decide in favor of the second hypothesis—those not Christians being the objects of the judgment—that the judgment proceeds not according to the law of faith, but according to the law of works and of love to man. But that Christians also will be judged at last by works, the fruits of faith, as being faith developed, is proved by Matt. 7:21; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:8, and the whole tenor and spirit of Christianity; and that, on the other hand, all the works of men will be judged, not according to their outward appearance, but according to their spirit and motive, or according to their real, though unconscious, faith in Christ, and love or drawing toward Him, is proved by an equal number of passages; e.g., Matt. 10:40; Acts 10:35; Rom. 5:18, and the universally valid word: “The Lord seeth the heart.” De Wette urges, in favor of the third supposition, that in Matt. 13:37–43, 49, we find the plain idea of a final judgment upon Christians and those who are not Christians. De Wette here confounds good and bad with Christians and not Christians.

Our section certainly presupposes the universal nominal Christianization of the world, which must take place before the end of the world: the Christianization of mankind in this world (Matthew 24:14; Rom. 11:32), and of the whole of mankind in the other (Phil. 2:10; 1 Pet. 4:6). Such a Christianization would necessarily follow from the advent of Christ in itself; so far as it must constrain the nations to submission, and continue throughout an entire period of judgment, Rev. 20. The common notion, which terms every supposition of a more extended final period Chiliasm or Millennarianism, does not merit notice. It is beyond all things necessary that we should distinguish between a concrete and a fantastic doctrine about the last things. The differences are: 1. The former regards the thousand years as a symbolical number, as the mark of an æon, or the period of transition for the earth and mankind from the earthly to the heavenly condition (Irenæus; see DORNER’S History of Christology, I. p. 245). But millennarianism interprets the thousand years chronologically, and seeks to define their beginning. 2. Concrete eschatology regards the last period as the manifestation of a judgment, already internally ripe, on the ground of the perfect redemption accomplished through Christ. But millennarianism is not satisfied with the first redeeming appearance of Christ; i looks forward to the second as of greater importance 3. Concrete eschatology expects with the advent the beginning of a spiritual transformation of the present state of things; millennarianism expects a perfect glorification of things here as they are. 4. The former sees in the first resurrection only a revelation of the full life of the elect, destined to be helpers of Christ in the glorification of all humanity; but millennarianism regards that period as the time of the realization of Jewish, Jewish-Christian, pietistic, sectarian prerogatives and spiritual pretensions. 53

[We add here the remarks of Dr. NAST on the different views as to the subjects of the final judgment: “According to the premillennarian view, advocated by Olshausen, Stier, and Alford, the judgment here described does not include those that constitute the Church triumphant; that is, those who, at Christ’s personal coming to introduce the millennium, are either raised from the dead, or, if still living, are glorified and caught up together into the air, to meet the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16, 17; 1 Cor. 15:25, 24, 51, 52)—to reign with Christ, and with him to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2). The term ‘all nations,’ (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη,) it is said, is used in the same sense as the Hebrew ‘the nations, or Gentiles,’ as distinguished from God’s chosen people, and stands here in antithesis to the ‘brethren’ of Matthew 25:40, who had already received their reward as wise virgins and faithful servants. In support of this view the following arguments are advanced: 1. ‘Those only are said to be judged who have done it or not done it to my brethren; but of the brethren themselves being judged there is no mention.’ In this argument we can see no point. The love of the brethren is the mark by which, our Saviour says, all men shall know that ye are my disciples. 2. ‘ The verdict turns upon works, and not upon faith.’ Surely this will be the case with every believer or Christian, when he is brought before the judgment-seat of Christ, whether at the beginning or close of the millennium, in so far as works are the fruit of faith, or true saving faith is only that which worketh by love (Matt. 7:21; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:8), and in so far as our good works spring from sincerity of heart, to which the Lord looketh (Acts 10:35). Moreover, unless the plan of salvation is entirely changed in the millennial state—which, if we mistake not, the premillennarians deny—the nations living during the millennium will be judged according to their works, no more and no less than those that lived before the millennium. 3. Another objection to the common view is stated by Alford thus: ‘The answer of the righteous appears to me to show plainly that they are not to be understood as being the covenanted servants of Christ. Such an answer it would be impossible for them to make, who had done all distinctly with reference to Christ, and for His sake, and with His declaration of Matthew 10:39–42, before them. Such a supposition would remove all reality, as, indeed, it has generally done, from our Lord’s description. See the remarkable difference in the answer of the faithful servant (Matthew 25:20:22).’ The reply that the language in question is that of humility is said not to be satisfactory; but we know not why. Besides, the difficulty appears to us to be the same with regard to the people that have lived during the millennium. If they are to be saved, they also must have done their works for Christ’s sake, and, if so, they must have been conscious of it. We have given the grounds on which the premillennarian interpretation is based. In objection to it, it may further be urged that it is against common Scripture language to call any other than believers, the members of Christ’s mystical body, ‘sheep,’ or ‘righteous,’ or ‘the blessed of the Father, for whom the kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world.’ With regard to the difficult question of our Lord’s second advent, Alford makes, at the close of his comments on the twenty-fifth chapter, a declaration breathing the docile spirit of the true Christian and of the thorough scholar. He says, (p. 238:) ‘ I think it proper to state, in this third edition, that having now entered upon the deeper study of the prophetic portions of the New Testament, I do not feel by any means that full confidence which I once did in the exegesis, quoad prophetical interpretation here given of the three portions of this chapter 25. But I have no other system to substitute, and some of the points here dwelt on seem to me as weighty as ever. I very much question whether the thorough study of Scripture prophecy will not make me more and more distrustful of all human systematizing, and less willing to hazard strong assertion on any portion of the subject. July, 1855.’ ”—In the fourth edition Alford adds: “Endorsed, Oct. 1858.”—P. S.]

The representation of this judgment is not a parable or simile, as Olshausen thinks. It contains some of the elements of a parable; but really sets the judgment before us in its concrete form.

[Matthew 25:31. Jerome remarks on the time of this discourse: “He who was within two days to celebrate the passover and to be crucified, fitly now sets forth the glory of His triumph.” This contrast deepens our view of the divine foresight and majesty of our Lord, and the sublimity of this description.—And all the [holy] angels with Him.—As witnesses and executive agents who take the deepest interest in man’s destiny and final salvation, comp. Heb. 1:14; Matt. 13:40; 24:31; Luke 12:8. Bengel: Omnes angeli: omnes nationes: quanta celebritas! “The first-born of God, the morning stars of creation—beings that excel in strength, whose intelligence is immense, whose love for God and His universe glows with a quenchless ardor, and whose speed is as the lightning. Who can count their numbers? They are the bright stars that crowd in innumerable constellations every firmament that spans every globe and system throughout immensity.”—P. S.]

Then shall he sit.—Expression of finished victory.

Matthew 25:32. And before Him shall be gathered.—Intimating a perfect voluntary or involuntary acknowledgment and submission; comp. Phil. 2:10.

And He shall divide them.—This is not merely the beginning, but the fundamental outline of all that follows.—As the shepherd divideth.—He was Himself the Shepherd, also, of the goats,—the Shepherd of all mankind. Hence He knows how to distinguish them perfectly, as they are perfected in good or evil.—The sheep from the goats.—Properly: the lambs from the he-goats, ἔριφοι. Goats and sheep are represented as pasturing together (comp. Gen. 30:33). They were classed together under the name of small cattle. The wicked are here exhibited under the figure of goats. Why? Grotius: “on account of their wantonness and stench.” De Wette says (referring to Ezek. 34:17, where, however, it is otherwise): “The goats (he-goats) are of less value to the shepherd; they are wilder, and less easily led.” Meyer: “Because the value of these animals was held to be less (Luke 15:29); hence also, in Matthew 25:33, the disparaging diminutive τὰ ερίφια.”54 But the main point of distinction is the gentleness and tractableness of the sheep, which points to a nobler nature; and the wild stubbornness of the goats, exhibiting an inferior, egotistical nature.55

Matthew 25:33. On his right hand.—The side of preference and success.—On the left.—The opposite. On the omens of the right and left, see Schöttgen and Wetstein; comp. Virg. Æn. vi:542 sqq.

Matthew 25:34. The King.—Not parabolical, as Olshausen thinks; but Christ in His advent comes forward with all His real kingly dignity.

Ye blessed of My Father.—They are the really blessed, as the regenerate, penetrated and renewed with the Spirit, life, and blessing of the Father, Eph. 1:3.

Inherit the kingdom.See Rom. 8.—Prepared from the foundation of the world.—De Wette finds here the idea of predestination, Rom. 8:28. But what is here spoken of is the eternal foundation of the kingdom for the subjects of the King. There is no contradiction to John 14:2. For here the calling and foundation is referred to; there, the actual building up of the heavenly community.56

Matthew 25:35. Ye took Me in, συνηγάγετέ με.—Meyer: As members of My household. Deut. 22:2: συνάξεις αὐτὸν έ̔νδον εις τὴν οἰκίαν. Oriental hospitality was an essential form of love to our neighbor. See, in Wetstein and Schöttgen, the rabbinical sayings concerning the promise of paradise to the hospitable.

[Matthew 25:35, 36. Heubner: “The acts of love here named are not such as require merely an outlay of money, but such as involve also the sacrifice of time, strength, rest, comfort,” etc. On the other hand, Webster and Wilkinson justly observe on Matthew 25:36, that the assistance to the sick and prisoners here is not healing and release, which only few could render, but visitation, sympathy, attention, which all can bestow. But whatever good they did, was done in faith and in humility, and consequently the product of divine grace. For charity is the daughter of faith, and faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Christ.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:37. Lord, when saw we Thee?—De Wette: “The language of modesty.” Olshausen: “The language of unconscious humility.” Meyer: “Actual declining of what was imputed, since they had never done to Christ Himself these services of love. The explanation is given in Matthew 25:40.” Certainly, they have not yet any clear notion of the ideal Christ of the whole world. But this is connected with their humility; and it must not be lost sight of, since the opposite characteristic among the reprobate is exhibited as self-righteousness. [Origen: “It is from humility that they declare themselves unworthy of any praise for their good deeds, not that they are forgetful of what they have done.”]

Matthew 25:40. To one of the least of these My brethren.—Not the apostles alone, but Christians generally, and pre-eminently the least of them. They are the least, the poorest, the last, in whom the divine life, which the Lord here recognises as brotherly love, is awakened.

[Stier, confining this judgment to the heathen, infers from this description that “a dogmatically developed faith in the Lord is not required of all men,” and condemns “all narrow dogmatism that would set limits to God’s infinite love.” Alford, taking a similar view of this section, remarks: “The sublimity of this description surpasses all imagination—Christ, as the Son of Man, the Shepherd, the King, the Judge—as the centre and end of all human love, bringing out and rewarding His latent grace in those who have lived in love—everlastingly punishing those who have quenched it in an unloving and selfish life—and in the accomplishment of His mediatorial office, causing even from out of the iniquities of a rebellious world His sovereign mercy to rejoice against judgment.” But we must not weaken the fundamental principle: out of Christ there is no pardon and no salvation. Every consideration of God’s justice and mercy, and every impulse of Christian charity leads us to the hope that those will be ultimately saved, who without knowing Christ in this life have unconsciously longed after Him as the desire of all nations and of every human soul, but it can only be through an act of faith in Christ, whenever He shall be revealed to them, though it be only on the judgment day. We cannot admit different terms of salvation.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:41. Ye cursed.—Through their own fault penetrated by the curse of God. The appended “of My Father” is not now found here as in Matthew 25:34. And so also, “from the beginning of the world” is not added to “prepared” here. Nor is it said, “prepared for you,” but, “for the devil.”57 The great judgment of fire is prepared for the devil, as a punishment for devilish guilt. Thus, these are here represented as having plunged themselves into the abyss of demoniac reprobation. The Rabbins disputed whether Gehenna was prepared before or after the first day of creation. According to the gospel, it will not be finished and made effective till the final judgment of the world (see Rev. 20:10). The scholastic theology of the middle ages,58 instead of making it a final period, as in the gospel, gradually dated it back to the beginning, as the Rabbins.

[Matthew 25:42, 43. Only sins of omission are mentioned here; showing that the absence of good works, the destitution of love, or the dominion of selfishness, disqualifies man for blessedness, and is sufficient, even without positive crimes, to exclude him from heaven.—P. S.]

Matthew 25:44. And did not minister unto Thee?—As if they would always have been ready to serve Him. But there is nothing of the spirit of love in their assumed readiness; only in the spirit of servitude they would have waited on Him had they seen Him. The ignorance of the blessed was connected with), their humility, as a holy impossibility of knowing; the ignorance of the cursed was of another kind, and closely connected with self-righteousness.59

Matthew 25:46. Into everlasting punishment.—Comp. Dan. 12:2 (εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον ... εἰς αὶσχύνην αιἰώνιον). Meyer finds the absolute idea of eternity in endlessness, and thinks even that ζωὴαἰώνιος describes an endless Messianic life. But in this last idea the intensive boundlessness of life is expressed (an abstract endless life might be also merely an endless existence in torment); and, therefore, the predominant notion of the opposite is an intensive one, too. We say only, the “predominant” one. For here also, as in the doctrine of the parousia of Christ, we must distinguish between religious and chronological notions and calculations.60


1. The section is a parabolical discourse61 concerning the general judgment of the human race. Hence the essential ideas and the symbolical features are to be distinguished.

The following are the prominent dogmatic points:—(1) Christ is the Judge of the world; compare Acts 10:42; 17:31; the Symb. Apost. (2) The judgment shall be exercised by Him upon all mankind: all nations shall appear before the throne—not merely those existing at the end of the world, but all generations. Therefore the general resurrection is included, so that all nations may be assembled. (3) The standard of judgment will be the question, how they reputed and dealt with Christ in the world; how they regulated their conduct toward Him in His own person, and in His unseen life in humanity as the Logos; how, therefore, they honored or dishonored the Divine in themselves and in their fellow-men; how they showed christological piety in christological humanity; or how, in short, they behaved toward Christ in the widest sense of the word. (4) The demand of the judgment will be the fruit of faith in Christians love of men, or human love of Christ. Thus not merely, (a) doctrinal faith; or (b) external works without a root of faith—of actual trust in Christ, or love for the divine in humanity (done it unto Me, done it not unto Me); (c) nor merely individual evidences of good; but decided goodness in its maturity and consistency, as it acknowledged Christ or felt after Him, in all His concealments, with longing anticipations. (5) The specific form of the requirement will be the requirement of the fruit of mercy and compassion; for the foundation of redemption is grace, and faith in redeeming grace must ripen into the fruits of compassion: see this in the Lord’s Prayer. Sanctified mercy, however, is only a concrete expression for perfected holiness generally, or the sanctification of Christ in the life; see Rev. 21:8; 22:15, 6. (6) The finished fruit of faith and disposition is identical with the man himself, ripe for judgment. (7) The judgment appears to be already internally decided by the relation which men have assumed toward Christ, or the character which they have borne; but it is published openly by the separation of those who are unlike, and the gathering together of all who are like; it is continued in the sentence which illustrates the judgment by words, and confirms it by the extorted confession of conscience; it is consummated by the fact of the one company inheriting the kingdom, and the other departing to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (8) This perfected separation implies also the total change of the earth: on the one side, the view opens upon the finished kingdom of God; on the other, the view opens upon hell, now unsealed for the lost. (9) The time of the judgment is the final and critical period in which all preparatory judgments are consummated: (a) the judgments of human history in this world; (b) the judgments in Hades in the other world (see Luke 16:19); (c) the great judgments which will begin at the manifestation of Christ (see chs. 24 and 25; Rev. 20:1 sqq.). The more precise description of the form of this crisis is found in Rev. 20:7–15.

As symbolical features of the scene, we may notice prominently:—(1) The enthronization of the Son of Man upon the judgment-seat: a figure of His perfected victorious glory (1 Cor. 15:25). (2) The administration of Christ in the form of the separating shepherd: for He is still a shepherd; and one great reason of the judgment is the perfecting of the redemption of the good, the revelation of the kingdom (Rev. 21). (3) The sheep and the goats, with their separation, expressing the nature of their respective characters, as now perfectly stamped upon them in the resurrection. (4) The placing on the right hand and on the left; all the ideal characteristics of the judged being exhibited as personal relationship to Christ, and the whole sequel of the judgment being thus presented in one anticipatory act of decisive division. (5) The colloquy of the Judge and the judged: a disclosure of humility, on which the piety of the pious rests; and of pride, on which the reprobation of the wicked rests; and, at the same time, a clear exhibition of the oft-repeated truth, that men will judge themselves by their own words.

2. The historical judgment of Christ will be the simple, though solemn revelation62 of that spiritual judgment which, as to its beginning, is already decided in difference of character. It is the last quiet perfecting of a state already ripe and over-ripe. The blessed of the Father are already filled with blessing; and the kingdom, the foundation of which was laid before the foundation of the world, is already in full glory, finding now in the glorification of the world, of the heaven and the earth, its new form. The accursed are also, on their part, penetrated by the curse; and the hell to which they go is the kingdom of darkness in its consummation, separated from the kingdom of light and consigned to its proper place. “From the fall of Satan downward the eternal fire began to work on him and his; and, in connection with this development, there is going on in humanity also a great spiritual torment, a great fellowship in his destruction.”

3. “The coming of Christ would not be historically that which it was to be, if it were not at the same time spiritual; it would not be spiritually that which it was to be, if it were not historical also.”

4. Concerning the succession of the æons or epochs of which Rev. 14:11; Matthew 19:3; 21; 22; and 1 Cor. 15:26–28, speak, nothing more is here said. But in the ζωὴ αιώνιος unlimited intensity is the first point, unlimited extension the second (for an endless existence is also imaginable as endlessly tormentel), and hence the opposite conception also must be understood in the religious and dynamic sense.

5. OTTO VON GERLACH: “The circumstance that the righteous also stand before the Judge, while the contrary seems to be stated in John 5:24; 1 Cor. 6:2, is no serious difficulty. For, every one must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10; comp. John 3:15); although the Christian knows full well that he will be no more hurt by the last judgment than he was by those earlier judgments which fell upon him in common with the wicked.” We must carefully distinguish therefore between judgment to condemnation and judgment generally. The manifestation of the good will be the concrete judgment of the ungodly.

6. Prepared for you.GERLACH: “From the foundation of the world: this shows that the reward in the future life will be a reward of grace. The for which follows states the ground of vocation to blessedness only so far as the works which the Lord mentions bear witness to the existence of faith.” It should be said rather, “bear witness to His life in believers;” for the final judgment will be not merely the confirmation of justification, but its perfected development in life.

7. “Christ manifestly assumes the personal existence of the devil, when he says that wicked men will suffer the same doom with him.” Heubner.

[8. “The great facts of the divine retribution, says MORISON, the eternal bliss of the righteous, the eternal woe of the wicked, are indisputable, and the images of uplifting or appalling grandeur in which they are enveloped cannot act too powerfully on the heart of man. But the particulars, the blissful or terrible details, are wisely withheld from our mind, which in its present state of knowledge could not comprehend them, and would only be confounded or misled by any description of them in human language.”—P. S.]

[9. There is an eternal election to life, but no eternal foreordination to perdition (except as a secondary or conditional and prospective decree); there is a book of life, but no book of death. But “they who will serve the devil must share with him in the end.”—P. S.]


The great judgment in its comprehensive importance: 1. A judgment upon the whole world; 2. a whole world of judgment (all judgments summed up in one). Or: 1. The Judge of the world (the Son of Man, whom the world judged, now in His glory); 2. the judged; 3. the separation, and the twofold sentence; 4. the end and issue of all.—The judgment of the world as the last great revelation: 1. Of the great Judge; 2. of the great judgment; 3. of the great redemption.—The last judgment, the great epiphany, Titus 2:13; and the end of the world.—Christ at that day will seal and finish His Pastoral office.—The Son of Man one with the Judge of the world: 1. The Son of Man is Judge of all; or, the divinity of the destiny of man.63 2. The Judge of all is the Son of Man; or, the humanity of the divine judgment.—Christ is all in all in the judgment: 1. He is the Judge; 2. He is the Law, according to which judgment is pronounced (whether He was or was not regarded in His brethren); 3. He is Himself the Retribution:—(a) the recompense of the good; (b) the loss of the wicked.—Individuality reigns throughout the judgment: 1. All the fundamental laws of holy life appear in the person of Christ; 2. the spirit and work of men are manifest in personal characteristics; 3. blessedness and perdition are seen in the fellowship of persons.—Christ, once crucified, will speak as the King in the judgment.—The distinctions in the divine decrees of salvation and perdition: 1. Blessedness was prepared for men from the foundation of the world; 2. condemnation (the portion of the wicked with the devil and his angels) not till the end of the world.—Christ will at that day judge the divinity of our faith by its Christlike humanity, its sacred mercy—according to its fruits.—Men’s good or evil treatment of the suffering Christ in suffering humanity: 1. As the Christ in need: (a) hungry, and fed or not fed; (b) thirsty, and given to drink or not; (c) a stranger, and taken in or not. 2. As the Christ in suffering: (a) naked (poor), and clothed or not; (b) sick64 (wretched), and visited or not; (c) in prison (banished, persecuted, condemned), and receiving fellowship or not.—Have ye taken in Christ, though in strange garments? In the strange garments: 1. Of nationality; 2. of religion; 3. of confession (or denomination); 4. of scholastic terminology.65—The marks of good works which Christ will recognise: 1. The works of faith, which have, consciously or unconsciously, regarded Him in the brethren; 2. true works of faith, which have beheld Christ in men, and treated them accordingly, in actions (and not in dogmas only); 3. works resting on the ground of a true humility, which, wrought by the Spirit, knows not what good it has wrought.—Christ, as the Judge, will bring to light the most hidden roots of life, and principles of judgment: the humility of the godly, and the self-righteousness of the ungodly.—The great redemption and the great judgment are the consummation and complement of each other.—The great contrast in the issue of men’s ways and purposes: the kingdom of the Father, and the fire of Satan—And these shall go away: let us never forget the terrible end.

Starke:—Mark, ye scoffers, Christ will surely come to judgment; 2 Pet. 3:4.—Quesnel: The sinner may do his best now to fly from the presence of God; but he must finally make his appearance before His judgment-seat, Rom. 14:10.—Canstein: That the faithful will themselves stand before the tribunal, is by no means a contradiction to their high prerogative of judging the world as spiritual kings, and of being as it were assessors of the Judge, 1 Cor. 6:2.—Greg. Nazianz.: Nulla re inter omnes ita colitur Deus ut misericordiâ.—Hedinger: Good works shall be compensated, as if they had been done to Christ.—Canstein: Believers remain humble, even in their glorification.—The best good works are those which are done in hearty simphcity, and almost unthought of.—The blessed lose none of their honor through their humility; God glories in them all the more.—How great the love of Jesus, thus to call the faithful His own brethren!—If he must go into eternal fire to whom Christ says, “I was naked, etc.,” what place shall receive him to whom He will have to say, “I was clothed, and ye stripped Me?” Augustine.—Neglect of doing good is a grievous sin, Jas. 4:17.—Luther: That the ungodly will not confess to their neglect of doing good, only reveals the darkness and wretchedness of their minds, which made them refuse to know, in the time of grace, either Christ or His members; the thought they had concerning Christ in their lifetime will be most strongly declared in the judgment.—No excuse will stand in the day of judgment.—Canstein: The eternal rebellion of the lost against God’s holy will, will be great part of their eternal woe.—Wretched prince of darkness! who cannot defend himself and his servants from the pains of hell.

Gerlach:—Two things must be specially marked in the proceedings of the judgment: the division of all men into two parts or fellowships, and that for eternity; and then the tokens which will be found on those whom the Lord will accept—self-forgetting, humble, brotherly love.—Faith alone justifies and saves (Rom. 3:22, 24, 28; Eph. 2:8, 9); but that only is true faith which works by love (Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:14; 1 Cor. 13). Yet we must avoid the old confusion which identifies righteousness and salvation.—The Christian, in his course, looks not back upon the past (what he has done), but forward to the goal, Phil. 3:13, 14.—Ye cursed, who wilfully remained under the curse of the law from which I redeemed you, Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:13. [The curse, however, at the end of the world, does not merely signify condemnableness, but consummate ripeness for condemnation.]—Not “Ye cursed of My Father:” their own acts, and not the Father, brought their curse upon them.—The everlasting fire which was prepared (not for you, but) for the devil.Chrysostom: I prepared for you the kingdom, the fire for the devil and his angels; ye have plunged into this fire, and it is now yours.—Indeed, the fire was not from eternity prepared for the devil; but the difference is, that men were redeemed.—The second death.

Lisco:—The inseparable connection between love to Christ and love to the brethren.—Departure from Jesus, the doom of the unloving.—Their mind was like the devil’s; hence they share his doom.

Heubner:—Remember always the hymn: Dies iræ, dies illa.66—Ask often of thy soul, where will the Lord finally place thee.—The kingdom is the kingdom of glory, into which the kingdom of grace has changed.—Prepared: the blessedness of the good, the end of creation.—Leo Magn.: The passion of Christ if continued to the end of the world.—Luther: It is a lie to say that thou wouldst have done much good to Christ, if thou art not doing it to these, the wretched.—Unchristian, evil tendencies invariably end in communion with Satan.

Theremin:—Of blessedness and condemnation.—Niemann:—The glory of Christ in the judgment: He will be glorious: 1. In His power; 2. in His omniscience; 3. in His righteousness; 4. in His grace.—Kniewel:67 How firm faith in the coming of Christ to judgment sanctifies and glorifies earthly life. It produces in us: 1. A holy fear of God; 2. genuine love; 3. sound hope.—Dräseke:—The great day of the kingdom a glorious day, an all-decisive day, an inevitable day, and a day profoundly mysterious.—The same:—The threefold judgment—in the heart, in the history of the world, in the great day.—Reinhard:—That we may not fear the day of judgment, we must have our hearts filled with the spirit of true Christian love to man.—Bachmann:—The last judgment in its glory.—Natorp:—God will reward every one according to his works.

[W. BURKITT (condensed): The general judgment: 1. The Person judging, the Son of Man; 2. the persons judged, good and bad; the one called sheep, for their innocency and meekness; the other goats, for their unruliness and uncleanness; 3. the manner of His coming to judgment most august and glorious in His person and attendance; 4. the work of the Judge: (a) He will gather all nations, persons of all nations, sects, classes, and conditions of man; (b) He will divide them, as a shepherd his sheep,—a final separation of the godly and the wicked; (c) He will pronounce the sentence, of absolution of the righteous, and condemnation of the wicked; 5. the final issue.—Christ personal is not the object of our pity and charity, but Christ mystical is exposed to want and necessity.—Christ keeps a faithful record of all our acts of pious charity, when we have forgotten them.—Christ calls His poorest members: My brethren.—God is the author and procurer of man’s happiness (“ye blessed of My Father…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Matthew 25:34); but man only is the author of his own misery (“ye cursed,…for the devil,” etc., Matthew 25:41).—Sins of omission are damning as well as sins of commission (Matthew 25:42–45).—The one sin of unmercifulness is enough to damn a person, because it deprives him of the grace of the gospel.—If the uncharitable shall be damned, where shall the cruel appear?—MATTHEW HENRY (condensed):—The general judgment: 1. The appearance of the Judge in the bright cloud of glory and with the myriads of angels as His attendants and ministers; 2. the appearing of all the children of men before Him; 3. the separation; 4. the process of judgment: (a) the glory conferred upon the righteous: they are called blessed and admitted into the kingdom, on account of their works of charity done in faith and humility, the grace of God enabling them thereto; (b) the condemnation of the wicked: Depart from Me, ye cursed, etc.—every word has terror in it, like that of the trumpet on Mount Sinai, waxing louder and louder, every accent more and more doleful. The reason of this sentence: omission of works of charity. 5. Execution of the sentence. Thus life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us, that we may choose our way.—(Dr. THOMAS SCOTT in loc. makes excellent practical remarks, but not in the form of hints or short heads.)—D. BROWN: Heaven and hell are suspended upon the treatment of Christ and of those mysterious ministrations to the Lord of glory as disguised in the person of His followers.—True love of Christ goes in search of Him, hastening to embrace and to cherish Him, as He wanders through this bleak and cheerless world in His persecuted cause and needy people.—To do nothing for Christ is a sufficient cause for condemnation.—(I have examined also the Fathers on this section and read through the Catena Aurea of THOMAS AQUINAS, but find them far less rich than I expected, and considerably inferior to the practical comments of Protestant expounders above quoted. Some of their views are inserted in the Exeg. Notes. Augustine dwells at length on Matthew 25:46 to refute Origen’s view of a final salvation of all, even the devil and his angels, and tries to solve the difficulty that the wicked can be capable of suffering bodily and spiritual pain, and yet be incapable of death. Comp. De civit. Dei, 21:3.)—P. S.]


[46]Matthew 25:31.—The adjective ἅγιοι of the text. rec. is wanting in Codd. B., D., L., [also in Cod Sinait.], many versions [including the Vulg., which reads simply: omnes angeli], and fathers, and seems to be a later interpolation.

[47]Matthew 25:35—[Comp. the translation of the English Version in Matthew 14:16, where the same [phrase is rendered: give ye them to eat.—P. S.]

[48]Matthew 25:40.—Των αδελφῶν μου, although omitted by Cod. B, is well established by the majority of witnesses.

[49]Matthew 25:41.—[Cod. Sinait. reads ὑπαγετε for πορεύεσθε.—P. S.]

[50]Matthew 25:43.—[Cod. Sinait. omits the words: γυμνὸς καὶ οὑ περιεβάλετέ με. But they are well supported by the best authorities and retained in all the critical editions.—P. S.]

[51]Matthew 25:46.—[As the Greek uses αὶώνιον before ζωήν as well as κόλασιν, it should be rendered by the same word (either eternal or ererlasting) in both clauses. Comp the Lat Vulg.: in supplicium œternum…in vitam œternam; all the German Versions (ewig); Wiclif: everlastynge turmente…everlastynge liif; the Rheims Version: punishment everlasting, life everlasting. Tyndale introduced the change: everlastinge payne…lyfe etern all, which was retained in the subsequent Protestant Versions except the word pain, which King James revisers gave up for punishment I would prefer, however, in both cases eternal to everlasting, and translate: into eternal punishment…into eternal life. For everlasting refers to extensire infinitude or endless durat o; eternal expresses the intensive infinitude, and this dynamic conception, which implies much more than mere duration or existence in time, is the prevaili g idea here, without, however, excluding the other. But in any case the passage is one of the very strongest against Universalism, and the αποκατάστασις των παντων. Comp. also Dr. Lange’s Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[52][So also Stier and Alford, who understand πάντα τὰ ἔθνη to mean all the nations of the world as distinguished from the ἐκλεκτοί, who were already gathered to Christ at the first resurrection and beginning of His mill nnial kingdom, and who will take part in the final judgment (1 Cor. 6:2).—P. S.]

[53][In German: geistliche Anmassungen. The Edinb. trsl has dignities!—P. S.]

[54][So also Hilary and Chrysostom: “Sheep are profitable by their woo, their milk, their offspring. Not so goats: they represent unfruitfulness of life.” Wordsworth adopts this view and adds with Euthymius and Grotius the δυσωδια, in opposition to the sweet and fragrant sacrifice of holy and charitable deeds.”—P. S.]

[55][Similarly Origen, Theophylact, and Maldonatus, who explains: Boni oves appellantur quia mites sunt, mali autem hirci quia asperi et per prœrupta ascendentes, idest, non acta et plana incidentes via. Nast combines un-cleanness and stubbornness as the two points of comparison of the bad with the goats, but mentions only meekness on the part of the sheep.—P. S.]

[56][Bengel derives from the word ὑμῖν, prepared for you, an argument against the scholastic notion that men were created or elected to fill up the number of fallen angels: Ergo homines electi non sunt suffecti in locum angelorum, qui peccarunt.—P. S.]

[57][Similar observations are made by Alford and Wordsworth: “In Matthew 25:34,” says the latter, “Christ describes the joys of heaven as a κληρονομία prepared for men by God even from the beginning. But the pains of hell are not described as prepared for men, but for the devil and his angels. God designs eternal happiness for men; they incur eternal misery by their own acts.”—The significance of the omissions and change in the two cases was early observed even by Origen and Chrysostom, and is urged also by Maldonatus, Olshausen, Stier, Nast, and other.—Origen: “He says not now: Ye cursed of My Father, because of all blessing the Father is the author, but each man is the origin of his own curse when he does the things that deserve the curse.”—Maldonatus: “Non dixit: ‘MALEDICTI Patris mei’, sicut justis dixerat: ‘VENITE, BENEDICTI PATRISMEI,’ quia Deus non maledictionis, sed benedictionis, non pœnœ, sed prœmii auctor fuit; non quod non etiam pœna auctor fuerit, sed quod prœmia libenter et ex animi propensione, pœnam invitus quodammodo, ut justitœ suœ satisfaceret, prœparaverit.”—P. S.]

[58][So also Dante in the famous inscription on the gate of hell; see Inferno, Canto iii. Stier observes, that even for the devil, who was created an angel, hell was no more fore-ordained than his sin, although it was prepared for him as soon as he became a devil.—P. S.]

[59][The Edinb. trsl. renders Selbstgerechtigkeit (=ἡ ἐμή, or ἡ ἰδία δικαιοσύνη, or δικαιοσύνη τοῦ νόμου, ἐκ νόμου, δικ. ἐξ ἔργων) here and above ad Matthew 25:37 by self-justification, confounding the word with Selbstrechtfertigung (=δικαίωσις).—P. S.]

[60][ALFORD: “Observe, the same epithet is used for κόλασις and ζωή—which are here contraries—for the ζωή here spoken of is not bare existence, which would have annihilation for its opposite; but blessedness and reward, to which punishment and misery are antagonist terms.”—WORDSWORTH in loc.: “The word αἰών corresponds to the Hebrew עדֹלָם, which appears to be derived from the unused root עָלַם, to conceal; so that the radical idea in αἰών, as used in Holy Scripture, is indefinite time; and thus the word comes to be fitly applied to this world, of which we do not know the duration; and also to the world to come, of which no end is visible, because that world is eternal. This consideration may perhaps check speculations concerning the duration of future punishments. (?)” But this etymology of עדֹלִם is somewhat doubtful, and αἰών has nothing to do with hiding and concealing, but comes probably from ἄω, ἄημι, to breathe, to blow; hence life, generation, age (like the Latin œvum); then indefinitely for endless duration, eternity.—P. S.]

[61][Not a parable proper. Comp. M. HENRY: “We have here a description of the process of the last judgment in the great day. There are some passages in it that are parabolical , as the separating between the sheep and the goats, and the dialogues between the judge and the persons judged; but there is no thread of similitude carried through the discourse, and, therefore, it is rather to be called a draught or delineation of the final judgment than a parable; it is, as it were, the explanation of the former parables.”—P. S.]

[62][Not: the grand and awful revelation (Edinb. trsl.). In German: die einfache, wenn auch feierliche Enthüllung.]

[63][Not: “of His (Christ’s) human decrees,” as the Edinb. trsl. renders “die Göttlichkeit der (not: Seiner) menschlichen Bestimmung” (i.e., destiny, end).—P. S.]

[64][For which the Edinb. trsl. reads rich,—evidently a typographical error.]

[65][Der religiösen Schulsprache, the language of different theological schools, but not “denominational language” (as the Edinb. trsl. has it): for this would be identical with the preceding confession, which the Germans use it the same sense in which we use denomination. Dr Lange refers to theoretical theological differences as distinct from practical religious differences. Many disputes in the Christian Church are mere logomachies, and disappear, if they are divested of their learning, and the parties are brought face to face and heart to heart in prayer or good works as Christian brethren—P. S.]

[66][This awfully sublime hymn of an humble mediæval monk, THOMAS A CRLANO (about 1250), is the most perfect specimen of Latin church poetry, and sounds like the trumpet of the final judgment which will rouse the dead from their sleep of centuries. Each word contains a distinct sound and sentiment; the ear and the heart are carried on step by step with irresistible force, and skeptical reason itself must bow before the general judgment as an awful, impending reality which will confront at last every individual. The Dies [illegible] is introduced with great effect in Goethe’s Foust. There are over 70 German, and many English translations (by Walter Scott, Trench, Davidson, Coles, who alone furnished 18. etc) of this giant hymn, as it is called, but none comes up fully to the majestic force and overpowering music of the original. It has given rise also to some of the best judgment hymns in modern languages, and to famous musical compositions of Palestrina, Pergolese, Haydn, Cherubini. Weber, and Mozart—P. S.]

[67][A preacher in Danzig, not to be confounded (as it done in the Edinb. trsl.) with Kuinoel, the commentator.—P. S.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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