The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Interpreting the Parable of the Minas

Recently I encountered an anti-theist in another forum who was using the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:11-27 as grounds to say ‘let’s not forget that Jesus said to kill those that do not want him as their king.’ I’ve pasted the parable below from the NKJV, for reference; and you can see he was trying to get this from verse 27, where the ruler in the parable has those who did not recognize his authority brought before him and slain.

After reading through this and pondering for a bit, and then looking up some historical information on the internet, I posted the following reply. I was wondering what you all might think of this kind of interpretation of this parable, whether the ruler could indeed be an example of an unjust earthly ruler, and not some figure who is a stand-in for Christ Himself. Think that could be, or am I totally off the mark here?

Wow, complicated post. This just further demonstrates that, even today, the parables need Jesus to interpret them. Even the disciples didn’t get it, so why should we? That said, I am not saying we cannot come up with interpretations. I myself have a wild imagination and could probably give you many different viewpoints. But, that isn’t the point. The point isn’t what can we explain away in the parable, or what is possible, but what is actually intended by Jesus? Seems like a personal revelation from the Holy Spirit is needed for some of these parables.

Yeah, I guess for starters, I was interested whether anyone else had heard of the similarities between the story in the parable and the account of the brutal Herod Archelaus (as recorded, for instance, in Josephus’ writings.)

If this was indeed the likely historical source material for the story (even if the parable spun off of it with dramatic license for its own purposes), this would seem to make it especially plausible that the nobleman/ruler was meant to be viewed as unjust and not as a representation of Christ himself. Any insights on the validity of this connection?

Is there any chance that Christ’s audience would have viewed the ‘nobleman’ with sympathy if he indeed was trying to evoke the image of Archelaus in their minds?

Secondly, whatever the meaning of the parable, it seems from verse 11 that this message has to include some kind of response to the idea that the Kingdom of God would come immediately, by trying to illustrate something about its nature or timing.

Ah! Also consider where he was and to whom he was speaking:

  • in the house of the recently repentant tax collector, Zaccheus

  • Zaccheus upon repentance had said if he had defrauded anyone of anything he would pay it back four times over

  • this might lend weight to the idea that the slaves of the nobleman in the parable are like the tax collectors in service of the earthly powers in Judea and in Rome, that the wealth they were accumulating from the minas in such short order was gained through questionable practices

  • if so, then the slave who wrapped up his minas and kept it safe might actually be the good guy in the story, refusing to play ball in the fashion of this hard man and his hard, thuggish slaves

Hmm…investigating further along these lines…

I guess this whole Archelaus thing must be new to most, as it is to me? This parable had always been an odd one to me – but maybe this makes sense now.

Actually, the Protestant site Got Questions provides their input at What is the meaning of the Parable of the Ten Minas?.
We can find another attempt in Tough Questions Answered at What Does The Parable of the Minas Mean?
Also in Wiki at Parable of the talents or minas

Jesus consistently taught enemy love, and that by praying for our enemies and doing good toward them, we show ourselves to be children of our heavenly Father indeed, who is kind to ungrateful people and to evil people.

It doesn’t make sense that by means of a single parable he would undo the rest of his teaching by advocating the death of a slave who didn’t hid his money and thus didn’t produce interest.

I posted this to the “Is Christian Universalism True” Facebook group here:

I don’t know how to interpret this parable, Micah. Your ideas seem to have merit, and I have heard the parallel with Herod Archelaus before. It seems to me that this has to be PART of the explanation for the parable, but I’m not sure you’ve got the whole story. It seems to me as though it’s missing something, but I don’t know what that would be. Maybe someone will have some ideas for us on FB.

Meantime, I’ll see whether we can summon [tag]JasonPratt[/tag]. He’ll probably have some thoughts. [tag]EaglesWay[/tag] might also.

Here’s one of the reader responses on Randy’s second link. I thought it was very good, though it didn’t talk about the returning king’s slaying of his enemies:

Here’s another:

You may relate to this one:

I’m pretty sure the extra details compared to GosMatt are meant, based on the location near Jericho and Archaeleus Herod’s palace, to refer to Herod. Since the surrounding context tends to warn people to make friends with Rome (their enemies under God), that shouldn’t be surprising.

If this is a king, it wouldn’t be surprising for the stewards to be called “slaves” either – high ranking servants were still slaves, though at a very different social level and meaning than indentured slaves. A mina wouldn’t be as excessively much as a talanton, but it’s still several hundred daywages.

In my commentson the other time Jesus gives this parable (less than a week later, on the Mount of Olives, probably Wednesday night) in Matt 25, I argue extensively that Jesus is warning His own apostles and closest disciples (who would have more authority naturally, thus the upscale to talantons of silver) not to be anti-evangelical. The stewards are entrusted to do the family business, and that means evangelizing if the king == Jesus/God.

That doesn’t change, though it might well be less obvious to the crowds on the road from Jericho, for the earlier parable. The point to making friends with the unrighteous, especially in GosLuke, is to lead them to salvation, and that has to be what Jesus means when exhorting Israel to submit to Rome: to act as a witness to the world for God.

But the lazy servant doesn’t want to do that. It isn’t even because he’s merely lazy (though that’s how he’s described in the story either way) – a merely lazy person would deposit the money for drawing interest later. We can always support evangelism if we have been given few talents for it, even if we’re completely lazy about it – which wouldn’t be a good excuse either, but that isn’t the villain’s problem.

The villain actively refuses to do the work of the Master while He is gone.

And his attempt at an excuse, involves trying to flatter his master in a typical Near Middle Eastern fashion, by calling him a ruthless tyrant.

That’s someone whose heart is flat set against God trying to save at least some people from their sins, and who is projecting their own unmercy onto God as an excuse.

That’s why he’s thrown outside where the wailing is and the gnashing of the teeth – but it isn’t because God is unmerciful. It’s because the guy was unmerciful and expected or hoped God would be unmerciful, too.

And this was one of the highest ranking servants of God either way. Not this Pharisee opponent, not that pagan governor, nor that atheist over there. This warning is aimed at us, and more at us the more authority and responsibility God gives us.

Nor should we regard the anti-evangelical high-servant of God as being unmercifully punished. Or else we’re putting ourselves under the same judgment as that servant.

It is interesting to read in this post that we have a subversive “whistle blower” interpretation through the to one concerning evangelisation (not the filthy lucre!). At least we have arrived at a point where we see that it’s not the money! I think I am mostly with Jason on this one though because of the context and time of its telling. I think the life death and outer darkness is there to lend weight to the importance of the family business as Jason calls it. Sharing the good news - and if we are now understanding UR what good news it really is!

This a mysterious parable to me now, after reading all these answers I am no longer so sure I kno what I thought I knew, and I LOVE THAT!

One of the keys to me is the part at the end of the parable as it is in Cindy’s post, “But bring those adversaries who did not submit to my reign and slay them before me”.

Seems awfully harsh and barely in keeping with most UR sentiment to me at first but…

I was thinking of Jesus saying “I am the Vine and you are the branches, if anyone abides in me they will bear much fruit, and their fruit shall remain. If anyone does not abide in me they will be cut-off as a branch and withered, and men shall gather them up and throw them into the fire.”

This seems to me to parallel 1 Cor 3:13-15

13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test [a]the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

This(imo) perfectly describes the fate of the unprofitable servant. He loses his reward, but he himself is not slain.

gold silver and precious stone remain, wood hay and stubble are destroyed, consumed… then Paul goes on

6 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

The word for destroy there is PHTHEIRO…

corrupt, defile, destroy.
Probably strengthened from phthio (to pine or waste);** properly, to shrivel or wither**, i.e. To spoil (by any process) or (generally) to ruin (especially figuratively, by moral influences, to deprave) – corrupt (self), defile, destroy.

ruin, loss- like apollumi which fits in this scenario as well from other parables and teachings.

translated in most other places as corrupt- but notice the emphasis of Strong’s on “wither”- similar to John 15 and the branch that abides not.

Man I am longwinded sometimes :slight_smile:

So if I look at the traditional interpretation, as the slaying being similar to the “cutting off”, and the unprofitable servant as one who misunderstood his Master’s intent and refused to obey Him, likened to the "wood hay and stubble, and as one who could not have abided in the will of a Lord he so little understood… I can deal with the slaying,

"If anyone withers/corrupts the temple of God God will wither/corrupt him

So many points made work in this paradigm fo rme. These were high servants of the Lord- slaves, but also stewards. Grace is given to be multiplied, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”…“And great grace was upon them all”

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

And then back to 1 Cor 3…“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”

So I see four groups here, two who invest grace according to instruction, one who does not, and the adversary/rebels. We abide in grace as humble servants and grace mutiples in us and through us. if we understand His heart we will invest because His nature is to give and giving multiplies grace(give and it shall be given unto you, press down, shaken together, overflowing)- and the added group of his enemies- but they are NOT FOREIGNERS, they are subjects who refuse His reign.

The only wrench in the gears is this focus on the goodness or badness of the owner, but was he really bad? or was he speaking as the proverb, “Answer a fool according to his folly”. I am re-evaluating, altho all these principles are true…

Wheels within wheels, mysteries hidden from the foundation of the world, so that hearing they might not hear and seeing they might not perceive…oy vey!

Isaiah 27:1 In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.

2 In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine.

3 I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.

Here the Lord slays the ultimate adversary/rebel(see Job 41, Leviathan, the king of all the children of pride)- with the sword of His mouth, so may we all be slain, and thus abide fruitful branches in the vineyard of His favor ;o)

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

VERY helpful, Jason and Eaglesway and everyone! Thanks. I’m going to tag [tag]Micah[/tag] just to make sure he gets to read all your wisdom too. :slight_smile:

Hey, thanks very much everyone for the replies and perspectives on this; and thanks for letting me know about it, Cindy. :slight_smile: Busy Memorial Day weekend with family, but hoping to read through them again soon when I get a bit of a breather.

Another interesting spin I’ve found is at Risk: The Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27). I have specifically underlined two statements, as I found it very interesting for reflection.


Well, in Jesus’ later version, reported in Matt 25, the hateful servant is thrown into the outer darkness where the weeping is and the gnashing of the teeth; so I wouldn’t hang much (or anything) on him apparently not being punished with more than having his mina taken away in the earlier version. :confused:

Yes, it appears that multipying the minas, in Matt 25, is drectly related to the following verses concerning the judgment, “I was sick and you visited me, I was hungry and you fed me”…etc. Here it looks like the minas are relating to practical love. The one who buried his love got punished.

Have read through the replies, and I’m back to being pretty confused on what to think here. :slight_smile: I think the sticking point I’m trying to wrap my head around is why Christ would use such negative images the people had in their minds of a brutal ruler like Archelaus, to have them make an association of that ruler’s character and action with His own character and action. It’s hard for me to square a picture of someone wanting people brought before him so he could watch them be slain for questioning his authority, with the Suffering Servant Who commanded us to love our enemies, commanded us not to rule over others like the world, Who said the first shall be last and the last shall be first, Who said ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’, etc.

Is there anything to be gleaned from the audience having been those in Zaccheus’ house, who had just witnessed his conversion from a tax collector who defrauded people for the Empire, to become a servant and follower of the Servant King, ready to make amends for his ways?