The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Matthew 25


You did a good job with your story, but it doesn’t follow Jesus’ parable. You might want to read through it again, just a little more closely. Here it is:

That said, this isn’t an easy parable to understand and I’ve been studying it off and on for a long time. Many of Jesus’ parables are specific to the culture of Israel at the time of His sojourn there, so it’s important to learn as much about that as possible, particularly for this parable, the marriage customs.

A perspective groom would go to the bride’s parents (or in some cases the groom’s father would go) and ask for her hand. If he was acceptable, they would negotiate a marriage contract – in the girl’s presence. The girl did not speak, but when the wine was poured, she had the option to turn her glass right-side up or not. If she left the glass as it was, that meant she did not accept him, and the young man left. If she accepted, they were betrothed and the contract was finalized. The groom would then leave the family’s home and go to his father’s house. This would in most cases not be a single family dwelling, but would include the extended family – brothers and their wives and children, maybe aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. The groom’s job was to prepare a suite of rooms for his bridal chamber and the new home of his new family. He did not know how long it would take because it would only be done when his father said it was done. Usually this betrothal lasted for approximately one year.

Meanwhile, the bride would be preparing her trousseau and the things that would be needed for her new home – kind of like a hope chest. She and her friends (attendants) would work on this together. As the time drew near for the bridegroom to come, the bride would begin to leave the light burning, and her attendants might even move in with her for a few weeks. When the groom was ready, he and his friends would expend a great deal of effort to make sure the bride and her friends would be surprised. There was never any question of the bride not being included in the wedding party. It could hardly go on without her! I’m not clear on just why her attendants were waiting outside for the bridegroom to come. When the groom’s party did come through the village, they would make a lot of noise celebrating, shouting, blowing trumpets. Maybe these girls didn’t spend the night with their friend, but did hear all the commotion and went out to wait for him to come from her house.

They would have their lamps, and the the lamps must be lit – not because of a lack of light, though. Apparently the light of the moon and/or stars is quite strong in that part of the world and light isn’t needed for navigation. The lamps are to make sure the girls are seen – they would hold the light at the level of their faces so there would be no question of anyone thinking they were sneaking around and up to no good. In the case of the wedding party, I expect they also had a festive function. At any rate, some of the girls didn’t bring any extra oil and when they went to buy more, they missed the party. The groom possibly actually didn’t know them, especially if he was from another town or village. Note: they missed the party. It doesn’t follow that they would never be allowed to be with their friend again. They just didn’t get into the wedding feast.

So what does this all mean? The bride is the church, which isn’t too difficult to figure out. I’m still not sure who the maidens represent though. It’s possible that the bride is not the whole church, but in fact those of the church who are closest to the groom, who long for His coming, who are devoted to him, and the friends (ten of them, which is apparently the number of completion). This seems to me to be a parable for the actual church. Jesus appears to have been alone with His disciples when He told it. The ten young ladies complete the bride, but only five of them are ready. The others must wait until after the wedding feast to be reunited with their friend. Their lamps ran out of oil during the long wait (they ALL fell asleep). Oil is possibly symbolic of the Holy Spirit, or it may be their own spirits. At any rate, there was no light in them and they were not ready. They let it go too long and missed the feast. Or did they?

This parable ends with the bridegroom saying, “I assure you; I don’t know you,” but have we heard the last word on that? In the real world what happens next? I’m told that in the middle east, a pronouncement like that is never the end of negotiations, but the beginning. The girls in a real world situation would appeal: “But we’re Miryam’s friends! We ran out of oil, and we couldn’t go without our lights! We waited so long! Please let us in!” Then the groom – does he perhaps look at his bride questioningly? Does she whisper in his ear: “Please, Darling. They’ve been so excited about this, and we DID hang around my parents’ house for an awfully long time. They’re very young you know. Please, let them in – for me?” What happens next? Jesus doesn’t actually close off this parable (as is often the case). He leaves the end up to the hearers’ imaginations.

The point is, of course, to keep your light shining and to prepare – as it might be a long wait. Don’t give up; don’t let your light go out. However long it might take, the time WILL come, so be ready!

I realize there’s some controversy about these cultural tidbits. Different regions of the country would have had somewhat varying customs and so on, but I think that overall this is not a bad interpretation. Any ideas from anyone to improve it are eagerly solicited!

Love, Cindy

First, I plead guilty to a loose construction of the parable of the ten virgins. I assumed that the ten virgins represented the bride, and since five of them ended up rejected, it looked as if a possible explanation was their loss of status due to sin (as I read in one commentary).
Thanks, Cindy , for the great explanation of wedding customs of the times. I’ve heard similar explanations, but the idea that these were ladies in waiting, friends of the bride, rather than the bride - is new to me. Another great concept you share: the bride seeking to persuade the groom to let them in.
Well, this was a first for me. Been reading this site for over a year, and enjoying the variety of discussions. Thank you all.

A hearty welcome, Loren. I hope you feel comfortable participating.


Yes, welcome to the visible side. :wink: It’s great to meet you! If you would like to, everyone would love to hear a little about you and your story. Please make welcome to post on the introductions thread. :slight_smile:

Blessings, Cindy

Thanks again. I will do as you suggest and go to the introductions area. By the way, I also have enjoyed your blog, Cindy, and those of others on this site.

Thanks, Loren! :smiley:

A hearty welcome, Loren. I hope you feel comfortable participating.


Thank you kindly. Been a long time.

I have a question about Luke 9:26, where Jesus is quoted as saying, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown comments: “Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh, etc. — He will render to that man his own treatment; He will disown him before the most august of all assemblies, and put him to “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2). “Oh shame, to be put to shame before God, Christ, and angels!” [Bengel].”

This is also quoted in Matthew. It sounds very harsh to me, and seems to be contradictory to other sayings of Jesus.

But maybe there is a less obvious was of interpreting this saying.

Jesus also is quoted as saying, in John 6:53-56,

“I can guarantee this truth: If you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don’t have the source of life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will bring them back to life on the last day. My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.”

Now that sounds really gross! And it offended a lot of people at the time. Here’s what it says:

"When many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This is a difficult statement. Who can accept it?” But Jesus, knowing within himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? What if you saw the Son of Man going up to the place where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh accomplishes nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:60-63.)
So he seems to imply that this is a spiritual message, not literal, and later He clarifies that the Spirit will teach them the truth of it (John 14:26: “But the Helper will teach you everything and cause you to remember all that I told you. This Helper is the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name.”)

Well, maybe i’m just confusing the issue but these are things that concern me as i seek to understand the “faith.” How do we understand and apply the words of Jesus? By reading a commentary? attending seminary? Or do we wait until the Spirit clarifies them to us?

And, how can i be sure that Jesus actually said everything attributed to Him?

There are definitely other interpretations of this and far less harsh that what it appears. The statement can viewed similar to this: If you don’t go outside, you will be denied from feeling the sun. It isn’t that the person cannot go outside, but because they didn’t they won’t experience the sun. That is how I interpret this section. It isn’t a vindictive choice on God’s part, just the law reciprocity.

Same for this one as well.

By seeking the truth with all of our being. If that leads you to a seminary or a commentary, so be it. Though, typically I think of seminaries as theological cemeteries… But that is merely personal opinion.

You can’t be sure. That is a fact. But, by faith, you can read and believe by listening to the Spirit. Ambiguous? Yes, I am afraid it is. This is why I absolutely love Ecclesiastes. So many great truths abound in that book. Both Proverbs and especially Ecclesiastes are so under valued and can quiet the “What if” of the soul. No, it doesn’t answer the question, but it tells me the question is futile.

thanks for your comments, Gabe. I was remembering another vere whereit says Jesus always spoke in parables. Can’t recall the exact text. At any rate, it seems Jesus was not speaking commentary kanguage. His words were intended to be interpreted to us by the Spirit. And perhaps the Spirit interprete/teaches those words to us on a need-to-know basis, with a different slant each time depending on the circumstances. A “Living” word, not a static theolgically determined word written down in some heavy volume written by a scholar of some denomination.

I also love Ecclesiastes. Great wisdom learned through lots of living and many mistakes.