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[Synoptic-L] Re: Matthean fatigue? (was: "Desert" of Bethsaida)

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  • John Lupia
    Synoptic-L@bham.ac.uk Dear Eric & Leonard: The two of you wholly agree that the Parable of the Talents/Pounds (Matt 25:14-30 // Luke 19:11-27) is an excellent
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 1, 2002
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      Dear Eric & Leonard:

      The two of you wholly agree that the Parable of the
      Talents/Pounds (Matt 25:14-30 // Luke 19:11-27) is an
      excellent case in Mark Goodacre's thesis showing Lukan
      fatigue. I disagree entirely.

      In order to analyze the Parable of the Talents/Pounds
      (Matt 25:14-30 // Luke 19:11-27) effectively we shall
      examine specific elements in a series of analyses and
      then aggregately to formulate a coherent summary,
      evaluation and opinion.

      1. The Monetary Unit

      Lk 19.11-27 uses the "maneh" (MINAS) .45kg of silver
      (1 lb.) equal to 100 drachmae or denarii. The
      nobleman (ANQRWPOS TIS EUGENHS) distributes 10 pounds
      of silver equaling 1,000 denarii, equally among ten

      Mt 25.14-30 uses the "talents" (TALANTA) 34 kg of
      silver (75 lbs) equal to 6,000 drachmae or denarii.
      The man (ANQRWPOS) distributes 8 talents equaling
      48,000 denarii unequally among three slaves.

      2. The Man

      Lk 19.11-27 has a nobleman (ANQRWPOS TIS EUGENHS),
      apparently a member of the Judean aristocracy, as the
      key figure of the narrative. He is seeking to be
      given "royal power" from "a distant country",
      apparently Roman power. Lk provides clues for the
      reader to discern that he was most likely implying
      Herod I since his predecessor Hyrcanus was only
      "Ethnarch" which was nominal having no royal power.
      This is clear not only from these clues here but also
      in the previous verse Lk 19:11 that Jesus gave this
      particular Parable (1) "because he was near Jerusalem"
      and (2) "because they supposed that the kingdom of God
      was to appear immediately." (3) Lk 19:14 a
      delegation is sent to persuade the foreign power not
      to give the wealthy nobleman any royal power. The
      latter did not want him to have gubernatorial powers
      to have them executed. Herod, for example, did
      invade Jerusalem with an army to avenge himself
      against his opposition by killing them, much the same
      as told by Lk 19:27. Herod also had his rival Malichus
      who had his father Antipater poisoned. In 41 BC, the
      Judean nobles went to Antioch placing charges against
      Herod before Marc Antony. But, Antony gave "royal
      power" to Herod, who afterward on his return had his
      enemies executed. These three additional clues
      support and confirm that he was speaking about the
      Herodian dynasty having "royal power" established by
      Herod I.

      Mt 25.14-30 has a man (ANQRWPOS) as the key figure of
      the narrative. No additional information about this
      man is provided except that he possessed three slaves
      and 48,000 denarii, and that he needed to go away on a
      long trip over an extended period of time.

      First Analysis; The Money & the Man.

      Lk 19.11-27 describes a wealthy nobleman who must
      leave his homeland in order to obtain a royal charter.
      He summons only "some" of his slaves. When they
      arrive he dispenses to each a single pound of silver.
      Lk clearly conveys the sense that the ten slaves do
      not comprise the sum total of all the nobleman's
      slaves, nor the 1,000 denarii the sum total of his
      wealth. He must have been a prominent wealthy Jewish
      nobleman to go off seeking a royal charter, and 1,000
      denarii, although a considerable amount of money in
      the first century, was clearly insufficient to
      establish anyone wealthy and powerful enough to seek
      royal power. Lk makes this clear in his narrative,
      the slaves and money represent only a portion,
      obviously small, of his possessions.

      Lk 19.11-27 has a narrative that makes logical sense.
      A wealthy nobleman would leave "some" money to select
      slaves to test their mettle, and upon return having
      the new royal power could use and reward those who
      were successful appropriately. Anticipating his new
      authority he would need to expand his staff of
      competent administrators. Hence, the basis of the
      Parable and the sound logic behind the story.

      Mt 25.14-30, on the other hand, has "a man," who is
      never described as a noble, but obviously very wealthy
      since he distributes 48,000 denarii among his only
      three slaves. This last fact is very strange. A man
      of considerable wealth would certainly have owned more
      than three slaves. Yet, according to Mt's account
      that is all he owned. This already surfaces as an
      obvious fatigue element having based his narrative on
      that of Lk and made incongruous changes.

      Mt 25.14-30 has a man who needs to take a long trip
      for an extended period of time hand over all of his
      money to his three slaves. The logic to the story is
      strained and riddled with problems: (1) Wealthy men
      did not leave 48,000 denarii lying around the house
      that could be easily stolen and not earning any
      interest with bankers. (2) Giving a slave 5 talents =
      30,000 denarii or even 2 talents = 12,000 denarii
      would surely have tempted him/them to abscond with the
      funds. The reader finds the man lucky to have found
      them still there with his money on his return. (3)
      Since the 8 talents represent his entire wealth it is
      inconsistent with accounting records and practices
      known from the first century that anyone would have
      "all" their money in the hands of their slaves.
      Wealthy men usually had accountants and bankers handle
      the bulk of their funds, not slaves. The
      incongruities in Mt, again, betray his fatigue having
      changed Lk's narrative creating conundrums.

      3. The Distributions

      Lk 19.11-27 has the nobleman summon 10 slaves giving
      each a single pound of silver = 100 denier. This
      description of summoning already implies he has a
      number of slaves greater than 10. Obviously, at least
      one slave was required to summon the ten. As the text
      is written "he summoned ten of his slaves clearly
      establishing that it was only ten of his slaves.

      Mt 25.14-30 has the man give to the first slave 5
      talents, the second 2 talents and the third 1 single
      talent. Mt, again, demonstrates fatigue here. The
      text reads that he has three slaves. So, who summoned
      them? If he only has three slaves we are left
      wondering who the summoner is. If it is another slave
      then the incongruity already surfaces. But, we do not
      know who the summoner was, and get the impression it
      was the man himself since he had such a small
      household staff.

      Mt 25.14-30 has the man summon his slaves and
      entrusting his property (UPARCONTA) to them. Mt calls
      the silver denarii or talents not by the term we would
      expect CRHMA (Mt 10:23), CRHMATA, NOMISMA (Mt 22:19),
      but rather, a very broad term UPARCONTA that could
      apply to any of his possessions, creating an
      unnecessary ambiguity. True, it is clarified by what
      follows, but does not explain why he would not have
      used one of the better terms we do find him use
      elsewhere. Either way the text is awkward and shows
      fatigue due to changes of the Lukan narrative.

      Lk 19.11-27 has the nobleman consider each of the
      slaves abilities as equal. He shows no partiality,
      prejudice or judgment about any of them distinguishing
      one from the other prior to his departure. One key
      element of the Parable from the outset is that the
      noble wishes to test their mettle and see what they
      are made of. Any opinion of them is reserved upon his
      return when he makes his assessments and evaluations
      in order to give his opinion about them. The slave
      who gained nothing is not physically tortured as in Mt

      Mt 25.14-30, on the other hand, has the man already
      judge them prior to his departure. Mt 14:15 says he
      distributed the talents disproportionately since he
      gave "to each according to his ability." This
      undermines the whole Parable. Since the man already
      knew their skills he should have expected the results
      he met on his return. It seems as though the whole
      point was to set a trap for the slave he already
      suspected of being wicked and lazy in order to
      humiliate him on his return and physically torture
      him. In this sense Mt reads more like the Parable of
      the Sinister Sadistic Master.

      4. The Rewards

      Lk 19.11-27 the parallel of the three slaves in Lk
      continues the Herodian dynasty analogy. The first
      slave gained 10 pounds of silver and was given 10
      cities. Lk 19:17 a ruler of ten cities was a ruler of
      a decapolis (Mt 4:25; Mk 5:20; 7:31). Herod Antipas
      was given Galilee and Perea that contained the famed
      Roman decapolis. Lk 19:19 a ruler of 5 cities
      (pentapolis) is a pentarch. Archelaus was given
      Judea, Idumea, and Samaria, which contained 5 key
      cities: Jerusalem, Sebaste, Jericho,
      Caesarea-Maritima, and Emmaus. The third slave was
      given nothing of value like Herod-Philip. Herod
      Antipas took Herod-Philip's wife Herodias, symptomatic
      of taking his kingdom, which he may have actually done
      but for which no record survives except through the
      Lukan Parable. The reason why Luke only cites 3
      slaves out of the 10 was to highlight the significant
      outcomes representative of the 10, a ploy that is
      summed up in Lk 19:26 ""all those [remaining] who
      have, more will be given". In other words, Lk is
      saying that for the remaining 7 slaves still give
      their accounts, those who have shown a profit will too
      receive rewards; "but from those who have nothing,
      even what they have will be taken away." So, Lk *does
      not* start out with 10 and end with 3. Those who read
      it this way misread completely.

      Mt 25.14-30 has the first slave gains 5 talents. The
      incongruity surfaces here immediately: Mt 25:21b "you
      have been trustworthy in a few things (OLIGA). The
      text indicates that 5 talents = 30,000 denarii was a
      small or trivial amount, something that cannot be
      sustained. His reward is: "I will put you in charge
      of many things.", hardly a reward to a slave, but more
      like a punishment having "many responsibilities" which
      can easily and quickly gain him his master's wrath the
      moment any one thing goes wrong. The second slave
      gained 2 talents = 12,000 denarii. The reward is
      again like for like; which once again characterizes a
      large sum of money, this time 12,000 denarii as a
      trivial or small amount. Another thing to recall is
      that from the beginning the master already judged
      their capabilities prior to his departure. He did not
      change his opinion of their abilities but only found
      them confirmed. So, their reward being given "many
      more responsibilities" only shows that he was an
      incompetent master mismanaging them prior to his
      departure since they had the capability to do many
      more things. Mt's Parable reads more like the Parable
      of the Incompetent Master who requires an unnecessary
      tale of a sojourn giving them all his money to manage
      in his absence only to learn that he should have been
      giving his slaves greater responsibilities all along.
      A howler of an unsustained story resulting from the
      changes he made to Lk's account. The third slave
      gained nothing having buried it. This seems to have
      been a rather reckless thing to do since it could have
      easily been found and stolen. Mt knew he could not
      have the slave put it in the sashcloth money-belt like
      the slave in Lk since it weighed 34kgs. So, he has the
      slave do something that seems highly unlikely. It
      would have been better had Mt had the slave say simply
      "I kept it in a safe place." But, he does not.
      Instead the slave buries it in the ground. He was
      given no reward, but rather, punishment, (1) public
      rebuke and humiliation among his peers; (2) Mt 25:30
      is cast into outer darkness "where there will be
      weeping and gnashing of teeth." The one talent he was
      given is now given to the first slave. But, we are
      left wondering how to interpret this. Is the first
      slave now given the talent for his own personal
      property? or is it still another added burden for him
      to sweat out gaining another talent in profit on top
      of the "many things" his master will oppress him with?
      Either way the Parable in Matthew is strained and the
      reader is left wondering how the so-called rewards are
      actually good for the two skillful and loyal slaves.
      Now, Mt 25:29 // Lk 19:26 makes no sense. Who is the
      master talking to? All three have given their
      accounts and have been awarded accordingly. None of
      them are stupid. They all already know what is said
      here from his previous actions. To recap here is very
      Aesopic having a moral punchline, and is an
      incongruity for a needless speech to the three slaves.

      Final Analysis

      The inconsistencies demonstrated in Matthew clearly
      indicate he relied on Luke making changes that
      produced a story with its details that cannot be
      sustained in obvious "fatigue".

      Best regards,

      John N. Lupia
      501 North Avenue B-1
      Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA

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