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THE PARABLES CONCERNING UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
sole vindicators of a Law a which in their everyday practice they CHAP. notoriously broke, there lay as deep sin and as great alienation from God as that of the sinners whom they despised. Theirs might not ver. 17 be the Mamon of, yet it might be that for unrighteousness; and, while they sneered at the idea of such men making of their Mamon friends that would receive them into everlasting tabernacles, themselves would experience that their neglect of using it for God, and their employment only for self of such Mamon as was theirs, together with their bearing towards what they regarded as wretched, sore-covered Lazarus, forsaken and starving at their very doors, would end in a terrible adjustment before God.
It will have been observed, that once more we lay special stress on the historical connection and the primary meaning of the Parables. We would read them in the light of the circumstances in which they were spoken—as addressed to a certain class of hearers, and as referring to what had just passed. The historical application once ascertained, the general lessons may afterwards be applied to the widest range. This historical view will help us to understand the introduction, connection, and meaning, of the two Parables which have been described as the most difficult: those of the Unjust Steward,' and of Dives and Lazarus.
At the outset we must recall, that they were addressed to two different classes in the same audience. In both the subject is Unrighteousness. In the first, which is addressed to the recently converted publicans and sinners, it is the Unrighteous Steward, making unrighteous use of what had been committed to his administration by his Master; in the second Parable, which is addressed to the self-justifying, sneering Pharisees, it is the Unrighteous Possessor, who uses only for himself and for time what he has, while he leaves Lazarus, who, in his view, is wretched and sore-covered, to starve or perish, unheeded, at his very door. In agreement with its object, and as suited to the part of the audience addressed, the first Parable points a lesson, while the second furnishes a warning. In the first Parable we are told, what the sinner when converted should learn from his previous life of sin; in the second, what the self-deceiving, proud Pharisee should learn as regards the life which to him seems so fair, but is in reality so empty of God and of love. It follows—and this is of greatest importance, especially in the
The reader who wishes to see the different views and interpretations of this Parable is referred to the modern com
mentaries, and especially to Archbishop Trench's Notes on the Parables (13th ed.), pp. 427-452.
interpretation of the first Parable—that we must not expect to find spiritual equivalents for each of the persons or incidents introduced. In each case, the Parable itself forms only an illustration of the lessons, spoken or implied, which Christ would convey to the one and the other class in His audience.
I. The Parable of the Unjust Steward.-In accordance with the canon of interpretation just laid down, we distinguish–1. The illustrative Parable. 2. Its moral. 3. Its application in the combination of the moral with some of the features of the Parable.c
1. The illustrative Parable.d This may be said to converge to the point brought out in the concluding verse: the prudence which characterises the dealings of the children of this world in regard to their own generation-or, to translate into our own phraseology the Jewish forms of expression, the wisdom with which those who care not for the world to come choose the means most effectual for attaining their worldly objects. It is this prudence by which their aims are so effectually secured, and it alone, which is set before the children of light,' as that by which to learn. And the lesson is the more practical, that those primarily addressed had hitherto been among the men of this world. Let them learn from the serpent its wisdom, and from the dove its harmlessness; from the children of this world, their prudence as regarded their generation, while, as children of the new light, they must remember the higher aim for which that prudence was to be employed. Thus would that Mamon which is of unrighteousness,' and which certainly faileth,' become to us treasure in the world to come—welcome us there, and, so far from “failing,' prove permanent—welcome us in everlasting tabernacles. Thus, also, shall we have made friends of the • Mamon of unrighteousness,' and that, which from its nature must fail, become eternal gain—or, to translate it into Talmudic phraseology, it will be of the things of which a man enjoys the interest in this world, while the capital remains for the world to come. It cannot be difficult now to understand the Parable.
Its object is simply to show, in the most striking manner, the prudence of a worldly man, who is unrestrained by any other consideration than that of attaining his end. At the same time, with singular wisdom, the illustration is so chosen as that its matter (materia), 'the Mamon of unrighteousness,' may serve to point a life-lesson to those newly converted publicans and sinners, who had formerly sacrificed all for the sake, or in the enjoyment of, that Mamon. All else, such as the question, who is the master and who the steward, and such like,
THE UNJUST STEWARD.
* St. Luke xv. 13
xvi. 2, 3
we dismiss, since the Parable is only intended as an illustration of the lesson to be afterwards taught.
The connection between this Parable and what the Lord had previously said concerning returning sinners, to which our remarks have already pointed, is further evidenced by the use of the term • wasting' (diao koprifwv), in the charge against the steward, just as the prodigal son had “wasted' (PLEO KÓPT108) his substance. Only, in the present instance, the property had been entrusted to his administration. As regards the owner, his designation as "rich seems intended to mark how large was the property committed to the steward. The steward' was not, as in St. Luke xii. 42–46, a slave, but one employed for the administration of the rich man's affairs, subject to notice of dismissal. He was accused—the term "St. Luke implying malevolence, but not necessarily a false charge—not of fraud, but of wasting, probably by riotous living and carelessness, his master's goods. And his master seems to have convinced himself that the charge was true, since he at once gives him notice of dismissal. The latter is absolute, and not made dependent on the account of his stewardship,' which is only asked as, of course, necessary, when he gives up his office. Nor does the steward either deny the charge or plead any extenuation. His great concern rather is, during the time still left of his stewardship, till he has given up his accounts, to provide for his future support. The only alternative before him in the future is that of manual labour or mendicancy. But for the former he has not strength; from the latter he is restrained by shame.
Then it is that his prudence suggests a device by which, after his dismissal, he may, without begging, be received into the houses of those whom he has made friends. It must be borne in mind, that he is still steward, and, as such, has full power of disposing of his master's affairs. When, therefore, he sends for one after another of his master's debtors, and tells each to alter the sum in the bond, he does not suggest to them forgery or fraud, but, in remitting part of the debt—whether it had been incurred as rent in kind, or as the price of produce purchased—he acts, although unrighteously, yet strictly within his rights. Thus, neither the steward nor the debtors could be charged with criminality, and the master must have been struck with the cleverness of a man who had thus secured a future provision by making friends, so long as he had the means of so doing (ere his Mamon of unrighteousness failed).
A few archæological notices may help the interpretation of details.
From the context it seems more likely, that the bonds, or rather writings,' of these debtors were written acknowledgments of debt, than, as some have supposed that they were, leases of farms. The debts over which the steward variously disposed, according as he wished to gain more or less favour, were considerable. In the first case they are stated as a hundred Bath of oil,' in the second as “a hundred Cor of wheat.' In regard to these quantities we have the preliminary difficulty, that three kinds of measurement were in use in Palestine—that of the Wilderness,' or, the original Mosaic; that of Jerusalem,' which was more than a fifth larger; and that of Sepphoris, probably the common Galilean measurement, which, in turn, was more than a fifth larger than the Jerusalem measure. To be more precise, one Galilean was equal to Wilderness' measures. Assuming the measurement to have been the Galilean, one Bath? would have been equal to an Attic Metrêtés, or, about 39 litres. On the other hand, the so-called “Wilderness measurement'would correspond with the Roman measures, and, in that case, the · Bath' would
be the same as the Amphora, or amount to a little less than 26 • Ant. viii. 2. litres. The latter is the measurement adopted by Josephus.a 4
In the Parable, the first debtor was owing 100 of these Bath,' or, according to the Galilean measurement, about 3,900 litres of oil. - As regards the value of a Bath of oil, little information can be derived from the statements of Josephus, since he only mentions prices under exceptional circumstances, either in particularly plentiful years, or else at a time of war and siege.
In the former, an Amphora, or 26 litres of oil seem to have fetched about 9d.; but it must be added, that, even in such a year, this represents a rare stroke of business, since the oil was immediately afterwards re-sold for
9; comp. ix. 4, 5
D Jewish War ii, 21. 2 e Life, 13
See Herzfeld, Handelsgesch. pp. 183185. I have proceeded on his computation. I am bound to add, that there are few subjects on wbich the statements of writers are more inconsistent or confused. Thus, I have not succeeded in clearly understanding the statements on this subject in Conder's Handbook, and where I do understand, I certainly cannot agree with them. The statements in the text are derived from Jenish sources.
? The writer in Smith's Bibl. Dict., vol. iii. p. 1740 b, is mistaken in saying that • the Bath is the largest of liquid measures.' According to Ezek. xlv. 11, the Chomer or Cor= ten bath or ephah, was equally applied to liquid and dry measures. The Bath (one-tenth of the Chomer or Cor)= three seah; the seah =
two hin; the hin=twelve log ; the log = space of six eggs. Further, one thirtysecondth of a log is reckoned equal to a large (table), one sixty-fourth to a small (dessert), spoon.
3 This difference between the • Wilderness, or Mosaic,' and the “Galilean' measure removes the difficulty (raised by Thenius) about the capacity of the *brazen sea’ in Solomon's Temple (1 Kings vii. 23, 26). The Bath should be calculated, not according to the Galilean (= Metrêtês = about thirty-nine litres), but according to the Wilderness' mea. sure (= amphora about twenty-six litres).
* The reading in Ant. xv. 9. 2: The Attic Medimni, is evidently a copyist'serror for • Metrêtai.'
THE DEBTORS AND THEIR DEBT.
eight times the amount, and this—38. for half an Amphora of about 13 litres--would probably represent an exceptionally high war-price. The fair price for it would probably have been 9d. For the Mishnah informis ns, that the ordinary earthenware casks' (the Gerabh) held each 2 Seah, or 48 Log, or about 26 litres. Again, according to Therum. x. a notice in the Talmud, 100 such casks,'or, 200 Seah, were sold for Jer. Baba 10 (presumably gold) dinars, or 250 silver dinars, equal to about 71. M. iv. 2 108. of our money. And as the Bath ( = 3 Seah) held a third more than one of those casks, or Gerabin, the value of the 100 Bath of oil would probably amount to about 101. of our money, and the remission of the steward, of course, to 51.
The second debtor owed 6 a hundred Cor of wheat 'that is, in dry measure, ten times the amount of the oil of the first debtor, since the Cor was ten Ephah or Bath, the Ephah three Seah, the Seah six Kab, and the Kab four Log. This must be borne in mind, since the dry and the Auid measures were precisely the same; and here, also, their threefold computation (the “Wilderness,' the “Jerusalem,' and the 'Galilean ') obtained. As regards the value of wheat, we learn that, on an average, four Seah of seed were expected to from Baba produce one Cor—that is, seven and a half times their amount; and about the that a field 1,500 cubits long and 50 wide was expected to grow a Cor. The average price of a Cor of wheat, bought uncut, amounted to about 25 dinars, or 158. Striking an average between the lowest prices mentioned d and the highest, we infer that the price of 3 Seah , Peah viii. or an Ephah would be from two shillings to half-a-crown, and accord- viii. 2; ingly of a Cor (or 10 Ephah) from 20 to 25 shillings (probably this is « Baba B. rather more than it would cost). On this computation the hundred Cor would represent a debt of from 1001. to 125l., and the remission of the steward (of 20 Cor), a sum of from 201. to 25l. Comparatively small as these sums may seem, they are in reality large, remembering the value of money in Palestine, which, on a low computation, would be five times as great as in our own country.' These two debtors are only mentioned as instances, and so the unjust steward would easily secure for himself friends by the “Mamon of unrighteousness,' the term Mamon, we may note, being derived from the Syriac and Rab
(, , , ) Another point on which acquaintance with the history and habits
Baba B. 91/ 91 a
3.(to apportion ,מנה, מני= מון from ,ממוֹן) binie word of the same kind
This will appear from the cost of living, labour, &c.
2 The word should be written with one m. See Grimm s. v,
Grimm (after Drusius) derives it
from 1pk. He says: uti ridetur, deducendum ; videtur, but certainly not est. Buxtorf (s. v.) largely, but not very satisfactorily, discusses its etymology. The view in the text has the sanction of Lery.