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The Parable of the Talents

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The Parable of the Talents

Historical/Cultural Analysis

The parable of the talents is one of Jesus’ many parables recounted by Matthew. Matthew’s gospel was written in Antioch, sometime between 80 and 90 A.D.  Antioch was the capital of Syria, and a mostly Greek-speaking mega city. Within the city was the largest Jewish population in all of Syria (ABD, Matthew, Gospel of, 4: 624). It is also where the circumcision-free mission was later birthed. The gospel’s portrayal of Jesus as Messiah, gives leeway for Jesus’ in, that era, shocking commandments, which go against the Pharisees observances, and repeal the laws of the Pentateuch (ABD, Matthew, Gospel of, 4: 623).

Structural Analysis

Matthew

  1. The Birth of Jesus (1:1-4:25)
  2. Jesus is Baptized and Begins his Ministry (3:1-4:25)
  3. The Ethics of the Kingdom (5:1-7:29)
  4. Jesus Demonstrates Power over Disease, the Devil, and Nature (8:1-9:34)
  5. Jesus Commissions the Twelve (9:35-10:42)
  6. Jesus commends John the Baptist (11:1-12:50)
  7. Jesus gives 7 parables about the Kingdom of Heaven (13:1-52)
  8. Jesus is rejected (14:53-14:12)
  9. Jesus performs miracles and predicts his death and resurrection (14:13-17:27)
  10. Jesus teaches his disciples (18:1-35)
  11. Jesus teaches and heals on the way to Jerusalem (19:1-20:34)
  12. Jesus makes his entry into Jerusalem (21:1-25:46)
  13. Jesus is betrayed and crucified (26:1-27:66)
  14. Jesus is raised from the dead and gives final orders before his ascension (28:1-28:20)

The Parable of the Talents

I. A man summons his slaves (25:14)

        A. Distributes his property (25:15a)

II. The man goes away (25:15b-18)

        A. The first two slaves work to double their master’s property (25:16-17)

        B. The third slave hides the money (25:18)

III. The man returns (25:19-30)

A. The master blesses his first two servants for their work (25:20-23)

B. The master curses his third servant for his laziness. (25:23-30)


Keyword Analysis

master- 9

slave- 5

talent- 16

trustworthy- 4        

good- 2

reap- 2        

sow-2

joy-2

few- 2                

many- 2

time- 1

receive- 4

one- 11

Of all the words that are repeated most often in this passage, the word master is probably on e of the most significant. Although there are more slaves than in comparison to the one master, it is still repeated most often. This probably allows the parable to have more of a focus towards the master, and less towards the servant. 

Another word that is significantly repeated is the word slave. It is also important to notice that Jesus chose the word slave and not servant. This implies full submission to the master. The slaves in the passage are not servants who give to receive, but slaves who give because they abandoned any identity, and submitted to their master. 

The words good and trustworthy also seem to have an important meaning in the parable. It is interesting that the master uses the term trustworthy to describe his slaves four times, twice even using it with the word good. But he only uses the word good two times. This is symbolic of the relationship of God and man. Although man has a sinful nature, through the Lord’s grace he is redeemed. The sequence of repetition of these two words displays God’s concern for trustworthiness over perfection. 

Genre Analysis

        Based on the characters in this parable, it can be categorized under as a triadic basic model. Included in the story are a master, two good servants and a bad servant. Much like many of the other parables told by Jesus        the character master usually refers to God. The slaves or servants, usually represent God’s children. In this parable, the two good slaves represent God’s hard-working servants who sow what he has given them. The bad servant represents lazy servants who are only willing to work when the circumstances meet their likings.

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