The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

Download for free the PDF version of the study, optimized for your e-book reader / table / desktop / smartphone PDF version

The parable of the ten virgins

This we find in Matthew 25:1-13. There we read:

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us. But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

Concerning the lamps of the parable, Barnes says in his commentary:

"The "lamps" used on the marriage occasion were rather "torches" or "flambeaux." They were made by winding rags around pieces of iron or earthenware, sometimes hollowed so as to contain oil, and fastened to handles of wood. These torches were dipped in oil, and gave a large light." (emphasis added)

If he is right, this means that all ten girls initially had oil for their lamps. In any case, it is clear from the text that all ten were, in the beginning, waiting for the Lord, waiting to meet the bridegroom. But the five foolish ones did not take (additional) oil with them. Perhaps they expected that the Lord would come immediately and so they would not need it or they simply did not care. The five wise ones however, recognizing that they "know neither the time nor the hour" of the Lord’s coming did not by any means want their lamps to go out. So they made the necessary provisions. The Lord finally came at midnight, when nobody expected Him. But the five foolish did not have oil. Their lamps were going out. When the Lord came they were not ready and they were not present at the marriage feast. When they came to the door, they found it closed and the Lord, instead of opening to them and welcoming them in, even though they were late, said to them: "Truly I say to you, I do not know you".

That the Lord said this parable to warn us, is obvious from the last verse of the passage where we read:

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour".

Again, this "you" is not some general audience or some Pharisees, but His very apostles and disciples (see the beginning of the teaching in Matthew 24:4). In other words what the Lord is telling us, His disciples, is: therefore, because you see what happened to the five unprepared ones, watch, be alerted. If this was not relevant to us, if we would enter into the Kingdom regardless of whether we are of those who believed but fell eventually away or of those who run the race to the end, abiding in the vine, then there would be no reason for the Lord to tell us this "Watch therefore". There would be in fact no reason to give us this parable. But the Lord, right at the end of His ministry (we are here two days before crucifixion) and speaking not to some general public but to His very own apostles and disciples, choose to give this warning. This in turn means that the danger of being found without oil, of being found no longer abiding in Him is real and real are also the consequences. People who are found in such a shape, will not hear the welcoming voice of the Master but rather what he said to the five virgins that had run out of oil: "Truly I say to you, I do not know you".

Next section: The parable of the talents


Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou