Re: Re. Separating Sheep from Goats!

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Jan 23 1997 - 11:10:15 EST

At 8:28 AM -0600 1/23/97, Paul F. Evans wrote:
>List,I recently noticed a posting that began to broach the subject for
>pretrib. rapture. A quagmire indeed! However, coincidentally I came
>across the ref. in Matthew 25:31-32 with regards to Christ's return and
>the separating of the sheep from the goats.The phrasing "...KAI
>ALLHLWN,..."I am interested in the the later part "...PANTA TA EQNH, KAI
>AFORISEI AUTOUS AP' ALLHLWN,..." The PANTA TA EQNH is surely the standard
>designation of the Jews for Gentiles? if so doesn't this represent a
>collective concept of TA EQNH and not a concept of gathering distinct
>nations; rather all nations as a whole? The reason I ask is to detemine
>if the separating implies that of individuals, with in the nations viewed
>as a whole, or whether separating involves national blocks. To me the crux
>is the force AP' ALLHLWN, which seems to favour a ref. to the national
>blocks, meaning that TA EQNH is used a little differently than in the
>typical Jewish designation of "Gentiles," more along the lines "the
>separate nations."It would seem more biblically consistent to view the
>first alternative, that individuals are separated on the basis of faith in
>Christ, since it is hard to reconcile how one national block could be
>construed as "better" than another. I know traditionally theologians have
>argued the assessment will be made on the basis of how each treats Israel,
>but the context says nothing about this and I find it unconvincing.
> However, I am more concerned with the force of the prep. phrase!

Interesting questions. This passage has always fascinated me for a number
of reasons, but I hadn't really thought about either of these points (PANTA
TA EQNH, AFORISEI AUTOUS AP' ALLHLWN). Here are some thoughts, such as they

(1) PANTA TA EQNH, particularly since it is here found in Matthew, COULD
refer to Gentiles, inasmuch as those excommunicated from the church are
said to be "like Gentiles and Tax-Collectors" (Mt 18:17). On the other
hand, this is PANTA TA EQNH, and it really looks like it ought to refer to
all humanity. Does it make sense for Jesus to be delivering this discourse
on eschatology to his disciples about how judgment will be exercised on
everyone EXCEPT members of the community? (I'm assuming that EQNH may here
mean "Gentiles" from the viewpoint of a "new Israel" rather from the
earlier distinction between ethnic Israel and non-Israelites--although I
realize there are some interpreters who view Matthew's perspective as
concerning a community that is still WITHIN Judaism).

(2) Regarding AP' ALLHLWN: it is true that those separated are
plural--AUTOUS; this could, it seems to me, refer to individuals or groups,
but it does not appear to be whole EQNH, and for that reason I think it
probably should be understood of individuals; in this sentence there would
only need to be two individuals for this plural AUTOUS to be used with

(3) The criterion of judgment: This may open up yet another can of worms,
but to me it is the single most fascinating critical question in this
entire parable (it IS a parable, isn't it, rather than an eschatological
doctrine expounded in straightforward prose?).

The criterion of judgment is NOT "faith in Christ" at all, but
compassionate behavior toward hENI TOUTWN TWN ADELFWN MOU TWN ELACISTWN.
Now, IF one supposes (as I find very difficult) that it is ONLY Gentiles
who are being separated from one another on this basis, then I guess we
have to say that the referent of TOUTWN TWN ADELFWN is members of the
believing community. In other words: those outside the "church" will be
judged on how they treat members of the "church." Does anyone believe that
is what this passage means? I don't, I must confess.

But if the referent of TOUTWN TWN ADELFWN MOU TWN ELACISTWN is NOT members
of the believing community, to whom DOES it refer? Who are the "brothers"
of the Son of Man? I have always believed, and still do--perhaps
wrongly--that all humanity (PANTA TA EQNH?) constitute the ADELFOI (in a
non-sexist sense, of course!) of the Son of Man. If that's the case, then
the criterion of judgment is ultimate compassion toward the least of

CAN that possibly be what Jesus is teaching? or what Matthew is teaching?
For, as Norman Perrin once nicely stated, we have to consider the
Sitz-im-Leben of a parable three ways: (1) what did it mean to Jesus and
the original audience listening to this parable? (2) what did it mean in
oral tradition to the communities preserving it? (3) what did it mean to
Matthew and his community?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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