RE: Parable Or Eschatological Discourse

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Jan 31 1997 - 08:32:48 EST

At 6:55 AM -0600 1/31/97, Shawn? <> wrote:
>Carl Conrad asked:
>< (3) It also occurs to me to raise again more seriously my not very
>serious question of my earlier post: IS this a parable, or IS it in
>fact straightforward apocalyptic eschatological exposition?>
>It seems best to label this text a "straightforward apocalyptic
>eschatological exposition, especially in light of the Matthean practice of
>introducing parables. For example:
> A. Matt. 21:33--Allnv parablonv akousate
> B. Matt. 22:1--Kai apokpiQeis o Insous palin eipen en parabolais . . .
> C. Matt. 24:32--Apo de tns sukns maQete tnv parabolnv
>Other phrases which indicate parabolic material include phrases that compare
>the kingdom of heaven to something. Examples of this are:
> A. Matt. 18:23--Dia touto wmoiwQn n basileia twv ouravwv. . .
> B. Matt. 25:1--Tote omoiwQnsetai n basileia twv ouravwv . . .
>Even though there are examples of parabolic material located within the
>escatological discouse not introduced in either of the preceding ways (cf.
>Matt. 25:14ff.), this is in the minority. It seems best to not label Matthew
>25:31ff a parable.

I think this is a valid judgment on our text. However, the fact that it has
traditionally been called the "Parable of the Sheep and Goats" is
interesting; I wonder who first termed it that and when. My guess is that,
however old that designation may be, the reason for it is the metaphoric
designation of the saved as "sheep" and of the damned as "goats." I would
guess furthermore that it was originally a parable and that it has been to
some extent, perhaps heavily, reworked by Matthew in the interests of his
own theological bias. IF that is so--and admittedly it is speculation--then
the original formulation of the "parable" (which has ceased to be a parable
in Matthew's formulation) need not have referred strictly to the judgment
of non-Christians. Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse here, but I continue to
be troubled by the thought that we must make a distinction between how this
passage is to be read as part of the gospel of Matthew and how it is to be
understood in the broader context of the NT canon.

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

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