Who is the bride in this passage of scripture? The virgins are just preparing the way, and the groom is present, but the bride is not mentioned.

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    Welcome to BH.SE! Check out the site tour to see how we differ from other sites. This is a good question. I've wondered about it several times myself.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 17:18
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    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 21:00

6 Answers 6


While the scriptures, including the NT condones polygamy, Jewish men do not marry ten girls at one time. Even if that were Jewish custom it would not be an appropriate image for the messiah. The significance of the parable is not that the virgins failed to obtain a husband but rather that they would miss the wedding feast:

BSB Rev 19: …8She was given clothing of fine linen, linen bright and pure.” For the fine linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints. 9Then the angel told me to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The shameful lack of preparedness of the bride's girlfriends would cause them to fail the bride, the groom and the community as we also see in this parable:

Once again, Jesus spoke to them in parables: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to call those he had invited to the banquet, but they refused to come. 4Again, he sent other servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner. My oxen and fatlings have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they paid no attention and went away, one to his field, and another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the crossroads and invite to the banquet as many as you can find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered everyone they could find, both evil and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11But when the king came in to see the guests, he spotted a man who was not dressed in wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But the man was speechless. 13Then the king told the servants, ‘Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

In the parable of the wedding garments, the lack of preparedness not only is shameful but an insult to a king and is therefore punished.

Some background about Jewish customs can be found at these links:

http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10434-marriage-ceremonies http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13326-schulklopfer https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.x.vii.html#fnf_x.vii-p10.1

The parable does not identify the bride or groom but it is safe to assume that the groom is the messiah and the bride is the new Jerusalem.

NIV Revelation 21: 9One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. – Matthew 25:1 (NASB)

When we see the word, “Then,” we ask the question when? The implication of “then” is that the description applies to a specific point in time in the future—after certain events and before others.

Also, the parable of the ten virgins is embedded in both the context of the eschatology of Matthew 24 and 25, and in the context of a Jewish wedding in conformance with the ancient customs that were completely familiar to the first-century Jewish listeners. For example

Genesis 24:58-59, 61 (NASB) Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men . . . Then Rebekah arose with her maids, and they mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed.

And . . .

Ps 45:13-15 (NASB) The King’s daughter is all glorious within; Her clothing is interwoven with gold. She will be led to the King in embroidered work; the virgins, her companions who follow her, will be brought to You. They will be led forth with gladness and rejoicing; They will enter into the King’s palace.

Many New Testament scriptures refer to the bride of Christ in the singular, so its reasonable to assume that the ten virgins are the bride’s companions. The elements of a Jewish betrothal and wedding are well documented as are the various correspondences with New Testament teachings and eschatology. Nevertheless, this parable doesn’t mention the bride, which could be interpreted to mean that the bride is either not part of the moral lesson being conveyed, and perhaps the bride is represented individually by her bridesmaids rather than collectively as the bride.

Another interpretation is that the bride is a different group of people than the bridesmaids. For example, the bridesmaids could represent those people who come to some kind of faith, after the rapture. Or they could be those people on the fringes of the faith when the rapture occurs.

Note that the ten virgins experience a long delay that's followed by drowsiness and sleep, which might even be a reference to death. The bridegroom, returns at midnight with a shout. “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Perhaps they meet him in the air.

Oil to light the lamps seems to be the critical commodity. The five foolish virgins have a little, but not enough to last. They are unprepared due to their other priorities, various diversions, and perhaps procrastination. Afterwards, the door is shut, and the five foolish ones will be locked out to their eternal sorrow.The key idea that the listeners were supposed to understand is to always be ready and on the alert for the return of Jesus Christ.

But this is not the only eschatological parable or comparison in the series. We also have the following in that same section of Matthew:

• The Fig Tree in Summer

• A Comparison to the Genesis Flood

• The Thief, the Householder, and the Break-in

• The Master and the Two Kinds of Slaves

• The Ten Virgins

• The Three Servants and the Eight Talents

• The Judgment of the Nations into Two Categories

These seven parables and comparisons might actually represent future perspectives from seven points in time--something to consider.

  • Let me also add that a parable is not the same as an allegory, where A=X, B=Y, and C=Z, but an image in this case of what the kingdom of heaven could be compared to at a certain point in time. Let me suggest that the bride isn't necessary in this parable for Jesus to make his point.
    – Dieter
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 2:01

The Problem with this question is it requires a 'context' to answer, which is not specifically referred to in the text.

Jesus's teaching on marriage explicitly states,(Mark 10:6-9)

"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder"

So although Jewish Ceremonial Law didn't prohibit multiple wives(although there is no incidents where they married multiple women at the same time) Jesus Himself makes clear the intention of God; that 1 man and 1 woman joined under the Covenant of God, taking solemn vows witnessed by all, are declared "One Flesh" in the eyes of God. The witnesses therefore are the "Groomsmen" and "Bridesmaids", who witness the marriage and take part in the celebration, being the honored guests at the couple's ceremony and feasting with them at the marriage banquet.

Since the context of this passage is not talking about a "physical wedding", but as a parable, attempting to communicate a spiritual truth through an example from ordinary life which they would be familiar with, Jesus does use the Jewish Wedding Ceremony as His example. In the Wedding Ceremony, the first thing done is a "contract of marriage" or "Ketubah" is given. The duties of the groom and bride are outlined in it, and the dowry is specified, so there is no ambiguity as to the intentions of the groom. This document is signed and witnessed, so that all would know the intentions of the bride and groom. The groom proceeds back to his father's house where a "wedding chamber" is prepared; traditionally it is not "finished" until the father says it is finished, noting the anticipation of his son, he wisely defers judgment until "all things are in order".

At that point, the announcement of the wedding begins, and in Jesus's allegory, it could be at any time. Therefore, the purpose of the allegory is "not when do we see the bride", she will come to the place of meeting, fully prepared at the proper time. The purpose of the allegory is to announce to the bridesmaids specifically to be ready for the Wedding Procession, in which they will lead the procession to see the Groom, who will 'suddenly' appear as if out of nowhere to consummate his marriage to the bride. Since it is them who provide the "light" for the bride to see her way, their lamps must be lit, meaning they must have sufficient oil to illuminate the pathway for the bride to see. To have a lamp that has gone out means they are useless as a bridesmaid; they may have known and been familiar with the bride but in no way guarantees their position in the wedding.

Of course, it is the 5 Wise bridesmaids who have wisely kept their oil full and trimmed their wicks, and in the light of the 5 Wise bridesmaids the bride proceeds to the "Chuppah" where the Marriage ceremony will be held. The 5 Foolish bridesmaids drop out of the ceremony and scramble to go find oil-but there's none to be found-and what's important, the ceremony didn't stop because of them!

The worst part of their judgment was that when they returned-obviously without oil, the father had closed the door to the ceremony, and when they vigorously pounded on it, the bridegroom says, "I never knew you"(Matt. 25:12), yet they were part of the ceremony and the honored guests. The "groom" here is obviously the Lord, and the "bride" is the 'church',

"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men

To be sitting 'outside', excluded from the Marriage Feast along with everyone else is tantamount to judgment with those who never intended being in the ceremony in the first place. "10" is the symbol of man-he has 10 fingers, toes, he counts by 10, his numbering system is by 10, so the intending meaning is certainly to the individual: it's not how you start, but how you finish the race that counts. But I believe the Lord had a more "specific" intention to this parable; the Wise "churches"(ie: those churches who preach, teach, and are spiritually ready for His Eminent Return, being 'filled' with the oil of His Spirit) will have their lamps trimmed and sufficient oil at midnight-the time of greatest darkness. The Foolish Churches are those who have not prepared for the Lord's Eminent Return, through doctrinal twists, confusion, or just malaise; remember, all the bridesmaids slept. When the announcement came they were totally unprepared, having not taken advantage of the many opportunities to awaken and get prepared. They are like the "lampstand which is removed"(Rev. 2:5), meaning the Lord is willing to return with 1(or more) less lampstands, than to tolerate an unprepared, unrepentant one. It's a severe lesson, but one which the churches must embrace, if they are to be ready for the Lord's Eminent Return.

  • If the Bride is the Church and the Bridesmaids are the Churches then that becomes confusing especially when you represent 10 churches and then reference Revelation 2:5 where there are 7 churches. Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 12:57
  • @MikeBorden We have to remember that this is an allegory-a scene from life which is taken to make a Spiritual Truth. Yes, "7" is the number of completion in God's economy, therefore there are 7 Churches in Revelations. But you will notice ALL of them are invited to "persevere until I come", meaning the Truth to the Churches is to overcome the obstacles they face and be present at the Day of His Return.The Matt. 25 parable specifically deals with NOT being prepared: 5 Do and 5 Don't. The "10" are made as a reference to man's response; on ONE HAND(5) will be ready, and the OTHER(5) won't..
    – Tau
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 10:07
  • @MikeBorden (cont.) It can mean INDIVIDUALLY(everyone-regardless of what his neighbor does) should be prepared, but I believe it more specifically relates to churches, which are the places where oil is procured-and the "Lampstand"(church) only functions where there is oil. IF: the church remains continually in the Presence of God regardless of the passage of time, then she will have oil; even if she is not vigilant(awake) to the hour of the ceremony. But if she no longer seeks the Presence of God, then she is out of oil, she may invoke His Name, but she is no longer conscious of Him.
    – Tau
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 10:17
  • @MikeBorden (cont.) ....and she attempt to search around with media and methodologies to attempt to "reproduce" His Presence-to no avail. Meanwhile, the ceremony begins, and those WITH His Presence usher in the Bride, while those floundering around find themselves outside the ceremony-even though they were supposed to usher in the Bride.
    – Tau
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 10:23
  • So both the Bride and the Bridesmaids are the Church? Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 10:33

In Jesus’ time, the bridegroom and his friends would escort the bride from her home to the home of the bridegroom. Along the way, the friends of the bride waited to join them. When they arrived at the bridegroom’s home, they all went inside for the wedding. These weddings usually took place in the evening, so those waiting for the bride carried small lamps fueled by oil.

"The Parable of the Ten Virgins", Liahona, Mar 2009, 20-21.

  • Answers on this site should be supported by references to verses, well respected commentaries, linguistics or citations from contemporary sources. Without sound support answers tend to be down-voted or maybe even deleted.
    – user17080
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 13:49
  • “The Parable of the Ten Virgins,” Liahona, Mar. 2009, 20–21
    – Cole JV
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 14:04
  • Your answer makes a claim about how wedding parties were handled back then. Can you support that claim with documentary evidence? If the virgins are all the brides, how can this not be a polygamous marriage? How does the last sentence of your post, "Now, who is prepared..." contribute to answering the OP's question?
    – user17080
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 14:29
  • You are right. I have edited my comment above; the Virgins are part of the wedding party. If you read my original comment, I had interpreted it as ten separate wedding parties, meaning ten grooms and ten brides, thus not a polygamous marriage.
    – Cole JV
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 14:46

On the cross Christ says "Father forgive them",Luke 24:34 So do you know what God does? ...He forgives them, until the giving of the law at Pentecost, Acts 2, also Hebrews 7:9 for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died. The law given at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 is for the new creation. The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit, 1Corinthians 15:45. But as many as received him, God gave the power to become sons of God. ,John 1:12. Song of Solomon chapter 1 verse 3 your name is like oil poured out that's why the virgins love you. Those who take Christ name, like a wife takes her husbands name, God makes one with him and they are represented as the 5 virgins.


I have always read that as the groom coming to marry ten virgins, and only five of them make the cut. Polygamy was not uncommon back then, and contextually that reading makes sense.

See also the answer here.

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