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Matthew 25:3

The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.

Can this verse be translated as

 The foolish ones took their lamps that take no oil in them
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  • 1
    Meth means with (German: mit), not in. The Greek original, with links for each word, can be found here.
    – Lucian
    May 27 at 5:23
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Matthew 25:3 New International Version

The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.

lamps
λαμπάδας (lampadas)
Noun - Accusative Feminine Plural
Strong's 2985: A torch, lamp, lantern. From lampo; a 'lamp' or flambeau.

"lamps" is the object.

[but did not] take along
ἔλαβον (elabon)
Verb - Aorist Indicative Active - 3rd Person Plural
Strong's 2983: (a) I receive, get, (b) I take, lay hold of.

"lamps" cannot be the subject of this verb.

The foolish ones took their lamps that take no oil in them

This proposed translation requires "lamps" to be the subject. You need a relative pronoun that is missing from the Greek manuscripts.

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The Greek text states,

Matt. 25:3
Γʹ αἱ γὰρ μωραὶ λαβοῦσαι τὰς λαμπάδας αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔλαβον μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν ἔλαιον.
Novum Testamentum Graece. Ed. Aland, Barbara, et al. 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

which is translated into English as,

For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take oil with them.

Concerning your proposed translation,

The foolish ones took their lamps that take no oil in them

the Greek does not support that translation whatsoever. The Greek would have stated,

αἱ μωραὶ λαβοῦσαι τὰς λαμπάδας αὐτῶν ἅς οὐκ ἔσχον ἐν αὐταῖς ἔλαιον.
The foolish took their lamps which did not have oil in them.

To describe the lamps having (or not having) oil, the appropriate verb is ἔσχον, a conjugation of the verb ἔχω—“to have.” λαμβάνω does not possess the connotation of a subject (lamp) containining/having an object (oil).

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  • This is not a criticism of your response. However, doesn't it simply stand to reason that no young virgins would ever take lamps with them that were as dry as a bone? This begs the question: From where, exactly, did they expect to receive oil? I suppose it's possible that the virgins did not expect to have to wait, let alone until midnight, but again, why then the lamps at all? (Yes, I do realize this is a parable.) Just wondering.
    – Xeno
    May 27 at 0:49
  • @Xeno—The foolish had only oil in their lamps (v. 2). The wise had oil in their lamps (like the foolish) but also in their vessels (v. 3; the vessels were for carrying extra oil). The oil that the foolish had in their lamps eventually ran out (v. 8), but since they did not carry extra oil in vessels, they had to ask the wise for some of their extra oil. May 27 at 1:09
  • Right. That's exactly the way I see things as well. Sorry for any confusion on my part.
    – Xeno
    May 27 at 1:19
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[What is a] possible translation of Matthew 25:3?

(Can this verse be translated: The foolish ones took their lamps that take no oil in them?)

Answer: I do not believe so.

My translation, from the NASB reads as follows:

Matthew 25:3-4: "For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take extra oil with them; but the prudent ones took oil in flasks with their lamps."

The prudent had taken extra oil in flasks. It seems reasonably certain that all the virgins would have had some oil in their lamps. Otherwise, why take them at all? Who believes that anyone would depart for an important event with no oil in what is then a useless lamp? The difference is that the foolish ones did not take anything extra "in flasks" as the prudent did.

Thus, when the oil in the lamps of the foolish ran out, they would naturally hope to secure some from the wiser virgins as theirs' were about to be extinguished. I'm afraid any "retranslation" of this text is entirely unwarranted.

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