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The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is nearly identical to the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27).

One major change is that the values and quantities of the money is very different in each parable, as well as the number of slaves.

Why did Jesus choose such different figures for two renditions of what is basically the same parable?

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  • Related: Did Luke get the figures mixed up?
    – Steve can help
    Apr 8, 2023 at 22:54
  • They are different because of the different audiences. Same message but different language to better suit the different audiences.
    – Dottard
    Apr 8, 2023 at 23:12
  • @Dottard - I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that - I find the message rather different. Even if you're right I feel it's a bit of a cop out to say they're different but that it's not worth examining how or why.
    – Steve can help
    Apr 8, 2023 at 23:18

2 Answers 2

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Units of currency

1 mina = 60 shekels

1 talent = 60 minas

(source)

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Different accounts

As an itinerant preacher, Jesus would have told the same story more than once. The classic example is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) vs. the Sermon on the Plain (Luke).

The context in which Luke presents the parable of the minas (or parable of the pounds) is Jericho, upon Jesus' meeting with Zacchaeus the tax-collector.

The context in which Matthew presents the parable of the talents is Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry.

Neither Matthew nor Luke are particularly keen on presenting all of their information chronologically -- Matthew's Gospel is largely organized by topic (like an encyclopedia); a decent portion of Luke's Gospel is organized by geography (like an atlas). So we do not know for certain when these parables were taught, but the surrounding context in each Matthew & Luke is plausible. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Jesus taught the parable only twice.

If Jesus taught this parable 30 times (to select a random number), and occasionally changed up the numbers (when people tell a story more than once they seldom use exactly the same words each time), it is not difficult to see how two people could remember the story differently.

Students of the Synoptic Problem have sometimes pointed out that in verse 24 Luke demonstrates knowledge of Matthew's account--that's a separate, interesting question--but if we allow that Luke knew how Matthew told the story, and Luke had heard other versions of the story, why might Luke have chosen the version of the story he did?

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The question Luke is answering

In Luke, the concern that prompted the parable is given: they thought the kingdom of God would shortly appear. The message, then, is more earthly in nature: there is still important work to be done on this earth! This variation is seen in multiple details of the two accounts: whereas in Matthew the faithful are received into the rest of the Lord (heavenly), in Luke they are given cities (earthly). In Matthew the unfaithful is cast into outer darkness, whereas in Luke the unfaithful are killed.

Luke seems much more focused on the need to make good with what God has given us on this earth - which is what Zacchaeus, despite being despised for his occupation, has been trying to do. Don't just sit back and wait for the end because it's coming any day; improve upon what you have been blessed with and use it to further God's work (like Zacchaeus).

Why more servants? Verse 14 is a detail unique to Luke's account; the larger number of servants allows the story to describe more than 3 reactions by the servants.

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There is similarity and variation to these two parables, in which the value of the money doesn't seem to have a significant meaning.

The similarity of these two parables, both alluded to the period between the ascension of Jesus and His 2nd coming. The Christian are gathering to receive their final judgement.

The variation is the most interesting part. It is possible that Jesus had taught a few variation of similar parables. But Matthew and Luke should have recalled the one that most fit into their context. Therefore it has to look into its context to understand the variation between these two.

Matthew 24-25, or the Olivet Discourse, Jesus gave a scene of tribulation and warned His disciples to 'keep watch' (Matt 24:42 NIV) and 'ready' (Matt 24:44 NIV) for no one will know when it will happen. Then Matthew followed with a few parables to illustrate the meaning of 'keep watch' and 'ready'.

In the parable of the talent (Matt 25:14-30), there were three servants each was given five talents, 2 talents and 1 talents 'according to his ability' (Matt 25:15 NIV) for their disposal. When the master returned, they reported earning of five talents, 2 talents and none respectively. The first two servant received the master compliment, should be those who keep watch and ready. The third one produced nothing, and the master described him as 'wicked and lazy servant".

Next let's see the parable of the Ten Minas in Luke. It should be noted that Luke had given a reason why Jesus told this parallel

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

In this parable, though there were ten servants received one Minas equally, only three servants reported their earning when their master returned. Similarly it was five, two and none, and the first two received compliment from their master, the third one the master described him as 'wicked' (Luke 19:22 NIV).

Explanation to the parable of the Talent

It might be easy to connect when the number of talent is related to 'his ability', talent may refer to God's gift which differ to each person. This seems corresponding to another parable in Luke 12:35-48, that emphasized 'watchfulness' as a servant, in where it said;

46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.

48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

So five to earn five, two to earn two justified.

Explanation to the parable of the Minas

This parable is likely to correct the wrong idea of the people, who thought 'the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.' (Luke 19:11 NIV)

The Minas is likely referring to Jesus' command;

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All Christian received the same command, but some are more fruitful, as such, they will receive more God's gift (talent) and carry out more responsibility (cities).

Did Jesus use 'talent' for the parable in Matthew for He foresaw its meaning in English?

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