In the parable of the 10 virgins, are all Christian?
Welcome aboard. I must say that I have never been asked this question before. After some thought I would answer as follows, but simply put Jesus is referring to Jewish Women and their relationship to a bridegroom in the Parable.
The Parable of the 10 Virgins in Mat 25 is a parable Jesus gave concerning being prepared for the Kingdom of Heaven. The 10 virgins Jesus speaks of are 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom. These 10 virgins were Jewish within the context of the story. This parable is followed by the Parable of the Talents. Jesus is speaking here, in part, of being prepared for the coming of The Master
The other set of parables that Jesus gave on the preparedness of women is the one of the 10 coins Luke 15. This parable is in between The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of The Lost Son. Jesus is speaking here of The Master always seeking for the lost.
Both of these 2 sets of parables include a parable about women and more than that women that are waiting for a bridegroom. Consequently an understanding of Jewish custom concerning marriage is necessary to gain the full impact of the 2 parables concerning women. The custom of Jewish marriage consisted of several aspects that we in the United States as Christians are usually not familiar with. I would note here that these ancient customs are still followed by Orthodox Jews at least in part to this day. The norm of the custom of marriage among the Jews was a follows:
- The Covenant of Marriage: This covenant often occurred at a very young age particularly for women. This covenant essentially was the marriage contract and the couple was viewed as married in all ways except that they lived separately and the marriage was not consummated.
- The Dowry: A Jewish woman would then have 10 silver coins set as her dowry and the coins would be sewed into a headdress that she would wear at all times including when sleeping. The coins were a declaration of her purity and status as a promised woman. Additionally these coins were to be used for support of the couple’s fully realized marriage. If any of the coins went missing or was spent without her promised husband’s permission, the husband had the right to divorce her. (This is the context of the Parable of the Coins.)
- The coming of the husband: Prior to the consummation of the marriage. The woman needed to go through puberty AND the husband needed to build a home for them to live in together. When the home was finished the husband would come to collect his wife during the night of the husband’s choosing. The husband was accompanied by his friends as he came to collect his wife which he collected and took to their new home. If the promised wife was not ready when the husband came, the husband could annul the marriage. (This is the context of the Parable of the 10 Virgins)
- The Wedding Night and Consummation of the Marriage: The Couple would then consummate their marriage in their new joint dwelling
- The Wedding Feast: The celebration of the consummation of the marriage would then follow with friends and relatives that could last up to 7 days. (See Wedding of Cana John 2). One of the events that would begin the feast is proof of the bride’s virginity by examination of the bed linen.
Understanding these aspects of the Jewish Wedding Customs are generally necessary to understand any Parable that concerns marriage. All people hearing a Parable concerning marriage would understand it within the context of Jewish Custom.
Hope this helps and welcome to this site
Good afternoon, @iCarol. That’s a very good question.
Matthew chapters 24-25 are a sermon that Jesus preached called the Olivet Discourse. These two chapters are His lengthy answer to His disciples’ questions in 24:3 about the signs of His coming back to the world. Chapter 24 primarily describes the events that occur during that time, and then chapter 25 describes the urgency of being prepared for when it comes - beginning with the parable you’ve asked about.
In each of the three parables in this chapter, some are prepared for His return (the five wise virgins, the servants who used their talents, the sheep on the right) and some are caught unprepared (the five foolish virgins, the servant who buried his talent, the goats on the left).
The virgins are friends of the bride who are waiting for the Groom and His party to parade with the Bride and her party through the town to the wedding celebration.
The meaning is that when Jesus returns, those with oil in their lamps (who are letting their light shine) will be prepared for His coming and included at the wedding feast, but those with no oil (who are in darkness) will be left out. (Note that oil is a frequent symbol of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible.)
So in that context, the most reasonable assumption would seem to be that the five foolish virgins represent people who are lost, and the five wise are saved.
I hope this helps you make sense of the story.
I appreciate your response. I heard recently a teacher compare or liken the virgins to Christians who were ready and those Christians who were not. It didn’t ring true enough and seemed a bit of a reach. I couldn’t grasp her link and wanted some more clarity. Thank you so much for sharing things about Jewish custom that I did not know.
I also would refer you to @jlyons excellent response that this is not referring to Christians but all who are not ready for the return of The Master