The M+G+R Foundation
Cultural Scenario Behind
The Parable of the Ten Virgins and Their
The purposes of this brief document are
two: (a) Help the inquiring faithful understand better the Christian
Faith; and (b) Shed light upon the cultural background of the parables
that Jesus used.
Jesus spoke in parables....
.... because seeing they see not,
and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And the
prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: By hearing you
shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and
shall not perceive.  For the heart of this people is grown gross,
and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they
have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear
with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and
I should heal them. [Matthew
However, the material He used was taken from the cultural environment
of the time. This results, twenty centuries later, in that we view the
events and parables that we read as something made up for the occasion
without any more purpose than to transmit a message. As we understand
the cultural background of the time the messages in the Sacred Texts
become richer, fuller and easier to spiritually and intellectually
As the result of the tenacity and curiosity of a long time friend and
supporter of our work, Mrs. P. B. D, we will bring to our readers the
cultural background of the Parable of the Ten Virgins as well as the
meaning behind "In my Father' s house
there are many
The Parable of the Ten Virgins reads as follows:
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like to ten virgins, who taking
their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.  And five
of them were foolish, and five wise.  But the five foolish, having
taken their lamps, did not take oil with them:  But the wise took
oil in their vessels with the lamps.  And the bridegroom tarrying,
they all slumbered and slept.
 And at midnight there was a cry
made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him.  Then
all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish
said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. 
The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and
for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 
Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were
ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.
 But at last come also the other
virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us.  But he answering said:
Amen I say to you, I know you not.  Watch ye therefore, because you
know not the day nor the hour. [Matthew
Now, let us take a look at the Marriage Customs of the Ancient Jews. (1)
Traditionally, the couple's fathers arrange the match. Sometimes, the bride and groom
have never seen each other before the engagement. Leading up to
the wedding day, the groom
visits the bride's father to solidify the match. He brings a
skin of wine, his monetary assets and a marriage contract. When the contract is signed by the
bride and groom, the betrothal is legal and the two drink from a
cup of wine to seal the arrangement.
Preparing the Home
After the arrangement is made
valid, the groom returns home to prepare a place for his bride,
which is called a chuppah. The
couple is not allowed to marry until the groom's father approves of the
chuppah. The waiting period may last for as long as two years.
During this time, the couple cannot be alone together. After the groom's father approves
of the chuppah, the
groom goes to the bride. Traditionally, the couple didn't
know their wedding date until this (approval of the chuppah) had
Though the bride knew that
her groom would come for her, she had no way of knowing exactly when he
would come to complete the marriage contract. Therefore, she remained constantly
ready for the marriage to take place. During the time of
preparation, both the bride and groom took part in separate ritual
immersions called the mikvah to prepare their souls for the event. When the groom's father approved
of the chuppah, the groom would go to the bride's house -- sometimes in
the middle of the night -- and they would be married. In some cases, the bride would be
"abducted" and taken to be dressed and crowned for her wedding. This was done by the bride's
unmarried friends, who also carried the light which illuminated the
groom's path on his way to meet the bride.
When the groom arrived at the bride's house, he would present her
father with the marriage contract and claim the bride as his own. They
would then go back to the groom's father's house, where he would place
the bride's hand into his son's hand. In that moment, the marriage was
considered valid. The groom
would then present the bride to all his friends and those who had come
to celebrate the wedding. They would then attend the marriage
feast and celebrate for seven days.
The connection between the setting used for the parable and the
marriage customs of the ancient jews is so clear that we will not spoil
the joy of the reader in drawing the parallels as the Holy Spirit of
God leads each individual to.
Now, regarding the many mansions in the father's house... The Biblical
reading is as follows:
Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.
 In my Father' s house
there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place
for you.  And if I
shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take
you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.  And whither
I go you know, and the way you know.  Thomas saith to him: Lord, we
know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
 Jesus saith to him: I am the
way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.
 If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father
also: and from henceforth you shall know him, and you have seen him.
Considering that within Biblical texts Jesus refers to Himself as the
"groom" and the Church, which is composed by those who believe in Him
(by deed and not just words), is referred to as the "bride", then the
meaning of Jesus' words through John 14:1-7, viewed within the the
marriage customs of the ancient jews, could not be any clearer as well
Once again, the coherence of the Biblical Texts shines brightly through
the darkness of this world delivering to those who have Eyes to See and
Ears to Hear the confirmation of our beliefs, which, in turn, brings us
much consolation and peace.
Published on February 28th, 2014
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