Full Text for Parables of Atonement and Assurance: Matthew 13:44-46 (Text)

CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY Volume 51. Number I JANUARY 1987 Contemporary Christian Music: An Evaluation ... . . .. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . e m Preus 1 Parables of Atonement and Assurance: Matthew 13:4446 ........................... Jeffrey A. Gibbs 19 The Scriptural Principles of Fellowship.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . T o t h y D. Knapp 45 Book Reviews .... ....... . .. .... .. .. . ...... . .... . ...... . ..... .. . . ..... . .... 53 Indices to Volume 50 (1986) Author Index.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69 Title Index. .. . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .73 Scripture Index.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75 Subject Index. .... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..77 Parables of Atonement a . Assurance: Matthew 13:""nf; Jeffrey A. Gibbs The purpose of this study will be to take a fresh look at two of the parables of Jesus. The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:4446) form a pair of parables within the context of Matthew's "parable chapter." Although interpreters uniformly have treated this pericope as parables of sanctification which por- tray the "cost of discipleship," I will argue for a completely dif- ferent senrms literalis. Some years ago, a seminar on the First Gospel raised the possiblity of an alternate meaning for Matthew 1 3 : M . That original question has led to this present study. Important in- sights gleaned from recent studies on the parables of Jesus have helped in determining the exegetical method to be followed in pur- suing the meaning of the pericope. The conclusions reached in this study indicate that the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price are parables of the atonement. Offered in their Matthean contexl to the disciples of Jesus, the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price proclaim the grace of God, and the security that Christ's disciples possess - wen in the midst of a fallen hostile world. The Challenge to the Traditional Exegesis Let it clearly be stated that virtually wery exegete from Irenaeus through modern times has understood Matthew 13:4446 as descrip tive of the value of the kingdom of heaven and of the process by which one lays hold of that kingdom. With only slight variation, the parables are understood in this fashion. The treasure - pearl stands for Jesus and the blessing that he brings as autobad&. Each disciple must discover the value of this great gift. Each disciple will- ingly must make the kingdom his highest good. Each disciple must ''dl all that he has and buy.'' Most exegetes focus almost exclusively on the meaning of the figures of the treasure and the pearl. Some do not even comment on the sigmficance of the concept of "selling and buying" that occurs in both parables. The majority of exegetes who treat the act of purchasing in the stories refer the act of buying (ago& in both parables) to Christ's call to selfdenial and cross- bearing (cf. Matt. 16%-26).' Others are most sensitive to the over- tones of purchase and exchange in the repeated phrase, "goes and 20 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY sells all that he has and buys." Such writers maintain that agora- zein in the parables means no more than "to appropriate" (Isaiah 55:1).2 But regardless of this and other slight differences, the vast weight of centuries of Christian study and exposition supports the view of Christ as the thing of value. We must lay hold of him.' It is no small thing to contradict such a monolith of exegetical tradition. I propose to do just that, however, because the traditional exegesis of Matthew 13:4446 completely ignores the obvious con- ceptual core of both the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. It is obvious that these parables are linked inseparably by a common phrase. Despite their many differences in structure and theme, they communicate a parallel meaning. And the concept that is central to these parables is precisely that theme which has been avoided or diluted by the traditional exegesis. For the meaning of these parables is inextricably intertwined with the meaning of the phrase, "he goes and sells all that he has and buys." The importance of this repeated theme is emphasized by the remarkable number of differences between these two short parables. The chart below illustrates the number of ways in which the parables are divergent. Hidden Treasure Pearl of Great Price Datival introduction with the Datival introduction with the object acted upon actor in the parable The themes of "hiddenness" No themes of "hiddenness" and "joy" or "joy" No emphasis on "seeking" Strong emphasis on "~82king" Use of the historical present Use of the aorist throughout With regard to "paired parables" that are as short as these, such divergence is extraordinary. In contrast the other pair of "paired parables" in Matthew 13 contain no major differences. Both the Mustard Seed and the Leaven (Matt. 13:31-33) share a common datival introductory reference. Both of them use the aorist. As Mat- thew presents them, both share the themes of little beginhgs and the concept of large growth. Both the Mustard Seed and the Leaven incorporate the important theme of "hiddenness." Granted, the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price share the theme of "finding," heuron. Also a valued object is presented in both parables. But these convergences only exist to support the main theme of both parables. A "finding" necessarily precedes Parables of Atonement and Assurance 21 "selling and buying." It must be a thing of value in order to re- quire "dl that he had." But without a doubt, the climax of each parable is the closing phrase of each. Conceptually they are iden- tical. Verbally they are extremely close in choice of language. The Hidden Treasure concludes at verse 44, hupagaa kaipola'pta hosa achei kai agor-. The Pearl of Great Price concludes at verse 46, @on pepraken panta hma eichen kai egorasen. The slight variety in vocabulary (hupagein and apt%%&; polein and peprakew3 never- theless communicates an identical meaning. And the precise duplica- tion of panta hosa echein kai agorazein" demands that we search for the crux of both parables in this common theme. The central thrust of both parables clearly is to be found in this vivid and un- mistakable link. Jesus has told two parables about the kingdom of heaven which have the concept of "selling and buying" at the core of their intended sense. Those who dilute the impact of ''- and buying" do so without proper regard for the centrality of this con- cept in each parable. Jeremias ignores the import of "selling and buying" in typical fashion when he writes, The double parable is generally understood as express- ing the demand of Jesus for complete self-surrender. In reality, it is completely misunderstood if it is interpreted as an imperious call to heroic action. The key-words are ratha apo tes charas (v.44; they are not expressly repeated in the case of the merchant, but they apply to him as well). I will, however, allow the impact of the narratives to remain as it stands in Matthew 13:4446. I will, therefore, challenge the tradi- tional exegesis of this pericope, primarily on the basis of the com- position and structure of the parables themselves. The primary question, then, is the meaning of "selling and buy- ing" in Matthew 13:4446. And, on the face of it, it is unlikely that such a theme in the teaching of Jesus could apply to the action of the disciple with regard to his Master. To anticipate the exegesis below, a brief look at the two verbal parallels to this terminology in the First Gospel leads in a direction directly opposite to the tradi- tional exegesis. Within Matthew's parabolic material, the parable of the Unforgiv- ing Servant (Matt. 18:21-35) contains this same theme of "selling and buying." Only here the phrase refers to the righteous sentence of God over against the sinner. The king confronts his heavily 22 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY debted servant, and angrily orders him "to be sold . . . along with all that he had" (Matt. 18:25). Ekeleusen auton ho kurios prath- . . . kai panta hosa echei. Here "selling and buying" is a symbol for the sinner's just condemnation to eternal punishment. And, as the parable progresses, we see that it is this action which is not re- quired of the slave, for "the king, having pity on that slave, released him and forgave him the debt" (Matt. 18:27): spkgnktheis de ho kurios tou doulou ekeinou apelusen auton kai to daneion apheken auto. The servant is not required to "sell and buy." The other incident to note briefly as a part of the challenge to the traditional exegesis is the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Matt. 19:1&26). Here Jesus challenges a young man to do exactly what the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price describe; "Go, sell your possessions . . ." (Matt. 19:21). But the young man is unable to do what Jesus requires. Indeed, this paicope is about the inability of men to do what Jesus requires in general. Some will be saved, but it is only through the action of God, with whom nothing is impossible (Matt. 19:25-26). The center of Matthew 13:4446 is the meaning of the phrase, "going, he sold all that he had and bought . . ." This crucial theme has been ignored or diluted by those exegetes who take the parables as descriptive of the disciple's attitude and action with regard to Jesus and the kingdom. At the very least, the presence of this theme also at Matthew 18:21-35 and 19:1&26 gives cause to reconsider our two parables. Exegetical Principles Extracted from Recent Parable Studies Significant changes in the interpretation of the parables have taken place in fairly recently years. Several scholars have brought to light new insights regarding Jesus' parables. Such insights have not always received the recognition due them. Brief mention of several signifi- cant studies will be made here, in order to incorporate those con- cepts into the exegesis of Matthew 1 3 : M below. Kenneth Bailey's recent work in parable studies has produced im- portant insights into the interpretation of Jesus' parables. In a very commonsense fashion, Bailey notes that every parable presses upon its listeners, in order to elicit a response from them. In order to carry out this function, every parable contains a combination of theological motifs in the parable that Parables of Atonement and Assurance 23 together pressed the original listener to make that response . . . Thus, one or more symbols with corresponding referents in the life of the listener impel him to make a single response which has in view a cluster of theological motif^.^ To paraphrase Bailey, parables contain individual symbols which together combine to create a unified theme or appeal. Most surely, each parable has one major theme, or (to use the hackneyed phrase) one tm-um mmparaionLF. But in the task of interpreting any given parable, this major theme may not be immediately obvious. Thus, the exegete will examine the individual symbols within the theological cluster, both in light of common parabolic themes (see below), and in the context of the Gospel. A look at the parts may enable us to determine the meaning of the whole. Parables are to be understood according to their own degree of complexity. Each parable will be unique. There will be one central message, supported by a more or less complex matrix of symbols, woven together to create the parable. The first important principle of parable interpretation, then, is this: it is legitimate, and sometimes necessary, to begin the exegesis of the parable with a search for the meaning of individual symbols within the parable. A second insight of great importance for parable studies was noted by Martin Dibelius, among others, some years ago. Diilius pointed out that when Jesus taught in parables, he was probably using a form of teaching with which his listeners were extremely familiar. The presence of parables in both the Hebrew Scriptures and extant rabbinic literatme indicates that first century Palestinians knew what parables were, and how to hear them.' This in itself is a point of no little significance. But of even greater import is Dibelius' obser- vation that rabbinic parables often used a number of "stock" im- ages or mataphors that held a consistent meaning across different parables. n u s , parables about a "king" were understood to be about "God." The figure of the "vineyard" in rabbinic parables stands as a picture of "Israel" (cf. Isaiah 5). Examples could be multiplied. Dibelius commented that certain metaphors were already customary in Jewish ex- hortation, and the hearers were therefore prone to under- stand the words concerned in the usual sense, even when the parabolic narrative gives no occasion to do The importance of all this is that Jesus also used such stock 24 CONCoRDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY metaphors in his parables. A few obvious examples are listed: King = God Matthew 18:23; 22:2ff. Vineyard = Israel Matthew 21-15; 21:2&30; 21:3341; Mark 12:l-9; Luke 29-16 Harvest = Eschaton Matthew 13 :2430; Mark 4:%29 Wedding = New Age Matthew 9:15; 21-13; 25:l-13; Luke 12:3638 In her very important treatment of the parables, Madelaine Boucher confidently asserts that Jesus' listeners, when encountering one or more of these clues, would then have been able to interpret Jesus' intended meaning^.^ Thus, our second principle may be stated: ex- egetes today may search the parabolic teaching of Jesus for com- mon themes as an aid to the interpretation of any given parable. A third insight into the proper exegesis of parables comes from an article by Norman Huffmann. Along with others, Huffmann has noted that a very large number of Jesus' parables contain elements which are exaggerated, unlikely, or virtually impossi'ble. In a word Jesus' parables are not "true to life stories." A few examples will suffice. In the Workers in the Vineyard (Matt. 2 1-16), Huffmann notes the foolishness of hiring workers at the eleventh hour and the incredible fact that all the workers receive equal pay. The father's goodness in the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:32) is exceptional; a more conditional love and a more d igdkd behavior would have been true to life. Huffrnann points out that mustard seeds do not become trees (Mat&. 13:31-32) and that the woman has leavened enough bread for over one hundred people (Matt. 13:33). A harvest yield of one hundredfold would have been an agricultural miracle in Jesus' day (Matt. 1323). The entire premise of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:3@37) is so unlikely as to be imp~ssible.'~ The parables of Jesus are not just "comparisons from every day life." In order to communicate their message, the parables can pre- sent unique or exaggerated images. Therefore, the criterion as to "what would have been likely" in Jesus' day and time should not be used to raise questions which the parable itself does not ask. Without a doubt insights such as those yielded through Bailey's "Oriental exegesis" must be used to throw light on the implications of the parables' narratives. But if the parable leaves a question un- asked, the exegete must not try to answer it in the interests of making Parables of Atonement and Assurance 25 the parable "more true to life." Our third principle, then, is this: the parables of Jesus are original literary creations. They must be interpreted as they stand. Only such "true to life" insights as are demanded by the parables' cultural context may be emphasized by the exegete today. These insights into the interpretation of the parables can be brought together in the form of a general working defintion of a parable." A parable is a fictional narrative which contains symbolic elements in need of theological interpretation. The parable may or may not be "true to life." The symbolic elements in the parable require treat- ment. Careful exegesis will penetrate to the parable's deepest legitimate level of complexity and meaning. When the overall meaning of a parable is uncertain or obscure, the examination of its parts in context will lead the way in the exegetical task. Comparison with other parabolic material in search of common themes wil l be of primary importance. We turn, then, to Matthew 13:4446. We will begin with a contextual study to set the stage for the exegesis of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. Contextual Study The central theme of the First Gospel is the proclamation of Jesus as the only Christ, fulfiller of Old Testament prophecy and founder of the New Israel. Against this backdrop, the motif of conflict in Matthew is highly vislile, and more forcefully presented than in Mark or Luke. The parables of Matthew 13 stand as a sort of miniclimax within the overall context of the gospel. In an emphatic way, Mat- thew presents the truth that Jesus' rising conflict with the establish- ment of Israel has led to the beginning of a new Israel. This motif of contrast between "old" and "new," false disciple and true, clearly can be demonstrated. Matthew uses both structure and the inclusion of unique material to make his point clear. He presents a mounting contrast between Jesus and his disciples and between the Pharisees and leaders of Israel. John the Baptist's fiercest denunciations are aimed directly at the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 3:7; Luke writes only, "he said to the crowds," el- ochlois, Luke 3:7). After his temptation, Jesus returns to Galilee. After choosing the first disciples, he presents to them the Way of the new Messianic Community, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' authority is not to be questioned; it far e x d that of scribe or Pharisee (cf. Jesus' ego de lego humin; also see Matt. 7:29). Jesus' closing words of the Sermon contain repeated X CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY warnings against false disciples. The gate is narrow, false prophets are many, barren trees will be cut down, etc. (Matt. 7:13-17). Follow- ing Matthew 8, in which the divine power and authority of Jesus are manifested, the conflict of "old" versus "new" continues to develop. Jesus is accused of blasphemy (Matt. 9:3) and of collabora- tion with Satan (Matt. 934, unique to Matthew). Following this strife with the religious leaders, Jesus calls the Twelve and commissions them; the "new" Israel has formally begun. The extended warning that Jesus gives concerning persaxtion is uniquely Matthean in loca- tion and forcefulness (Matt. 10:542). The "old" will oppose and hate the "new." But the disciples are not to fear. They are of much value to the Father in heaven (Matt. 10:29-31). After the Twelve are commissioned, Matthew continues to pre- sent the mounting conflict between true and false Israel. Jesus' deeds proclaim him truly to be the Christ (Matt. 1 1 : 1-1 5). The present o p pusition and apathy toward his ministry in Israel surely will not go unpunished (Matt. 11 : 16-24). Again the contrast forcefully appears between the "babes" who receive Jesus and the "wise" who reject him (Matt. 11:25). After confrontations concaning the Sabbath law, the Pharisees begin to plan Jesus' destruction (Matt. 12:l-14). The scrii and Pharisees wntinue their blasphemous opposition to Jesus. They will be condemned for rejecting the new, greater way of the Christ (Matt. 12:2445, with special force; compare Mark 3 and Luke 11). In starkest contrast the true Israel, Jesus' disciples, are closer to him than the members of his own family (Matt. 12:46-50). It is at this point that Matthew presents the collection of Jesus' parables in chapter 13. The parables of chapter 13 represent a significant climax in the First Gospel. The rejection of Jesus by Israel's leaders has resulted in the formation of new, faithful Israel. The parables of Matthew 13, viewed in this context, offer a summary of teaching concerning the cliff- between the disciples and Jesus' opposition. The Sower (Matt. 13:l-9) teaches that only a few will respond appropriately to Jesus' ministry (Matt. 13:18-23). The Wheat and the Tares (Matt. 13%-30) and the Dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50) both emphasize the final, eschatological separation of the wicked from the righteous. Although the progress of Jesus' ministry may seem overshadowed by the ris- ing opposition of the Pharisees, the word that he sows will continue to bear fruit, as the Mustard Seed and the h v e n declare (Matt. 13:31-33). True disciples are able to receive the truth that Jesus pro- claims, and to proclaim it themselves (Matt. 13:11,52). The Parables of Atonement and Assurance 27 Hidden Treasure and the Pear1 of Great Price stand in this context of overwhelming conflict and contrast. We come now to the ex- egesis of these parabIes. I will treat the Hidden Treasure first and then use the exegesis of the Pearl of Great Price to draw out the unique features of each parabIe. Interpretation of Matthew 13:44 As noted above, the context of Matthew 13:44 provides a start- ing point for the exegesis of the parable. The stark contrast between those who oppcse Jesus and those who follow him reveals Matthew's intention with regard to the Hidden Treasure. Even though the parable receives no explicit interpretation from Jesus in the Gospel, in some way it too must add to Matthew's presentation of true IsraeI and false Israel. In addition, the concept of the kingdom of heaven as portrayed in the First Gospel provides an important piece of con- textual understanding. Both parables in our pericope begin with the formula homo& estin he badleia ton ouranon (see also Matt. 13:31, 33'47; 20.1; also the imDar parabolic introductions as 13:24; 18:23; 222; and 25:l). In Matthew the kingdom of heaven is spoken of in a variety of ways. For our purposes, it is most important to note Matthew's identification of the kingdom with the person and work of Jesus. The act of following Jesus is equated with entrance into the kingdom (Matt. 19: 1626). Became the Pharisees oppose Jesus, they shut the kingdom of heaven to themselves and to others (Matt. 23:13). The Pharisees flirt with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because they refuse to acknowledge that the kingdom has come upon them through the minktry of Jesus (Matt. 12:22-32). Jesus' ministry is the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, parables about the kingdom of heaven will be parables about the person and ministry of Jesus. As we turn to the text of verse 44, it should be noted that the presence of the dative thesauro does not force the equation of thesauro with he b d a a ton ouranon. Rather, the entire action of the parable is "what the kingdom of heaven is like." Paul Fiebii has pointed out many examples from rabbinic literature in which parables begin, "the matter is like 'X' . . ." but 'X' is not really the focal point of the parable at all.lz The interpretation of Matthew 13:44 should not begin with the '%reamre," but with the meaning of "he went and sold all that he had and bought that field." Parallels to this theme in the parabolic teaching of Jesus will fust be examined. Then, the synopt~cs and the rest of the New Testa- 28 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY ment will be examined. In terms of Matthew's parabolic material, only in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18%-35) does parallel use of this language occur, as was noted above. In Matthew 18 the verbal and conceptual parallel is extremely close. The meaning of the parabolic symbol in Matthew 18:25 is precisely that of exchange and purchase. There the "sell and buy" concept represents the debt which men owe to God. We are able to identify with the first servant, whose debt was so great that his master ordered him to be sold, along with all that he had: auton . . . p d e n a i . . . kaipanta hosa &a' (Matt. 18:25). The message of the Unforgiving Servant, however, is not that this price is required of those who desire to enter the kingdom of heaven. The "selling a l l that he had" stands for the punishment of God against the sin of men. But men need not undergo this sentence. The ministry of Jesus has brought to light the mercy of God, by which the great debt that we owe is forgiven (Matt. 18:27). The kingdom of heaven does not demand that we pay our debt. We are not required to "give all that we have. " This one parabolic parallel to the Hidden Treasure's central theme shows us what the theme does not mean. "Going and selling all that he has" is a require- ment fTM which men are f'reed by the coming of the kingdom. They, in turn, are required to free others. As they have been forgiven, they also must forgive. There are no other parallels to the "sell and buy" theme in the parabolic material in the First Gospel. W~th regard to the Gospel as a whole, three significant conceptual parallels occur within the narrative and teaching material. The incident of the Rich Young Ruler was mentioned above (Matt. 19:1626). A second important parallel is Matthew's use of lutron at Matthew 20:28. There, Jesus sum- marizes the purpose of his ministry: ho huios tou anthropou ouk elthen diakonethenai aUa diakonesai kai dounai ten psuchen autou lutron antipollon. The lutron of Jesus' own life is a ransom, a pay- ment. Clearly the payment is made to God." The presence of anti pollon in this saying accentuates the substitutionary overtones of ex- change already present in the use of lutron. The meaning of anti, unless otherwise demanded by contextual factors, is "in the place of," "instead of."14 Jesus offers his life as a payment. The many do not have to offer up their lives, for his life is an exchange for theirs. He pays the necessary price. In this saying, the concept of"sell and buy" describes the redemption by which Jesus brings freedom Parables of Atonement and Assurance 29 from sin, death, and devil. The ransom saying in Matthew 2&28 also points us to the third conceptual parallel in the Fm Gospel. In Matthew 16:26 Jesus points to the utter futility of man's attempt to go his own way, or to save himself. It is the man who follows Jesus and, as a result, "loses" his life who will ''find" it (16:25). But this is no "price" by which a man "purchases" his redemption. On the contrary, those who at- tempt such a transaction will discover that it cannot be done. There is no price that a man can pay in order to purchase his own life (v. 26). Buchsel correctly correlates this logion and the ransom say- ing in Matthew U):28: The ransom saying undoubtedly implies substitution. For even if the anti be translated "to the advantage o f ', the death of Jesus means that there happens to Him what would have had to happen to the many. Hence, He takes their place. The saying plainly looks back to Mk. 8:37, Mt. 16% . . . What no man can do, He, the unique Son of God, achieves.I5 Once again, as at Matthew 18:25 and 19:21, Jesus' teaching denies that any man can "sell and buy" his life for entrance into the kingdom. No one can offer an exchange antaUagja for his life. Thus, the four parallels in the First Gospel to the central theme of the Hidden Treasure uniformly oppose the traditional understan- ding of this parable. Within the parabolic mat& of the gospel the use of "selling all that he had" at Matthew 18:25 denies that this is the way that leads to the kingdom. Rather, it is the penalty that leads to damnation.I6 Both Matthew 16% and 19:21 also reject the notion of any man "selling and buying" in order to become a disci- ple. The remarkable saying at Matthew U):28, however, offers an example of what "selling and buying" can mean. Jesus has come to exchange his life for others. This is why he has come. This is his earthly ministry. This is the central meaning of the kingdom of heaven. Clearly, this evidence culled from the gospel indicates that the phrase poIcipanta hosa echd kai qgo& at Matthew 13:44 most probably refers to the activity of Jesus on behalf of others. When we turn our attention to the other synoptics and to John, we discover that, aside from passages parallel to those already con- sidered, there is no other material in which the concept of "sell and buy" occurs. In the remainder of the New Testament, however, it is the use of agoraz& that is most significant for our study. In Paul, 30 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY Peter, and the Revelation to John agoraze& is used to describe the work of Jesus on behalf of men. At 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7 2 3 both the act of "buying" and the "price" are mentioned-. qomtkte Lima. In Revelation 5:9, the required price is explicitly stated: egoras to thm en to haimati sou. The "purchasing" of men by Christ is also taught at 2 Peter 2:l and Revelation 14:34, although the price is not specifically mentioned there. The only metaphorical use of agorimin in the New Testament that does refer to man's action over against God is Revelation 3: 18. This passage clearly alludes to Isaiah 55:l. With regard to the use of exagorazh, at Galatians 3:13 it refers to the work of Christ, specifically mentioning the exchange and substitution that has taken p k . Galatians 4:5 echoes this passage's use of exagorazh. Twice (Eph. 5:16 and Col. 4:5) the middle voice of exgorazein occurs in a phrase of uncertain mean- ing, evagomwmenoi ton kairon. A probable rendering of this phrase is, "making the most of the time."" When this weight of evidence from the remainder of the New Testament is added to Matthew's use of the "sell and buy" con- cept, it reinforces the contention that polei paota hus d e i kai ago-. at Matthew 13:44 refers to Jesus' action on behalf of men. We turn now to the other themes in the parable of the Hidden Treasure, aware that the traditional exegetical position is now "on the defensive." It will require an extraordinary weight of evidence to counterbalance what we have discovered with regard to the prob- able meaning of "sell and buy'' in the parable of the Hidden Treasure. The theme of "finding" (heuron) is present in the parable, as well as in the Pearl of Great Price. As noted above, its presence is vir- tually required by the central theme. In order to have something to "sell and buy," one frrst must "fmd." It is significant, however, that Jesus uses the theme of "finding" in other parabolic teaching. At Matthew 18: 13 Jesus descri i his ministry, and the ministry of his disciples after him, as "finding" of lost sheep. In the parable of the Workers in the Ymeyard the owner of the vineyard goes out the eleventh hour and "fmds" more workers (Matt. 20:Q. In the parable of the Wedding Feast the king sends his servants to "find" guests for the feast (Matt. 229, 10). Within the parabolic material in Matthew, then, "finding" always refers to God's activity through Jesus to reach out to the lost. True, "finding" can also refer to the disciples' search for Jesus, as at Matthew 7:7; 11 :29; 16:25. But the First Gospel's use of the theme in parabolic material exclusively refers Parables of Atonement and Assurance 31 to God's activity in Jesus. And in our parable it is Jesus who finds in order that he may purchase. With regard to other parabolic use of "finding," Luke 15 adds contirmation to Matthew's usage. All three of the parables in this chapter have God in Christ "f~nding" the lost sinner (Luke 15:4, 5, 6; 15:8, 9; and 1594, 32). Luke also contains a parallel to Mathew's "seek and you will fmd" (Luke 11:9). But within the parabolic teaching of Jesus, "m' seems always to refer to God's active search for men, and not the opposite. There is no real development of this theme in the remainder of the New Testament. Both Philippians 3:9 and 2 Peter 3:14 speak of "being found in Christ," especially on the last day. Hebrews 9: 12 says that Christ, having entered the holy place once and for all, "has found eternal redemption" (aionim lutrosin hezuaznenus). Thus far our exegesis has indicated that the parable of the Hid- den Treasure tells the story of God's activity in Jesus to purchase and possess his disciples. Our examination of the themes of "sell and buy" and "fmding" has yielded this result. We now turn to the theme of the "treasure," the third common element which the Hidden Treasure shares with the Pearl of Great Price. Treatment of this theme will be most important, for this is the focd point of the traditional exegesis of Matthew 13:4446. For centuries it has been assumed that the 'kasure" must refer to the treasure of Christ, the Gospel, the Sacrament, or some such point of reference. But we shall show that it is not inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus for the point of reference of the "treasure" to be the disciples of Jesus. Indeed, the concept of God's own people as precious in his sight is present in the Old Testament as well. Jesus simply transfers the concept from "old" Israel to the "new" Israel of his disciples. To most commentators, the understanding of thesaurus in Mat- thew 13:44 comes automatically and requires no exghation. Tasker's unquestioning approach is completely typical: F m , because the kingdom of heaven is the only lasting reality, and its worth so incalculably precious, the per- sonwhoisreal lyeagatoobtainits~. .willread& ly and joyfully make the necessary sacrifice . . . That is the teaching of the twin parables of the custly pearl and the hidden treasure.I8 But Matthew does not ernpIoy the noun tliesauros, nor the concept 32 CoNCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY of "a thing valued," with any such automatic theological meaning. When Jesus teaches about "treasure" in the First Gospel, the word means "that which is valuable to one." Thus, there is a good man w i t h g d treasure - and an ail man with evil treasure (Matt. 12:35; Luke 6:43). There is also a contrast between "earthly" treasure and "heavenly" treasure (Matt. 6:1%20; Luke 12:33). Certainly, the disciples of Jesus are exhorted to seek after heavenly treasure (also Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21; and Luke 182) . But whatever choice is made, it remains the person's treasure (Matt. 6:21). The blessings of the kingdom must be designated as heavezzfy treasure (Matt. 6:m 19:21) or good treasure (Matt. 12:35). On the basis of the use of thesauros in Matthew alone, it is not permissible to invest any par- ticular use of the term with a predetermined meaning. The context must decide. The use of thesauros in the remainder of the New Testament is limited to two Pauline citations which do refer to Christ or his kingdom or spiritual blessings as thesauros (2 Cor. 47 , Col. 2:3). But this is not a strong case for an automatic Christological mean- ing with regard to the use of thesauros at Matthew 13:44. Neither can such a case be made from the use of thesaurus in the Septuagint. In the Septuagint thesaurus once refers to God as a "wealth of salva- tion, wisdom, and understanding" (Is. 335). Twice the reference of thesauros is to wisdom and her blessings (Prov. 2:4; 21%). But thesaurus is also used as a metaphor for God's stored-up wrath (Deut. 3 2 3 ; Jer. 27:25; 50:25 MT) and for death (Job 3:21). The most frequent use of thesauros in the Septuagint is as a reference to the sky, where God stores the rain and the snow @cut. 28:12; Job 3822; Ps. 32:7, 33:7 MT; 1347, 135:7 MT; Jer. 10:13, Jer. 28:16, 51:16 MT). Thus, the use of the Greek vocable thesauros in the New Testa- ment and in the Septuagint does not invest a heavy amount of automatic meaning into the term. Examination of the Hebrew Scrip tures also demonstrates that the concept of "treasure" does not always refer to God and his ways. Of the Hebrew words which the Septuagint translates thesauros only two of them are used with any metaphorical meaning. The word 'om, "treasure, store, treasury,"'9 very often refers to literal treasure and treasuries. But it also refers to wisdom (Prov. 21:20), salvation, and knowledge (Is. 33:6), the armory of the Lord (Jer. 50.25), the wrath of the Lord (Deut. 32:34), and the sky (Deut. 28:12; Job 3 8 2 ; Jer. 10:13; 51:16; Ps. 135:7). The word rnatmon, "hidden treasure, treasure,"20 refers to death Parables of Atonement and Assurance 33 (Job 3:21) and to wisdom (Prov. 2:4). Both the paucity of usage and the variety of reference in the metaphorical use of these terms prevents us from fmding a thematic use of "treasure" in the Hebrew Scriptures as a symbol for God. There is, however, another word which the Hebrew Scriptures do use as a fairly consistent metaphorical expression of "treasure." The noun segdah may also be translated "possession, property; valued property, peculiar treasure; treasure. "2 ' Occurring eight times in the Hebrew Scriptures, twice it refers to literal treasure (1 Chron. 29:3; Eccles. 2:8). But five times -ah is used as a reference to Israel as God's chosen people (Ex. 195; Deut. 7:6, 14:3,26:18; Ps. 135:4), and once, in a passage that is extremely important for our purposes, -ah refers to the righteous within apostate Israel (Mal. 3: 17). Israel is the Lord's chosen people, picked out from among aIl other nations (Ex. 19:s). h u s e of their identity, the Israelites must refrain from the idol worship of the nations around them p u t . 7:6) and from their detestable practices @cut. 14:2). IsraeI has made a solemn covenant with the Lord their God, and he will give them fame, praise, and honor above all other peoples (Deut. 26: 18). The praise and worship of Israel's God also includes gratefulness that he has chosen them as his own possession (Ps. 135:4). Whereas the use of 'osar and matmon does not become focused, the use of @ah in the Hebrew Scriptures does focus upon Israel as God's treasure. Granted, nowhere does the Septuagint translate segdah with thesauros. But the concept is present and used often enough to be obvious. The Septuagint translates segullah with penbusios at Exodus 195 and Deuteronomy 7:6; 142; 26: 18. (At Psalm 135:4 the Greek translation is penbusiasmos and at Malachi 3:17 it is penpiesis.) Indeed, in his brief article on piousios, Preisker has a fortuitous choice of expression: penousios is the people which constitutes the crown jewel of God. Because IsraeI is the precious stone, the pearl in His possession, it has a duty to avoid idolatry (Dt. 142) and to keep the commandments and statutes of Yahweh (Ex. 195; 2322; Dt. 7611; 26:18).22 The importance of this theme of the people of God as his "treasured possession" is illustrated when we realize that the New Testament epistles twice make specific and direct use of the theme. At Titus 2:14 Paul writes that Jesus Christ "gave himself on our behalf, in order that he might ransom us from alI lawlessness, 34 CONCORDLA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY and purify to himself a precious people (laon periousion), d o u s for good works." Here Paul clearly echoes the phrase laosperioua*os from Exodus 195; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18. Peter does the same thing at 1 Peter 2:9, echoing the use of penkiesis at Malachi 3: 17 as well. The crucial shift that has taken place here is obvious. It is the disciples of Jesus, and not Israel, who are now God's "special, treasured possession." It is also important to note than an explicit part of this motif of the people of God as his "treasure" is the contrast between God's people and the wicked around them. Thus, Egypt (Deut. 19:5), Israel's neighbors (Deut. 7:6; 14:2), and the nations of the earth (Deut. 26: 18) are held up as contrasts to the chosen people. However, in the passage from Malachi 3: 17 the contrast- receives further development. In Malachi 3 the contrast is between the righteous and the wicked &thin Israel. For the Lord is corning to purify Israel (Mal. 3:14). The wicked among the covenant people will be judged (Mal. 35-9). Those who hear the call to repentance wil l be prepared as God's own special possession on the day when God dkakgukhes between the righteous and the wicked (Mal. 3: 10-18). The righteous will then belong to the Lord as his own special treasure, his stgullah (LXX, peripoiesis). It is in this context of the distinction W e e n the righteous and the wicked that the Hebrew Srriptures and the Septuagint designate true Israel as God's "special possession," God's "treasure." This motif oaws in the Gospel of Matthew as well. Jesus calls his disciples to a life-style that rejects the earthly priorities of unbelievers (Matt. 624-32). In so doing, he reminds them, in ironic fashion, that they are valuable to the Father in heaven: "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matt. 6:26; Luke 12%). This use of @herein to express the disciples' value is repeated at Matthew 10:3 1. Again the context is the security and value of the disciples in the face of opposition by the wicked: "Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul . . . Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? . . . Therefore, do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matt. 10:31; Luke 12:7). The First Gospel employs the motif of contrasting the righteous with the wicked. The righteous, Jesus' disciples, are of much value to the Father. Indeed, as noted above in the contextual study of our pericope, Matthew has emphasized this tension between true and Parables of Atonement and Asumw 35 false Israel more than Mark or Luke. The theme of the parables of Matthew 13 as a whole is the distinction between the righteous and the wicked. Even the sigmfkant passage from Malachi 3 oc- curs within the context of Matthew 13. At Matthew 1 1 : 10 Jesus p r e claims the ministry of John the Baptizer as a fulfiient of God's visitation upon Israel to prepare a purified people (Mal. 3:14). As indicated by both the Malachi reference and the structure of the Gospel, part of this preparation is the resulting +on between the "gold and silver" of the righteous (Mal. 3:3) and the wicked, who will be rejected. To summarize, the evidence for regarding the "treasure" of Mat- thew 13:44 as a figure for the disciples of Jesus may be presented thus: (1.) Neither the Hebrew Scriptures nor the New Testament anywhere develop the theme of God or Jesus or his kingdom as the believer's treasure. The concept obviously exists. But it is not often present, and we are not compelred to understand thesauros at Mat- thew 13:44 in this way. (2.) The Hebrew Scriptures do portray Israel as God's treasure by a consistent use of xgdhh (Ex. 195; Deut. 75; 142, 26:18; Ps. 135:4). Once it is the righteous within Israel who are thus portrayed (Mal. 3:17). The New Testament twice utdks this theme directly, substituting the church for Israel fit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9). (3.) As noted by Feldman and Jones, the rabbinic literatwe also appropriates and uses this theme of Israel as God's treasure - in parabolic form.23 (4.) It is Israel on the righteous, as they are distinguished from other nations of the wicked, which receives the approbation as God's special p