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Matthew 21:28-46

The Parable of the Two Sons

21:28 “What 1  do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, 2  ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart 3  and went. 21:30 The father 4  went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, 5  ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” 6  Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 7  tax collectors 8  and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe. Although 9  you saw this, you did not later change your minds 10  and believe him.

The Parable of the Tenants

21:33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner 11  who planted a vineyard. 12  He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then 13  he leased it to tenant farmers 14  and went on a journey. 21:34 When the harvest time was near, he sent his slaves 15  to the tenants to collect his portion of the crop. 16  21:35 But the tenants seized his slaves, beat one, 17  killed another, and stoned another. 21:36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first, and they treated them the same way. 21:37 Finally he sent his son to them, 18  saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 21:38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and get his inheritance!’ 21:39 So 19  they seized him, 20  threw him out of the vineyard, 21  and killed him. 21:40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 21:41 They said to him, “He will utterly destroy those evil men! Then he will lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his portion at the harvest.”

21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 22 

This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 23 

21:43 For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people 24  who will produce its fruit. 21:44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” 25  21:45 When 26  the chief priests and the Pharisees 27  heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 21:46 They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, because the crowds 28  regarded him as a prophet.

1 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

2 tn Grk “And answering, he said.” This is somewhat redundant and has been simplified in the translation. Here the referent (“the boy”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

3 tn The Greek text reads here μεταμέλομαι (metamelomai): “to change one’s mind about something, with the probable implication of regret” (L&N 31.59); cf. also BDAG 639 s.v. The idea in this context involves more than just a change of mind, for the son regrets his initial response. The same verb is used in v. 32.

4 tn “And he”; here δέ (de) has not been translated.

5 tn Grk “And answering, he said.” This is somewhat redundant and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) has not been translated. Here the referent (“this boy”) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tc Verses 29-31 involve a rather complex and difficult textual problem. The variants cluster into three different groups: (1) The first son says “no” and later has a change of heart, and the second son says “yes” but does not go. The second son is called the one who does his father’s will. This reading is found in the Western mss (D it). But the reading is so hard as to be nearly impossible. One can only suspect some tampering with the text, extreme carelessness on the part of the scribe, or possibly a recognition of the importance of not shaming one’s parent in public. (Any of these reasons is not improbable with this texttype, and with codex D in particular.) The other two major variants are more difficult to assess. Essentially, the responses make sense (the son who does his father’s will is the one who changes his mind after saying “no”): (2) The first son says “no” and later has a change of heart, and the second son says “yes” but does not go. But here, the first son is called the one who does his father’s will (unlike the Western reading). This is the reading found in (א) C L W (Z) 0102 0281 Ë1 33 Ï and several versional witnesses. (3) The first son says “yes” but does not go, and the second son says “no” but later has a change of heart. This is the reading found in B Θ Ë13 700 and several versional witnesses. Both of these latter two readings make good sense and have significantly better textual support than the first reading. The real question, then, is this: Is the first son or the second the obedient one? If one were to argue simply from the parabolic logic, the second son would be seen as the obedient one (hence, the third reading). The first son would represent the Pharisees (or Jews) who claim to obey God, but do not (cf. Matt 23:3). This accords well with the parable of the prodigal son (in which the oldest son represents the unbelieving Jews). Further, the chronological sequence of the second son being obedient fits well with the real scene: Gentiles and tax collectors and prostitutes were not, collectively, God’s chosen people, but they did repent and come to God, while the Jewish leaders claimed to be obedient to God but did nothing. At the same time, the external evidence is weaker for this reading (though stronger than the first reading), not as widespread, and certainly suspect because of how neatly it fits. One suspects scribal manipulation at this point. Thus the second reading looks to be superior to the other two on both external and transcriptional grounds. But what about intrinsic evidence? One can surmise that Jesus didn’t always give predictable responses. In this instance, he may well have painted a picture in which the Pharisees saw themselves as the first son, only to stun them with his application (v. 32).

7 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.”

8 sn See the note on tax collectors in 5:46.

9 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

10 sn The word translated change your minds is the same verb used in v. 29 (there translated had a change of heart). Jesus is making an obvious comparison here, in which the religious leaders are viewed as the disobedient son.

11 tn The term here refers to the owner and manager of a household.

12 sn The vineyard is a figure for Israel in the OT (Isa 5:1-7). The nation and its leaders are the tenants, so the vineyard here may well refer to the promise that resides within the nation. The imagery is like that in Rom 11:11-24.

13 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

14 sn The leasing of land to tenant farmers was common in this period.

15 tn See the note on the word “slave” in 8:9.

sn These slaves represent the prophets God sent to the nation, who were mistreated and rejected.

16 tn Grk “to collect his fruits.”

17 sn The image of the tenants mistreating the owner’s slaves pictures the nation’s rejection of the prophets and their message.

18 sn The owner’s decision to send his son represents God sending Jesus.

19 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of the tenants’ decision to kill the son in v. 38.

20 tn Grk “seizing him.” The participle λαβόντες (labontes) has been translated as attendant circumstance.

21 sn Throwing the heir out of the vineyard pictures Jesus’ death outside of Jerusalem.

22 tn Or “capstone,” “keystone.” Although these meanings are lexically possible, the imagery in Eph 2:20-22 and 1 Cor 3:11 indicates that the term κεφαλὴ γωνίας (kefalh gwnia") refers to a cornerstone, not a capstone.

sn The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The use of Ps 118:22-23 and the “stone imagery” as a reference to Christ and his suffering and exaltation is common in the NT (see also Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:6-8; cf. also Eph 2:20). The irony in the use of Ps 118:22-23 here is that in the OT, Israel was the one rejected (or perhaps her king) by the Gentiles, but in the NT it is Jesus who is rejected by Israel.

23 sn A quotation from Ps 118:22-23.

24 tn Or “to a nation” (so KJV, NASB, NLT).

25 tc A few witnesses, especially of the Western text (D 33 it sys Or Eussyr), do not contain 21:44. However, the verse is found in א B C L W Z (Θ) 0102 Ë1,13 Ï lat syc,p,h co and should be included as authentic.

tn Grk “on whomever it falls, it will crush him.”

sn This proverb basically means that the stone crushes, without regard to whether it falls on someone or someone falls on it. On the stone as a messianic image, see Isa 28:16 and Dan 2:44-45.

26 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated.

27 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.

28 tn Grk “they”; the referent (the crowds) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Both previous occurrences of “they” in this verse refer to the chief priests and the Pharisees.

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