Every Christian is familiar with the gospels in the New Testaments. There are four Gospels: Luke, Mark, John, and Matthew. The first one you see when you open the New Testament is the book of Matthew. 1It is derived from the gospel of Mark which is the first one to be written. The gospel of Matthew contains all the important elements of the early church such as the story of the conception and the birth of Jesus, also a description of Jesus’ life and death. Talking about his death, Jesus uses a profound and provocative way to address his peers. Jesus uses a subtle way to talk about future events. Indeed, he uses a parable which is2 a fictitious or made up story designed to teach a lesson through comparison. The tale of the wicked tenants is a prophetic allegory which explains the conflicts between Jesus and the doctors of the law. By using this parable, Jesus shows how he will be rejected despite his miracles and actions, and then he will be killed by his own people. 3This parable follows the two sons’ parable.
4One of the earliest Church historians, a man called Papias, gives us this intensely important piece of information: “Matthew collected the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue”. There are so many claims that Matthew a tax collector who became Jesus ‘disciple is not the author of the gospel but the author is5a subject of the Roman Empire which can be described as a hierarchically ordered, commercialized, advanced agrarian society with no middle class. 6When Jesus called Matthew, Matthew rose up and followed him and left everything behind him except one thing his pen. Additionally, 7Matthew nobly used his literary skill to compile an account of the teaching of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew includes 28 chapters that touch different stories with Jesus as the main character. Moreover, this gospel is full of different genres of literature such as miracle stories, poetry, and parables. 8Since anonymous works in antiquity were often attributed to prominent persons, a plausible conclusion is that an unknown Greek-speaking Israelite male, probably a scribe, composed this Gospel about 80-90 CE. Its place of composition was perhaps Antioch, Syria.
9The author of the Matthew omits to explain Jewish Customs. Assuming that the readers understand Jewish Customs and do clarify them as the author of Mark. For instance, 10in Mark (7:1-5), there is an editorial insertion that explains the Pharisees traditions: “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the ritual of the elder; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles”. What’s more, 11the author of Matthew insists that true disciples of Jesus obey his instructions. Indeed, beliefs alone is not sufficient. Obedience to Jesus ‘teaching is imperative. 12Additionally, Matthew condemns Jewish Religious Leaders. Pharisees and Sadducees do not get along with Jesus. The 13Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the true interpreter of the laws of Moses and condemns the Pharisee’s actions. Our work focus on the parable of the wicked tenant (Mt 21.33-45) from this Gospel.
The parable of the wicked vineyard (Mt 21.33-45) is narrated by three evangelists who are Matthew; Luke (20: 9-19) and Mark (12: 1-11); Matthew and Luke modified the stories that they took from Mark. Matthew and Luke modified the stories that they took from Mark. Indeed, each writer depicts the same parable and message with some differences. In this story, we are in Jerusalem. Jesus delivers his parable when he is teaching in the temple area in Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin and Pharisees have met regarding Jesus and developed a series of questions to test him. The conflict between Jesus and the representatives of Judaism becomes dramatic, to the point that they come to eradicate this source of conflict by death. The parable is written for a Jewish Christian audience that obeys the Law of Moses and is deeply concerned over Jesus teachings about Moses. In fact, The Pharisees and Sanhedrin were the ones in permanent conflict with Jesus. They rigorously kept kosher food laws and scrupulously observed the Sabbath while it happens that apparently, Jesus “broke” that law of observing the Sabbath. Indeed, in Matthew (12: 1-8); Jesus let his disciples pluck heads of grain to eat during the Sabbath. Moreover, they sought to apply Mosaic laws to everyday life, and their teachers, called scribes, formulated many rules to help people accomplish this goal. Besides the overall picture of the Pharisees in the New Testament is negative.
Additionally, the parable’s interpretation is most reliable when reading it as an allegory. Some scholars have attempted to de-allegorize the parable, but it is impossible to find a convincing and consistent way to deny its allegorical character. (Snodgrass 8, 25-26). Indeed, it is specified that the owner of the vineyard performed three important actions. First, he surrounded it with a fence. Then he dug a wine press, and finally, he built a watchtower. These actions are mentioned because they showed that the vineyard carefully designed to ensure its productivity so that by the time harvest come and there are no fruits, the one to be blamed will be the owner (God).
In addition, reliable evidence exists that substantial estates in Galilee were owned by absentee landlords and leased to tenants with contracts to pay the owner a portion of the fruit (Marshall 728). This type of contract could have been yearly or for the life of the tenants or owner. Such leases were sometimes passed from father to son. The tenants would have full management of the vineyard with the exception of paying the owner his due. (Edersheim 424). In Jesus’ day, it was not uncommon for a parcel of land to belong to a non-resident owner. He managed his property remotely using local labor. This approach was tolerated because of the economic benefits it brought to the people of the region. There is a legal context in the background of the parable of the bad winemakers and it would be important to explain the main lines. For example, it was up to the owner of a vineyard living abroad to send representatives each year to visit his land. If this rule was not respected, under Jewish law, the owner might lose his right to claim the fruits of his vineyard. The latter had a duty to keep a link with his property and he could do so by sending servants who acted on his behalf at least once a year. There is also a reason in law that explains why the owner sent his son as a last resort. After the third year, if the fruits had not been returned, the owner had to take legal action. To that end, he needed a person whose right to institute legal proceedings was recognized. But a servant or a slave could not have this function. Only the son, being the heir, had the right to represent his father in a court of law. there is another point to emphasize in v. 33. It is mentioned that the owner, having planted his vineyard, went to another country. He left the country where his land was. In terms of interpretation, we cannot say obviously that God went on a trip abroad. It would be difficult to see a meaning. We think the author uses this allegory to probably show the constant presence of God among his people. We have to note that the master’s trust towards the winemakers. He left them free to administer the property as they pleased. There was no one to observe their work and give them instructions. He trusted his tenants. Unfortunately, the people abused this trust.
The story of the vineyard is also an allusion to the power that God has to protect his holy land. Additionally, the designation of Israel as a vineyard resurfaces in this passage. Israel’s privilege to be the chosen people implies the responsibility to behave according to the expectations of God. When we read the writings of the prophets, we find that they were constantly asking the nation to produce spiritual fruits. On the other hand, people refuse to produce spiritual fruits. Indeed, many prophets had a tragic end. Some were beaten (Jeremiah 20.2), others were killed (Nehemiah 9:26) or have been dilapidated (2Chronicles 24.21). This is how Jews have often treated the prophets and other divine messengers. And now they were about to do the same thing to Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus associates the high priest and Pharisees with the tenants who mistreated the servants of the master. The tenants of the vineyard do not only symbolize religious leaders. That would be a somewhat too narrow to the interpretation of the parable, therefore, the tenants can symbolize Israel too. Plus, the tale of wicked tenant would have been understandable by Christian from the Early Church as they can see allusions to Jesus as the son of God. And, they would eventually see that God would take his vineyard from the Jews and give it to the Christians.
Moreover, Jesus quotes Isaiah’s message: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in your eyes? Jesus also uses an indirect mean to show the Pharisees that he is the son of God. According to Gregory Lanier, the stone quotation hinges to a large degree on the “son”/ “stone” wordplay, which, though obviously lost in the Greek would have been glaringly obvious in the Aramaic, not only it does this wordplay tie together the two central images the rejected son and the rejected stone but it also decreases the likelihood that later Greek-speaking Christians would have added the stone quotation. Likewise, in this parable as in that of the two sons, who just preceded it, the author shows the discussion between Jesus and his interlocutors. In fact, they are asked to intervene in the story in order draw comments and conclusions. The author shows how Jesus uses parable during his earthly life a number of parables. He did it every time under very specific circumstances, in a specific situation: on a particular day and a place.
In Conclusion, The Parable of the Tenants (Mk 12.1-12; Mt. 21.33-45; Lk. 20.9-19; GThom 65–66) is one of the most debated of all the parables ascribed to Jesus. At the end of this parable, the religious leaders of Jerusalem want to arrest and kill him because they understand the parable is about them. In this parable, Jesus prophesizes his rejection and death by the chief priest and the Pharisees. This story consists of a vineyard owner, living abroad, tries to have his authority recognized from a distance by workers who give him no respect. Everything degenerates into a bloodbath. Jesus tells a parable showing that is the son of God whose authority comes from God and not man. This parable is the Gospel of Matthew which is the first Gospel in the New Testaments. In his article, the tenants in the vineyard: Ideology, economics, and agrarian conflict in Jewish Palestine, John Kloppenburg, argues that the version of the parable of the tenants in the vineyard in Thom 65 (Gospel of Thomas) most probably belongs to the rhetoric of the earliest layer of the Jesus tradition. Through this parable, Jesus warns the leaders to make them aware of the importance of their refusal to accept the wishes of God. Also, the parable of the wicked vine growers refers to Jesus ‘ministry in Jerusalem shortly before the passion. This parable is about the whole story of salvation, Abraham to the character of the new testament. Jesus is a wonderful teacher of the history of salvation. He is the messenger who always aims at the conversion, the sanctification and the final salvation of his listeners.