And now to the commentaries and study bibles:
The Didache Bible
“The Parable of the Pounds emphasizes that the Kingdom of God, being spiritual, dwells in the human heart. Its foundation and expansion rests on generosity and the faith-filled response to his gratuitous infusion of grace received at Baptism. This grace is intended to grow through deeds of charity, and, as it grows, the love of Christ flows into the hearts of others. Although God-given gifts and opportunities are not distributed equally among all people, each of us is required to use and develop our talents and opportunities well in the service of God and neighbor. Ultimately, the Lord will ask us for an accounting of our deeds and our growth in holiness initiated by our baptismal grace. (CCC 1879-1880, 1936-1938, 2402)”
It also gives a note mentioning that the word mina lies behind the rendering “pound” and was equal to “about four months of a laborer’s wages.”
The Ignatius Study Bible
“Luke’s parable of the Pounds is similar to the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. It has multiple layers of significance. (1) Historically, it recalls how the Herodian rulers of Palestine often traveled to Rome to bid for ruling authority. Archelaus in particular went before Caesar Augustus seeking the kingdom of his late father, Herod the Great, in 4/1 BC. As in the parable (19:14), Jewish delegates also journeyed to Rome to oppose the request. (2) Morally, Jesus stress the need for diligence and responsibility. He expects disciples to fulfill their Christian duties in his absence, warning that fear will be no excuse for laziness or lack of productivity (19:20-24). (3) Theologically, the parable envisions Jesus ascending to the Father to receive his kingdom (19:12; Mark 16:19) and returning to judge those who reject his royal authority (19:27). His return is closely linked with the judgment of Israel and the downfall of Jerusalem in AD 70, which is itself a prophetic preview of his Second Coming in glory to judge all nations at the end of time.”
There are two notes on specific verses: For 19:13 there is a note explaining that “ten pounds” is literally “ten minas”. Like the Didache Bible, it notes that that a mina was about four months’ wages. It also mentions that in Luke the pounds are distributed equally, while in Matthew the talents are distributed unequally. For 19:27 it once again makes the connection between the words “slay them” and the fall of Jerusalem for rejecting its messianic king.
The Navarre Bible
This will be a bit of a mess! There are three editions of the Navarre Bible out there and in print (as far as I know). First there is the Standard Edition, in which the New Testament is in 12 volumes and the Old Testament in 7 volumes. Then there is the Compact Edition of the New Testament and the Expanded Edition of the New Testament. Let’s see how they compare:
There is no overview of the parable, only notes on specific verses. Here is an example:
“The disciples had a wrong concept of the Kingdom of heaven: they thought it was about to happen and they saw it in earthly terms: they envisaged Jesus conquering the Roman tyrant and immediately establishing the Kingdom in the holy city of Jerusalem, and that when that happened they would hold privileged positions in the Kingdom. There is always a danger of Christians failing to grasp the transcendent, supernatural character of the Kingdom of God in this world, that is, the Church, which “has but one sole purpose—that the Kingdom of God may come and the salvation of the human race may be accomplished” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 45).
A note on verse reports that a mina was about 35 grams of gold and that this parable is similar to the parable of the Talents in Matthew. (An RSV translation note at the bottom of the page mentions that a mina was about 3 months wages for a laborer, which may or may not be why the same information was not reproduced in the study note.
There are three other notes on the parable, on verses 14, 17, and 24-26, all featuring lengthy quotes from the work of Saint Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. (It may be widely known, but I didn’t realize until recently that the Navarre Bible in its original Spanish edition was a translation and commentary initiated by Saint Josemaria Escriva and that the English version is an attempt to bring the notes into the anglophone world. The first edition of the Navarre Bible edition of St. Luke’s gospel was from 1988. I think every other resource I am looking at in this article is from after 2010. The Navarre Bible seems to have been the only game in town for this non-Trad self-consciously faithful commentary in the pre-Hahn era.)
The compact edition and expanded edition have no specific notes on particular verses, but the following note on the entire pericope.
“For those present, this parable would have reminded them of events of the time. Flavius Josephus recounts that, after the death of Herod (the year 4/3 BC), his son Archelaus went to Rome to get official confirmation of his royal title. However, some Jewish leaders also went to see Caesar to prevent the succession because they regarded Archelaus as a cruel man. And while Archelaus was in Rome, some of his retainers protected his interests at home (cf. Antiquities of the Jews, 17,299-314; Jewish War, 2,1-19). Jesus uses this parable to correct the too human outlook of his disciples who were expecting him to dramatically reveal himself as the Messiah and establish the Kingdom of God (cf. v. 11). Jesus tells them that he will indeed come as King and Judge: his faithful followers should not worry about the enemies of the Kingdom (v. 14) but rather do everything they can to build up the inheritance left to them.”
“The parable of the pounds would have reminded Jesus’ audience of recent events. Flavius Josephus records that after the death of Herod (around the year 4 or 3BC), Herod’s son Archelaus went to Rome to have his royal title confirmed. However, some leading Jews, who considered him a ruthless man, travelled after him to petition Caesar not to grant him the title. In Archelaus’ absence, some of his aides administered his property (see Antiquitates iudaicae, 17,299-314; De bello iudaico, 2:1-19). The “mina” (v. 13), here translated as “pound”, was not a coin but a measure of value worth 570 grammes (20 ounces) of silver, the equivalent to 100 drachmas.
“The parable is similar to the parable of the talents, narrated, by St Matthew, but each account has its unique features (see Matthew 25:14-30 and note). Jesus tells this parable to correct the idea people had of a Messiah who would immediately set up in glory and power the Kingdom of God (see v. 11). He tells them that he will come as King and Judge; his disciples should pay no heed to the enemies of the Kingdom (V. 14) but, rather, concentrate on developing the inheritance they have received. If we appreciate the treasures God has given us (life, the gift of faith, grace), we will strive to make them bear fruit—by performing our duties, by working hard and doing apostolate. ‘Don’t let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love. With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you may bear in your heart.’ (St Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 1).”
The expanded edition of the Navarre New Testament seems to be a conflation of the material from the standard and compact editions. In this example, it basically takes the entire note from the compact edition, changes the titles of Josephus’ works to their original Latin and then inserts in a summary of the verse by verse material from the standard edition. The St. Josemaria Escriva quote is one of the three quotes from the standard edition, not a unique fourth quote. I would be interested to make similar comparisons between editions of the Navarre Bible to see if this is always the case.
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Luke
This volume in the CCSS is by Fr. Pablo Gadenz, who is a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey and teaches at the seminary attached to Seton Hall University. To give you an idea of the respect given this volume, there are blurbs by Matthew Levering and Brant Pitre, along with Archbishop Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
I will be summarizing rather than quoting at length from this work. Its format is, first, to give the NAB text of the pericope, followed by references to the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Catechism, followed by an exegesis of the passage. In this case it is just under four pages of commentary on the parable. There are occasional sections in the text given the heading “Reflection and Application” which give meditations, often with quotes from liturgical texts and the Catechism. There is none for this parable. To give you an idea of how often they appear, there are three in present within chapter 18, but none between 18:35-19:10 and 20:20-26.
Here are some observations on Fr. Gadenz’s commentary on the text: First of all, he labels the pericope as the Parable of the Returning King, which based on the above commentary is more appropriate to the theological content of the text. Rather than presenting a dichotomy about the presence of the Kingdom, as the above commentaries did, he describes the “double-level message” of Jesus. There are events that are about to take place in Jerusalem, the Kingdom is indeed among them but the appearance of God’s Kingdom in its fullness is not imminent. The commentary is more clear about why interpreters say Jesus is the nobleman in this parable, noting the parable’s relationship to its introduction. Gadenz also interprets the text that the noble is generous, good, and clearly innocent of the accusations given by his ungrateful servant. On this he writes, “Not to be overlooked is the king’s generosity in rewarding his faithful servants. Disciples of Jesus who respond faithfully by exercising the gifts entrusted to them will be given further gifts—and the responsibilities that go along with them. For example, the apostles at the Last Supper are given a share in Jesus’ kingly authority (22:28-30), which they will then exercise over the new community of believers in Acts.” The wicked servant is compared to those disciples who “fail to produce mature fruit”. Gadenz notes that because of the startling end to the parable, some would refuse to say that the nobleman represents Jesus. He gives several reasons why this should be no challenge to his interpretation of the parable, mostly based on the principle that if God can be compared to a thief or an unjust judge, he can also be compared to a vengeful king.
Bonus: A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture
I recently watched a video posted on something called St. Irenaeus Minsitries, posted in the summer of 2020, named “What is Your Favorite Study Bible”. In it, the host talks up the Dom Bernard Orchard edited Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, a single volume commentary released in 1953. (As a sidenote, a decade later Dom Bernard Orchard would be one of the two editors of the Catholic edition of the RSV.) Anyway, this commentary, sometimes called just “Orchard” is much beloved among people who can remember a time before the Ignatius Study Bible who are into this line of traditional interpretation of Scripture. I found a copy of it for about 60 dollars a few years back. I haven’t spent much time in it, though I plan on fixing that in the future. The host of that video reported a mentor once told him, “sell your bed and buy a copy of Orchard.” I’m not sure if I agree with that, but I do enjoy it!
“In spite of the many differences between this and the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, many commentators identify them. Maldonatus, for example, admits the identity and attributes the divergences to the evangelists; it would be safer, according to Lagrange, to say that the differences are due to the handing down of the parable by oral tradition under different forms. In both a master is shown putting his servants to the test; the faithful are rewarded splendidly, the rest punished severely. The conclusion is the same in both. Luke alone, V. 11, gives the occasion of the parable: Jesus is ascending to Jerusalem and some of his followers still think in spite of all that there is to be a glorious Messianic manifestation. Perhaps there is a hint of the question of the Sons of Zebedee, Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45, which Luke has omitted. The parable contradicts such hopes; Jesus is not going to act as a political Messias and start a revolution in order to seat himself on the throne of Israel. he is the King, but he is going on a long journey in order to receive royal investiture from his Father. his true disciples will be loyal to him during his absence. He will return: let them be ready for that event. 12. The Herodian princes visited Rome in order to receive their kingdoms at the hands of Caesar. What Luke adds in 14 (not in Matthew) is precisely what happened when Archelaus went to Rome in 4BC to receive the kingdom inherited from his father, Herod the Great; the Jews sent an embassy to oppose his claim. The Jewish leaders are now acting in just the same manner towards Jesus, though manifestly the allegory must not be pressed too closely. 17. Here Matthew’s allegorization is stronger; he adds to the reward bestowed the words ‘enter though into the joy of thy Lord’. 20-26. In Luke the idle servant is dealt with in the same manner as in Matthew save for small details; he is condemned because he has not watched, i.e. he has not been active and lively in the interests of his master. he defends himself by attributing evil dispositions to his master, an accusation proved untrue by 17, 19, and 24. The remark added in Luke’s account, 25, is not intended to reflect jealousy; it is a literary manner of bringing out the generosity of the master which has just been called into question. 27. Another addition in Luke made necessary by his addition in 14. It contains a formidable lesson for the Jewish leaders.”
In terms of their helpfulness in me pondering this one parable, I would rate them as follows:
- Ignatius Study New Testament
- Navarre Expanded New Testament
- Navarre Standard Edition Luke
- Navarre Compact Edition New Testament
- Didache Bible
This however, is like ranking three varieties of apples, with an orange, a pint of blueberries, and an avocado, but there you go. I find that I enjoy the Ignatius Study Bible the more I use it. It is easy to dunk on Hahn and Mitch for how long it has taken, but the results speak for themselves, in my opinion. I find that I don’t reach for my copies of the Navarre Bible that much, but am always impressed when I use them. I certainly resolve to use them more. I feel badly putting the Didache Bible so low. Of course it will not be as detailed—out of all these titles, it is the only one which is a full bible bound in a single volume. That being said, while I feel a great affection for my copy of the Ignatius Study Testament and my Navarre Expanded New Testament, the Didache Bible is simply a good reference volume to me.
May you all have a blessed Advent.