International Q Project
IQP reconstructs the original Q saying as follows:
A certain person prepared a [large] dinner, [and invited many]. And he sent his slave [at the time of the dinner] to say to the invited: Come, for it is ready.
The slave went away. He said to his master: Those whom you invited to the dinner have asked to be excused. The master said to the slave: Go out on the roads, and whomever you find, invite, so that my house may be filled.
He came to the first (and) said to him: My master invites you. he said: I have bills for some merchants. They are coming to me this evening. I will go (and) give instructions to them. Excuse me for the dinner. he came to another (and) said to him: My master has invited you. He said to him: I have bought a house, and I have been called (away) for a day. I will not have time.
He came to another (and) said to him: My master invites you. he said to him: I have bought a village. Since I am going to collect the rent, I will not be able to come. Excuse me.
He went to another (and) said to him: My master invites you. He said to him: My friend is going to marry, and I am the one who is going to prepare the meal. I will not be able to come. Excuse me for the dinner.
John Dominic Crossan
Crossan [Historical Jesus, 261f] suggests:
All three extant versions have interpreted and applied the parable to their own situations by contextual connections and intratextual developments. I think, however, that a common structural plot is discernible behind them all. ... It is the random and open commensality of the parable's meal that is its most startling element. The social challenge of such egalitarian commensality is the radical threat of the parable's vision. It is only a story, of course, but it is one that focuses its egalitarian challenge on society's mesocosmic mirror, the table as the place where bodies meet to eat. And the almost predictable counteraccusation to such open commensality is immediate: Jesus is a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and sinners. He makes, in other words, no appropriate distinctions and discriminations. He has no honor. He has no shame.
For a more detailed discussion of this parable by Crossan, see Four Other Gospels (1985: 39-52).
The view of the Seminar may be represented as follows:
- Thom 64:1-12
- Luke 14:16b-23
- Matt 22:2-13
The commentary in The Five Gospels (p. 352) concludes that, on balance, Luke's version of this story is closer to the original than Matthew's version. Overall, the GThom version was preferred although it also has signs of editorial adaptation to fit its current context (p. 510). While Luke perhaps tells the story to illustrate some of the points about table fellowship made in the previous verses, Matthew has modified the story to serve as an allegory of salvation history, including a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by armies acting at the command of the angry king (God).
Bernard Brandon Scott
Scott [Re-Imagine the World, 110-17] comments on the significance of the invitation and the lack of acceptances:
Banquets of the rich followed a set form; they were not spur of the moment activities. One of their primary functions was to bring honor to a host. If honor is to be maintained, guests must show up. Thus part of the set form of a banquet was an invitation issued days before the banquet. Normally this was delivered by a slave who either read it, if he were literate, or recited it. A number of papyrus invitations have survived. ... After the formal invitation, a slave would return at the appropriate time to escort the guests to the banquet. At this point the parable begins.
The messianic banquet lurks around the edges of this parable ... The parable of the Banquet burlesques the messianic banquet just as the Mustard Seed burlesques the great cedar of Lebanon. The banquet proposed by the man might be a fitting model for the messianic banquet but the actual banquet is something else. It also points to the here and now as the place of the banquet, and to life on the streets among the peasants as the appropriate model for the banquet, not the world of the elites. Just as the parable of the Unforgiving Slave rejects the imperial model of the messiah, so this parable rejects the banquets of the elites as the model for the messianic banquet. God's banquet is something else.
But something is wrong with this banquet. Every one of those who was invited had an excuse and refuses to come. It cannot be a coincidence that all those invited guests have excuses, every single one of them. the man is being snubbed. Instead of redounding to his honor, this banquet will create great shame.
... Whatever the man's strategy [of gathering people randomly from the street], the banquet he ends up with is very different from the one he planned. It is now a banquet of the dishonorable, and he is shamed.