Gowler- Religion 373RQW
Week of April 12th, 2015
The Labourers in the Vineyard- Matthew 20, 1-16
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
In the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, heaven is compared to a landowner who employs workers to work in a vineyard. He agrees with workers to work for a set amount (possibly one silver coin or denarius), and the first group starts working at nine o’clock in the morning. When the employer sees people ‘standing idle’, he tells them to work in his vineyard; he will pay them what is right. This is repeated at twelve, three, and five o’clock. At the end of the day, the employer tells his manager to pay the workers ‘starting with the last’ and ending with the first. The first group thought they were going to receive more pay, but they complained when they received the usual daily wage (the amount that was originally agreed on) even though they ‘bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat’ while the last group only worked for an hour. The employer replies by stating he did not do anything wrong because he paid the workers exactly what they agreed on; he rhetorically asks whether or not he is allowed to do what he pleases with what belongs to him. The narrator (not the employer) ends the parable by stating that the last will be first and the first will be last. (Or should I put this paragraph before the one where I talk about Christian interpretation?)
The theme of the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard dates back to 200 CE with the rise of Rabbinic literature. Most consider Rabbinic literature to be the written material of oral traditions still existing after the time of the Pharisees and Jesus (Rabbinic Parables – newmanlib.ibri.org, BOOK). The parable of the Skillful Worker in J Ber 2:5 relays the story of a king who hires workers to work in his vineyard.
[A king had a vineyard for which he engaged many laborers, one of whom was especially apt and skillful. What did the king do? He took this laborer from his work, and walked through the garden conversing with him. When the laborers came for their hire in the evening, the skillful laborer also appeared among them and received a full day’s wages from the king. The other laborers were angry at this and said, “We have toiled the whole day, while this man has worked but two hours; why does the king give him the full hire, even as to us?” The king said to them, “Why are you angry? Through his skill he has done more in the two hours than you have all day.”]
Here, the king favors one particular laborer by paying him a full day’s wage for his skillfulness in completing the work more efficiently than the other workers, even though he spends most of his day conversing with the king. At the end of this Rabbinic parable, the king states that he paid the apt laborer in full because he completed more work in ‘two hours than you (the other workers) have all day’. One could argue that the king is a metaphor for God, and in this parable, God rewards those who are proficient in carrying out the work he has set out for them. Furthermore, God favors certain workers, just as God favors the Children of Israel in Judaism and the Old Testament, ‘And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary (Number 8:19)’. Does this demonstrate God choosing the Children of Israel?
Workers in the Vineyard progresses through the age of the early Church, and Christian scholars such as St. Iranaeus and Tertullian offer different interpretations of the possible allegory behind the parable. St. Iranaeus of Lyons, 2nd century, believes that the different hours upon which the workers are called actually represent periods throughout history (St. Irenaeus: The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching). For example, the group that works in the morning is representative of the beginning of time, Adam, to the time of Noah; the group called to work at twelve o’clock represents the time from Noah to Abraham; those working at the three o’clock are indicative of Abraham through Moses; the group following represents the time from Moses to Jesus; finally, those called to work at the last hour represent the time from Jesus until the end of time (A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature). According to Iranaeus, the progression of the day in the parable actually represents the progression of the periods of history in which the word of God was brought down, beginning with Moses. The early Christian scholar, Tertullian of Carthage, implies that the denarius, or payment, of the workers represents eternal life. One could argue that eternal life, here, also means the blessing of God to heaven. Thus, the parable emphasizes equal blessing from God for all workers, or believers, regardless of when they ‘began working’ or when they accepted God’s grace- whether it be during the time of Moses or during the time of Jesus.
The theme of the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard continues through Islamic ideology in the Hadith of the Laborers.
On the Hadiths of Sahih al Bukhari:
There are five versions of the Hadith of the Laborers in Sahih al Bukhari, each one possibly addressing different themes of the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Hadiths are collections of oral traditions and sayings of the prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him-pbu), which, are especially important in Sunni Muslim daily life and values. In Islamic theology, hadiths are completely separate from, and are not a part of, the Quran; they may be altered and are susceptible to the perspectives and cultural influences at the time they were first recorded. The Persian scholar Mohammad al Bukhari first recorded the hadiths, or traditional sayings, of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) during the Abbasid Empire in 846, almost 200 years after the founding of the religion of Islam. From a very young age, Bukhari began his search through, what is the present day Middle East, for all the sayings of the prophet. He apparently began his search after Mohammad came to him in a dream, and Bukhari was holding a fan in front of him- he interpreted this to mean he was protecting the prophet from lies. From that, he was incited to compile the Sahih, or the correct. His compilation later gained the title of Sahih al Bukhari, which translates to mean ‘the authentic Bukhari’, and it is now considered to be one of the most authentic books or compilations of Islam after the Quran. [REFERENCES!] Hadiths are sayings or collections of traditions told by the prophet Mohammad during the early 7th century CE. The root of the word hadith originates from the Arabic word for ‘it happened, or it occurred’. Today, these spoken traditions of the prophet are mainly followed by Sunni Muslims (the term Sunni means ‘well-taken path’). They resemble the parables of Jesus in their unique method of illustrating both the allegorical and literal basis behind interpretation of religion.
One version of the hadith is number 468 in the Volume 3 of Book 36.
[The Prophet said, “Your example and the example of the people of the two Scriptures (i.e. Jews and Christians) is like the example of a man who employed some laborers and asked them, ‘Who will work for me from morning till midday for one Qirat?’ The Jews accepted and carried out the work. He then asked, Who will work for me from midday up to the ‘Asr prayer for one Qirat?’ The Christi- ans accepted and fulfilled the work. He then said, ‘Who will work for me from the ‘Asr till sunset for two Qirats?’ You, Muslims have accepted the offer. The Jews and the Christians got angry and said, ‘Why should we work more and get lesser wages?’ (Allah) said, ‘Have I with-held part of your right?’ They replied in the negative. He said, ‘It is My Blessing, I bestow upon whomever I wish].
The narrator begins by stating that the Prophet Mohammad (pbu) is the one who is narrating the hadith, and he is speaking to the Muslim community about themselves and the people of the two scriptures (or the Christians and the Jews). The narrator states that a man has employed laborers, but there is no mention of a vineyard. Furthermore, the employer directly states that the first workers will work from morning until ‘midday for one Qirat’- a Qirat is the equivalent of one silver coin. Here, the narrator specifies exactly how much the first wave of workers will get paid and the time period in which they will be working. Here, the man poses a question, and the Jews are the first to respond, accept, and carry out the work. The man then asks who will work for him ‘from midday to the ‘Asr (or late day) prayer for one Qirat’. This time, the Christians respond and fulfill the task. The employer asks one final time who will work for him, but this time, he says who will work for him ‘from ‘Asr to sunset for two Qirats’. Here, the verb of the man switches from asking to saying who will work for him. The two Qirats is double the wage that was offered earlier in the day. Now, the Muslims ‘have accepted’ the offer, but there is no mention of the work completing or being fulfilled. It is also important to note that in the tense of ‘having accepted’ the work, this means that the Muslims presently accepted the work, or more recently did they. The narrator continues explain that the Jews and Christians got angry and questioned why they should work for a longer time and receive less than the Muslims. Allah (God) responds to employees by asking them if any part of their right was with held. When they respond ‘No’, Allah continues to state that the ‘payment’ is his blessing that he ‘bestows upon whomever he wishes’. Moreover, the text clearly states that the Christians and Jews got angry in the past while the Muslims are currently fulfilling the task. There is a contrast in action tense. The narrator does not mention whom the people of the two scriptures question in the first place.
Another of the hadith is number 469, and it is found in the same volume and book as the previous version with slight variations.
[Allah’s Apostle said, “Your example and the example of Jews and Christians is like the example of a man who employed some laborers to whom he said, ‘Who will work for me up to midday for one Qirat each?’ The Jews carried out the work for one Qirat each; and then the Christians carried out the work up to the ‘Asr prayer for one Qirat each; and now you Muslims are working from the ‘Asr prayer up to sunset for two Qirats each. The Jews and Christians got angry and said, ‘We work more and are paid less.’ The employer (Allah) asked them, ‘Have I usurped some of your right?’ They replied in the negative. He said, ‘That is My Blessing, I bestow upon whomever I wish.’ “]
In hadith 469, it is established that Allah’s Apostle is the narrator of the hadith. In Islam, an apostle could refer to a prophet of God. Here, one can assume the narrator is the prophet Mohammad. Both in hadith 468 and 469, a man asks and employs laborers for one Qirat each, and the Jews carry out the work first, Christians second, and Muslims last for two Qirats. However, unlike hadith 468, the employer does not ask the question three times; he only asks the question one time, and the workers subsequently accept and fulfill the tasks. Like hadith 468, the Muslims are the last to accept the task, but the narrator states that the Muslims ‘now, are working from ‘Asr prayer up to sunset’. This implies that the Muslims recently accepted the work, and are still working on fulfilling the task; the task is currently underway, and the Muslims will get paid when they complete it. Like in hadith 468, the Jews and Christians get angry because they are paid less, but in 469, they do not ask why this occurs like in 468, they make a statement that they “work more and are paid less”. Following this, it is asserted that the employer is Allah, and Allah responds to the angry workers. This implies that the man who employed the workers is actually God as well. In hadith 468, it is never stated that God is the employer, only that God replies to the angry workers. In hadith 469, God asks if he has usurped the right of the workers; this connotation differs from hadith 468 in which God asks if he withheld part of their right. Usurped typically means to take something illegally or by force whereas withhold means not to give out in full. Furthermore, in this version, God asks if he has usurped the right of the workers while in the previous Allah states or says (does not pose a question) if he has withheld the right. This emphasizes that fact that God already knew the answer to the question- it was a way to help Christians and Jews realize Allah bestows his blessings upon whomever (reference Hebrew Bible examples?). In both hadiths, the workers reply in the negative to Allah, and Allah states that he bestows his blessing upon whomever he wishes.
Another version, which closely resembles hadiths 468 and 469, is hadith number 665 in Volume 4, Book 56.
[Allah’s Apostle said, “Your period (i.e. the Muslims’ period) in comparison to the periods of the previous nations, is like the period between the ‘Asr prayer and sunset. And your example in com- parison to the Jews and the Christians is like the example of a person who employed some laborers and asked them, ‘Who will work for me till midday for one Qirat each?’ The Jews worked for half a day for one Qirat each. The person asked, ‘Who will do the work for me from midday to the time of the ‘Asr (prayer) for one Qirat each?’ The Christians worked from midday till the ‘Asr prayer for one Qirat. Then the person asked, ‘Who will do the work for me from the ‘Asr till sunset for two Qirats each?’ ” The Prophet added, “It is you (i.e. Muslims) who are doing the work from the Asr till sunset, so you will have a double reward. The Jews and the Christians got angry and said, ‘We have done more work but got less wages.’ Allah said, ‘Have I been unjust to you as regards your rights?’ They said, ‘No.’ So Allah said, ‘Then it is My Blessing which I bestow on whomever I like.]
In this version, like in hadith 469, the narrator is established as Allah’s apostle and used interchangeably with the term ‘prophet’. In this version, like the two previous, the prophet is speaking directly to Muslims about their period and the ‘periods of previous nations’, most likely referring to the Christian and Jewish nations. The narrator here directly states and establishes a comparison between Muslim workers and Christian and Jewish workers with respect to a man who employs the three groups. In this version, the employer is not specified as a man, only as a person. The narrator continues to state that the first workers to reply to the ‘person’, and they worked for half a day, or 50% of the total day. The Christians are the second group to answer, and readers are told that they work from midday until Asr for one Qirat each, like the Jews. The hadith proceeds in the same manner as hadiths 468 and 469; the Muslims are the final group to “accept the offer”, but they have not completed the work yet. In this version, the prophet gives reasoning that because the Muslims are working from ‘Asr until sunset, they will receive double wages, like the employer promised. It is important to note however, that here the prophet is talking to the Muslims from the beginning of the hadith until the end, when Allah replies to the workers’ rebellion. Moreover, here, God does not ask whether he has usurped or withheld the previous groups rights, he asks if he has been unjust; the groups reply that he has not. The hadith ends with Allah’s final statement of bestowing his blessing upon whomever he wishes.
Hadith number 471 is also found in the same volume and book as the previous three discussed, but with substantial variations.
[The Prophet said, “The example of Muslims, Jews and Christians is like the example of a man who employed laborers to work for him from morning till night for specific wages. They worked till mid- day and then said, ‘We do not need your money which you have fixed for us and let whatever we have done be annulled.’ The man said to them, ‘Don’t quit the work, but complete the rest of it and take your full wages.’ But they refused and went away. The man employed another batch after them and said to them, ‘Complete the rest of the day and yours will be the wages I had fixed for the first batch.’ So, they worked till the time of ‘Asr prayer. Then they said, “Let what we have done be an- nulled and keep the wages you have promised us for yourself.’ The man said to them, ‘Complete the rest of the work, as only a little of the day remains,’ but they refused. Thereafter he employed another batch to work for the rest of the day and they worked for the rest of the day till the sunset, and they received the wages of the two former batches. So, that was the example of those people (Muslims) and the example of this light (guidance) which they have accepted willingly. ]
In hadith 471, the narrator (Mohammad pbu) speaks in 3rd person to tell the example of the Muslims, Jews, and Christians and how it relates to a man who employed laborers. In this version, it is not specified how much each group of workers is paid nor which people of the scripture work in which order. Like in hadiths 468, 469, and 665, it can be assumed that the three groups working are the Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Instead, the narrator states that the first group worked for him, but at mid-day, they decided they did not need the money of the employer. The man tells them to finish the work and “take their full wages”, but they did not complete the work. It is important to note here that the man does not ask the workers if they will stay, he tells them to stay. This compares to the beginning of the hadith when readers are told a man hires workers, but never that he actively asks who would like to work. The man then hires a second group of workers and tells them to complete the task, and they will receive the wages of the first batch- they will get the wages that the first group would have gotten had they fulfilled the task. Once again, at ‘Asr prayer, this group told the employer they would like their work to be ‘annulled’ or cancelled, and they refused to complete the task even though the man told them they had ‘only a little of the day remains’. Finally, the man employs one final group of workers to work until the end of the day. Like in both previous hadiths, the final group of workers is promised double the amount of pay as the former. In hadiths 468, 469, and 665 it is never stated that the last group of workers completes the task, only that they have accepted it and will get a receive a double reward. The narrator of hadith 471, however, states that the final group accepted the task, completed it, and were paid the wages of both former groups (a double pay). Here, the previous two groups do not get angry or complain about the last group’s greater wage like in the previous three parables because, in this version, they were not accepting of the man’s work or payment anyway. Unlike the narrator both previous hadiths, the narrator of hadith 471 explains the allegorical meaning behind the example that was just given. Now, it is verified that the last workers were Muslim, and their willing acceptance of the task and payment from the man is analogous to the acceptance of the ‘light’ or guidance of God. However, much of the emphasis of this version is placed on the actions of the previous workers, and only one sentence is used to highlight the moral of hadith involving Muslims. A subsequent version of this hadith is Number 533, which is found in the early Volume 1, Book 10 of Sahih al Bukhari and more closely resembles version 471 than 468 and 469.
[The Prophet said, “The example of Muslims, Jews and Christians is like the example of a man who employed laborers to work for him from morning till night. They worked till mid-day and they said, ‘We are not in need of your reward.’ SO the man employed another batch and said to them, ‘Com- plete the rest of the day and yours will be the wages I had fixed (for the first batch). They worked Up till the time of the ‘Asr prayer and said, ‘Whatever we have done is for you.’ He employed another batch. They worked for the rest of the day till sunset, and they received the wages of the two former batches.” ]
In hadith 533, like 471, the prophet Mohammad (pbu) is established as the narrator, and he speaks in 3rd person to tell the example of the Muslims, Jews, and Christians and how it relates to a man who employed laborers. Here, from the first sentence, the premise of laborers working from morning until night is established. In previous versions, such as 468, the readers are gradually told the increments of work as the hadith progresses. In this version, the direct statement of the segments of workers implies a sense of assuredness, or predetermination, from the narrator of the story. Once more, it is not explicitly stated which people of the scripture represent which group of workers. However, in contrast to hadith 471, the first two groups of workers do not state that they would like their work annulled. Instead, the first group states that they do not need the employer’s money, and the second group states that their work is for the man (possibly meaning it was an act of generosity that they do not require payment for). Here, the first and second groups of workers are not depicted with a negative connotation as in 471. Like hadith 471, the man employs one last group of workers that completes the task and receives the wages of the last two groups. However, in this version, there is no indication as to whether or not the last group was Muslim.
In 4 out of 5 hadiths, the man asks a question: who will work for him for this set amount of one Qirat? If the man represents God, then God here is not forcing anyone to work for him, the Christians, Jews, and Muslims accept the work, or guidance of God, willingly. Both the Christians and Jews accepted the task of Allah and completed it; in other words, their time has passed, and it is time for another group of people to accept the Guidance. Now, the Muslims are working with the guidance and light. If a Qirat represents the blessing of Allah, then why do Muslims receive two Qirats- metaphorically speaking, double the blessings of the previous groups? Hadith 471 provides an answer to this, in which the narrator emphasizes the fact that the Muslims completed the work, or God’s task, until the end of the day (or end of time) without giving up or denying the man’s (God’s) payment (blessing). For this, they are rewarded with the ultimate blessings to complete the religion of the three scriptures. This differs, however, in hadiths 468 and 469 because the employer specifies that the first two groups of workers will only receive one Qirat. The Jewish and Christian workers accept and complete the tasks without refusal knowing the payment they would be given. In hadith 471, the narrator does not specify how much the workers ever receive.
In the hadiths in which the classification of the people working is given, the order of the workers is always the Jewish first, the Christians second, and the Muslims last. In Islamic ideology, this specific order could represent the order in which the scriptures were brought upon man. God sent Moses to the Children of Israel (Judaism), Jesus to the Children of Israel once more (Christianity), and finally, Mohammad (pbu) to the surrenderers to God, or Muslims. The question remains, why would God bring down his word three different times, or why would the worker hire three different groups instead of one to fully complete the work? The Quran provides a possible answer to this question. Surat al Baqara verse 2:87 states “And We did certainly give Moses the Torah and followed up after him with messengers. And We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear proofs and supported him with the Pure Spirit. But is it [not] that every time a messenger came to you, [O Children of Israel], with what your souls did not desire, you were arrogant? And a party [of messengers] you denied and another party you killed.”- ‘We’ referring to God, the prophets, and the angels. Here, it is implied that although God sent word down to Moses and Jesus, the Children of Israel (or first two groups of workers in the hadith) were proud and arrogant when the word was not something they wanted to hear. One could argue that the earlier two groups were not only angry for the wages they received, but they were also metaphorically angry or jealous that a later group (the Muslims) came along to the vineyard to ‘work’ and will receive the same, and greater, blessing from God. A form of this arrogance can be seen in versions 468, 469, and 665 of the hadith. In these versions, the Jews and Christians complain against the employer, and they are arrogant in that they have worked more but are paid less than the Muslims who are currently working. When the employer, or God, told them something they did not want to hear, that the final group will be paid more, they are quick to rebel (this can be seen as a form of arrogance in that they overstep their boundaries by arguing with God). Moreover, the Quran proceeds to highlight the killing and denial of prophets. For this, God sent the final word down to the last group of people, Muslims, in hopes that they would fulfill their task until the ‘end of the day’ or end of time.
Islamic ideology goes further to explain how the example of the Muslims is like the examples of the Jews and Christians in the hadith. Surat al Baqara verse 2:136 states “Say, [O believers], “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” Muslims are like the Jews and Christians in that they all believe the same one word of God, or what was revealed to the above prophets and messengers. The manner in which the message has been revealed may have differed throughout time, but the creator of the message is the same, God or Allah. Continuing, here, we can see a distinction between the hadiths and the Quran; the Quran clearly states that there is no distinction between Moses, Jesus, Abraham, etc and what was revealed to them. This contradicts the hadiths in that the Muslims are paid double the wages, or blessings, of the previous two groups. There is a difference here between the groups of people, whether or not they followed what Moses revealed or what Jesus revealed. This distinction is made in the hadith, and God makes that distinction. The question is whether the last group is paid more because they are Muslim or are the Muslims paid more because they are the last group?
In version 471, the first and second group of workers states that they want the man (Allah) to annul their work, and they claim they do not need his money. Most likely, this desire of annulment of work represents the first two groups in their same desire to dissociate from the later God of Islam. Allegorically, it is possible that the previous groups, if they represent Jews and Christians, do not actually state that they “want their work annulled”, but instead their actions through historical time reflect their wish for dissociation for the Islamic God. The employer then pleads with the workers to continue work, but they refuse. It is important to note that the connection between the employer and God is never made in hadith 471, possibly because the Islamic God would never plead with human beings for their acceptance. The readers know that the final group to accept the Guidance of God in this Hadith was the Muslims.
In both the parable and the hadith of the Laborers in the Vineyard, the payment (Denarius in parable, Qirat in hadith) is used to represent the blessing of God, or eternal life. In the parable, however, this payment is equally distributed regardless of how much the workers worked, while in the hadith, the last group of workers (Muslims) receive twice the blessings even though they were the last to work, or metaphorically receive the word of God. The parable could metaphorically represent the progression through history, as told my St. Iranaeus. In contrast, the hadith literally represents the advancement of the word of God in the form of the three Abrahamic religions.
MISSING A CONCLUSION PARAGRAPH!