Matthew 20:16

New Testament

10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. 11 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ 13 And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. 15 Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Pesachim 50a

Babylonian Talmud

And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: These are people who are considered important [yekarim] in this world and unimportant [kefuyim] in the World-to-Come. This is like the incident involving Rav Yosef, son of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who became ill and was about to expire. When he returned to good health, his father said to him: What did you see when you were about to die? He said to him: I saw an inverted world. Those above, i.e., those who are considered important in this world, were below, insignificant, while those below, i.e., those who are insignificant in this world, were above. He said to him: My son, you have seen a clear world. The world you have seen is the true world, as in that world people’s standings befit them. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked: And where are we, the Torah scholars, there? Rav Yosef responded: Just as we are regarded here, so are we regarded there.

 Notes and References

"... The paradoxical sayings about reversal in status - the first will be last, the last first, and so on - are not naively optimistic observations about everyday human experience (Mt 25:29 = Lk 19:26; Mk 4:25; 8:35; 10:31: Mt J3:12: Lk 18:14; Gos. Thom. 4). Proverbial wisdom knows that the rich get richer, the poor poorer. This is why Jesus' logia instead use the future tense - 'will be exalted', 'will keep it [life]', 'will be first.' Like Test. Judah 25:4 and b. Pesah 50a, they envisage God turning the world upside down, which can only be the upshot of the coming judgment ..."

Allison, Dale C. "Jesus and Apocalyptic Eschatology" in Charlesworth, James H. (ed.) Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions: The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research (pp. 220-221) William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007

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