Recent lexical study of Hellenistic Greek throws new light on the parable of the 5 wise virgins and 5 foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). English translations of this parable have traditionally translated the Greek word μωραὶ (morai) as an adjective ‘foolish.’
However, in a pre-publication copy of a new lexicon by scholars Brown, Driver, Aren’t, and Gig, convincing evidence is presented that μωραὶ was a noun, not an adjective. Furthermore, the meaning of ‘foolish’ is secondary, by semantic extension from its core lexical meaning which was ‘jesters’ (feminine gender).
This new evidence correlates with a previously little understood passage from Josephus where he briefly mentioned the μωραὶ of Herodian courts. In a single sentence Josephus wrote (my translation): “The jesters served in the Herodian courts to levitate the dour atmosphere of those courts.”
A traditional interpretation of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins is eschatological. With this new lexical data, however, exegetes will have to work with the claim that the parable is jestertional, rather than eschatological. The 5 wise virgins were commended for their actions because they gave good advice. The 5 so-called “foolish” virgins were condemned because they did not speak seriously. They remained in character as jesters of the court.
Secondarily, we can derive a connotational sense that the 5 jesters were foolish because they stayed in character. They wasted the time of the court of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus declared as near and even among us. But their foolishness is not the central point of the passage.
Better Bibles are those which use the latest lexical and exegetical evidence available to their translation teams. I wonder which new English version will incorporate this latest lexical incite as they translate Matthew 25.