What is the parable of the 10 Virgins?
The parable of the 10 virgins was spoken by Jesus Christ and is recorded in Matthew 25:1-13. The ten virgins may be considered as first of several parables declaring that the advent of the Kingdom will be unexpected. These are all comments on the text, "of that day and hour no one knoweth, no not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:36).
It is a "watching" parable, and is not in praise of virginity as such, though applied by the Fathers, as St. Gregory Martyr, to the duties of the virgin-state. St. Augustine writes "souls that have the Catholic faith and appear to have good works" (Serm. xciii, 2); St. Jerome, "they boast the knowledge of God and are untainted with idolatry".
There seems to be a reminiscence of this parable in Luke 12:36, wrought into the admonition to men "that wait for their Lord". Wellhausen's idea that St. Matthew composed it from St. Luke is untenable. In the East it is usual that the bride should be conveyed with honour to the bridegroom's house; but there might be exceptions, as here.
Christ is the bridegroom, His parousia the event, and the preparation by faith shining out in Christian deeds is imaged in the burning lamps or torches. For the "closed door" see Luke 13:25. The conclusion, "Vigilate", is a direct lesson and no part of the story. St. Methodius wrote the "Banquet of the Ten Virgins", a rude mystery play in Greek.
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).