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Parable of the Prodigal Son

The purpose of this research is to examine the reactions of the three main characters in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The plan of the research will be to set forth the broad outlines of the parable, and then to explore how the father, the elder son, and the prodigal son react in the course of the story and the degree to which such reactions may be regarded as universal. As well, reference will be made as appropriate to the teachings of Jesus Christ, the teller of the tale in Luke.

The prodigal is the younger wastrel son who asks for and squanders his inheritance on wantonness and debauchery. When he begins to suffer the consequences, he returns to his father, prepared to humble himself. In the event, showing himself is sufficient, for the father immediately forgives and feasts him. All this excites the envy of the well-behaved elder brother, and it falls to the father to assuage the elder's concerns on one hand and to essentially justify his attitude on the other. That justification summarizes not only the impulse behind the human reactions but also the relationship of the parable as a whole to the patterns of Christian thought: "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine" (Luke 15:31). In this statement the father expresses the immutability of his grace and the enactment of unselfish love as the experience of grace. These themes achieve universality at both secular and religious levels.

The context for the parable suggests that Jesus has a specific audience in mind for the story, which is told immediately after the parable of the lost sheep, and both stories are told to an assembly of sinners, publicans, and--significantly--Pharisees. Pharisees are of course Jesus's rivals for spiritual authority among the Jews, and they fault Jesus for associating with sinners and publicans. Jesus's answer comprises the two parables. The story of the prodigal implies Pharisees as social spokespersons for the elder s...

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Parable of the Prodigal Son. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:13, December 07, 2021, from