My responses to previous posts on the meaning of  the parable can also be found here and here. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham is presumably in heaven in some sense. Why did Jesus instruct his disciples not to preach the kingdom of God to Gentiles and Samaritans? In this parable, the offence is the younger son’s behaviour, and the reception given to him by the father. From an exegetical point of view, however, modern literary sentiments are irrelevant. Key to this echo, I think, is “death and life.” Deut sets for life and prosperity and death and adversity; Yahweh set before them life and death: the son was dead and is now alive. In reply to I read The Tale of Two Sons by Hannah James. I can see the force of the argument. At every turn in the story the father’s response is totally unexpected. In Deuteronomy 30 God is not described as “father” to Israel. The connection to Abraham is clear enough — God promised Abraham two things, a nation (Judah) and a company of nations (Joseph or the House of Israel) [Gen 35:11]. Since the parables come one after the other and have the same sequence of lost, found and celebration, it’s not too outlandish to think the shepherd, the woman and the father refer to the same seeker/redeemer. I certainly don’t see how Jesus could have the Gentiles in view. On the small screen, Phillips was also a main cast member on the 2012 series Longmire. 1. And as the reward for his great magnanimity, the father recovers his beloved son. Its three main characters could be the stars of a TV series: The rich patriarch, his elder son, and his youngest—the wild child. Ezekiel certainly had the same 2 groups in mind when he penned his reunification prophecy “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, “For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.” And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,   and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”   This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. By the way, Nouwen’s reading falls well within the bounds of the exegetically permissible, if reader-response is taken to be the way the parable works — through identification/disapproval. His disciples should love their enemies and be merciful, “even as your Father is merciful” (6:35-36). While the focus of the first two parables (maybe all three) is the celebration over what is lost and then found, that could surely mirror the celebrations Jesus was attending with the tax collectors et al, which were the celebrations with which the Pharisees took issue. Dr. John said that evil itself is the “prodigal son,” which has left its father’s house (living in the presence of God). John berates the crowds which come out to be baptized for claiming to have Abraham as their father. Hosea also saw the reunion Ezekiel saw “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head.” [Hos 1:11]. They’re both prodigal, but in different ways! We are the prodigal son. It’s an interesting, if esoteric, point of view. The son is consumed with bitterness and resentment, and in a way, rightly too. The parable of the prodigal son clearly fits the first category of “father” sayings much better than the second—it is a story not about discipleship but about, Theological terms in narrative-historical perspective, Synopsis of N.T. …and of course Abraham is never mentioned. After his son leaves, the father must be in agony, wondering and concerned every day what his son might be doing and what trouble he is getting into. In fact, there was a complete role reversal. He returned to the father begging for his forgiveness and acknowledging his sin. Particularly looking again at the context of the story — in v1-2 it is Jesus’ behaviour which outrages the Pharisees, as the father’s behaviour outrages the elder son. I can’t check the details of the argument at the moment, but I will sketch here my reasons for suspecting that the father is not God but Abraham. Since “heaven” is an indirect reference to God, it is difficult to understand why the son would express himself in this way if, in Jesus’ mind, the father stood for God. Brad, I don’t have his book to hand. Deep down, he knows that by his actions he has thrown away more than good food: he has thrown away a treasured relationship, and he knows as well what that sin justly deserves. In reply to Sorry Andrew. But then your comment: doesn’t the older son’s claim that he has never disobeyed his father’s “command” evoke Pharisaic adherence to the Law of God? I still think it reduces a superb literary tour de force, which leaps from its context to other contexts, as described, to something bland and of antiquarian interest only. It would have been wrong not to celebrate. 16:14), but the polemical point is the same: the leaders of Israel cannot accept the idea that the poor, the wretched, the oppressed, the “tax collectors and sinners” are at this critical moment being restored to the family of Abraham. “And (the father) ran and embraced (the younger son) and kissed him.” – Jesus, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:20) Jesus tells us that when the father saw the son at the edge of the village, he pulled up his robes and ran to him. 1. It seems to me unlikely that with two prominent father-figures already in his Gospel Luke would cast Jesus as a father in the story. But in the parable neither man ransoms his life and escapes death. They should expect their “heavenly Father” to give the Holy Spirit to them (12:12). He honors the outrageous request of the younger son and gives him his inheritance. In my estimation Andrew is spot on in reading this from the perspective of the intended audience. Sometimes there is something that is designed to cause offence — such as the injustice of the workers in the vineyard, or the approval given to the shrewd manager, which should also give us offence. But as I pointed out, thematically the story fits with passages that speak of Abraham as father much better than with passages that speak of God as father. “He became angry, and refused to go in”. Perhaps the appeal of the rich man in Hades to Abraham reflect the lines “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit” (49:7–9). Perhaps, but this is a parable, and the details have a natural narrative justification. https://heavy.com/entertainment/2019/09/the-prodigal-son-meaning-plot I also made the point that the father does not seek the son in the way that the woman seeks the lost coin and the shepherd seeks the lost sheep. Thoughts? I hope that won’t happen to you Andrew, or me, or any of the contributors to this site. These Jewish religious leaders of the first century did not think it was appropriate for a godly person to interact in such ways with t… These would be my reservations: 1. I do see comletely what you are wishing to demonstrate about the parable, viewing it through the lens of the ‘coming eschatological crisis’ which you describe. Next time I’m in a library…. As I hope you know, the story is about a father with two sons. The contrasting treatment of older and younger in the story form two-thirds of the story’s emphasis. All rights reserved. I still think it reduces a superb literary tour de force, which leaps from its context to other contexts, as described, to something bland and of antiquarian interest only. I’ve only just noticed that you placed a thumbnail of the son from Rembrandt’s picture at the head of the article, with the question mark over the head. Categories: Love. I agree that the story is a polemic, or dramatic parabolic criticism, but with more than a little reader-response thrown in. The three stories in Luke 15 are told because the Pharisees and scribes had grumbled (diegonguzon) about the fact that Jesus was receiving tax collectors and sinners and eating with them. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” [Matt 13:44] this is very reminiscent of the idea of the Prodigal Son, the treasured possession [Deut 14:2; 26:18] that departed for distant lands, not yet returned. I took another look at this, and of course, your argument, Andrew, is more subtle than I have given credit for. By Amy Sparkman. The First Two Prodigal Sons in History. That fits wonderfully. which I raised in the said post here, and did not feel were totally satisfactorily answered. Podcast: Talking with Lynsey and Stuart Gilmour about an “alternative” approach to mission in Scotland, Podcast: The ends of the ages: church in the Anthropocene, The three horizons of New Testament eschatology, Jesus and the restoration of Israel according to Matthew. The details of the story are adaptable of course. One third of the story describes the older brother. Nor does he send someone to seek the son. Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy. But a false identification may also take place. He, and his attitude, are as important as the younger brother. Some of you might want to take a look at James Jordan’s investigation 13 years ago. If necessary, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham”. But there is enough there I think. By no means! After the resurrection Jesus tells the disciples he he will send “the promise of my Father upon you”, with reference to the Holy Spirit (24:49). We know there was emnity between these two sons [2 Kings 16:6]. And how the relationship between the two brothers went from bad to worse. A Modern-day Prodigal Son. 5. Arguably, they should be comparing their lives with the older brother, which is what most become, or tend to become. Jesus acknowledges that the hard-working Pharisees are part of the family of Abraham. To summarize, the youngest of the two sons demands his share of his father’s estate which the father gives him. The parables: Jesus was just being obtuse, Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenants: an exercise in narrative-historical hermeneutics, The parable of the good Samaritan and the plight of Israel, Make for yourselves friends of unrighteous mammon: the parable of the self-serving business manager, So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you: the parable of the unforgiving slave, The parable of the wedding feast and the man without a wedding garment, Discipleship and ethics in the New Testament church, How beautiful on the mountains were the feet of Jesus. I’d have thought that the ‘father/son’ motif, especially in the life of Jesus, is as much, if not more, to do with divine privilege and messianic promise (from 2 Samuel 7 — v13, and Psalm 2 — v7 especially) than protection of the weak and vulnerable. As ever, we have to take into account the probable immediate context, in terms of guessing the identities of those whom Jesus was addressing. If you enjoyed reading this post, why not share it with associates, friends, and loved ones? Progressive Christianity and the narrative-historical method. (Luke 15:11-32) First, there is the son who was restless and driven to experience whatever sinful pleasures money could buy. He convinced me that indeed it was Abraham as the model and it gave new insight in how to discern Paul’s Romans 9-11 also in my estimation. Such interpretations not only yank the parable out of its historical context, they lessen the message of Jesus and bear false witness against Jews and Judaism. Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? I’m sorry I’m not contributing to the promotion of the viewpoint. Let’s not be arrogant and say that unsophistciated 1st century minds would not have worked that way. :-), http://krusekronicle.typepad.com/kruse_kronicle/2006/01/luke_15_kenneth…, Notice was Jeremiah says in [Jer 31:31] “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah …”. This is all very interesting… although it really does not change the meaning for the reader today. How long did Judah stay in Babylon [2 Kings 20:17]? The serial killer drama follows Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), son of Martin 'The Surgeon' Whitley (Michael Sheen), who as a child was responsible for enabling the police to arrest his father. The parable of the prodigal son makes the same point: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk. The young son returning is a good picture of what repentance is. 15:21). I don’t think Kester Brewin’s re-reading is valueless—it’s just not what the historical Jesus intended. There is clearly a criticism of the Pharisees in the person of the elder brother, who is not a representative of righteous Israel, but rather self-righteous Israel, from whom the kingdom was withheld. It turns a three dimensional work of art into a rather flat two dimensional allegory. If you are going to argue for a reader-response understanding of the parable within its original setting, you should really provide some evidence that this is an appropriate hermeneutic for such literature under such cultural conditions. It also highlights Ishmael in a very prominent Jewish manner that is expected to be noticed significantly. The fatherhood of God in Luke is essentially a discipleship theme—it defines the relationship of the disciples to God, derived from their relationship to Jesus, as they followed the narrow path of suffering that would lead to life in the age to come. The father represents God the Father for He gladly receives His son as part of His family. In reply to I took another look at this, by peter wilkinson. I took a large size print of the painting to a Christian group in Finland four years ago, and spent a week teaching on it. Abraham is given an active speaking role on the rich man and Lazarus story. How to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference. The father does nothing to bring the son home—other than to run out to welcome him. Norman, thanks for the comments and the links. 3. Rom 11:11  So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? But what was Jesus’s intention for the parable? Thanks for the reply. It is important to note that nothing is said about forgiveness, though it is often interpreted as a parable of divine forgiveness. The parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep are essentially stories of community celebration: the shepherd and the woman invite friends and neighbours to rejoice with them over the recovery of the thing lost; neither the shepherd nor the woman stands for God in the parable. In his reading, the older brother is dealt with tenderly, even sympathetically, because it is himself. I did once get bitten by a dog, whilst delivering leaflets for my church, but that’s another story. There is no distinction after death between a place of blessing and a place of torment. No. The motif of the relationship of children to father Abraham in Luke is found in the context of the recurring controversy with the Pharisees and other leaders of the Jews over who will share in the eschatological life of the people of God following judgment—who will sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the age to come. Sorry Andrew. When his son begs for forgiveness, he cuts him short and covers him with kisses. Prodigal Son (TV Series 2019– ) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. We know how it goes: The wild child takes off with his plentiful inheritance to enjoy life. The rich will be brought down and excluded; the poor and weak will be lifted up and included. Even if they “are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you” (30:4). I take your point about allegorization, but the parable is told explicitly to address the objections of the Pharisees about Jesus eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (15:1-2). The parable of the prodigal son clearly fits the first category of “father” sayings much better than the second—it is a story not about discipleship but about membership. Travis, yes, up to a point: they are part of the general background of ideas. That is as true today as it was in his own time and context. As a child, Malcolm was responsible for enabling the police to arrest his father, and has not seen his father in ten years after joining Quantico. Maybe it fits within that framework of understanding. That might be true if you’re not a first century Jew or if you lack any sense of connection to the historical conditions under which the Christian movement was formed. First, in the beginning, there was a “victim” mindset against God. Of course, on another level, you could say that the younger is the church. I don’t see what’s insensitive about labelling Nouwen’s interpretation as an “uncritical midrashic” re-reading. The Father says to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (15:31). Unlike the sheep in the first parable that can be lifted up and taken to wherever the shepherd wants, or the coin that the woman found and placed in its rightful spot, a person is not passive. The parable of the prodigal son has three main characters, the kind and forgiving father who remains the same throughout the parable is a picture of God and Jesus. If the story were simply an allegory, in which the three characters are simply representative figures, the object of the story becomes primarily to work out their identities. Rom 9:6-8  But it is not as though the word of God has failed. New Testament eschatological texts categorised by horizon, The narrative architecture of Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse in Mark 13, How Paul can proclaim one Lord Jesus Christ and not compromise Jewish monotheism, How the context makes sense of the separation of the “sheep” and “goats” at the parousia. Did Jesus believe that Gentiles would be included in the renewed people of God? Israel fails in Deuteronomy 30 because it does not keep the commandments; restoration means that Israel “shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today” (30:8). In reply to I still think it reduces a by Andrew. I’m quite convinced Deuter 30 lies behind the Lost Son and Psalm 49 is behind the RM & L in ch 16. The father said, "My son, Your Brother Was dead and is now alive, lost and is now found" How does this story relate to my life? The force of the story is then, in my opinion, lost, if we cease to consider our own reactions to what is taking place, and the conjectured reactions of Jesus’s audience, and allow the story to criticise us, as well as the original audience. I find the charges you bring against alternative readings to your own, which hold yours up to criticism, untrue and insensitive. 3:7-9). The tax collector Zacchaeus was one of those who was lost and found again by the Son of Man. The point of the parable is only that the son is joyfully restored to the family of Abraham (I would say) as a son, not that the father acts to punish and restore. We all sin and move away from God. 15:32). The “tax collectors and sinners” have become alienated from the commonwealth of Israel; they have become like Gentiles. The latter is a thinly veiled representation of Andrew. Kester Brewin just seems bizarre. Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? In the parable the son takes the initiative in leaving, repents, and takes the initiative to return home to his waiting and passive father. The older brother is another OT motif at play. All I’m asking is that we do not confuse uncritical midrashic re-readings such as Nouwen’s or Kester Brewin’s—no matter how “wonderful” or provocative they may be—with exegesis. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. The rich man in Hades still appeals to his father Abraham. It should offend us today, and if it hasn’t, the story has been inadequately understood. The issue addressed in the Lazarus story is not the scandal of table fellowship but the fact that the Pharisees are “lovers of money” (Lk. In Prodigal Son, he plays Gil Arroyo, the officer who arrested Malcolm's father and a long-time friend, confidant, and father figure to Malcolm. Biblically at least, who the father is, and who the sons are is clear enough — but still subject to rejection. We are the Prodigal son. Andrew, are you familiar with Kenneth Bailey’s work on Luke 15? The father has devoted his life to his family, but the prodigal son’s departure forms an unmistakable response to his father: it’s not good enough. It turns a three dimensional work of art into a rather flat two dimensional allegory. 117: Call Me Ishmael, Part 1  by James B. Jordan  May, 1999, http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/no-117-call-me-ishmael-part-1/, No. There is a strong element of self-seeking calculation-what Catholicism has traditionally called "imperfect contrition"-in his words, "treat me as one of your hired servants," a speech obviously designed just to get him a few decent meals! The narrative-historical method—an outline, Some rough and ready “rules” for doing a narrative-historical reading of the New Testament. A happy disappointing Christmas to everyone! The “little flock” of disciples should not be afraid, for “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32). 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