Repentance and Conflict in the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)

By Forbes, Greg | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Repentance and Conflict in the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)


Forbes, Greg, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Bell & Howell Information and Learning: foreign text omitted (...)

I. INTRODUCTION

The theme of the parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin continue in the parable of the Lost Son, though now we have a longer, more personal story with three main characters. In this parable, the younger of two sons becomes unsettled with life on the family estate and requests his share of the inheritance, only to squander it recklessly in a foreign land. Upon his return home he is welcomed and received by his father, who then orders a communal feast. This arouses the indignation of the elder brother, who resents such treatment of one so undeserving. The parable ends with the matter of the elder son's attitude unresolved.

Although commentators have been divided as to whether the father, the younger son or the elder son is the pivotal player in the story, all three characters play a crucial role and contribute to the overall interpretation of the parable.l There also continues to be disagreement over the interpretation of the parable, particularly as to whether the first section deals with the theme of repentance or not, and whether in the second part the elder son acts as a referent for the Jewish religious leaders. The aim of this paper is to analyze the story bearing these two issues in mind.

As stated above, the parable falls logically into two parts. Verses 11-24 deal with the father and the younger son, while verses 25-32 focus on the father and the elder son. Although most regard the parable as authentic, J. T. Sanders has argued that part two is a Lukan adaptation aimed against the Pharisees and constructed to form a link with chapter 16.2 On the other hand, Drury and Schottroff, while defending the unity of the parable, regard it as a Lukan creation in its entirety.3 More recently, Heininger has proposed that the original parable consist only of verses 11-17, 20, 22-23, 24c.4

While Jeremias, O'Rourke and Carlston have conclusively ruled out on linguistic grounds the possibility that Luke created any portion of the parable, its authenticity is further supported by the following.5 First, the elder son is mentioned at the outset (vv. 11-12); this is redundant if he plays no further part in the story. Second, the parable builds up an inner tension, with the law of end-stress suggesting a final climax.6Third, if Luke created verses 25-32 as an attack on the Pharisees, we would have expected a far harsher portrayal of the father's relationship to the elder son, and it is extremely unlikely that the parable would have been left open-ended.7 Fourth, in an illuminating study, Aus has argued that our parable draws on a Semitic/Jewish folk tale and thus clearly does not owe its origins to Hellenist Luke.8 Fifth, Tolbert has demonstrated the unity of both halves of the parable on the basis of structural parallels.9 Sixth, Pohlmann has shown how the protest of the hearer is reflected in the protest of the elder son. This protest is crucial to the story, for by it the hearer is confronted with a new view of oikog, that of the kingdom of God.lo Seventh, it must be stressed that Lukan themes are not necessarily Lukan creations.ll Finally, the orientation of the parable parallels the general teaching of Jesus elsewhere. 12

On the whole, therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the parable as a whole is an authentic creation of Jesus.

Numerous suggestions have been proposed for a suitable background for the parable of the Lost Son. But while there are a number of parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature and the papyri, they lack the moving force of this story. 13

Aus has investigated the correlation between Luke 15:11-32 and the rabbinic parable of the rise to fame of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. The clear differences between the stories (Eliezer's father accepts him on the basis of him becoming a great rabbinic scholar) indicate that neither one is dependent upon the other. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Repentance and Conflict in the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.