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Prodigal son

The prodigal son is one of the best known parables of Jesus.

The story is found in Luke 15:11-32 of the New Testament of The Bible. It refers to a son who returns home after losing his fortunes, and the term a "Prodigal son" has passed into wide usage to mean a son or other dependent who does not live up to the expectations of those who have launched him (or her) into life or career.

Table of contents
1 The story
2 Interpretations
3 External links

The story

In the story told by Jesus, a man has two sons. The younger demands his share of his inheritance while his father is still living, and goes off to a distant country where he "wasted his substance with riotous living" and eventually has to take work as a swineherd. There he comes to his senses, and determines to return home and throw himself on his father's mercy. But when he returns home, his father greeted him with open arms, and does not even give him a chance to express his repentance; he kills a "fatted calf" to celebrate his return. The older brother becomes angry. But the father responds:
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.


Although the story is traditionally referred to as "The Prodigal Son", this title is not found in the gospel, and many commentators have argued that it would be better called "The Lost Son", showing its parallels to the parables of the "Lost Sheep" and "Lost Coin" which immediately precede it in Luke 15: in all three the theme is the concern of God for the repenting sinner rather than the unfailingly righteous. Others have argued that it might be better called the story of "The Two Sons", to emphasise the role of the elder son, and the lesson against envy and narrowmindedness that it contains.

The story is one of several very well known parables of Jesus that are only found in Luke's gospel, and like the others, it expresses Luke's distinctive theology of the unconditional love and grace of God. The forgiveness of the son is not conditional on good works, since he has plainly done nothing good from start to finish of the story, nor even on any expression of remorse of his sins, since the story does not report that the Prodigal expresses any. However, most Christian theologians would argue that Jesus was not suggesting that that repentance is unnecessary, because remorse for misdeeds is only one part of repentance. The correct understanding of the term as it is used in the New Testament (and, indeed, in the Hebrew Bible) is a change in the direction of one's life - which the Prodigal Son literally demonstrates.

External links