Repentance And Conflict In The Parable Of The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) -- By: Greg Forbes

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 42:2 (Jun 1999)
Article: Repentance And Conflict In The Parable Of The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Author: Greg Forbes


Repentance And Conflict In The Parable
Of The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)

Greg Forbes*

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. 1 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

* Greg Forbes is lecturer in Greek and New Testament exegesis at Bible College of Victoria, P.O. Box 380, Lilydale 3140, Melbourne, Australia.

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 conclusiv...

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