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The Jewish Background To The Prodigal Son: An Unresolved Problem

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Chapter Summary

When the details of the story of the prodigal son is consider, it is assumed that the behaviour of the participants in this story would have been transparent to the audience of the parable, in terms of social/legal institutions of the time. This chapter argues that the legal, theological and literary problems of the parable all benefit from the light which may be cast upon them from their Jewish background. Such speculations regarding a Jewish origin for the story do not impinge upon our reading of it as it appears in Luke. Our interpretation of the issues in the light of Jewish sources suggests an overall meaning for the parable rather different from that traditional in much Christian scholarship and preaching. The sinner has commenced, but not completed, a process of repentance. Full rehabilitation will occur on completion of the process, thus resulting in the award of a "double portion".

Keywords: Christian; double portion; Jewish background; Luke; parable; prodigal son; repentance; sinner



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