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The parable of the prodigal son and deeds of gift

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Chapter Summary

In the case of the parable of the Returning Son it has already been shown by Wolfgang Pöhlmann that the son's demand, employs a formula that is extraordinarily common in Greco-Egyptian documentary papyri describing an individual's portion of a loan, or of a tenancy agreement, or of an inheritance. The contention of this chapter is that papyri can contribute to an understanding of other aspects of this parable. Papyrus deeds of gift can indeed illumine the situation presupposed in Luke 15:12: there is no reason to suppose that the son's request for a division of the property prior to his father's death was especially unusual, or that it constituted an insult or death-wish. This unwarranted conclusion seems more designed to inflate the crime of the younger son, to take it well beyond the boundary of quotidian happenings, and thus to install the son as a foil for a theologized father.

Keywords: deeds of gift; Luke; papyri; parable; prodigal son



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