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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Luke 15



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ἦσαν δὲ αὐτῷ ἐγγίζοντες πάντες οἱ τελῶναι καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ. ‘And there were drawing near to Him all the tax-gatherers and the sinners to listen to Him.’ The ἦσαν ἐγγίζοντες seems to imply that group after group of these neglected classes approached Him. St Chrysostom says that their very life was legalised sin and specious greed. On the publicans, see Luke 3:12, Luke 5:27. ‘The sinners’ mean in general the degraded and outcast classes. See Introd. and Wordsworth, ad loc. The three parables which follow are essentially parables of grace, and their main thought is illustrated in the discourse about the Good Shepherd and His other sheep not of this fold, in John 10:1-18.

Verses 1-10


Verses 1-32


Verse 2

2. διεγόγγυζον. ‘Were loudly murmuring’ (Luke 19:7; Joshua 9:18). “With arid heart they blame the very Fount of Mercy,” Gregory the Great. In all ages it had been their sin that they ‘sought not the lost.’ Ezekiel 34:4.

οἵ τε Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς. See Excursus VI.

καὶ συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς. He not only gives them a genial welcome (προσδέχεται) but publicly recognises them. They found in Him none of the bitter contempt to which they were accustomed from the ‘religious authorities’ of Palestine. Even their touch was regarded as unclean by the Pharisees. But our Lord, who read the heart, knew that the religious professors were often the worse sinners before God, and He associated with sinners that He might save them. “Ideo secutus est … usque ad mensam, ubi maxime peccatur.” Bengel. It is this yearning of redemptive love which finds its richest illustration in these three parables. They contain the very essence of the Glad Tidings, and two of them are peculiar to St Luke.

Verse 3

3. εἶπεντὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην. Matthew 18:12-14. In these three parables we have pictures of the bewildered sinner (3–7); the unconscious sinner (8–10); the voluntary sinner (11–32).

Verse 4

4. τίς ἄνθρωπος. The word is used to suggest the truth that a fortiori God (Luke 15:7) will be even more compassionate.

ἑκατὸν πρόβατα. And yet out of this large flock the Good Shepherd grieves for one which strays. There is an Arab saying that God has divided pity into a hundred parts, and kept ninety-nine for Himself.

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, i.e. the Midbar, or pastures; see Luke 2:8. The sheep are left of course under minor shepherds, not uncared for. Some see in the Lost Sheep the whole human race, and in the ninety-nine the Angels: as though mankind were but a hundredth part of God’s flock.

ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό. Strange that utterances so gracious as this should be utterly passed over, when so many darker details are rigidly pressed!

Verse 5

5. ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ χαίρων. The Received text has ἑαυτοῦ, ‘his own shoulders.’ All anger against the folly of the wanderer is swallowed up in love, and joy at its recovery. “He bare our sins in His own body,” 1 Peter 2:24. We have the same metaphor in the Psalm of the shepherd king (Psalms 119:176; comp. Isaiah 53:6; John 10:11), and in the letter of the Apostle to whom had been addressed the words, “Feed my sheep,” 1 Peter 2:25. This verse supplied a favourite subject for the simple and joyous art of the catacombs. Tert. De Pudic. 7. See Lundy, Monumental Christianity, pp. 150 sq.

Verse 6

6. συνκαλεῖ τοὺς φίλους καὶ τοὺς γείτονας. See on Luke 14:12.

συνχάρητέ μοι. “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross,” Hebrews 12:2; comp. Isaiah 53:11.

Verse 7

7. λέγω ὑμῖν. I—who know (John 1:51).

χαρὰἔσται. ‘There shall be greater joy … than.’ sometimes follows a positive and not a comparative form, as in θέλω ἤ, 1 Corinthians 14:19, λυσιτελεῖ, Luke 17:2, ἰσχύει οὗτος ἢ ἡμεῖς, Numbers 22:6, LXX[289], καλόν ἐστιν, Matthew 18:8. This construction is frequent in the LXX[290], being an imitation of the Hebrew מִן after an adjective. See Luke 15:10; Matthew 18:13. St Luke’s report is the more tender and enthusiastic.

δικαίοις οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας. There is a shade of irony both in the words “just” and “repentance.” Neither word can be understood in its full and true sense; but only in the inadequate sense which the Pharisees attached to them. See Luke 5:32. The ‘Pharisees and scribes’ in an external sense were ‘just persons,’ for as a class their lives were regular, though we learn from Josephus and the Talmud that many individuals among them were guilty of flagrant sins. But that our Lord uses the description with a holy irony is clear from the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (see Luke 18:9). They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. They did need repentance (carebant), but did not want it (non egebant). It was a fixed notion of the Jews that God had “not appointed repentance to the just, and to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee” (Prayer of Manasses).

Verse 8

8. δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα. Ten drachmas. This parable is peculiar to St Luke. The Greek drachma (about 10d.) corresponds to the Latin denarius. Each represented a day’s wages, and may be roughly rendered shilling. Tobit 5:14; Thuc. III. 17; Tac. Ann. I. 17. These small silver coins were worn by women as a sort of ornamental fringe round the forehead (the semedi). The loss might therefore seem less trying than that of a sheep, but [1] in this case it is a tenth (not a hundredth) part of what the woman possesses; and [2] the coin has on it the image and superscription of a king (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 22:20). “We are God’s drachma”—“I feel more strongly every day that everything is vanity; I cannot leave my soul in this heap of mud.” Lacordaire (Chocarne, p. 42, E. Tr.). Further, this parable is meant to illustrate the gracious truth that the death of a sinner causes a sense of personal loss (ἣν ἀπώλεσα, Luke 15:9) in the heart of the Heavenly Father. The former parable indicates the misery of the lost in themselves (τὸ ἀπολωλός, Luke 15:4).

ἅπτει λύχνον καὶ σαροῖ τὴν οἰκίαν καὶ ζητεῖ ἐπιμελῶς. Σαροῖ a colloquial form for σαίρει. We should notice the thorough and deliberate method of the search. Some see in the woman a picture of the Church, and give a separate meaning to each particular; but “if we should attribute to every single word a deeper significance than appears, we should not seldom incur the danger of bringing much into Scripture which is not at all contained in it.” Zimmermann.

ἕως ὅτου εὕρῃ. If it be admissible to build theological conclusions on the incidental expressions of parables, there should be, in these words, a deep source of hope.

Verse 9

9. συνκαλεῖ. Some MSS. read συγκαλεῖται, which would express a more personal joy, just as ἦν ἀπώλεσα expresses a more personal loss.

εὖρον τὴν δραχμὴν ἣν ἀπώλεσα. She does not say ‘my piece.’ If the woman be intended to represent the Church, the loss of the ‘piece’ entrusted to her may be in part, at least, her own fault.

Verse 10

10. χαρὰ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων. Comp. Luke 12:9. The same as the ‘joy in heaven’ of Luke 15:7; the Te Deums of heaven over the victories of grace.

ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Ezekiel 33:11.

Verse 11

11. εἶχεν δύο υἱούς. The primary applications of this divine parable,—which is peculiar to St Luke, and would alone have added inestimable value to his Gospel—are [1] to the Pharisees and the ‘sinners’—i.e. to the professedly religious, and the openly irreligious classes; and [2] to the Jews and Gentiles. This latter application however only lies indirectly in the parable, and it is doubtful whether it would have occurred consciously to those who heard it. This is the Evangelium in Evangelio. How much it soars above the conceptions of Christians, even after hundreds of years of Christianity, is shewn by the ‘elder-brotherly spirit’ which has so often been manifested (e.g. by Tertullian and all like him) in narrowing its interpretation.

Verses 11-32


Verse 12

12. τὸ ἐπιβάλλον μέρος τῆς οὐσίας. This would be one third (Deuteronomy 21:17). The granting of this portion corresponds to the natural gifts and blessings which God bestows on all alike, together with the light of conscience, and the rich elements of natural religion. Here we have the history of a sinful soul. Its sin (12, 13); its misery (14–16); its penitence (17–20); its forgiveness (20–24).

διεῖλεν αὐτοῖς τὸν βίον. See Luke 6:35. “The Lord is good to all,” Psalms 145:9. “God is no respecter of persons,” Acts 10:34. “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil, and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” Matthew 5:45. But the boon, though granted in merciful accordance with a divine plan, was in reality a bane; it is equivalent to παραδιδόναι ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις (Romans 1:24-28), though that too is often a mercifully-intended punishment.

“God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers;

And flings the thing we have asked for in our face,

A gauntlet—with a gift in it.”


Verse 13

13. μετ' οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας. This shadows forth the rapidity [1] of national, and [2] of individual degeneracy. “In some children,” says Sir Thomas Elyot in The Governour, “nature is more prone to vice than to vertue, and in the tender wìttes be sparkes of voluptuositie, whiche norished by any occasion or objecte, encrease often tymes into so terrible a fire, that therwithall vertue and reason is consumed.” The first sign of going wrong is yearning for spurious liberty.

ἀπεδήμησεν εἰς χώραν μακράν. Discedentes a se non prohibet, redeuntes complectitur, Maldonatus. The Gentiles soon became “afar off” from God (Acts 2:39; Ephesians 2:17), “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” So too the individual soul, in its temptations and its guiltiness, ever tries in vain to escape from God (Psalms 139:7-10) into the ‘far country’ of sin, which involves forgetfulness of Him. Jer. Ep. 146. Thus the younger son becomes “Lord of himself, that heritage of woe.”

ζῶν ἀσώτως. Literally, ‘living ruinously’—perdite. The adverb occurs here only, and is derived from α, ‘not,’ and σώζω, ‘I save.’ The substantive occurs in 1 Peter 4:4; Ephesians 5:18. Aristotle defines ἀσωτία as a mixture of intemperance and prodigality. For the historical fact indicated, see Romans 1:19-32. The individual fact needs, alas! no illustration. One phrase—two words—is enough. Our loving Saviour does not dwell upon or darken the details of our sinfulness.

Verse 14

14. δαπανήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ πάντα. Historically,

“On that hard Roman world, disgust

And secret loathing fell;

Deep weariness, and sated lust

Made human life a hell.”


Individually, “The limits are narrow within which, by wasting his capital, a man obtains a supply of pocket-money.” G. Macdonald.

ἐγένετο λιμὸς ἰσχυρὰ κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἐκείνην. God has given him his heart’s desire and sent leanness withal into his bones. The worst famine of all is “not a famine of bread or a thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11); and in such a famine even “the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (id. Luke 15:13). “They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” Jeremiah 2:13.

ἰσχυρά. Λιμὸς is made fem. as in Doric.

ἤρξατο ὑστερεῖσθαι. The whole heathen world at this time was saying, “Who will shew us any good?” Weariness, despair, and suicide were universal. Individually this is the retributive anguish of those who have wasted the gifts of life.

“My days are in the yellow leaf,

The flowers and fruits of love are gone,

The worm, the anguish, and the grief

Are mine alone.

The fire that on my bosom preys

Is lone as some volcanic isle;

No torch is kindled at its blaze—

A funeral pile.”


Verse 15

15. ἐκολλήθη ἑνὶ τῶν πολιτῶν τῆς χώρας ἐκείνης.He attached himself to one of the citizens.’ There is, however, a touch of intended degradation in the word ἐκολλήθη. (Comp. Aesch. Agam. 1566.) It means that he became absolutely dependent on his employer—a veritable astrictus glebae. In the N.T. this verb is chiefly used by St Luke and St Paul. Even in its worst and most willing exile the soul cannot cease to be by right a citizen of God’s kingdom—a fellow-citizen with the saints, Ephesians 2:19. Its true citizenship (πολίτευμα) is still in heaven (Philippians 3:20). By the ‘citizen of the far country’ is indicated either men hopelessly corrupt and worldly; or perhaps the powers of evil. We observe that in this far-off land, the Prodigal, with all his banquets and his lavishness, has not gained a single friend. Sin never forms a real bond of pity and sympathy. The cry of tempters and accomplices ever is, “What is that to us? see thou to that.”

ἔπεμψεν αὐτόν. ‘Freedom’ from righteousness is slavery to sin.

βόσκειν χοίρους. The intensity of this climax could only be duly felt by Jews, who had such a loathing and abhorrence for swine that they would not even name them, but spoke of a pig as dabhar acheer, ‘the other thing.’

Verse 16

16. ἐπεθύμει. “He was longing.”

γεμίσαι τὴν κοιλίαν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ … Vulg[291] cupiebat implere ventrem suum. The plain expression—purposely adopted to add the last touch to the youth’s degradation—gave offence to some copyists, who substituted for it the verb ‘to be fed.’ The reading adopted in our text is, however, certainly the true one, and perhaps implies that from such food nothing could be hoped for but to allay the pangs of famine. He only hopes to ‘fill his belly,’ not to sate his hunger. Even the world’s utmost gorgeousness and most unchecked sensuality could not avail to raise the soul of men or of nations out of utter misery.

τῶν κερατίων ὧν ἤσθιον οἱ χοῖροι. “The carob-pods of which the swine were eating.” κεράτια (whence our carat) means ‘little horns,’ i.e. the long, coarse, sweetish, bean-shaped pods of the carob tree (ceratonia siliqua, St John’s bread-tree), which were only used by the poorest of the population. Some (incorrectly) give the same meaning to the ἀκρίδες (‘locusts’) which formed the food of St John the Baptist.

καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδίδου αὐτῷ. No one ‘was giving,’ or ‘chose to give’ him either the husks or anything else. Satan has no desire for, and no interest in, even the smallest alleviation of the anguish and degradation of his victims. Even the vile earthly gifts, and base sensual pleasures, are withheld or become impossible. “Who follows pleasure, pleasure slays.” When Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, &c. explain the ‘husks’ to mean ‘secular doctrines’; ‘the famine lack of the word of truth’; the swine ‘demons’ &c., they vulgarise the whole parable, and evaporate its exquisite poetry to leave no residuum but the dull “after-thoughts of theology.”

Verse 17

17. εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθών. His previous state was that of his false self—a brief delusion and madness—‘the old man with his affections and lusts.’ Now he was once more beginning to be “in his right mind.” “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live,” Ecclesiastes 9:3. In Acts 12:11 the phrase is used of awaking from a trance. Comp. Lucret. IV. 994, “Donec discussis redeant erroribus ad se.”

πόσοι μίσθιοι τοῦ πατρός μου. The hired servants correspond to any beings who stand in a lower or more distant relation to God, yet for whom His love provides.

Verse 18

18. ἀναστὰς πορεύσομαι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου. The ἀναστὰς is pictorial, comp. Acts 5:17; Mark 1:35, &c. The youth in the parable had loved his father, and would not doubt about His father’s love; and in the region which the parable shadows forth, the mercy of God to the returning penitent has always been abundantly promised. Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 3:12; Hosea 14:1-2, &c.; and throughout the whole New Testament.

πάτερ, ἥμαρτον. “Repentance is the younger brother of innocence itself.” Fuller, Holy War.

Verse 20

20. καὶ ἀναστὰς ἦλθεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ. A mere flash of remorse is not enough; a journey must be taken: the back must be at once and finally turned on the far land; and all the shame of abandoned duties and forsaken friends be faced. “The course to the unific rectitude of a manly life” always appears to the sinner to be, and sometimes really is, “in the face of a scorching past and a dark future.”

ἔτι δὲ αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος. “Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” Ephesians 2:13.

ἐσπλαγχνίσθη, καὶ δραμὼν ἐπέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ. The δραμών, especially in the case of an old man and an Oriental, marks the intensity of his love. On this full, frank, absolute forgiveness see Psalms 103:8-10; Psalms 103:12. On the tender Fatherly love of God see Isaiah 49:15; Matthew 7:11, &c.

καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν. For the verb see Luke 7:38-45. ‘Kissed him warmly or closely,’ Genesis 33:4; Matthew 26:48.

Verse 21

21. πάτερ, ἥμαρτον. ‘Father, I sinned.’ There is a deeper accent in this ἥμαρτον than in that of Luke 15:18. Then he spoke in remorse for consequences; now in contrition for offences. Like a true penitent he grieves not for what he has lost, but for what he has done. Here again the language of David furnishes the truest and most touching comment, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin,” Psalms 32:5. “There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared,” Psalms 130:4. The Prodigal’s penitence is not mere sorrow for punishment.

ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν. This includes and surpasses all the other guilt, which is the reason why David, though he had sinned so deeply against man, says “against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight,” Psalms 51:4.

ἐνώπιον. See Luke 1:6, Luke 4:7, &c.

Verse 22

22. εἶπεν δὲ ὁ πατήρ. He at once issues his commands to the servants; he answers his son by deeds not by words. It is as though he had purposely cut short the humble self-reproaching words of shame which would have entreated him to make his lost son like one of his hired servants. “While they are yet speaking, I will hear,” Isaiah 65:24.

ἐξενέγκατε. The true reading is probably ταχὺ ἐξενέγκατε א BL &c. (Vulg[292] cito proferte); but in any case the ‘quickly’ is implied in the aorist.

στολὴν τὴν πρώτην. The talar or στολὴ ποδήρης, Luke 20:46; John 19:23; Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 3:18. Compare the remarkable scene of taking away the filthy rags from the High Priest Joshua, and clothing him with change of raiment, in Zechariah 3:1-10. It is literally ‘the first robe’ and some (e.g. Theophylact) have explained it of the robe he used to wear at home—the former robe. It means however τὴν τιμιωτάτην (Euthym.).

ὑποδήματα εἰς τοὺς πόδας. Another sign that he is to be regarded as a son, and not as a mere sandalled or unsandalled slave (see on Luke 10:4). Some have given special and separate significance to the best robe, as corresponding to the ‘wedding garment,’ the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Philippians 3:9); and have identified the seal-ring with Baptism (Ephesians 1:13-14); and the shoes with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15; Zechariah 10:12); and in the next verse have seen in the ‘fatted calf’ an allusion to the Sacrifice of Christ, or the Eucharist. Such applications are pious and instructive afterthoughts, though the latter is as old as Irenaeus; but it is doubtful whether the elaboration of them does not weaken the impressive grandeur and unity of the parable, as revealing the love of God even to His erring children. We must not confuse Parable with Allegory. The one dominant meaning of the parable is that God loved us even while we were dead in sins, Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5.

Verse 23

23. θύσατε. ‘Sacrifice it’ (comp. Herod. I. 118, where there is a sacrifice and supper for a son’s safety). Hence perhaps one reason for assigning to St Luke the Cherubic symbol of the calf (Introd. p. xix).

Verse 24

24. νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἀνέζησεν. The metaphor of ‘death’ to express the condition of impenitent sin is universal in the Bible. “Thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead,” Revelation 3:1. “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead,” Ephesians 5:14. “You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1. “Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead,” Romans 6:13.

ἦν ἀπολωλώς. This poor youth had been in the exact Roman sense perditus—a ‘lost,’ an ‘abandoned’ character.

Verse 25

25. ἦν δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ πρεσβύτερος κ.τ.λ. Many have felt a wish that the parable had ended with the moving and exquisite scene called up by the last words; or have regarded the remaining verses as practically a separate parable, Such a judgment—not to speak of its presumption—shews a narrow spirit. We must not forget that the Jews, however guilty, were God’s children no less than the Gentiles, and Pharisees no less than publicans from the moment that Pharisees had learnt that they too had need of repentance. The elder son is still a son, nor are his faults intrinsically more heinous,—though more perilous because more likely to lead to self-deception—than those of the younger. Self-righteousness is sin as well as unrighteousness, and may be even a worse sin, Matthew 21:31-32; but God has provided for both sins a full Sacrifice and a free forgiveness. We could ill spare this warning against the elder-brotherliness of spirit to which modern religionists are no less liable than the Jews and the Pharisees.

συμφωνίας καὶ χορῶν. Literally, “a symphony and choruses.”

Verse 26

26. τί εἴη ταῦτα. The question indicates contempt—“what all this was about.” For the construction comp. Luke 1:29, Luke 18:36, Luke 22:23. See note on Luke 18:36.

Verse 28

28. ὠργίσθη. The feelings of the Jews towards the Gentiles (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16) when they were embracing the offers of the Gospel—(“The Jews … were filled with envy and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming,” Acts 13:45)—and the feelings of the Pharisees towards our Lord, when He ate with publicans and sinners, are the earliest historical illustrations of this phase of the parable. It illustrates feelings which refer more directly to such historical phenomena; the earlier part is of more universal application. Yet envy and lovelessness are too marked characteristics of modern religionism to render the warning needless.

οὐκ ἤθελεν εἰσελθεῖν. “Foris stat Israel,” sed “Foris stat non excluditur.” Ambrose.

ἐξελθὼν παρεκάλει αὐτόν. “How often would I have gathered thy children together … but ye would not,” Luke 13:34; see Acts 17:5; Acts 17:13; Acts 22:21; Acts 28:27. The yearning chapters addressed to the obstinacy of Israel by St Paul (Romans 10:11) furnish another illustration of this picture.

Verse 29

29. δουλεύω σοι. ‘I am thy slave.’ He does not say “Father:” and evidently regards the yoke not as perfect freedom but as distasteful bondage. The slave is ever dissatisfied; and this son worked in the spirit of a “hired servant.”

οὐδέποτε ἐντολήν σου παρῆλθον. This is the very spirit of the Pharisee and the Rabbi, Luke 18:11-12. “All these things have I kept from my youth up.” Such self-satisfaction can only spring from an ignorance of the breadth and spirituality of God’s commandments. The respectable Jews, sunk in the complacency of formalism and letter-worshipping orthodoxy, had lost all conception that they were, at the best, but unprofitable servants. Like this elder son they “went about to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 9:14); and though they kept many formal commandments they ‘transgressed’ the love of God (Luke 11:42). Observe that while the younger son confesses with no excuse, the elder son boasts with no confession. This at once proves his hollowness, for the confessions of the holiest are ever the most bitter. The antitheses in the verse are striking, ‘You never gave me a kid, much less sacrificed a fatted calf;—not even for my friends, much less for harlots.’ He is so satisfied with himself as to be quite dissatisfied with his father on whose “unfairness” towards him, and “unjust lenience” to his other son, he freely comments.

ἐμοὶ οὐδέποτε ἔδωκας ἔριφον. He is bitter and reproachful. To me thou never gavest (so much as) a kid, (B has ἐρίφιον, a kidling); but to him the fatted calf. The reward of a life near his father’s presence and in the safety of the old home was nothing to him. He is like the rescued Israelites still yearning for the flesh-pots of Egypt.

μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου. Here again is a touch of self-satisfied malignity. I should not have eaten the kid μετὰ πορνῶν, as he has done, but with worthy friends.

Verse 30

30. ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος ὁ καταφαγών σου τὸν βίον μετὰ πορνῶν. Every syllable breathes rancour. He disowns all brotherhood; and says “came,” not “returned;” and tries to wake his father’s anger by saying “thy living;” and malignantly represents the conduct of his erring brother in the blackest light; and calls his brother by the contemptuous term οὗτος.

Verse 31

31. τέκνον. Child. The elder brother is still a ‘child’ of his father, however erring.

σὺ πάντοτε μετ' ἐμοῦ εἶ. ‘Thou (emphatic) always art with me.’

πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά ἐστιν. So far as the elder son is sincerely “a doer of the law” he is “justified,” Romans 2:13. All that his father had was his. To him belonged “the adoption, and the glory, and the Shechinah, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom after the flesh Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for ever,” Romans 9:4-5. Religionists of the Elder-brother type cannot realize the truth that they are not impoverished by the extension to others of God’s riches (Matthew 20:14). Let us hope that after this appeal the elder son also went in.

Verse 32

32. εὐφρανθῆναι δὲ καὶ χαρῆναι ἔδει. There was a moral fitness in our mirth. “They glorified God … saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” Acts 11:18. It would be impossible to mark more emphatically God’s displeasure at the narrow, exclusive, denunciatory spirit which would claim for ourselves only, or our party, or our Church, a monopoly of heaven. The hard dogmatism and speculative theories of a self-asserting Theology “vanish like oppressive nightmares before this single parable in which Jesus reveals the heavenly secrets of human redemption, not according to a mystical or criminal theory of punishment, but anthropologically, psychologically, and theologically to every pure eye that looks into the perfect law of liberty.” Von Ammon, Leb. Jesu, III. 50.

ὁ ἀδελφός σου οὗτος. The οὗτος which the elder son had used is repeated, but in a very different sense. For he is thy brother, and I thy father, though thou wouldest refuse this name to him, and didst not address that title to me.

νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἔζησεν. Comp. Romans 11:15.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Luke 15:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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