A MODERN INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON
JANUARY 26, 1968
GEORGE F. HACKER
It would have been better if the title of this paper had been worded differently,
but since it was assigned exactly as I proposed it any criticism must come to rest upon the
proposer and an adequate penalty has al ready been imposed upon him.
The word modern implies somrthing new or novel. In this instance nothing could be
less justified than a claim that there is anything new or original in this paper# A more
fitting title would be, "What the Parable of the Prodigal Son Means to Me at This Moment in
My Life.'* That meaning is the product of contacts with many minds and quite obviously has
changed as those contacts have widened and, I hope, brought deeper understanding. Among
those to whom I am indebted the first, of course, is Jesus, the teller of the parable. Others
are T.S.Eliot, Wordsworth, Thoreau, Hermann Hesse, Jeremiah, Maurice Goguel, G.V.Jones,
Hadley Perrin and countless others who have contributed to the development of the ideas
which are here expressed. The sources are many and varied and I shall not interrupt the
pattern of thought by further acknowledgment except in instances of direct quotation. The
thoughts expressed are not my inventions but responsibility for the conclusions presented is
accepted in full*
In the beginning I wi11 read the parable from the King James translation.
Following that I will consider the general nature and uses of parables and allegories and deal
with two major problems we face in interpretation and then present some of its symbolic
meaning within the light of my understanding.
ST. LUKE 15:11
" And he said, A certain man has two sons: and the younger of them said to his
father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey
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