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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Sunday, July 08, 2012

It may not exactly take a village to raise a child, but what happens in the village certainly contributes to and can influence the raising of children. - Part 3

Did the Biblical society influence the collective behavior of people?
Acheived and Ascribed Shame - A case study using the Parable of the Prodigal Son

So let us consider a specific example here of what we are discussing - "Acheived and Ascribed Shame" and to do so, let's use the example of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Much appreciation to Rev. Kenneth Bailey for his book "Jesus through Mediterranean Eyes" and Dr. Stephen Pfann of The University of the Holy Land (www.uhl.ac)  for elucidating this passage.

One thing that I would urge you to do is to read the story of the Prodigal Son with the view point of reaching back into the old world and seeing this story in its actual context.

One modern example which has some elements which can be useful to help position the story of the Prodigal Son into its proper context is that well known film titled: “The Godfather.” I am not advocating or agreeing with everything in that film, which has some very objectionable aspects, but is there something to learn in that film that can in fact help us better understand the story of the Prodigal Son? 100% yes!

What we are talking about here are roles in an old world context. The father in the story is a type of a Patriarch and the roles his sons play are very important. Watch that film and notice the roles and think about the story of the Prodigal Son. Notice the role of the future Patriarch and notice how important male children are to him. Notice the role of the firstborn son, who will never be Patriarch. Notice the role of other younger sons who also will never be Patriarch and are allowed to do things that the future Patriarch would never be able to do. These (among many others) are some of the things we need to think about in analyzing the story of the Prodigal Son. Believe it or not! We’ll be talking about this more as we try our best to reach back into time and into that elusive Biblical context to find the truths of Scripture. 

A good text to do this is that familiar story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15. When we put on our historical thinking caps and place this story in its proper context, what an amazing story it tells. Let’s look at it here and I hope you’ll agree there is more here than may meet the eye! Taken from that amazing piece of Biblical scholarly magnificence – the English Standard Version (ESV).

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.

Comment: This is very important and it sets the whole tone for this story. This man had only two sons! By Biblical standards, not too many! Really to the hearer of this story in a first century context, right at the very beginning, it sounds like a sad story! Was this a family that had God’s blessing on it already with so few sons? We don’t need to do too much research to see that generally speaking, Biblical families were larger and had more children and boy children ensured the continuity of the family and the name of the father. Remember how many sons Jacob had? David? How many brothers and sisters did Jesus himself have? [The Bible indicates six.] If we look closely, we can see at least four brothers and at least two sisters we know about from Scripture. [Here we can also see this in an old world kind of context through the film ‘The Godfather.’] Let’s also fill in some blanks here which we can understand based upon the cultural context (which is first century Israel) of this story.

The story tells us that the father had two sons. These sons according to the story are grown up enough as is easily in evidence from the story.

The first born son assumes the role of the leader of the family. He is being groomed as the future leader of the clan – the future patriarch. He receives a double portion of his father’s inheritance as the future leader of the family.

He is being groomed to be the future patriarch, but his assumption of that role is not assured. Because he is held to a higher standard, he must be unblemished. He cannot get away with anything. The stakes are too high. He could be very easily tripped up and lose his place as the potential future patriarch. It is not only in his community that his father designates him the new Patriarch: that selection has to be accepted and agreed to by his peers and the community elders who will validate his father’s selection. Now, he is representing the father in business, in trade, outside as his father is now at home retired and needs to see the family affairs continue and he has placed all his trust in his eldest son.

Note: In this story, it is the eldest son who is being groomed to be the next patriarch (or Godfather in Sicilian parlance), but in large families with many sons, it might not be the eldest. Look at the story of Jacob. It was not his eldest, Reuben, who became the leader, but rather one of the youngest, Joseph, who became the new Patriarch after his father.

Now, his father is retired, enjoying the fruits of his labor. He is sitting under his vine and fig tree. Now, he is the patriarch of the family. He is as Abraham was “sitting at his tent door.” He does not rise up to pick his own grapes, they are brought to him by his children.

12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’

Comment: Here is where we in the Western world just read right over and may miss something here. When the First century listener of this story heard this statement, here is where the shame on this family starts to come out. This request is really unheard of. This land is the ancestral home of the family and this younger boy is telling his father – cash me out! How can this be? The horror of the thought. In First Century culture, this was treason, shame, an affront to familiar dignity, would never be admitted in public, a violation of the highest order of the culture of the time. 

And he divided his property between them. So the father divided his property according to the wish of his younger son.
Comment: Sounds fairly innocent still, but this is not the case. We’ll continue this in the next post.

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