The Elder Son’s quandary and the Rich Man’s fate : moral formation, characterization, and rhetoric in Luke 15:11-32 and 16:19-31.


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In this dissertation, I engage the interrelated topics of characterization, rhetorical techniques, and moral formation as a way to interpret the Parable of the Prodigals (Luke 15:11-32) and the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). I selected these parables as case studies for the ways in which characterization, rhetoric, and moral formation relate because these parables contain many semantic links and rhetorical similarities. Coming on the heels that Jesus “welcomes sinners and dines with them” (Luke 15:2), these parables accept and extend the rhetorical engagement between Jesus, the Pharisees, and the scribes. Given the similarities between the parables, this project provides an answer to the question: “Why does the Father leave the party to comfort the Elder Son(Luke 15:28-32), while nobody will be sent to warn the Rich Man’s brothers (Luke 16:27-31)?” Characterization, rhetoric, and moral formation contribute to the answer to this question. In terms of characterization, I focus on similar presentations of character in ancient literature and the contribution of prōsopopoiia (speech-in-character). By focusing on the rhetorical techniques present in these parables, key aspects of the parables receive prominence, including the relationships between the Father and the Elder Son in Luke 15:11-32 and the role of Moses and the Prophets in Luke 16:19-31. In these parables, Luke advocates for behaviors of reckless liberality. This reckless liberality entails giving to those who do not deserve it, at inappropriate times, and in excessive amounts. One’s failure to show such generosity, as advocated in Moses and the Prophets, risks locating oneself outside the party permanently.



Prodigal Son. Loving Father. Rich Man and Lazarus. Luke 15. Luke 16. Luke. Characterization. Moral formation. Prōsopopoiia.