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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Luke: Chapter 15)

15:1 {All the publicans and sinners} (\pantes hoi telōnai kai hoi
. The two articles separate the two classes (all the
publicans and the sinners)
. They are sometimes grouped together
(5:30; Mt 9:11), but not here. The publicans are put on the
same level with the outcasts or sinners. So in verse 2 the
repeated article separates Pharisees and scribes as not quite
one. The use of "all" here may be hyperbole for very many or the
reference may be to these two classes in the particular place
where Jesus was from time to time. {Were drawing near unto him}
(\ēsan autōi eggizontes\). Periphrastic imperfect of \eggizō\,
from \eggus\ (near), late verb. {For to hear} (\akouein\). Just
the present active infinitive of purpose.

15:2 {Both ... and} (\te ... kai\). United in the complaint.
{Murmured} (\diegogguzon\). Imperfect active of \diagogguzō\,
late Greek compound in the LXX and Byzantine writers. In the N.T.
only here and Lu 19:7. The force of \dia\ here is probably
between or among themselves. It spread (imperfect tense) whenever
these two classes came in contact with Jesus. As the publicans
and the sinners were drawing near to Jesus just in that
proportion the Pharisees and the scribes increased their
murmurings. The social breach is here an open yawning chasm.
{This man} (\houtos\). A contemptuous sneer in the use of the
pronoun. They spoke out openly and probably pointed at Jesus.
{Receiveth} (\prosdechetai\). Present middle indicative of the
common verb \prosdechomai\. In 12:36 we had it for expecting,
here it is to give access to oneself, to welcome like
\hupedexato\ of Martha's welcome to Jesus (Lu 10:38). The
charge here is that this is the habit of Jesus. He shows no sense
of social superiority to these outcasts (like the Hindu
"untouchables" in India)
. {And eateth with them} (\kai sunesthiei
. Associative instrumental case (\autois\) after \sun-\
in composition. This is an old charge (Lu 5:30) and a much more
serious breach from the standpoint of the Pharisees. The
implication is that Jesus prefers these outcasts to the
respectable classes (the Pharisees and the scribes) because he is
like them in character and tastes, even with the harlots. There
was a sting in the charge that he was the "friend" (\philos\) of
publicans and sinners (Lu 7:34).

15:3 {This parable} (\tēn parabolēn tautēn\). The Parable of the
Lost Sheep (15:3-7). This is Christ's way of answering the
cavilling of these chronic complainers. Jesus gave this same
parable for another purpose in another connection (Mt
. The figure of the Good Shepherd appears also in Joh
10:1-18. "No simile has taken more hold upon the mind of
Christendom" (Plummer). Jesus champions the lost and accepts the
challenge and justifies his conduct by these superb stories. "The
three Episodes form a climax: The Pasture--the House--the Home;
the Herdsman--the Housewife--the Father; the Sheep--the
Treasure--the Beloved Son" (Ragg).

15:4 {In the wilderness} (\en tēi erēmōi\). Their usual
pasturage, not a place of danger or peril. It is the owner of the
hundred sheep who cares so much for the one that is lost. He
knows each one of the sheep and loves each one. {Go after that
which is lost}
(\poreuetai epi to apolōlos\). The one lost sheep
(\apolōlos\, second perfect active participle of \apollumi\, to
destroy, but intransitive, to be lost)
. There is nothing more
helpless than a lost sheep except a lost sinner. The sheep went
off by its own ignorance and folly. The use of \epi\ for the goal
occurs also in Mt 22:9; Ac 8:26; 9:11. {Until he find it}
(\heōs heurēi auto\). Second aorist active subjunctive of
\heuriskō\, common verb, with \heōs\, common Greek idiom. He
keeps on going (\poreuetai\, linear present middle indicative)
until success comes (effective aorist, \heurēi\).

15:5 {On his shoulders} (\epi tous ōmous autou\). He does it
himself in exuberant affection and of necessity as the poor lost
sheep is helpless. Note the plural shoulders showing that the
sheep was just back of the shepherd's neck and drawn around by
both hands. The word for shoulder (\ōmos\) is old and common, but
in the N.T. only here and Mt 23:4. {Rejoicing} (\chairōn\).
"There is no upbraiding of the wandering sheep, nor murmuring at
the trouble" (Plummer).

15:6 {Rejoice with me} (\suncharēte moi\). Second aorist passive
of \sunchairō\, an old and common verb for mutual joy as in Php
2:17f. Joy demands fellowship. Same form in verse 9. So the
shepherd {calls together} (\sunkalei\, note \sun\ again) both his
friends and his neighbours. This picture of the Good Shepherd has
captured the eye of many artists through the ages.

15:7 {Over one sinner that repenteth} (\epi heni hamartōlōi
. The word sinner points to verse 1. Repenting is
what these sinners were doing, these lost sheep brought to the
fold. The joy in heaven is in contrast with the grumbling
Pharisees and scribes. {More than over} (\ē epi\). There is no
comparative in the Greek. It is only implied by a common idiom
like our "rather than." {Which need no repentance} (\hoitines ou
chreian echousin metanoias\)
. Jesus does not mean to say that the
Pharisees and the scribes do not need repentance or are perfect.
He for the sake of argument accepts their claims about themselves
and by their own words condemns them for their criticism of his
efforts to save the lost sheep. It is the same point that he made
against them when they criticized Jesus and the disciples for
being at Levi's feast (Lu 5:31f.). They posed as "righteous."
Very well, then. That shuts their mouths on the point of Christ's
saving the publicans and sinners.

15:8 {Ten pieces of silver} (\drachmas deka\). The only instance
in the N.T. of this old word for a coin of 65.5 grains about the
value of the common \dēnarius\ (about eighteen cents), a quarter
of a Jewish shekel. The double drachma (\didrachmon\) occurs in
the N.T. only in Mt 17:24. The root is from \drassomai\, to
grasp with the hand (1Co 3:19), and so a handful of coin. Ten
drachmas would be equal to nearly two dollars, but in purchasing
power much more. {Sweep} (\saroi\). A late colloquial verb
\saroō\ for the earlier \sairō\, to clear by sweeping. Three
times in the N.T. (Lu 11:25; 15:8; Mt 12:44). The house was
probably with out windows (only the door for light and hence the
lamp lit)
and probably also a dirt floor. Hence Bengel says: _non
sine pulvere_. This parable is peculiar to Luke.

15:9 {Her friends and neighbours} (\tas philas kai geitonas\).
Note single article and female friends (feminine article and
. \Heōs hou eurēi\ here as in verse 4, only \hou\
added after \heōs\ (until which time) as often. {Which I lost}
(\hēn apōlesa\). First aorist active indicative of \apollumi\.
She lost the coin (note article). The shepherd did not lose the
one sheep.

15:10 {There is joy} (\ginetai chara\). More exactly, joy arises.
Futuristic present of \ginomai\ (cf. \estai\ in verse 7). {In
the presence of the angels of God}
(\enōpion tōn aggelōn tou
. That is to say, the joy of God himself. The angels are
in a sense the neighbours of God.

15:11 {Had} (\eichen\). Imperfect active. Note \echōn\ (verse
, \echousa\ (verse 8), and now \eichen\. The
self-sacrificing care is that of the owner in each case. Here
(verses 11-32) we have the most famous of all the parables of
Jesus, the Prodigal Son, which is in Luke alone. We have had the
Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and now the Lost Son. Bruce notes that
in the moral sphere there must be self-recovery to give ethical
value to the rescue of the son who wandered away. That comes out
beautifully in this allegory.

15:12 {The portion} (\to meros\). The Jewish law alloted one-half
as much to the younger son as to the elder, that is to say
one-third of the estate (De 21:17) at the death of the father.
The father did not have to abdicate in favour of the sons, but
"this very human parable here depicts the impatience of home
restraints and the optimistic ambition of youth" (Ragg). {And he
(\ho de dieilen\). The second aorist active indicative
of \diaireō\, an old and common verb to part in two, cut asunder,
divide, but in the N.T. only here and 1Co 12:11. The elder son
got his share also of the "substance" or property or estate (\tēs
, "the living" (\ton bion\) as in Mr 12:44, not "life"
as in Lu 8:14.

15:13 {Not many days after} (\met' ou pollas hēmeras\).
Literally, after not many days. Luke is fond of this idiom (7:6;
Ac 1:5)
. {Took his journey} (\apedēmēsen\). First aorist active
indicative of \apodēmeō\ (from \apodēmos\, away from home).
Common verb. In the N.T. here and Mt 21:33; 25:14; Mr 12:1; Lu
20:9. He burned all his bridges behind him, gathering together
all that he had. {Wasted} (\dieskorpisen\). First aorist active
indicative of \diaskorpizō\, a somewhat rare verb, the very
opposite of "gathered together" (\sunagogōn\). More exactly he
scattered his property. It is the word used of winnowing grain
(Mt 25:24). {With riotous living} (\zōn asōtōs\). Living
dissolutely or profligately. The late adverb \asōtōs\ (only here
in the N.T.)
from the common adjective \asōtos\ (\a\ privative
and \sōzō\)
, one that cannot be saved, one who does not save, a
spendthrift, an abandoned man, a profligate, a prodigal. He went
the limit of sinful excesses. It makes sense taken actively or
passively (_prodigus_ or _perditus_), active probably here.

15:14 {When he had spent} (\dapanēsantos autou\). Genitive
absolute. The verb is here used in a bad sense as in Jas 4:3.
See on \dapanē\ ¯Lu 14:28. {He} (\autos\). Emphasis. {To be in
(\hustereisthai\). The verb is from \husteros\, behind or
later (comparative). We use "fall behind" (Vincent) of one in
straitened circumstances. Plummer notes the coincidences of
Providence. The very land was in a famine when the boy had spent

15:15 {Joined himself} (\ekollēthē\). First aorist passive of
\kollaō\, an old verb to glue together, to cleave to. In the N.T.
only the passive occurs. He was glued to, was joined to. It is
not necessary to take this passive in the middle reflexive sense.
{The citizens} (\tōn politōn\). Curiously enough this common word
citizen (\politēs\ from \polis\, city) is found in the N.T. only
in Luke's writings (15:15; 19:14; Ac 21:39) except in He 8:11
where it is quoted from Jer 38:34. {To feed swine} (\boskein
. A most degrading occupation for anyone and for a Jew
an unspeakable degradation.

15:16 {He would fain have been filled} (\epethumei
. Literally, he was desiring (longing) to be
filled. Imperfect indicative and first aorist passive infinitive.
\Chortasthēnai\ is from \chortazō\ and that from \chortos\
(grass), and so to feed with grass or with anything. Westcott and
Hort put \gemisai tēn koilian autou\ in the margin (the Textus
. {With the husks} (\ek tōn keratiōn\). The word occurs
here alone in the N.T. and is a diminutive of \keras\ (horn) and
so means little horn. It is used in various senses, but here
refers to the pods of the carob tree or locust tree still common
in Palestine and around the Mediterannean, so called from the
shape of the pods like little horns, _Bockshornbaum_ in German or
goat's-horn tree. The gelatinous substance inside has a sweetish
taste and is used for feeding swine and even for food by the
lower classes. It is sometimes called Saint John's Bread from the
notion that the Baptist ate it in the wilderness. {No man gave
unto him}
(\oudeis edidou autōi\). Imperfect active. Continued
refusal of anyone to allow him even the food of the hogs.

15:17 {But when he came to himself} (\eis heauton de elthōn\). As
if he had been far from himself as he was from home. As a matter
of fact he had been away, out of his head, and now began to see
things as they really were. Plato is quoted by Ackerman
(_Christian Element in Plato_) as thinking of redemption as
coming to oneself. {Hired servants} (\misthioi\). A late word
from \misthos\ (hire). In the N.T. only in this chapter. The use
of "many" here suggests a wealthy and luxurious home. {Have bread
enough and to spare}
(\perisseuontai artōn\). Old verb from
\perissos\ and that from \peri\ (around). Present passive here,
"are surrounded by loaves" like a flood. {I perish} (\egō de
limōi hōde apollumai\)
. Every word here counts: While I on the
other hand am here perishing with hunger. It is the linear
present middle of \apollumi\. Note \egō\ expressed and \de\ of

15:18 {I will arise and go} (\anastas proreusomai\). This
determination is the act of the will after he comes to himself
and sees his real condition. {I did sin} (\hēmarton\). That is
the hard word to say and he will say it first. The word means to
miss the mark. I shot my bolt and I missed my aim (compare the
high-handed demand in verse 12)

15:19 {No longer worthy} (\ouketi axios\). Confession of the
facts. He sees his own pitiful plight and is humble. {As one}
(\hōs hena\). The hired servants in his father's house are high
above him now.

15:20 {To his father} (\pros ton patera heautou\). Literally, to
his own father. He acted at once on his decision. {Yet afar off}
(\eti autou makran apechontos\). Genitive absolute. \Makran\
agrees with \hodon\ understood: While he was yet holding off a
distant way. This shows that the father had been looking for him
to come back and was even looking at this very moment as he came
in sight. {Ran} (\dramōn\). Second aorist active participle of
the defective verb \trechō\. The eager look and longing of the
father. {Kissed} (\katephilēsen\). Note perfective use of \kata\
kissed him much, kissed him again and again. The verb occurs so
in the older Greek.

15:21 The son made his speech of confession as planned, but it is
not certain that he was able to finish as a number of early
manuscripts do not have "Make me as one of the hired servants,"
though Aleph B D do have them. It is probable that the father
interrupted him at this point before he could finish.

15:22 {The best robe} (\stolēn tēn prōtēn\). \Stolē\ is an old
word for a fine stately garment that comes down to the feet (from
\stello\, to prepare, equip)
, the kind worn by kings (Mr 16:5;
Lu 22:46)
. Literally, "a robe the first." But not the first that
you find, but the first in rank and value, the finest in the
house. This in contrast with his shabby clothes. {A ring}
(\daktulion\). Common in classical writers and the LXX, but here
only in the N.T. From \daktulos\, finger. See \chrusodaktulios\
in Jas 2:2. {Shoes} (\hupodēmata\). Sandals, "bound under."
Both sandals and ring are marks of the freeman as slaves were

15:23 {The fatted calf} (\ton moschon ton siteuton\). The calf
the fatted one. \Siteuton\ is the verbal adjective of \sileuō\,
to feed with wheat (\sitos\). The calf was kept fat for festive
occasions, possibly in the hope of the son's return. {Kill}
(\thusate\). Not as a sacrifice, but for the feast. {Make merry}
(\euphranthōmen\). First aorist passive subjunctive (volitive).
From \euphrainō\, an old verb from \eu\ (well) and \phrēn\

15:24 {And is alive} (\kai anezēsen\). First aorist active
indicative of \anazaō\, to live again. Literally, he was dead and
he came back to life. {He was lost} (\ēn apolōlōs\, periphrastic
past perfect active of \apollumi\ and intransitive, in a lost
and he was found (\heurethē\). He was found, we have to
say, but this aorist passive is really timeless, he is found
after long waiting (effective aorist) The artists have vied with
each other in picturing various items connected with this
wonderful parable.

15:25 {As he came and drew nigh} (\hōs erchomenos ēggisen\). More
exactly, "As, coming, he drew nigh," for \erchomenos\ is present
middle participle and \ēggisen\ is aorist active indicative.
{Music} (\sumphōnias\). Our word "symphony." An old Greek word
from \sumphōnos\ (\sun\, together, and \phōnē\, voice or sound),
{harmony, concord}, by a band of musicians. Here alone in the
N.T. {And dancing} (\kai chorōn\). An old word again, but here
alone in the N.T. Origin uncertain, possibly from \orchos\ by
metathesis (\orcheomai\, to dance). A circular dance on the

15:26 {Servants} (\paidōn\). Not \douloi\ (bondslaves) as in
verse 22. The Greeks often used \pais\ for servant like the
Latin _puer_. It could be either a hired servant (\misthios\,
verse 17)
or slave (\doulos\). {He inquired} (\epunthaneto\).
Imperfect middle, inquired repeatedly and eagerly. {What these
things might be}
(\ti an eiē tauta\). Not "poor" Greek as Easton
holds, but simply the form of the direct question retained in the
indirect. See the direct form as the apodosis of a condition of
the fourth class in Ac 17:18. In Ac 10:17 we have the
construction with \an eiē\ of the direct retained in the indirect
question. So also in Lu 1:62: See Robertson, _Grammar_, p.

15:27 {Is come} (\hēkei\). Present indicative active, but a stem
with perfect sense, old verb \hēkō\ retaining this use after
perfect tenses came into use (Robertson, _Grammar_, p. 893).
{Hath killed} (\ethusen\). Aorist active indicative and literally
means, {did kill}. Difficult to handle in English for our tenses
do not correspond with the Greek. {Hath received} (\apelaben\).
Second aorist active indicative with similar difficulty of
translation. Note \apo\ in compositions, like _re-_ in "receive,"
hath gotten him back (\ap-\). {Safe and sound} (\hugiainonta\).
Present active participle of \hugiainō\ from \hugiēs\, to be in
good health. In spite of all that he has gone through and in
spite of the father's fears.

15:28 {But he was angry} (\ōrgisthē\). First aorist (ingressive)
passive indicative. But he became angry, he flew into a rage
(\orgē\). This was the explosion as the result of long resentment
towards the wayward brother and suspicion of the father's
partiality for the erring son. {Would not go in} (\ouk ēthelen
. Imperfect tense (was not willing, refused) and
aorist active (ingressive) infinitive. {Entreated} (\parekalei\).
Imperfect tense, he kept on beseeching him.

15:29 {Do I serve thee} (\douleuō soi\). Progressive present
tense of this old verb from \doulos\ (slave) which the elder son
uses to picture his virtual slavery in staying at home and
perhaps with longings to follow the younger son (Robertson,
_Grammar_, p. 879)
. {Transgressed} (\parēlthon\). Second aorist
active indicative of \parerchomai\, to pass by. Not even once
(aorist) in contrast with so many years of service (linear
. {A kid} (\eriphon\). Some MSS. have \eriphion\,
diminutive, a little kid. So margin of Westcott and Hort. B has
it also in Mt 25:32, the only other N.T. passage where the word
occurs. {That I might make merry} (\hina euphranthō\). Final
clause, first aorist passive subjunctive of the same verb used in
verses 23,25.

15:30 {This thy son} (\ho huios sou houtos\). Contempt and
sarcasm. He does not say: "This my brother." {Came} (\ēlthen\).
He does not even say, came back or came home. {Devoured}
(\kataphagōn\). We say, "eaten up," but the Greek has, "eaten
down" (perfective use of \kata-\). Suggested by the feasting
going on. {With harlots} (\meta pornōn\). This may be true (verse
, but the elder son did not know it to be true. He may
reflect what he would have done in like case.

15:31 {Son} (\Teknon\). Child. {Thou} (\su\). Expressed and in
emphatic position in the sentence. He had not appreciated his
privileges at home with his father.

15:32 {It was meet} (\edei\). Imperfect tense. It expressed a
necessity in the father's heart and in the joy of the return that
justifies the feasting. \Euphranthēnai\ is used again (first
aorist passive infinitive)
and \charēnai\ (second aorist passive
is more than mere hilarity, deep-seated joy. The
father repeats to the elder son the language of his heart used in
verse 24 to his servants. A real father could do no less. One
can well imagine how completely the Pharisees and scribes (verse
were put to silence by these three marvellous parables. The
third does it with a graphic picture of their own attitude in the
case of the surly elder brother. Luke was called a painter by the
ancients. Certainly he has produced a graphic pen picture here of
God's love for the lost that justifies forever the coming of
Christ to the world to seek and to save the lost. It glorifies
also soul-saving on the part of his followers who are willing to
go with Jesus after the lost in city and country, in every land
and of every race.

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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Luke: Chapter 15)