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Whatʼs With The Title, Part Two

Sunday, July 18th, 2010


If you go back to the original text, the younger son starts out as the villain, but it’s really the elder son who eclipses him in that role. That reversal is a big reason we wanted to tell this story at this time. Because we are telling a story, not preaching a sermon, we decided to use the word “prodigal” progressively. The elder son uses it first as an insult toward his brother. Later in the story, the townsfolk turn that slur toward the father, calling him the “true prodigal”. In defense of the younger son, the Father applies the word to God, giving it a provocative positive spin.

The phrase “prodigal God” appears only twice in the script and be
gan presenting itself to us as a possible title. We resisted because it seemed either to confuse people or to trigger negative emotional responses. Others were arrested by the provocative irony of putting a word with a positive meaning and a negative connotation next to the word “God”. In the end, we couldn’t resist it.

With any story with such a long shelf life and celebrated history, everybody has their own take on what it means and why it’s so important. We’ve rendered the story that made most sense to us. By no means do we feel we have exhausted the range of possibilities and created the definitive version. We heartily encourage writers and songwriters everywhere to follow in our footsteps – whether as devotees or reformers – and plumb the depths of this wonderful treasure.


  1. I wonder if you’re familiar with Dr Tim Keller? He wrote a book by the same tite and used the word in the same sense.

    Comment by donnacarroll — August 7, 2010 @ 5:26 am

  2. Brian and I both read and enjoyed Dr. Keller’s book with the uncannily similar title. We discovered how provocative that word combo is early in our writing process. Check out the blog post about the title for more backstory. We’ve recently shared the CDs with Dr. Keller, and look forward to hearing his response.

    Comment by Christopher Greco — August 24, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

  3. I remember the first time I realized that the word prodigal shared the same root as prodigious. It changed my entire view of the parable and it made so much more sense to call the Father prodigious than the younger son. I heard an interview Brian gave with a Ms. Brown in which he described the old Jewish story that Jesus knew His listeners where familiar with when He told His parable. What a shocking ending Jesus’ story must have been to His listeners!

    Comment by Donna Schmidt — October 9, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

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