Origin of 'prodigal son'?


#1

I have been attempting to trace the origin of using ‘prodigal son’ in reference to Luke 15:11. The word ‘prodigal’ has been in use since 1456 (according to the OED), but I can’t seem to find out when the term began to be used in reference to the parable. There’s a rapid shift in the early 1500s between the word’s general rarity to its sudden popularity in reference to the parable. It seems most likely some popular text used the term and that’s what caused this shift. I read that the first instance of the term (as ‘filius prodigus’) is a marginal note in a copy of the Vulgate, but unfortunately this was not cited, and I can’t find a source for it.

If anybody might know how and when ‘prodigal son’ was popularised I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.


#2

[quote="Splendid999, post:1, topic:343297"]
I have been attempting to trace the origin of using 'prodigal son' in reference to Luke 15:11. The word 'prodigal' has been in use since 1456 (according to the OED), but I can't seem to find out when the term began to be used in reference to the parable. There's a rapid shift in the early 1500s between the word's general rarity to its sudden popularity in reference to the parable. It seems most likely some popular text used the term and that's what caused this shift. I read that the first instance of the term (as 'filius prodigus') is a marginal note in a copy of the Vulgate, but unfortunately this was not cited, and I can't find a source for it.

If anybody might know how and when 'prodigal son' was popularised I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

[/quote]

I'm not sure about when and how the story came to be known as such, but I do know that the meaning of the word is not someone who went away and came back, it means someone who spends all their money. Aquinas talks about the vice of prodigality in the Summa Theologica, II-II, q 119. Interestingly, he says that it is the most easily remedied vice; when you've run out of money, you can't be prodigal anymore. I was pretty amazed when I learned that the prodigal son wasn't prodigal because he returned, but because he spent all his father's money (I didn't find that out until my first year of seminary!)

-ACEGC


#3

[quote="Splendid999, post:1, topic:343297"]
I have been attempting to trace the origin of using 'prodigal son' in reference to Luke 15:11. The word 'prodigal' has been in use since 1456 (according to the OED), but I can't seem to find out when the term began to be used in reference to the parable. There's a rapid shift in the early 1500s between the word's general rarity to its sudden popularity in reference to the parable. It seems most likely some popular text used the term and that's what caused this shift. I read that the first instance of the term (as 'filius prodigus') is a marginal note in a copy of the Vulgate, but unfortunately this was not cited, and I can't find a source for it.

If anybody might know how and when 'prodigal son' was popularised I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

[/quote]

The early 1400's was when people started translating the bible into English (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorized_King_James_Version#Earlier_English_translations). If the translators needed a word lavish spending, they likely just anglicized the Latin "prodigus".


#4

Prodigal from Latin prodigus "wasteful," from prodigere "drive away, waste,".


#5

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