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A Tale of Two Sons: The Inside Story of a Father, His Sons, and a Shocking Murder

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  442 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Previously published as "A Tale of Two Sons"

Charles Dickens. William Shakespeare. Garrison Keillor. They're all part of the chorus of literary geniuses who expressed admiration for The Parable of the Prodigal Son as outstanding literature. After all, it is a powerful drama, rich in detail, powerfully succinct, and intensely personal. But beyond the literary critiques--besi
Hardcover, 221 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Thomas Nelson Publishers (first published March 17th 2008)
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The Tale of Two Sons was my long-weekend read earlier this month - and it proved to be a great read!

Anyone brought up in Sunday School will know the story of the Prodigal Son (although I prefer to call him The Lost Son, for obvious reasons!), but most will not fully grasp the import of the story as originally told by Jesus, the Christ. The sub-title of this book, by John MacArthur, provides some insight into how the story would have been understood when originally spoken - the inside story of a
The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 is well known, but MacArthur adds a great deal of 1st-century context to the story. He focuses on how the actions of both sons were perceived by the listeners as Jesus told this story, particularly the Pharisees. If you think you've heard this all before, let MacArthur transport you back to the 1st-century and you may discover new insights that you hadn't considered. For those who are studying the Gospel of Luke, this would be a good complement to ...more
MacArthur breaks down the Parable of the Prodigal Son into 3 sections about the prodigal younger son, the gracious father and the self-righteous older son.

He interprets this parable to be about an unbeliever repenting which results in joy in heaven.

He goes into lots of cultural background and for the most part in my opinion, draws pretty good conclusions.

I am not sure this in ONLY about an unbeliever accepting the grace of the Father. I believe that it is also a picture of a believer sinning and
Jeremy Sarber
I have always had a fascination with the parable of the prodigal son. There are so many subtle nuances to the story easily missed without knowing its original setting and context.

MacArthur does a fantastic job of telling the story without overlooking a single detail. He provides the more obvious theological implications of the parable. He also offers many relevant historical and cultural facts.

If you have never heard the parable expounded by a gifted Bible teacher, reading this book will give yo
I loved the book and have never heard it this way before. MacArthur brought out so much character to not only the prodigal son, but also to the Father and the other son. I gave it 4 stars because I thought Mac was stretching the story to far, especially when the son went off to the city. He was describing so much that went on in that city. I was thinking, did the Pharisees really have that much time to think about all the details on this parable that probably lasted just a few minutes? Still a g ...more
Jason Grubbs
John Macarthur does a wonderful job of breaking down what many believe to be the greatest short story ever told - The Prodigal Son. However, Macarthur shows how the story deals with much more than typically meets the eye. The story was directed towards the Pharisees, the hypocritical religious leaders of the day, who hated Jesus. As you read this book, you see the Father's radical love for his sons, despite their rebellion toward him. This is a picture of the love Jesus has for all men and the d ...more
The title of MacArthur's book on Christ's parable on the Prodigal Son is not only riveting, but the subtitle is equally gripping: "the inside story of a father, his sons, and a shocking murder." Yes, the "shocking murder" aroused my curiosity, but I resisted the urge to peek at the end of the book to find out about this murder (it occurs on page 195). More on that later.

A Tale of Two Sons is a series of sermons MacArthur preached on the parable of the Prodigal from Luke 15. MacArthur does a mast
Jude Cooney
May 27, 2012 Jude Cooney rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Friends: Yes!
This book is basically about Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son. In it we read of God's infinate love for each and everyone of us! What lenghts he is prepared to take, even death upon a cross, to bring us back to himself!

The strength of his mercy and grace is not lost in this book. It removes any thought we might harbor on our own self righteousness and gives useful insight into level that Jesus was prepared to go in order to challenge the leaders of his day.

It is not our standard that we should
A.C. Bauch
while i enjoyed this book, the reason i'm not giving it four stars is that i felt it could have been less repetitive (thus much shorter) and still had the same impact. and perhaps even more so, because the reader wouldn't get lost along the way (no pun intended).

i have previously read literature that expounded on this parable, as it could be understood in the cultural context of Jesus' time. therefore, much of the information presented in this book was a retread for me. however, if this book had
Annette Lee
This book was awesome! It really broke down one of Jesus's famous parables to me. It was quite eye-opening to see myself in both the sons, older and younger. I would recommend this book to anyone who struggles to see themselves in the Prodigal Son parable.
Patrick S.
This book is amazing! The cultural explanations and the pacing explanation really hammers home the parable of the Prodigal Son. The book deals with not only the Prodigal Son but also the older son and the father. MacArthur makes sure that you understand that he isn't there spiritualizing every little bit of story. However, he does make sure to carefully explain what was said, why it was said, and the reactions that would be the result of what was said, plus why the reactions were what they would ...more
There is nothing earth-shattering here, but it is a good, basic look at the prodigal, the father, and the elder son. Good connections are made as to who they are and represent.

MacArtchur makes an emphasis that this parable relates to the two that come before it in Luke 15—mainly that there is rejoicing in heaven over one who repents.

One thing I really appreciated was the cultural significance presented in the book. How would the people of Jesus' day have responded to this parable? This shows the
This is the first time I have read any of MacArthur's work. That being said, I wasn't sure what to expect. It ended up being better than I had hoped. This book gives some nice in-depth insight on The Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Beautiful insight to an often told story. Having listened to this story, SO much more about this story makes sense to me, which means it's more alive and applicable to my life.
When I began reading this book I thought it would be a thought provoking light read for the bus trip to and from work...guess what? Not so much.
Be prepared to have your bible at your side as you read this, because while it is a thought provoking read, it also motivates you to go back to the original Word and delve at the meanings yourself, while reading. Something that is difficult to do on a packed bus heading to and from work. ;)

I found myself rediscovering other things in my Book that spoke t
Cody Holland
Clear, biblical exegesis that gives insight into exactly what Jesus was teaching through the parable of the prodigal son.
Ryan Coon
John MacArthur is one of my favorite authors, which is a good thing in itself since he constantly provides more to read than I can keep up with. Seriously, this guy churns out books like no one else. But I am grateful for that. This book was given to me by the man under which I now serve. This was an outstanding look into our Lord’s parable of the prodigal son. The amount of cultural background that MacArthur provides in this book is invaluable as it really brings to light much of what was so cr ...more
MacArthur's writing is easy to read; engrossing, informative and inspiring.

After reading this book I feel that my prior reading and understanding of the parable was likely permeated by traditional and vague renderings passed along and never really expounded on.

Though not entirely untrue to what I had always understood it to signify, the details of Mideast culture and mindset is absolutely the key that illuminates the meaning of this beloved parable. It is rich with revelation.

As the subtitle
Benedict Tan
Insightful and detailed, MacArthur analyses the Parable of the Prodigal Son with clear reference to its social and historical context within the framework of Christ's work of redemption. Revolving around the theme of true repentance and forgiveness, MacArthur presents us with the challenge to examine our own lives. By boldly (and unconventionally) stating that the main point of the parable is the elder brother, he uses sound Biblical exegesis to lead us to the horrific conclusion of the parable ...more
Sheri Ingersoll
This was a wonderful read. It really brought this popular parable to life. I appreciated John MacArthur's research of the ancient culture that would have been so pertinent to the hearers of Jesus' day and to their understanding of what he was really conveying. It brought to light those things that would be missed by those in our modern Western culture. The real treat for me was the epilogue in which the author expounds on the literary pattern Jesus used. Extremely interesting. I will never look ...more
Mark A Powell
An in-depth examination of perhaps the most famous parable of Jesus: the Prodigal Son. MacArthur examines the main characters in the story and draws out who they represent. He skillfully reveals how the original listeners would have reacted to the story and makes useful application of its truths to modern living. This book was adapted from sermons, which is obvious in some places, but seldom interrupts the flow of reading. An eye-opening look at familiar ground.
I will never look at the parable of the prodigal son the same way again. MacArthur explains the culture and what the people during the time the parable was told would have thought. Things that seemed like fillers for the story now become important details that bring the nature of each person (prodigal son, father, older son) to light in a way I had never quite grasped before. This is a great book, well told and interesting.
An excellent book by MacArthur with meticulous care to detail in how he brings out insights from the text, the context and cultural background, this is par excellence of what expository preaching should be done.
It is definitely a good read, and a good book to get for someone who is not saved. I have not read or heard anything on the Prodigal son as with what the LORD has taught through John MacArthur.
John MacArthur does an excellent job of telling the true and complete story of the parable of the prodigal son. Few people today understand this story because we are so far removed from the customs of ancient Israel. The author spares no details in bringing to light every aspect of this beautiful Biblical story by digging deep into the customs of the day in the Jewish family.
Justin Orman
Excellent historical work to bring into focus a culture that is quite different than ours. The parable is all the more shocking when we grasp some of the implications of it. The ending feels a little forced, as though MacArthur is trying to force the meaning a little farther than it was intended to go.
This book allows for the history of the times look at the story of the Prodigal Son. The story clearly shows the prodigal, the older brother, and the fathers side of this story. This was a good study for Sunday School, where typically you have both the prodigals and the Legalist.
An amazing look at the parable of the two sons! I first bought this book because I wanted to know how much a person could write on such a short parable; however, I've come to learn that the passage is filled with spiritual treasures. This is one of my favorite MacArthur books!
Michael Mcilwain
This book is based on a series of sermons that MacArthur preached on the account of the Prodigal Son. This book details the truly scandalous love that God has for sinners and brilliantly describes the glorious supernatural grace of God toward unworthy sinners.
I had hoped to read this before the last talk I gave in church and got through about half of it before running out of time. Pretty good book written from a mainstream Christian perspective, and I'd recommend it.
Amy Bell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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John F. MacArthur, Jr. is a United States Calvinistic evangelical writer and minister, noted for his radio program entitled Grace to You and as the editor of the Gold Medallion Book Award winning MacArthur Study Bible. MacArthur is a fifth-generation pastor, a popular author and conference speaker and has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969, and ...more
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