In searching for Christian art on the parable of the prodigal son, or as I prefer to call it, the parable of the lost brothers, I became increasingly curious about the way the older brother is (or, as is more often the case, is not) portrayed. Has he been lost in visual translation?
In some paintings the older brother is absent entirely, with only the younger son and the father in view.
In other paintings the older brother is present, but joins the father in celebrating the younger brother’s return.
Few, however, capture the climax of the story, which reveals that the older brother was just as lost to the father as the younger brother, only he hadn’t recognized it yet:
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutescomes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
Curiously, one of the most faithful depictions I’ve found was actually a cartoon!
So, why do you think he often goes missing? I have my suspicions but I’d like to hear yours.