Dr. Sam Soleyn mentioned three key symbols in Jesus’s story of the prodigal son in his recent teaching sessions entitled “The Mindset of the Orphan” (please see http://www.soleyn.org/download_materials.html).

When the prodigal son returned to his father, the father gave him three things. Each of these gifts were symbols of status in the ancient world.

1.  A robe. The robe is a symbol of identity. To put on the robe of another was tantamount to identifying yourself with that person. (Consider the custom in Latin American countries of a president wearing the national sash over his or her right shoulder. Here, the president is identifying his or her self with the nation and accepting the responsibility of representing it.) In the times of Jesus, a slave or household servant could not wear a decorative robe; only an honored son could wear the robe of his father. It was a mark of distinction and privilege.

2.  A ring. A ring is a symbol of authority. As with the robe, only a privileged son could wear the ring of his father. This was not the authority of self-will; rather, it was authority given freely from a father to his son. It was the type of authority where the son could show the ring and rightfullly say, “I’m doing this in the name of my father”.

3.  Shoes (Sandals). Shoes were the sign of ability and purpose. Only slaves would go barefoot. A son of a wealthy house must be given shoes. Shoes provide the ability to walk about in relative comfort.

Please notice also in the story that not only did the father give these gifts freely to his son, but he had ordered that these gifts be given quickly, without any delay. The status of the returned son was restored immediately and without any conditions.

In the story, therefore, we see a restoration of identity, authority, and purpose without any conditions when a lost son returned to his father. And it is these three symbols that tell us that story of restoration in a deeper, richer way than words alone could.


For a comparison of Jesus’s story of the prodigal son and a similar story in Mahayana Buddhism, please see:



Story of the Good Samaritan: A Fresh Perspective

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on August 09, 2008

You’ve probably already heard of the Story of the Good Samaritan. It was Jesus’ answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?”.

What you may *not* have heard is the symbolic interpretation of this story. Amazingly enough, looking at this story as being symbolic (allegorical) produces a sweeping picture of the entire story of humankind from beginning to end.

The story begins with a traveller going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is a steep downhill journey. This is symbolic of Adam being placed into the earth with the purpose of ruling over it after having been designed and thought of in the eternal, heavenly mind of God. [Note: The very beginning of the story in the original language (ancient Greek) even says “a certain man …” (the traveller), which is translated as “Adam”.] Yet before Adam can realize his true potential of ruling over all of the earth, he and his wife, Eve, make a tragic decision. Without fully realizing what they are doing, they surrender their privileges as a son and a daughter of God.

The thieves who attacked the traveller are symbols of the devil and demons. The robbery of the clothes of the traveller represents a loss of authority and identity, which is what happened to Adam and Eve (and to all of humanity, their descendants) when, after being tricked into doing so by the serpent, they disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. This was then marked by their expulsion from Eden and their loss of a regular, face-to-face relationship with God in that garden. As happened to the victim in the story, they became “half-dead”. All of humanity is created in the likeness of God, and yet this stain of separation from God remains.

The unhelpful passers-by, the priest and the levite, represent religious law and religion systems. Neither is able or willing to help. [As it is written: By the works of the law, no one will be justified (helped).] Symbolically in the story, the law comes by first and then the religious ceremonies, formalities and systems that surround that law. [The Levites assisted the priests in ancient Judea.]

The Good Samaritan represents Jesus. The Samaritan pours oil and wine upon the victim’s wounds. Oil often represents the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) in the Bible, whereas wine often represents the blood of Christ, shed for all of humanity on the cross. Samaritans were part Jewish and part gentile (non-Jewish). This is symbolic of Jesus being God and man. The victim is then carried by the Samaritan to Jericho. This symbolizes Jesus Christ doing what humankind carelessly gave up the ability to do on its own: going “down” to its divine (heavenly) destiny of ruling (the story of Genesis says subduing/possessing/having dominion over) the earth. The inn where the traveller is housed in safety is a symbol of the church, the body of Christ. Finally, the promise of the Samaritan to return represents the second coming of Jesus back to the earth.

Another facet of this symbolic interpretation is offered by Sam Soleyn in his new MP3 series entitled “The Culture of the Kingdom”. See:


In program 139 of this series, Mr. Soleyn sees the two coins as symbolizing 2,000 years. This is because the type of coin in the story refers to one day’s wage for the average worker at that time, and also because, in the Bible, references to one day were often symbolic of 1,000 years. If this is correct, Jesus is saying that he would return for his church after about 2,000 years.

By the way, seeing this story as a series of symbols is not a new invention. Rather, it has ancient roots. The respected 3rd-century theologian Origen wrote down this interpretation and said that other followers of Christ had passed it down to him. See:


Do you also find this symbolic interpretation interesting or do you consider it to be just a distraction from the more direct meaning of the story?