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Rich Man and Lazarus


(1) Luke 16:19-31



(1) Luke 16:19-31

/16:19/ "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. /16:20/ And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, /16:21/ who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. /16:22/ The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. /16:23/ In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. /16:24/ He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' /16:25/ But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. /16:26/ Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' /16:27/ He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- /16:28/ for I have five brothers--that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' /16:29/ Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' /16:30/ He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' /16:31/ He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"




RCL: Proper 21C
ECUSA: & RC: Sunday 26C

John Dominic Crossan

Item: 471
Stratum: III (80-120 CE)
Attestation: Single
Historicity: +
Common Sayings Tradition: No

Crossan [In Parables, 65f] considers this parables as one of several "Reversal Parables:" 447. The Good Samaritan, 474. Pharisee and Publican, 459. Place at Table (Wedding Guest), 460. Inviting the Outcasts (The Proper Guests), and 95. The Feast, and 465. The Prodigal Son. He begins the discussion of this saying with a reference to the literary unity of 16:1-31:

Whatever may be the redactional activity of Luke himself in all this it is clear that the positioning of 16:19-31 within this larger literary complex places the emphasis on the proper use of worldly goods and on the failure of the rich man to do so. But if 16:19-31 is isolated from this context furnished by the tradition and the focus is placed on its own internal content, what could such a story have meant for the historical Jesus?

Crossan dismisses the concluding section in 16:27-31 as originating with the early Church rather than with Jesus himself. He identifies four specific reasons for this view:

First, there is the theme of disbelief before the resurrected one in 16:31, "neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead," and in 24:11,25,41, "and they did not believe them ... 'O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe' ... And while they still disbelieved." Second, there is the double mention of Moses and the prophets in 16:29,31 and 24:27,44. Third, the resurrected one is mentioned in 16:31, "one should rise from the dead," and in 24:46, "on the third day rise from the dead." Finally, the use of "they will repent" in 16:30 will reappear in Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; and 26:20 in kerygmatic contexts. Methodologically, Luke 16:27-31 cannot be taken as part of the original parable of Jesus. Most likely it is pre-Lukan and is a post-resurrectional application of the parable. It allegorically alludes to the Jewish refusal to accept either Moses or the prophets as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, or even to accept the risen Jesus himself. When one reads 16:31, "He said to them, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead,'" in its present context one thinks of Jesus and not the rich man.

Having separated the polemical conclusion from core parable, Crossan places the original saying in the context of ancient wisdom:

What is striking, especially against this background, is Jesus' omission of any moral preparation for the reversal or any ethical judgment on the earthly status of the participants. In a situation where riches were often construed as God's approval, and sickness often understood as God's curse or punishment, it cannot be immediately presumed that 16:19-26, as told here, would automatically beget moral judgment for Lazarus and against the rich man.

It seems best, then, to take 16:19-26 as an actual parable of Jesus. Its literal point was a strikingly amoral description of situational reversal between the rich man and Lazarus. Its metaphorical point was the reversaal of expectation and situation, of value and judgment, which is the concomitant of the Kingdom's advent. As the judgments which have to be made on the clerics as against the Samaritan are forcibly reversed, so also those which be expected concerning the sick beggar and rich man are turned upside down. Jesus was not interested in moral admonition on the dangers of riches--the folktale had already done this quite admirably--but in the reversal of human situation in which the Kingdom's disruptive advent could be metaphorically portrayed and linguistically made present.


Jesus Seminar




JS Mtg





W Avg


Luke 16:19-31
Luke 16:19-26
Luke 16:27-31

The commentary in The Five Gospels (p. 361) notes the divided opinion of the Fellows on the authenticity of this story, as reflected in the voting figures cited above. While the votes were evenly split between Red/Pink and Gray/Black, the weighting system used by the Seminar resulted in a definite Gray outcome.

Factors identified as weighing against the authenticity include:

(1) the motif of reversal of the fortunes of the poor and the rich in the next world is widely-attested in the ancient Near East;
(2) characters in Jesus' parables do not usually have personal names;
(3) an interest in the fate of the poor is a key Lucan theme.

On the other hand, there are some aspects of this story that do fit with Jesus as storyteller:

(1) the focus is on the extreme indifference of the wealthy man, not his wealth as such;
(2) there is no judgment scene;
(3) the reversal of their fates is similar to the reversals seen in 419. The Vineyard laborers and 95. The Feast.

While half the Fellows were inclined to retain the core story within the historical Jesus database, there was near unanimity on the post-Easter origins of the conclusion in verses 27-31.


Samuel T. Lachs

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament, 312ff] notes that there are many parallels in world literature to this tale that contrasts the fates of a rich man and a poor person in the next life. He cites two Jewish parallels as of special interest:

Two godly men lived in Ashkelon. They ate together, drank together, and studied the Law together. One of them died and kindness was not shown to him [i.e., nobody attended his funeral]. The son of Ma'yan, a tax collector, died and the whole city stopped work to show him kindness. The [surviving] pious man began to complain; he said, "Alas that no [evil] comes upon the haters of Israel [i.e., the wicked in Israel]."
In a dream he saw a vision, and one said to him, "Do not despise the children of your Lord. The one had committed one sin and departed this life in it, and the other had performed one good deed and departed in it. What sin had the one committed? Far be it that he had ever committed a sin. But once he put on the tephilim for the head before the tephilim for the hand. And what good deed had the other performed? Far be it that he had ever done a deed. But once he had arranged a meal for the bouleutai [municipal councillors] of the city and they did not come. And he said, "Let the poor eat that it not be wasted." Others say, He once went through the market-place, and he dropped a loaf, and a poor man picked it up, and he said nothing so as not to make him blush or shame. After some days the pious man saw in a dream his companion walking in the Garden under trees and by wells of water; and he saw the tax-collector, and his tongue sought to drink at the brink of a river; he tried to reach the water but he could not. [TJ Sanh. 6.9,23c]

Consider two wicked men who associated with one another in this world. One of them repented of his evil deeds before his death, while the other did not, with the result that the formers stands in the company of the righteous,while his fellow stands in the company of the wicked. And beholding him he says, "Woe is me ... is there then favor shown here? We both of us committed robberies, we both of us committed murders together, yet he stands in the company of the righteous and I in the company of the wicked!" And they reply to him and say, "You fool! You were despicable after your death and lay for three days, and did not they drag you to your grave with ropes? ... And your associate understood and repented of his evil ways, and you, you also had the opportunity of repenting and you did not take it." He thereupon says to them, "Permit me to go and repent!" And they answer him and say, "You fool! Do you know that this world is the Sabbath, and the world whence you have come is like the eve of the Sabbath? If a man does not prepare his meal on the eve of the Sabbath, what shall he eat on the Sabbath?" [TJ Hag. 2.2, 77d]


Muslim Jesus Traditions

Tarif Khalidi [The Muslim Jesus] provides the following traditions relevant to this cluster.

[125] They asked Jesus, "Show us an act by which we may enter paradise." Jesus said, "Do not speak at all." They said, "We cannot do this." Jesus replied, "Then speak only good." [late Ninth Century CE]

[144] In the time of Jesus, there was a man nick¬named Mal'un (Damned) because of his avarice. One day a man who was going on a military campaign came to him and said, Mal'un, if you give me some weapons to help me wage war, you will be saved from hell-fire." But Mal'un shunned him and gave him nothing. As the man turned away, Mal'un regretted his decision and called him back to give him his sword. When the man returned home he was met by Jesus, accompanied by a devout man who had worshiped God for seventy years. "Where did you get this sword from?" Jesus asked. The man replied, Mal'un gave it to me," and Jesus was pleased with his charity. The next time Jesus and the devout man passed by, Mal'un, who was sitting at his door step, said to himself, "I will go and look upon Jesus' face and the face of the devout man." When he did so, the devout man said, "I will flee from this Mal'un before he burns me with his fire."
Then God inspired Jesus to say, "Tell this sinful servant of mine, 'I have forgiven you because of your charity with the sword and your love for Jesus, and tell the devout man that you will be his companion in heaven." The devout man replied, "As God is my witness! I do not want heaven with him and I do not want a companion like him." God Almighty inspired Jesus to reply, "You are not content with my decree and you have denigrated my servant. Thus, I will see you damned in hell. I have exchanged your places, and have given your station in heaven to my servant and his station in hell to you." [Tenth
Century CE]


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