Illogical illustration of “the rich man and the poor man Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)
If you understood these illustrations, that's fine. As for me, they are stumbling bloc from the time I first read them and even now.
Please explain O.N.
The Parable prophetically reveals the Justice and the Healing which is yet to come. your explanation is quite accurate regarding the ethical symbolisms and sheds much light. There is a bit more, however, which solidifies the extent of the Really Good News. The link explanation is quite lengthy but well worth the effort following it through. The Bible truly is an incredible Book.
Thanks for the article. L. Ray Smith is clearly a Universalist and the Lazarus account is interpreted in that vein. Universalism can be saved for another discussion perhaps.
Now if one can view a parody as a parable, then I would accept the term `parable` applying to Jesus` story. However, I think `parable`is a stretch. Parables of Christ are comparisons/ allegories that reveal hidden spiritual truth. Parodies, on the other hand tend to reveal the opposite of heavenly truth; they incline toward the ridiculous, which both accounts in Luke 16 directed at the Pharisees exhibit.
So let me explain why I believe that the Lazarus account cannot be a parable.
Viewing the Lazarus account as parabolic has certainly engendered much speculation. It has often been assumed that in this account Jesus set forth a composite picture, not only of the Pharisees, but also his self-righteous and outwardly pious brothers, the rich and powerful men in Israel at that time, especially the teachers of the law who would not lift a finger to alleviate the lot of the oppressed, such as the Sadducees, the Scribes, Lawyers and Priests. They all had the benefit of the law and prophets but similarly neglected the weightier matters of the law such as judgment, mercy, faith, and love toward God and man.
Conversely, Lazarus has often been seen to represent those Jews who were helpless and tormented, the outcasts of the day whose movement toward repentance was interpreted as prefiguring their identification in Christ's death and resurrection enabling them to be recipients of God's comforting promises to Abraham?
However, there are a number of reasons that suggest this account is not a parable. Firstly, a prophetic interpretation does not develop naturally from either the context of the chapter or the specific situation Jesus was facing. Secondly, Jesus’ parables tend to center on one clear concept or point out one clear truth; this one does not. Thirdly, the parables of Jesus all involve everyday common events and possible human experiences; this one does not. Fourthly, there are few other recorded parables where one finds personal names weaved into the story. The Rich Man and Lazarus then does not readily fit the mold of parable.
Lastly, the story itself must be interpreted literally. Why do I say that? Because the events described were accepted as literal fact . Abraham's Bosom and torment in the afterlife were accepted teachings of the Pharisees and commonly believed by the general population.
ABRAHAM'S BOSOM: History confirms that Hades (Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol) was originally understood by the Jews to be, “the ultimate resting place of all mankind". The Hebrew scriptures relegated the good as well as the wicked to this location at death. (Gen. 42:38, Ps.16:9-10, Job 14:13).
The idea that Sheol was not a place of slumber, but of conscious experience first developed in the intertestamental period with the influence of Greek culture and philosophy upon Judaism. The apparent enigma of the righteous experiencing Sheol (Hades) along with the wicked was then tentatively resolved, in some but not all rabbinical circles, by compartmentalizing Sheol into two distinct regions. As The New International Dictionary Of New Testament Theology states, "With the infiltration of the Greek doctrine of immortality of the soul, paradise becomes the dwelling place of the righteous during the intermediate state."
In Jesus' day, the part of Hades where the righteous dead were detained was commonly referred to by the Pharisees as Abraham's Bosom. This was a place of rest and banqueting where the souls of the righteous enjoyed "intimate fellowship with the father of the race (Abraham), who is still alive and blessed in death."
PLACE OF TORMENT: While the righteous were segregated and awaiting redemption in a part of Sheol having paradisical dimensions, Pharisaic tradition consigned the wicked to an area of Sheol where punishments were applied commensurate with one's performance in life. This traditional belief which similarly developed during the intertestamental period is clearly documented in the Apocrypha (e.g. Judith 16:17) and the Pseudepigrapha (e.g. II Enoch 40:12).
Jewish literature (i.e. religious folklore) circulating in the first century often graphically detailed the retributive misery of the dammed in Hades. For example, licentious men were spoken of as hanging by their genitals, women who suckled their young in public, as hanging by their breasts, and those who talked during synagogue prayers, as having their mouths filled with hot coals.
A point worthy of note here, is that when Jesus used the terms "Abraham's Bosom", and "Torment" in reference to Hades, he was employing terms and concepts not rooted in scripture, but in rabbinical tradition. He was using terms fully comprehended by the Pharisees and clearly endorsed by their teachings about the afterlife. And equally important, Abraham's Bosom, and Torment were terms the Pharisees used regularly to justify their total neglect of the poor.
HISTORICAL NOTE: That the view of hell depicted in Luke 16 was an integral part of first century Pharisaic tradition is nowhere more clearly delineated than in the following excerpt alleged to have been written by Josephus, (himself a Pharisee) to explain the Jewish concept of Hades to the Greeks.
Now as to Hades, wherein the souls of the righteous and unrighteous are detained, it is necessary to speak of it. Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region...allotted as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them, who distribute to them temporary punishments, agreeable to everyone's behavior and manners... while the just shall obtain an incorruptible and never-fading kingdom. These are now indeed confined in Hades, but not in the same place wherein the unjust are confined. For there is one decent into this region...the just are guided to the right hand and are led with hymns, sung by the angels appointed over that place, unto a region of light, in which the just have dwelt from the beginning of the world; not constrained by necessity, but ever enjoying the prospect of good things they see, and rejoice in the expectation of those new enjoyments which will be peculiar to every one of them, and esteeming those things beyond what we have here; with whom there is no place of toil, no burning heat, no piercing cold, nor any briers there; but the countenance of the Fathers and of the just, which they see always smiles upon them, while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham.
But as to the unjust, they are dragged by force to the left hand by the angels allotted for punishment, no longer going with a good-will, but as prisoners driven by violence... they are struck with a fearful expectation of a future judgment, and in effect punished thereby: and not only so, but where they see the place of the fathers and of the just, even hereby are they punished; for a chaos deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that hath compassion upon them cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust, if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it. (Underscoring mine)
The Works of Flavius Josephus, William Whiston, A.M., Translator. Hartford Conn. The S.S. Scranton Co., 1900, pp. 901-902
Lionel Trilling in his essay “Knowledge and Philosophy” incidentally reveals a great truth about story/parable telling. He says ‘for a story to be great, it should be understood even by children, not just a few elite from the world of adults.’ [This makes sense because the few brilliant elite may understand the import of stories even without the help of such stories.] Even using simple vocabulary of the common people would not suffice. For example, everyone understands the words such as healthy, disease etc. But if you say “healthy disease” no one would understand. In the same way, we all understand words such as Heavens, God, leaven etc. But if someone says: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven” (Mathew 13:33) how many will understand it? So is the case with illustrations in Luke 16.
Everyone in Jesus' audience understood "Abraham's Bosom", angels transporting souls to Sheol, the wicked being tormented in Hades; the righteous banqueting with Abraham etc. You can imagine the Pharisees nodding in agreement...right up until the rich man ends up in torments...for no other reason than having it good, eating and dressing well in this life.
Was Jesus really trying to convey that all would be saved through this account? I would say that is quite a stretch.
Jesus was mimicking the Pharisees teachings, to ridicule it and them for such nonsense which they used to control the common people and justify their refusal to lift a finger to help the poor and downtrodden.
So Jesus turned their story on its head and made a laughing stock of their teaching and practice.
Vanderhoven7: Everyone in Jesus' audience understood
I am wondering - perhaps this has been already mentioned by others - why the writer of Luke when he composed his gospel he comes up with this exemplary story.
I wondering if he used it because of the interesting original setting in a conversation with pharases or because of a more general benefit for Luke's audience who were the educated pagans and the jewish-christians. He who was worked so accurate and made use of confident written sources, why did he insert this examplary story about a rich man in his text?
A pagan audience would not have been aware of inner-jewish terms or interested however in the inner-jewish dispute between pharasees and rabbi Jesus and for it also the satirical value of the story and Jesus rethoric ability to mimik their teachings in the original setting might have been of little value, at least it would have been no easy stuff.
Although all other gospelwirters forgot about this story of the rich man, Luke didnt want to be this little story to be forgotten. He thought it would be interesting for his 2nd generation community and even for non-jewish people.
Now indeed it would be exciting to know what was his idea about this story,
- was he excited of Jesus as satiric and did he want to present Jesus as great rethoric?
- was he only acccurate and didnt want to forget this little story?
- did Luke use the story as exemplary story to show that God doesn like hypocracy?
- was it because Luke generally liked to enjoin one not to forget the poor?
Something in this story must be special that Luke decided to pass it on. Certainly the original setting might be very important to understand, the correct understanding of the terms just as well, but because the scenery is fictionary to which action does the story stimulate us then?
Perhaps Luke had a certain Lazarus in mind when he took up this story in the gospel, as a doctor he was certainly interested in such gruesome treated poor people, treated as unclean and anyway helpless, people who were "refugees" in their own country, whom dogs licked their sores, because they could not move from the place, where they were deposited.
Did Luke leave the story over for us to interprete it?