The Rich Man and Lazarus
Luke 16 NIV
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Drioux: a parable against the Sadducees
An alternative explanation of the parable is a satirical parable against the Sadducees. One writer to identify the Sadducees as the target was Johann Nepomuk Sepp. The arguments in favour of identification of the Rich Man as the Sadducees are (1) the wearing of purple and fine linen, priestly dress, (2) the reference to “five brothers in my father’s house” as an allusion to Caiaphas‘ father-in-law Annas, and his five sons who also served as high priests according to Josephus, (3) Abraham’s statement in the parable that they would not believe even if he raised Lazarus, and then the fulfillment that when Jesus did raise Lazarus of Bethany the Sadducees not only did not believe, but attempted to have Lazarus killed again: “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well” (John 12:10). This last interpretation had wide circulation in France during the 1860s–1890s as a result of having been included in the notes of the pictorial Bible of Abbé Drioux.
Perry: a parable of a new covenant
Simon Perry has argued that the Lazarus of the parable (an abbreviated transcript of “Eleazer”) refers to Eliezer of Damascus, Abraham’s servant. In Genesis 15—a foundational covenant text familiar to any first century Jew—God says to Abraham “this man will not be your heir” (Gen 15:4). Perry argues that this is why Lazarus is outside the gates of Abraham’s perceived descendant. By inviting Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom, Jesus is redefining the nature of the covenant. It also explains why the rich man assumes Lazarus is Abraham’s servant.
References & Reflections