Rich man and Lazarus
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Patronage||The poor, against leprosy, lepers, Order of St Lazarus|
The Gospel of Luke (Luke 16:19-31) tells of the relationship, during life and after death, between an unnamed rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. The traditional name, Dives, is not actually a name, but instead a word for "rich man", dives, in the text of the Latin Bible, the Vulgate. The rich man was also given the names Neuēs (i.e. Nineveh) and Fineas (i.e. Phineas) in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
Along with the parables of the Ten Virgins, Prodigal Son, and Good Samaritan, it was one of the most frequently illustrated parables in medieval art, perhaps because of its vivid account of an afterlife.
The name Lazarus (from the Hebrew: אלעזר, Elʿāzār, Eleazar - "God is my help") also belongs to the more famous biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Lazarus of the Four Days, who is the subject of a prominent miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus resurrects him four days after his death.
Luke 16:19–31, New International Version:
|“|| 19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and 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. 23In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So 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. 26And 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, 28for 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.’”
There are different views on the historicity and origin of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The story is unique to Luke and is not thought to come from the hypothetical Q document.
As a literal historical event
Supporters of this view point to a key detail in the story: the use of a personal name (Lazarus) not found in any other parable. By contrast, in all of the other parables Jesus refers to a central character by a description, such as "a certain man", "a sower", and so forth.
Critics of this view point out that "The "soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18); "For dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) describes death as sleep until the Day of the Lord, when the dead will receive glorified bodies upon the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). No scripture, other than Philippians 1:23-25 (in which the apostle expresses the confidence that on departure from this life he would be with Christ), 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (in which he affirms the possibility of being taken to paradise out of the body), 2 Corinthians 5:8, etc., accounts for a disembodied soul and its comfort or torture. Because this seems to raise the question of what kind of body is tortured in Hades as depicted in Luke, there are those who maintain that whilst the conversations took place as described, the language used in them, referring to body parts, etc., was figurative.
The 19th century evangelist, Brownlow North inclined to the view that the story described a literal, historical event, but did not exclude the possibility that it might be purely a parable.
As a parable created by Jesus
Other Christians consider that this is a parable created by Jesus and told to his followers. Tom Wright and Joachim Jeremias both treat it as a "parable". Proponents of this view argue that the story of Lazarus and the rich man has much in common with other stories which are agreed-upon parables, both in language and content (e.g. the reversal of fortunes, the use of antithesis, and concern for the poor).
Luther: a parable of the conscience
Martin Luther taught that the story was a parable about rich and poor in this life and the details of the afterlife not to be taken literally:
- Therefore we conclude that the bosom of Abraham signifies nothing else than the Word of God,.... the hell here mentioned cannot be the true hell that will begin on the day of judgment. For the corpse of the rich man is without doubt not in hell, but buried in the earth; it must however be a place where the soul can be and has no peace, and it cannot be corporeal. Therefore it seems to me, this hell is the conscience, which is without faith and without the Word of God, in which the soul is buried and held until the day of judgment, when they are cast down body and soul into the true and real hell. (Church Postil 1522-23)
Lightfoot: a parable against the Pharisees
John Lightfoot (1602–1675) treated the parable as a parody of Pharisee belief concerning the Bosom of Abraham, and from the connection of Abraham saying the rich man's family would not believe even if the parable Lazarus was raised, to the priests' failure to believe in the resurrection of Christ:
- Any one may see, how Christ points at the infidelity of the Jews, even after that himself shall have risen again. From whence it is easy to judge what was the design and intention of this parable. (From the Talmud and Hebraica, Volume 3)
E. W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible cited Lightfoot's comment, and expanded it to include coincidence to lack of belief in the resurrection of the historical Lazarus (John 12:10). Bullinger considered that Luke did not identify the passage as a "parable" because it contains a parody of the view of the afterlife:
- It is not called a parable because it cites a notable example of the Pharisee's tradition which had been brought from Babylon.
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 1st 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.
Christians debate what the parable says about the afterlife:
Most Christians believe in the immortality of the soul and particular judgment and see the story as consistent with it. Others believe that the main point of the parable was to warn the godless wealthy about their need for repentance in this life and Jesus did not intend to give a preview of life after death. The parable teaches in this particular case that both identity and memory remain after death for the soul of the one in a hell. Eastern Orthodox Christians and Latter-Day Saints see the story as consistent with their belief in Hades, where the righteous and unrighteous alike await the resurrection of the dead. Western Christians usually interpret Lazarus as being in Heaven or Paradise and the rich man in Hell. The belief in a state of Limbo is less common.
Some Christians believe in the mortality of the soul ("Christian mortalism" or "soul sleep") and general judgment ("Last Judgment") only. This view is held by some Anglicans such as E. W. Bullinger. Proponents of the mortality of the soul, and general judgment, for example Advent Christians, Conditionalists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, and Christian Universalists, argue that this is a parable using the framework of Jewish views of the Bosom of Abraham, and is metaphorical, and is not definitive teaching on the intermediate state for several reasons. In Revelation 20:13-14 hades is itself thrown into the "lake of fire" after being emptied of the dead.
Literary provenance and legacy
We have in fact one of the cases where the background to the teaching is more probably found in non-biblical sources.— I. Howard Marshall, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Luke, p. 634
Some scholars—e.g., G. B. Caird, Joachim Jeremias, Marshall, Hugo Gressmann,—suggest the basic storyline of The Rich Man and Lazarus was derived from Jewish stories that had developed from an Egyptian folk tale about Si-Osiris. Richard Bauckham is less sure, adding:
In any case, [Jesus] has used [motifs also found in the Egyptian and Jewish stories] to construct a new story, which as a whole is not the same as any other extant story. ...[Of course] comparison with the way they function in other stories can help to highlight their function in the parable. In this sense, the parallels and contrasts with the Egyptian and Jewish story of the rich and the poor man can be instructive...
Legacy in Early Christianity and Medieval tradition
Hippolytus of Rome (ca. AD 200) describes Hades with similar details: the bosom of Abraham for the souls of the righteous, fiery torment for the souls of wicked, and a chasm between them. He equates the fires of Hades with the lake of fire described in the Book of Revelation, but specifies that no one will actually be cast into the fire until the end times.
In some European countries, the Latin description dives (Latin for "the rich man") is treated as his proper name: Dives. In Italy, the description epulone (Italian for "banquetter") is also used as a proper name. Both descriptions appear together, but not as a proper name, in Peter Chrysologus's sermon De divite epulone (Latin "On the Rich Banquetter"), corresponding to the verse, "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day".
The story was frequently told in an elaborated form in the medieval period, treating it as factual rather than a parable. Lazarus was venerated as a patron saint of lepers. In the 12th century, crusaders in the Kingdom of Jerusalem founded the Order of Saint Lazarus.
The story was often shown in art, especially carved at the portals of churches, at the foot of which beggars would sit (for example at Moissac and Saint-Sernin, Toulouse), pleading their cause. There is a surviving stained-glass window at Bourges Cathedral.
In the Latin liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the words of In paradisum are sometimes chanted as the deceased is taken from church to burial, including this supplication: "Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem." (May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who was poor, may you have eternal rest.")
Conflation with Lazarus of Bethany
Historically within Christianity, the begging Lazarus of the parable (feast day June 21) and Lazarus of Bethany (feast day December 17) have often been conflated, with some churches celebrating a blessing of dogs, associated with the beggar, on December 17, the date associated with Lazarus of Bethany.
Another example of this conflation can be found in Romanesque iconography carved on portals in Burgundy and Provence. For example, at the west portal of the Church of St. Trophime at Arles, the beggar Lazarus is enthroned as St. Lazarus. Similar examples are found at the church at Avallon, the central portal at Vézelay, and the portals of the cathedral of Autun.
In literature and poetry
In William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I, Sir John Falstaff alludes to the story while insulting his friend Bardolph about his face, comparing it to a memento mori: "I never see thy face," he says "but I think upon hell-fire and Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his robes, burning, burning" (III, 3, 30-33). When recalling the death of Falstaff in Henry V parodies the description of Lazarus in heaven ("into Abraham's bosom") as "He’s in Arthur’s bosom, if ever man went to Arthur’s bosom." (II. 3, 7-8)
- "workers and masters are separate as Dives and Lazarus" "ay, as separate as Dives and Lazarus, with a great gulf betwixt" (Elizabeth Gaskell; Mary Barton a tale of Manchester life 1848)
- "Between them, and a working woman full of faults, there is a deep gulf set." (Charles Dickens; Hard Times 1854)
In Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Ishmael describes a windswept and cold night from the perspective of Lazarus ("Poor Lazarus, chattering his teeth against the curbstone...") and Dives ("...the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals").
The poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot contains the lines: 'To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,/Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"' in reference to Dives' request to have Beggar Lazarus return from the dead to tell his brothers of his fate.
Rich Lazarus! richer in those gems, thy tears,
Than Dives in the robes he wears:
He scorns them now, but oh they'll suit full well
With the purple he must wear in hell.
- Samuel Johnson, The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper: Including the Series Edited with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, 1810, p. 557.
Dives and Lazarus appear in Edith Sitwell's poem "Still falls the Rain" from "The Canticle of the Rose", first published in 1941. It was written after The Blitz on London in 1940. The poem is dark, full of the disillusions of World War II. It speaks of the failure of man, but also of God's continuing involvement in the world through Christ:
Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.
Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us—
On Dives and on Lazarus:
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.
- Jon Stallworthy, The Oxford Book of War Poetry, Second Reissue, Oxford University Press, 2008, ISBN 0-19-955453-6, p. 248.
In music and song
"Vater Abraham, erbarme dich mein, SWV 477 (Dialogus divites Epulonis cum Abrahamo)," a work by Heinrich Schütz is a setting of the dialog between Abraham and the rich man dating to the 1620s. It is notable for its virtuosic text-painting of the flames of hell, as well as being an important example of the "dialog" as a step towards the development of the oratorio.
"Dives Malus" (the wicked rich man) also known as "Historia Divitis" (c.1640) by Giacomo Carissimi is a Latin paraphrase of the Luke text, set as an oratorio for 2 sopranos, tenor, bass; for private performance in the oratories of Rome in the 1640s. Mensch, was du tust a German sacred concerto by Johann Philipp Förtsch (1652–1732) The story appeared as an English folk song whose oldest written documentation dates from 1557, with the depiction of the afterlife altered to fit Christian tradition. The song was also published as the Child ballad Dives and Lazarus in the 19th century. Ralph Vaughan Williams based his orchestral piece Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus (1939) on this folk song, and also used an arrangement as the hymn tune Kingsfold. Benjamin Britten set Sitwell's text to music in his third Canticle in a series of five.
"Lazarus" (2016) was the last single that David Bowie released before his death.
The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem
The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem (OSLJ) is an order of chivalry which originated in a leper hospital founded by Knights Hospitaller in the 12th century by Crusaders of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry, yet is one of the less-known and less-documented orders. The first mention of the Order of Saint Lazarus in surviving sources dates to 1142.
The Order was originally established to treat the virulent disease of leprosy, its knights originally being lepers themselves. According to the Order's official international website, "From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of leprosy and the defense of the Christian faith." Sufferers of leprosy regarded the beggar Lazarus (of Luke 16:19-31) as their patron saint and usually dedicated their hospices to him.
The order was initially founded as a leper hospital outside the city walls of Jerusalem, but hospitals were established all across the Holy Land dependent on the Jerusalem hospital, notably in Acre. It is unknown when the order became militarised but militarisation occurred before the end of the 12th century due to the large numbers of Templars and Hospitallers sent to the leper hospitals to be treated. The order established ‘lazar houses’ across Europe to care for lepers, and was well supported by other military orders which compelled lazar brethren in their rule to join the order upon contracting leprosy.
- Hultgren, Arland J (2002-01-01). The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary. pp. 110–118. ISBN 978-0-8028-6077-4.
- "Luke, chapter 16 verse 19". The Bible - Latin Vulgate. The Vatican. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
homo quidam erat dives et induebatur purpura et bysso et epulabatur cotidie splendide
- The Gospel According to Luke (I-IX). 1995-03-01. p. 1110. ISBN 978-0-385-52247-2.
- Fitzmeyer IX, Ad populum I (CSEL 18.91), spelled Finees; and in Ps.-Cyprian, De pascha computus 17 (CSEL 3/3.265), spelled Finaeus
- Mâle, Émile (1961). The Gothic Image: Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century. p. 195.
- Barclay, William (1999-02-01). The Parables of Jesus. pp. 92–98. ISBN 978-0-664-25828-3.
- Losch, Richard R (2008). All the People in the Bible: An A-z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture. pp. 255–256. ISBN 978-0-8028-2454-7.
- Multiple sources summarized at Jesus Database
- e.g. Webpage which argues that Lazarus and the rich man is literally true (whilst the language used by them could have been figurative).
- North, Brownlow (1869). "'The rich man and Lazarus' (Luke xvi. 19-31) a practical exposition".
- e.g. The IVP Bible Background Commentary
- Wright T. Luke for Everyone "doesn't add anything new to the general folk belief about fortunes being reversed in a future life. If it's a parable, that means once again that we should take it as picture language about something that was going on in Jesus' work" p201
- Jeremias, Joachim (January 1998). Die Gleichnisse Jesu. pp. 123–125. ISBN 978-3-525-53514-1.
- volume IV: p17-32, The Sermons of Martin Luther Baker Book House Grand Rapids, MI
- 2007 edition p.176
- Companion Bible p1489, citing "Lightfoot xii, 159-63"
- See many other examples in Lightfoot vol.xii. pp.159-68 (Companion Bible, p.1488)
- Sepp Thaten und Lehren Jesu: mit ihrer weltgeschichtlichen Beglaubigung 1864
- "Whittaker, H.A. Studies in the gospels. Biblia, Staffordshire 1984, 2nd Ed. 1989 p495".
- Friedrich Gustav Lisco, (trans. Patrick Fairbairn) The parables of Jesus: explained and illustrated 1853 p343 "Many expositors have thought they discovered, in this story, a real history, and referred it to the family of Annas and his son-in-law, Caiaphas,"
- "et c'est cet endurcissement que Jésus prédit quand il dit que du moment qu'ils n'écoutent ni Moïse ni les prophètes ils n'écouteront pas d'avantage quelqu'un qui viendrait de l'autre monde" Drioux Claude-Joseph La Bible populaire: hist. illustrée de l'Ancien et du Nouveau Testament. Hachette, Paris 1864 p497
- Perry, Simon (2012). Resurrecting Interpretation: Technology, Hermeneutics and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Warren Prestidge, The Rich Man and Lazarus". Afterlife.
- "E.W. Bullinger on Luke 16:19-31".
- "Jefferson Vann, Reasons why the The Rich Man and Lazarus is not definitive teaching on the intermediate state.". Afterlife.
- Bryan T. Huie - Lazarus and the Rich Man - Tentmaker Ministries. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- What Happens When I Die? - When rightly divided, the scriptures support annihilationism; the belief that the wicked will be "destroyed" in the Lake of Fire. - cupofwrath.com. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- G. B. Caird, The Gospel of St. Luke (Penguin Books), p. 191
- Parables of Jesus, p. 182–187
- I. Howard Marshall, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Luke, p. 634
- Hugo Gressmann, Vom reichen Mann und armen Lazarus: eine literargeschichtliche Studie (1918)
- Also see The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 8 (New York: Abingdon Press), p. 290
- Also note: '...a passage from Whiston’s edition of Josephus, A Discourse to Greeks Concerning Hades,...bears an uncanny resemblance to Luke 16. Unfortunately, the resemblance is so uncanny because the passage is based on Luke 16. The author is not Josephus but the 4th Century Bishop Hippolytus. At some point, a copying error confused the names and the mistake was not discovered until recently.' Steven Cox, 'Not Giving Heed to Jewish Fables (2): Abraham in the Underworld' in The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God (July 2000)
- 'It is quite plausible that a version of the Egyptian and Jewish story was current in first-century Palestine and that Jesus would have known it. Thus...he could have borrowed the two motifs from it. On the other hand, he may well have known other stories which used one of both motifs. He could have known the motifs without consciously borrowing them from any one particular story.' Richard Bauckham, The fate of the dead: studies on the Jewish and Christian apocalypses (Netherlands: Brill, 1998), p. 101
- Richard Bauckham, The fate of the dead: studies on the Jewish and Christian apocalypses (Netherlands: Brill, 1998), p. 101
- Steven Cox, The Rich Man, Lazarus, and Abraham (Hyderabad: Printland Publishers, 2000)
- Steven Cox, 'Not Giving Heed to Jewish Fables (2): Abraham in the Underworld' in The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God (July 2000)
- "Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe".
- "Saint Lazarus".
- Émile Mâle, The Gothic Image, Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century, p 200, English trans of 3rd edn, 1913, Collins, London (and many other editions)
- Money talks: folklore in the public sphere December 2005, Folklore magazine.
- Richard Hamann, "Lazarus in Heaven" The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 63 No. 364 (July 1933), pp. 3-5, 8-11
- The Summoners's Prologue and Tale , line 1877 - "Lazar and Dives lyveden diversly, And divers gerdon hadden they therby."
- Smith Sheila The Other Nation OUP 1980 pp.12-16 for extended discussion of the Dives and Lazarus imagery.
- "And he cried it, how he cried it, from the housetops!— the wealth of Dives jostling the want of Lazarus, Trotty Veck's humble dish of tripe made humbler by Sir Joseph Bowley's opulent cheque-book; above all, Scrooge, who, obliged to subscribe to the prisons and the Poor Law, shut his eyes to the conditions of those ghastly institutions,..." The Oxford Illustrated Dickens: Christmas books - Page vi Charles Dickens, illustrated by Phiz, Hablot Knight Browne - 1998
- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick , Penguin Classics, 2003, ISBN 0-14-243724-7, Chapter 2, p. 11-12
- Graham Elliott, Benjamin Britten: The spiritual dimension, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-19-816258-8, p. 100.
- La Capella Ducale; Musica Fiata/Roland Wilson rec. live, 26 October 2007, Hauptkirche St. Nikolai, Hamburg, Germany. DDD CPO 777369-2 [79:09]
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish popular Ballads, Part IV, 1886; referring to (inter alia) Arber, Registers of the Company of Stationers
- anonymous; from Child ballad 56 A, from Sylvester: a Garland of Christmas Carols, from an old Birmingham broadside (2001) . Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir,, ed. "The Oxford Book of Ballads, No. 109, Dives and Lazarus". Bartleby.com, Inc. Retrieved 2006-06-29.
- Michael Kennedy, The works of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Oxford University Press (London, 1980), p. 278.
- Music, David W (2005-01-01). A Selection of Shape-note Folk Hymns: From Southern United States Tune Books, 1816-61. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-89579-575-5.
- Philip Reed, Mervyn Cooke, and Donald Mitchell, Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976, Volume 4: 1952-1957, Boydell Press, 2008, ISBN 1-84383-382-4, p. 294.
- "Steeleye Span: They Called Her Babylon (Review)". Progarchives.com.
- David Marcombe, Leper Knights: The Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, c. 1150-1544 (Rochester, NY: Boydell) 2003; Chapter 1 gives the general history.
- "History", official international website of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. Retrieved on 2009-09-14.
- David Marcombe, Leper Knights, The Boydell Press 2003, p. 11
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