Bible Think Tank

This site is designed to help you interact with others about God's Word. I further some thoughts we developed during morning and evening gatherings at church. I have my NT translations from the original Greek to English. Also, I have book reviews and other current events.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lazarus and the Rich Man - Luke 16

The Question
Is the following passage a parable or a real event?





The Text

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 hell,[c] 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 fixed, 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 father's house, 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.' "
Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)

Let's Talk... Topic... THE FIRES OF HELL!
Here we have the all-familiar story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. We all hopefully know the main point of the passage: there is no "It's a Wonderful Life ... there are back again" scenario. Once you go to hell, it's too late for regrets.

Here is my question. Is this a parable or an event. Did it really happen? The woman and the lost coin is a parable that could happen. That parable didn't need to happen in order for us to understand the lesson. What about Lazarus and the rich man? Are they real people that died or are they characters in a story about eternity?

In a parable all the events of the story are make-believe, only the moral of the story matters. In an event, everything happened exactly how it is told. Bryan Huie does a lot with this question in his article. So let's look at the specifics of the story and see if that is the way it is.
  • All we know about the characters is one lived luzuriously and one lived in squallor. Is this the reason for eternal destination? (v19-21)


  • Those in heaven and hell can talk to and see one another. (v23-24)


  • In eternity, the wicked still prey on the righteous (v24)


  • In hell, people care about their undead relatives and friends (v28)

I don't think any of these things are true, but Jesus also never says that this is a parable. In v1-9 He tells another story that is likely a parable and not an event. Both stories begin with "there was a rich man..."
SO, what do you think about all this? Which parts are real and which are just part of the story?

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2 Comments:

Blogger delawaregirl said...

Parable or Event?
It seems to me that it was a parable. Obviously there were rich men in other parables...the one who built bigger barns comes to mind right away and there was an actual rich young ruler who came to Jesus. We know Abraham is a real person and we know of one Lazarus, but did he live in "squalor"? I don't think so. Jesus was at his house at least once. So just on those thoughts I think it's a parable. I think it's directed to the Pharisees to get them to think. Personally I've always thought this story was very interesting. Just an small illustration of what Hell must be like. The rich man is thirsty and he doesn't want his family to end up there. Anyway...If none of my ramblings are coherent here's my thought: I think it's a parable.

8/27/2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Timothy Schmoyer said...

Good thoughts, delawaregirl. Many commentators make a lot of fuss about the lack of introduction to the passage. Normally, the writer says something like "Jesus spoke to them in parable saying 'The kingdom of heaven is like...'"

So they say... hmmm... no "like" I guess it means it is not a parable but a real event.

I already observed that v1 begins a parable that does not have the "normal" phrase-e-ology.

I agree that this is a parable. It's got the moral at the end. It's got too many elements that don't make sense if it is a real event.

Good thoughts!

8/29/2007 7:36 AM  

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