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Interpretation of a Parable of Rich Man and Lazarus

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells a parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to a group of people. Lazarus who is a social marginal and poor went to heaven after his death and the rich man who is an aristocrat went to hell after his death. In the first paper, I found out that the story that the rich man went to hell and the poor man went to heaven sounds like Cynic philosophy, but as I read and understood the story, I found that the story is not based on Cynic philosophy. Also, I found that there is a huge gap between the lives of aristocrats and social marginals and we cannot talk about the world of the New Testament without the gap.

I would like to interpret the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus with the understanding the world of the New Testament. In order to interpreting the parable, I would like to start with the analysis of each verse. ‘There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day’ – Jesus begins by introducing the main character of the story, a rich man. His name was never mentioned in the story meaning that the rich man could be anybody. The rich man could have been the people listening to him, especially the Pharisees who sneered at him in his table talk.

Pharisees were said to be money lovers. The rich man is an extremely rich one because only very rich people could buy purple dyed dresses and fine linens. He was living in the lap of luxury. “…feasted sumptuously everyday” metaphorically means “symposia” which literally means “drink together” and extravagant banquets were formed for the purpose of networking and forming social relationships and alliances for those of the aristocratic class. Therefore, the rich man literally refers any person who can afford to attend a symposia every night and ostentatiously display his or her wealth.

20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores – Jesus shows the contrasts between the rich man and the poor man. The poor man’s name is Lazarus. Lazarus is the shortened name of Eleazar which means “He (whom) God helps” in Hebrew. The meaning of the name ‘Lazarus’ could be used as the key of the story. Anyway, in 20-21, Jesus describes how poor Lazarus is.

Also, the rich man’s house might indicate “symposia” and the rich man’s gate can be the border line between aristocrats, who belonged to the upper social class in the society and who did not work for a living and social marginals, who are underprivileged citizens with very low social status. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, – All of the Pharisees desired to go to the place where Abraham is which is heaven. Lazarus was carried to a place of honour after his death. The poor man’s fortunes are reversed.

The rich man also died and his funeral might have been a very noisy one; however, he was sent to the place of everlasting suffering. In this verse, we can see the huge difference between the life after death of the rich man and Lazaraus. The rich amn on earth becomes the poor man in heaven while poor man becomes the rich man in heaven – it sounds like the thought of Cynic philosophy. The philosophy of Cynics is the abiding principle of leading a simple existence through the tenet of “minimum is the optimum for leading a life of virtue.

” Hitting the nail in the head, Cynic philosophy is the philosophy of “rich people are not blessed, poor people are truly blessed. ” Therefore, the good end of Lazarus and the sad end of the rich man clearly depict Cynic philosophers’ thought ( the cynic philosopher’s contrastive look at life). 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.

’ – Hades is the place of death in Jewish thought and can be considered as hell. The rich man must have expected to be in heaven before his death. However, he sees Lazarus in heaven, on Abraham’s side for that matter, and himself being in torment in Hades. He calls Abraham “Father Abraham” and tries to show that he followed laws and was faithful as one of Abraham’s son. As the rich man asks Abraham to order Lazarus to relieve his suffering, the former still thinks Lazarus is a slave.

25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things and Lazarus in like manner, bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. ’ – Here, how they lived in their lives is called into question. The rich man received good things in his life, but he thought he had received them by his efforts, and forgot that he received them from God.

What about Lazarus? He received bad things and had a very poor life. But, for this reason, Lazarus lived his life with faith and trust in God. Also, in verse 26, Abraham says that it is impossible to cross the great chasm between where Abraham and Lazarus are and Hades where the rich man is. Decisions made by God can never be changed. 27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers — so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. ’ – The rich man wanted to save his five brothers.

He thought if Lazarus, who knows this reality, becomes a witness, his brothers will be warned, can get converted, and will be able to go to where Abraham is. 29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. ’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. ’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. ’” – “Moses and the Prophets” means the Old Testament.

Abraham admonished him that people’s death and judgment after death are already mentioned in the bible (the Old Testament) and it is enough if they read it. However, the rich man was not satisfied with the answer. The rich man already knew the bible and he thought he was doing right in his life. By conducting himself properly, he thought he could go to Abraham’s place. He never expected something like that to be his lot after death. Therefore, the rich man thought “the bible was not enough. Someone has to come back from the dead and let my brothers repent.

” However, Abraham said even if someone rose from the dead, they would not have penitence and faith in God. Many of Jesus’ teachings are in the form of a parable, which is a common form of an account of an event in ancient literature. The word “parable” means “throw along side”. The functional definition of parables is clarifying an issue by comparing it to something already known. There is also a formal definition of parables, which refers to the two formal characteristics of a parable. They are the usage of unnamed individuals and every day events.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus doesn’t fit the formal definition of parables because two names are mentioned and they are identified as a specific and particular person in the story – Abraham and Lazarus. Therefore, we can identify this story’s literary genre as “portrayal. ” Actually, it cannot be categorically described as a true story, but we can say this story is based on potentially real activity. All of Jesus’ parables are stories made up for figuring out the Arcanum and truths of kingdom of God, so this “parable” is a parable made up with the Arcanum and truths of kingdom of God.

Therefore, calling this story “parable” is not exactly wrong. In Lucian’s Cynic story “The Dream or the Rooster”, the poor shoe maker, Mycillus dreamed about being wealthy but was later convinced by the rooster that poor people are truly blessed. As I mentioned in the explanation of verse 22, Cynic philosophy has the principle of a leading a simple existence and being rich is a sad thing, poor people are blessed. In this story, the rich man went to hell and the poor man, Lazarus went to heaven, and therefore this story sounds like a Cynic story.

However, in this story, being poor was not the reason Lazarus could go to heaven, and being rich was not the reason the rich man went to hell. As Abraham admonished the rich man, reading the bible and having the faith in God is the way to go to heaven. Lazarus could go to heaven because he had a strong faith and trust in God even though he had a poor life. On the other hand, the rich man went to hell because he never appreciated God giving good things to him and he forgot that there was need to have the faith in God. Although he read the bible, he read it without faith in God; and therefore, he was sent to hell.

Why was Lazarus saved? Lazarus didn’t have a house, family, friend, job, money, and even a healthy body. He didn’t really have anything. Was he saved because he didn’t have anything? No. He had only one thing. That is what his name tells. As I already mentioned, the characters in this “parable” have names and this is different from Jesus’ other parables. Jesus calling him Lazarus means a great deal. Lazarus had the belief that “God helps me. ” Lazarus had it only although he didn’t have anything else. Jesus wanted to show that Lazarus was saved by his faith in God by choosing the name, Lazarus.

On the other hand, the rich man meant Pharisees and rabbis who made a fool of Jesus. They believed they were right, and they looked down on the people who gather around Jesus. However, there is a reversal in the situation in the end. The rich man had everything but he forgot only one thing that he cannot get into the kingdom of God without God’s help and faith in God. He had a family, a job, money, friends, and a healthy body but they didn’t help him at all after death. Therefore, the story actually tells that no matter who one is rich or not, and one have no faith in God, one go to hell.

Actually, Abraham was rich in the Old Testament, but he was not covetous, so he was blessed by God. Consequently, this “parable” is not based on the thought of Cynic philosophy. The rich man could see the heaven from Hades. He could talk to the people in heaven from there. Also, there’s a huge chasm between heaven and hell. Maybe the rich man’s gate in verse 20 means this huge chasm. At the gate, the rich man did not help Lazarus but now he wants Lazarus to help him. This story is not telling the real appearance of the afterworld. This is a “parable” for the Pharisees, the hypocrites.

However, people learn that the afterworld exists and immediately after death, some of them are sent to Hades and some of them are sent to heaven. This “parable” gives people the impression that whosoever goes to hell msut have been very bad on earth, but that is not the main point. This is more of rebuking people who have forgotten the faith in God. There is no mending for the destiny after death. After falling in hell, people cannot go to heaven and the people in heaven will not be placed in hell. Therefore, the story tells that the most important thing is having faith in God always.

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