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Lazarus

 

Harperís Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Lazarus, a figure in two different passages in the Gospels. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; in John 11:1-44, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. It is uncertain whether the same individual is intended in both cases, but there are apparent connections.

In the Lucan parable, Lazarus dies a poor man and is carried by angels to Abrahamís bosom, while the rich man dies and is tormented in Hades. When the rich man seeks relief and is denied it, he asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his five brothers, lest they meet a similar fate. But Abraham replies, ĎIf they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the deadí (Luke 16:31).

In John 11, a Lazarus does rise from the dead at the command of Jesus, and his resurrection precipitates Jesusí own death (11:45-53). But it does not result in anyoneís repentance or salvation. Seemingly, Abrahamís prediction is fulfilled. Yet there is no explicit connection between the Lucan parable and the Johannine account.

The web of relationship does not, however, end there. In John, Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany, a village near Jerusalem (11:1-2). In Luke (10:38-42), Jesus enters an unnamed village (hardly Bethany, however, for Jesus is presumably still in Galilee) and is entertained by the sisters, Mary and Martha, as he is also in John (12:2). In Luke, Mary sits at Jesusí feet, while Martha serves; in John, Mary anoints Jesusí feet (12:1-8; cf. Luke 7:36-50), and again Martha serves (12:2). Although Luke does not link Mary and Martha to Lazarus, and though all the episodes are different, these sisters and a Lazarus who dies and whose resurrection is either suggested or recounted are encountered only in the Gospels of Luke and John.

 

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