Luke 16:31, The Raising of Lazarus

And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

//This verse concludes a well-known parable in the Gospel of Luke. Lazarus, a poor beggar, sits outside the mansion of an uncaring rich man. When the two die, Lazarus goes to a place of comfort, in the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man lands in torment. The rich man then begs Abraham to resurrect Lazarus and send him to the rich man’s family, warning them of a horrible afterlife if they do not repent.

 Abraham answers that even if Lazarus did rise from the dead, they would not believe.

 Have you ever wondered if this parable influenced the story in John’s Gospel of the raising of a man named Lazarus? In John’s Gospel, immediately after Lazarus rises from the dead, the story transitions into the effect this miracle had on the Pharisees. It had none; they didn’t believe even though “one rose from the dead.”

Many scholars propose that Luke’s rendition of Lazarus has a foundation in Greek storytelling. The place of fiery torment is clearly of Greek influence. But could John’s story be another rendition of the same? I am really curious, now, to know the original Greek Lazarus story.


  1. edwardtbabinski

    One can’t help but notice a trajectory in stories about Jesus commanding the dead to come back to life, from Mark to Matthew, Luke and John. The stories grow grander, more impressive, and play a more important role from earlier to later Gospels.

    Mark has the girl be near death when Jesus is asked to come see her, we only learn she is dead when Jesus arrives at his destination, and the resurrection takes place only in front of a few people inside the person’s home, and Jesus says to tell no one about what he did.

    Matthew has the girl be dead already when Jesus is asked to come see her. Again, the resurrection takes place inside the home in front of only a few people, but Matthew nixes the secret part and instead adds, “News of this spread through all that region” [presumably, Galilee]. (Matthew also adds the very brief tale of the “raising of many saints” at Jesus’ death, but it’s not a resurrection story in which Jesus commands the dead to live but an apocalyptic add-on to make Jesus’ death more impressive. Still, it is an additional resurrection miracle compared with the Markan story.)

    Luke follows the Markan story of the raising of the daughter including the command to keep it a secret. But Luke adds a second resurrection story, more spectacular than the daughter’s resurrection tale found in the earlier two Gospels, since in this case the child is not still at home lying in bed but his body is on the way to burial, and the miracle takes place in full public view, and not merely in far off Galilee but in Judea. “The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” Interestingly it is a widow’s son who is dead in this case, and this Gospel is also known for its focus on “widows” much moreso than earlier Gospels:

    Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son
    “11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”

    The fourth Gospel features the most spectacular resurrection tale of all, that of a man who dies, is taken for burial, buried, and raised four days later when he already stinketh, and in Judea rather than far off Galilee, and the news of this super-duper resurrection miracle is so powerful that it is portrayed as the REASON why the Pharisees sought to have Jesus crucified. I am speaking of the tale of the raising of Lazarus:

    John 11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. … 48 “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” 49 Then… Caiaphas… spoke up, …50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”… 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his [Jesus’] life.

    Hence, stories in which Jesus commands the dead to come back to life, grow grander, more impressive, and play a more important role from earlier to later Gospels.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Given that the stories grow more incredible over time, what does that mean? That more details are surfacing? That legends are growing? Or that gospel storytellers over time are embracing a trend away from biography toward mythology?

    • Fuller MIng, Jr.

      Lee – the story is either based in history or not.. it’snot mythology.

  3. Vlad Kije

    The comment regarding either history or not is correct. In fact either we belive the many miracles described by the Gospel writers or we do not belive any. The differences in content are dye to differences in audience and intent. John wrote this Gospel account for the purpose but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ You can reject the intent of the author but all miracles are belived by faith or rejected. This is a choice.

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