Friday, February 29, 2008

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of JesusSo a week ago at "integrate" (the not a typical small group, small group that I've mentioned before) after our lovely dinner we got into a HUGE discussion on heaven and hell which seemed to turn into a conversation about Luke 16:19-31 which is the biblical parable of "The Richman and Lazarus". I kept saying, "But it's a parable!" Which in my mind meant it's not literal it's more metaphor. Plus, I had heard somewhere that Jews didn't even start thinking of an afterlife until about 50 years before Jesus was born. They were still evolving in figuring out their theology on it. So this seems to be about something else instead, it seems about wealth and poverty.

Yesterday I got the parables book "Stories with Intent" by Klyne Snodgrass. It is not a book to take lightly! First of all it's very heavy. But it's also a scholarly research book. Klyne has been working on for years. It's an amazing commentary. says it replaces a whole shelf of his parable books. It is 771 pages.

So due to the fact that this conversation was provocative and I just go this book this morning I spent a bit of time looking at this parable in the Snodgrass book.

Here's a quote that seems to echo what I tried to say, Snodgrass says:
In most scholarly treatments we find the caution that the parable is not intended to give a description of life after death. This caution is both necessary and true and must be emphasized....the use of folkloric themes and the fact that this is a parable with intent other than teaching about he future life should warn against taking the picture too literally.

The problem of understanding biblical material on life after death is much more problematic than most Christians are aware. We know far less, and Scripture is far less clear, than most think.
And so now we are back again to that book I read on my silence retreat...The bible is a very complicated book! I always feel better when a world renowned biblical scholar says we know far less, and scripture is far less clear, than most think! Granted he is only talking about one topic. I am sure he would say (and so would I) that it's very clear on things like love!

1 comment:

Random Reflections said...

You're right about parables. The whole point of them was to use some kind of analogy to get a point across. Taking them on their face value often misses the point and they have to be looked at within the context of why Jesus decided to say what he did in the way that he did.

Sometimes it might have been more helpful(!) not to use a parable because the message might have been more obvious, but it you unpick what a parable is about, it can reveal the most amazing insight and message that would have been totally lost.

They are definitely stories, Jesus was not relating fact and was using stories to illustrate the points he was trying to get across. To take them literally is actually to miss the point.

You've got me thinking now (yet again!) on a whole range of related issues to this.