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|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Patronage||the poor, against leprosy|
lepers, Order of St Lazarus
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Patronage||the poor, against leprosy|
lepers, Order of St Lazarus
The Gospel of Luke (Luke 16:19–31) tells of the relationship, in life and in death, between an unnamed rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. The traditional name, Dives, is not actually a name, but instead a word for "rich man", dives, in the text of the Latin Bible, the Vulgate. The rich man was also given the names Neuēs (i.e. Nineveh) and Fineas (i.e. Phineas) in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
Along with the parables of the Ten Virgins, Prodigal Son, and Good Samaritan, it was one of the most frequently illustrated parables in medieval art, perhaps because of its vivid account of an afterlife.
The name Lazarus (from the Hebrew: אלעזר, Elʿāzār, Eleazar - "God is my help") is also given to a second and arguably more famous figure in the Bible, Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Lazarus of the Four Days. He is the subject of a prominent miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus restores him to life four days after his death. However, the two Lazaruses are generally understood to be two separate characters. Many allusions to Lazarus (particularly those involving the idea of resurrection from the dead) should be understood as referring to the Lazarus described in John, rather than to the poor beggar of this story.
Luke 16:19–31, New International Version:
|“||19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and 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. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So 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. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, 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 family, 28 for 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.’”
|This section may contain previously unpublished synthesis of published material that conveys ideas not attributable to the original sources. (June 2012)|
Some Christians view the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man as an actual event which was related by Jesus to his followers; this was generally the view of the medieval Church. According to this view, this story is not a parable but literal biography. Supporters of this view point to the amount of detail in the story. For example, in no other parable does Jesus give a character's personal name, but refers to the characters as "a certain man", "a sower", etc. Critics of this view point out that "The "soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18); "For dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) describes death as sleep until the Day of the Lord, when the dead will receive glorified bodies upon the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). No scripture, other than Philippians 1:23-25 (in which the apostle expresses the confidence that on departure from this life he would be with Christ), 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (in which he affirms the possibility of being taken to paradise out of the body), 2 Corinthians 5:8, etc., accounts for a disembodied soul and its comfort or torture. Because this seems to beg the question of what kind of body is tortured in Hades as depicted in Luke, there are those who maintain that whilst the conversations took place as described, the language used in them, referring to body parts, etc., was figurative.
Other Christians consider that this is a parable created by Jesus and told to his followers. Tom Wright and Joachim Jeremias both treat it as a "parable". Proponents of this view argue that the story of Lazarus and the rich man has much in common with other stories which are agreed-upon parables, both in language and content (e.g. the reversal of fortunes, the use of antithesis, and concern for the poor).
Martin Luther taught that the story was a parable about rich and poor in this life and the details of the afterlife not to be taken literally:
John Lightfoot (1602 – 1675) treated the parable as a parody of Pharisee belief concerning the Bosom of Abraham, and from the connection of Abraham saying the rich man's family would not believe even if the parable Lazarus was raised, to the priests' failure to believe in the resurrection of Christ:
E. W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible cited Lightfoot's comment, and expanded it to include coincidence to lack of belief in the resurrection of the historical Lazarus (John 12:10). Bullinger considered that Luke did not identify the passage as a "parable" because it contains a parody of the view of the afterlife:
An alternative explanation of the parable is a satirical parable against the Sadducees. One writer to identify the Sadducees as the target was Johann Nepomuk Sepp. The arguments in favour of identification of the Rich Man as the Sadducees are (1) the wearing of purple and fine linen, priestly dress, (2) the reference to "five brothers in my father's house" as an allusion to Caiaphas' father-in-law Annas, and his five sons who also served as high priests according to Josephus, (3) Abraham's statement in the parable that they would not believe even if he raised Lazarus, and then the fulfillment that when Jesus did raise Lazarus of Bethany the Sadducees not only did not believe, but attempted to have Lazarus killed again: "So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well" (John 12:10). This last interpretation had wide circulation in France during the 1860-'90s as a result of having been included in the notes of the pictorial Bible of Abbé Drioux.
Simon Perry has argued that the Lazarus of the parable (an abbreviated transcript of 'Eleazer') refers to Eleazer of Damascus, Abraham's servant. In Genesis 15 - a foundational covenant text familiar to any 1st century Jew - God says to Abraham "this man will not be your heir" (Gen 15:4). Perry argues that this is why Lazarus is outside the gates of Abraham's perceived descendent. By inviting Lazarus to Abraham's bosom, Jesus is redefining the nature of the covenant. It also explains why the rich man assumes Lazarus is Abraham's servant.
Christians debate what the story says about the afterlife:
Most Christians believe in the immortality of the soul and particular judgment and see the story as consistent with it. Others believe that the main point of the parable was to warn the godless wealthy about their need for repentance in this life and Jesus did not intend to give a preview of life after death. The parable teaches in this particular case that both identity and memory remain after death for the soul of the one in a hell. Eastern Orthodox Christians and Latter Day Saints see the story as consistent with their belief in Hades, where the righteous and unrighteous alike await the resurrection of the dead. Western Christians usually interpret Lazarus as being in Heaven or Paradise and the rich man in Hell. The belief in a state of Limbo is less common.
Some Christians believe in the mortality of the soul ("Christian mortalism" or "soul sleep") and general judgment ("Last Judgement") only. This view is held by some Anglicans such as E. W. Bullinger. Proponents of the mortality of the soul, and general judgement, for example Advent Christians, Conditionalists, Seventh-day Adventists, Christadelphians, and Christian Universalists, argue that this is a parable using the framework of Jewish views of the Bosom of Abraham and is not definitive teaching on the intermediate state for several reasons.
We have in fact one of the cases where the background to the teaching is more probably found in non-biblical sources.—I. Howard Marshall, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Luke, p. 634
Some scholars—e.g., G. B. Caird, Joachim Jeremias, Marshall, Hugo Gressmann,—suggest the basic storyline of The Rich Man and Lazarus was derived from Jewish stories that had developed from an Egyptian folk tale about Si-Osiris. Richard Bauckham is less sure, adding:
In any case, [Jesus] has used [motifs also found in the Egyptian and Jewish stories] to construct a new story, which as a whole is not the same as any other extant story. ...[Of course] comparison with the way they function in other stories can help to highlight their function in the parable. In this sense, the parallels and contrasts with the Egyptian and Jewish story of the rich and the poor man can be instructive...
Hippolytus of Rome (ca. AD 200) describes Hades with similar details: the bosom of Abraham for the souls of the righteous, fiery torment for the souls of wicked, and a chasm between them. He equates the fires of Hades with the lake of fire described in the Book of Revelation, but specifies that no one will actually be cast into the fire until the end times.
In some European countries, the Latin description dives (Latin for "the rich man") is treated as his proper name: Dives. In Italy, the description epulone (Italian for "banquetter") is also used as a proper name. Both descriptions appear together, but not as a proper name, in Peter Chrysologus's sermon De divite epulone (Latin "On the Rich Banquetter"), corresponding to the verse, "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day".
The story was frequently told in an elaborated form in the medieval period, treating it as factual rather than a parable. Lazarus was venerated as a patron saint of lepers. In the 12th century, crusaders in the Kingdom of Jerusalem founded the Order of Saint Lazarus.
The story was often shown in art, especially carved at the portals of churches, at the foot of which beggars would sit (for example at Moissac and Saint-Sernin, Toulouse), pleading their cause. There is a surviving stained-glass window at Bourges Cathedral.
In the Latin liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the words of In paradisum are sometimes chanted as the deceased is taken from church to burial, including this supplication: "Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem." (May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who was poor, may you have eternal rest.")
Historically within Christianity, the begging Lazarus of the parable (feast day June 21) and Lazarus of Bethany (feast day December 17) have often been conflated, with some churches celebrating a blessing of dogs, associated with the beggar, on December 17, the date associated with Lazarus of Bethany.
Another example of this conflation can be found in Romanesque iconography carved on portals in Burgundy and Provence. For example, at the west portal of the Church of St. Trophime at Arles, the beggar Lazarus is enthroned as St. Lazarus. Similar examples are found at the church at Avallon, the central portal at Vézelay, and the portals of the cathedral of Autun.
In William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I, Sir John Falstaff alludes to the story while insulting his friend Bardolph about his face, comparing it to a memento mori: "I never see thy face," he says "but I think upon hell-fire and Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his robes, burning, burning" (III, 3, 30-33).
References to Dives and Lazarus are a frequent image in socially conscious fiction of the Victorian period. For example:
Rich Lazarus! richer in those gems, thy tears,
Than Dives in the robes he wears:
He scorns them now, but oh they'll suit full well
With the purple he must wear in hell.
Dives and Lazarus appear in Edith Sitwell's poem "Still falls the Rain" from "The Canticle of the Rose", first published in 1941. It was written after The Blitz on London in 1940. The poem is dark, full of the disillusions of World War II. It speaks of the failure of man, but also of God's continuing involvement in the world through Christ:
Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.
Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us—
On Dives and on Lazarus:
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.
"Dives Malus" (the wicked rich man) also known as "Historia Divitis" (c.1640) by Giacomo Carissimi is a Latin paraphrase of the Luke text, set as an oratorio for 2 sopranos, tenor, bass; for private performance in the oratories of Rome in the 1640s. Mensch, was du tust a German sacred concerto by Johann Philipp Förtsch (1652–1732) The story appeared as an English folk song whose oldest written documentation dates from 1557, with the depiction of the afterlife altered to fit Christian tradition. The song was also published as the Child ballad Dives and Lazarus in the 19th century. Ralph Vaughan Williams based his orchestral piece Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus (1939) on this folk song, and also used an arrangement as the hymn tune Kingsfold. Benjamin Britten set Sitwell's text to music in his third Canticle in a series of five.
The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem (OSLJ) is an order of chivalry which originated in a leper hospital founded by Knights Hospitaller in the 12th century by Crusaders of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry, yet is one of the less-known and less-documented orders. The first mention of the Order of Saint Lazarus in surviving sources dates to 1142.
The Order was originally established to treat the virulent disease of leprosy, its knights originally being lepers themselves. According to the Order's official international website, "From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of leprosy and the defense of the Christian faith." Sufferers of leprosy regarded the beggar Lazarus (of Luke 19:19-31) as their patron saint and usually dedicated their hospices to him.
The order was initially founded as a leper hospital outside the city walls of Jerusalem, but hospitals were established all across the Holy Land dependant on the Jerusalem hospital, notably in Acre. It is unknown when the order became militarised but militarisation occurred before the end of the 12th century due to the large numbers of Templars and Hospitallers sent to the leper hospitals to be treated. The order established ‘lazar houses’ across Europe to care for lepers, and was well supported by other military orders which compelled lazar brethren in their rule to join the order upon contracting leprosy.
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