In my new book I will be arguing that the Gospel of Luke is distinctive in the New Testament for promoting the idea that a person is given postmortem rewards and punishments (that is, immediately after death), and that this is unlike anything found in the words of the historical Jesus himself.  Luke’s view is most emphatically and intriguingly conveyed in one of his most famous passages, and possibly the best known account of the afterlife in the entire New Testament, his story of “Lazarus and the Rich Man.”  I will be arguing that this is not a story that Jesus himself told.  A later storyteller (or Luke himself?) placed it on Jesus lips.

The story appears in Luke 16:19-31 in the context of a number of parables and other sayings of Jesus.   In it, Jesus contrasts two lives.  There is an unnamed rich man dressed in fine clothes who enjoys sumptuous meals every day; at the gate of his home lies a beggar named Lazarus, starving, desperate even to get the scraps off the rich man’s table.  The scene is pathetic.  Dogs come up and lick Lazarus’s wounds.

Both men die.   Lazarus is …

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