I want to show in some depth why I think the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 does not originally go back to Jesus himself, but is a story that Luke either came up with himself or inherited from the oral tradition. Recall: the rich man feasts sumptuously; Lazarus is impoverished and desperate for the crumbs from the man’s table. They both die. Lazarus is carried by the angels to “Abraham’s bosom” where he is in blessed and satisfied; the rich man is sent off to Hades to be tormented in the flames. When the rich man pleads with Abraham to have Lazarus come and provide him some temporary relief, Abraham indicates it is not possible. When he asks for him to go and warn his five brothers to repent, he is told that there is no point: if the brothers don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen “even if a person is raised from the dead.”
The parable is found only in Luke (so it is not multiply attested). That does not prove Jesus did not say it, but you can’t show that he *did* say it based, for example, on the fact that it is found in several independent accounts of Jesus’ sayings (i.e, it is not in Q, or M, or John, or Thomas, etc – just this one passage in Luke).
And even more important, the end of the parable coincides perfectly well with Luke’s own theological agenda, and not so well with that of Jesus himself. In particular it is the ending that matters: Luke insists throughout his work that Moses and the prophets attest to Jesus, and that people who reject Moses and the prophets reject Jesus. The Jewish rejection of Jesus is a key theme in Luke, much more, than say, even Luke’s source, the Gospel of Mark — where of course there is indeed a theme of Jesus’ rejection, but not nearly as pronounced as in Luke.
How does one show that? By a comparative analysis of the two.
One of the most striking accounts of Jesus rejection in Mark occurs …
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