Hypocrisy, Not Hell: The Polemic Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man


The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (–31) is often one of the first to be mentioned as giving explicit details on the nature and geography of hell. Upon closer examination, these assumptions prove to be lacking and evidence pulls us in another direction. Jesus told this story as a condemnation against the Pharisees, after a prolonged controversy with them regarding the rich and poor. This will be shown by analyzing the context of the story within the gospel of Luke, as well as the cultural and sociological context. Also, the parabolic genre of this story will be considered against the background of extra-biblical parallels of Jesus’ time, which will further reveal its authorial intent.

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19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.