Rich and poor

24 Sep

Luke’s gospel was written about 50 years after Jesus’ death. It was at a time when there were communities of followers of Jesus (Christian churches) in and around Jerusalem but also beyond the Jewish enclave, in the wider Roman culture and with Gentiles as members too. Many of these communities had access to writings, including what we call the gospels of Mark and Mathew, as well as other such writings about Jesus (which are named Q by the scholars – meaning just ‘sources’). It was some of the mostly Gentile communities that had letters from Paul with whom Luke was probably associated. Luke was well-educated – maybe a doctor – and wrote his gospel as well as Acts mainly for the Gentile followers of Jesus. His gospel shows that he knew of Matthew and Mark’s writings as well as Q (which today we know only by deduction from the gospels). Luke’s works are well organised; his gospel includes unique content, including the infancy narrative, some parables, but also many meals of Jesus and interactions with women. Like other gospels Luke’s aims to aid people’s understanding and way of living appropriately as followers of Jesus. His unique parable of Dives and Lazarus is my interest here.

The rich man is sometimes named Dives, but this is just the Latin for rich man. Lazarus is a common name which in Hebrew is Eliezer (God helps). The parable doesn’t make explicit any wrong doing of the rich man yet there is no concern shown for the poor Lazarus at his gate. At death they both go into the afterlife – Hades, also called the bosom of Abraham – but with a reverse of their fortunes. The story concludes by making a reference to resurrection and to affirm that even resurrection wont convince folk – besides they have the way they should live expounded in their scriptures. And as well as the Jewish scriptures we also have the New Testament and the development of its teaching over the centuries – which seriously direct us in the way we live. So what are we supposed to learn?

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