Lazarus of Bethany



I am currently in a discussion with someone about Lazarus. This person is claiming that Jesus did not actually revive Lazarus, and that it is simply a story that did not actually occur. I told him that this is not what the Church teaches. Do any of you know of any writings of Church fathers, something in the Catechism, etc that specifically says that Jesus revived Lazarus and that it was not just a story/parable/symbolic?


I posit that the fact that it is in Scripture, which is from the time of Christ or shortly thereafter is as much proof as they would get from any later source such as the writings of the Church fathers.

It’s presented as fact, why question it any more than anything else in the New Testament.

From what I know, when a parable or metaphor is given by Christ, it’s pretty clear.

The story of Lazarus is not presented as a parable, far from it, specific details of time, place and people’s names are given. Not a single reason to believe it’s not an actual event.


That’s what I’ve been trying to explain. Picking and choosing what you want to believe is symbolic or metaphorical is a very dangerous thing to do.


I would just ask your friend to supply his/her evidence that this did not occur. Our evidence is Scripture and the 2000 year tradition in the Church that this was an actual event. I agree with schaeffer’s post that it was not a parable of some type.


The raising of Lazarus from the dead in mentioned in paragraph 646 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
646 Christ’s Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus’ power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ’s Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is “the man of heaven.”512 (934, 549) (source)


Thank you. This is greatly appreciated.


The argument usually goes something like this: “Look, I recognize that the various Gospel writers were picking-and-choosing which stories to tell and which to omit from their narratives of Jesus’ life. But, one would think that a story in which Jesus brings a man back from the dead! would be something that would catch every Gospel writer’s attention. What about actual, real-life resurrection would make a Gospel writer say, “meh… I’m not impressed”??? Moreover, even if the writers weren’t impressed, you’d certainly think that other Christians and locals would be impressed! And yet, none of the Synoptic Gospels deals with this ‘miracle’, and no other sources even hint at it. Therefore, it must be just a ‘story’, and not based in historical fact.”

At least, that’s the way that the argument contra Lazarus goes… :wink:


In his tractates on John, Saint Augustine speaks about the raising of Lazarus as a real historical miracle.

“Among all the miracles done by our Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Lazarus holds a prime place in preaching. But if we consider attentively who did it, our duty is to rejoice rather than to wonder. A man was raised up by him who made humankind. He is the only one of the Father by whom, as you know, all things were made. And if all things were made by him, why is anyone amazed that one was raised by him when so many are daily brought into the world by his power? It is a greater deed to create men and women than to raise them again from the dead. Yet he decided both to create and to raise again; to create all, to resuscitate some.” TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 49.1


The three synoptic Gospels talk about the daughter of Jairus, but not so much about Lazarus. Why?

  1. Hometown girl from Galilee. Not related to Jesus or any of the apostles, whereas Lazarus was a crony of Jesus, and lived practically on top of Jerusalem, and was well off.

  2. Lots of people unrelated to her or Jesus saw it happen, including Gentiles. Most of the people who saw Lazarus rise were relatives of Lazarus or disciples of Jesus.

  3. A little girl rising from the dead (called by an Aramaic phrase!) is much more symbolic of raising Israel (and hence more attractive to everybody except maybe Gentiles). Lazarus rising from the dead is much more a foreshadowing of Jesus Himself (which is maybe why we get all the extra details instead of just the bare facts).

  4. It’s a prettier and less disturbing story, with no comments from Martha about stink.

My assumption is that a lot of people were raised from the dead by Jesus, especially at the time of the Resurrection. There may have been more people raised from the dead during His ministry, for all we know. The Gospels pick someone to focus on, and they each have their reasons.


Hmm… except that John explicitly mentions that, since Jerusalem’s so close to Bethany, people came from Jerusalem to mourn with Mary. He doesn’t suggest that they’re relatives.


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