Luke 16:19-31 - The Rich Man and Lazarus - Parable or True Events?


In addition to my other thread, about Soul Sleep, I thought I would bring up this as a topic. I often see it being used in conjunction with Soul Sleep (to argue for the concept), saying that the account in these verses is a parable rather than a telling of actual accounts. I was curious if anyone knew what scholarly opinion on this is, or if anyone more knowledgeable on the subject could elaborate. Thanks.


This story is unusual because the personal name of one of the characters is mentioned.

From Haydock’s Commentary:

Divers interpreters have looked upon this as a true history; but what is said of the rich man seeing Lazarus, of his tongue, of his finger, cannot be literal: souls having no such parts. (Witham) — In this parable, which St. Ambrose takes to be a real fact, we have the name of the poor mendicant; but our Lord suppresses the name of the rich man, to signify that his name is blotted out of the book of life: besides, the rich man tells Abraham, that he has five brothers, who were probably still living; wherefore, to save their honour, our Lord named not their reprobated brother. (source)

From A Commentary on New Testament published in 1942 by the Catholic Biblical Association:
A few of the Fathers thought that our Lord referred to a strictly historical fact here, but the common opinion holds that this is a true parable, i.e., an imaginary but entirely plausible story to point a moral lesson. (source)

Either way, I don’t see how this story supports “soul sleep” since at least two of the three souls mentioned is conscious and communicating with each other.


The story is a parable. And the moral of the story was that there was not point sending him back to warn the others because they wouldn’t believe him. But guess what. Jesus brought a Lazarus back instead in real life and they didn’t believe him!!! See the connection?


Some people did think back then that Jesus was telling a true story because he gave one of the characters a name (which He doesn’t do in the other parables in the gospels). But then again, just because one of the characters are named (Lazarus = Eleazar ‘God has helped’ - very meaningful name, isn’t it?) doesn’t necessarily make the story factual, any more than Frodo Baggins or Severus Snape make The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter real-life stories.


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