Why Raising of Lazarus only in John?

Hello, I always try to read what the strongest criticisms of the veracity of the Gospels are and have found my faith always strengthened (as a Catholic, of course, not attempting to reconcile the small differences in details that some Protestant Literalists become obsessed with reconciling in defense of the faith -no offense).
As a teenager before the whole DaVinci movie scam even surfaced, I remember being scared whether that stupid Holy Blood Holy Grail book would question my faith. What an absolute laugh it became when I started reading it. I learned then you could look at what the Pagels, Crossans, and Jesus Seminar, etc. publish and not be shaken. For Defense Bishop Tom Wright (an Anglican, no less) on the fact of Jesus’ Resurrection, Raymond Brown on Biblical Commentary, Luke Timothy Johnson on the Creed.
However, the one discrepancy I never really researched was why perhaps Jesus’ greatest miracle before the Resurrection, the Raising of Lazarus, is only mentioned in JOHN and not in the synoptic Gospels. Amateur writers like the famed Briton A.N. Wilson (who now has returned to Christianity) stressed this Lazarus anomaly in his biography of Jesus and I never really checked the late Father Brown or anywhere else for why the Synoptic Evangelists would not recall this story? It would seem that it would be way to BIG to miss. The late Malcolm Muggeridge always thought any inconsistencies in the New Testament actually strengthened the case that there was no Christian conspiracy to synchronize the foundation but the Lazarus miracle seems one way too big to miss and way too important to be interpreted metaphorically or otherwise.
Any answers out there in this wide Catholic blogosphere? Sure would help! Thank you for ANY responses. God Bless.

Kristos Anesti!

Dear brother Andrew,

I think it might have something to do with St. John’s stated intention for writing his Gospel - namely, “so that you may believe.”

I’m not sure of the purpose of the other Gospels, except that St.Matthew was written specifically for Jews and was intended to demonstrate the continuity of Christianity with Judaism. From what I recall, many Jews did not believe in the doctrine of the resurrection at this time, so that could be a reason why St. Matthew does not contain the story. If one accepts the traditional view that the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Mark are based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, then that would also explain why it is missing in the others.


There may have been simple editorial reasons for the omission.

In the Synoptics, the person who is brought back to life is Jairus’ daughter. See Matthew 9:23-26; Mark 5:35-43; Luke 8:40-56. In John, it is Lazarus. John omits Jairus’ daughter; the Synoptics omit Lazarus.

Perhaps the Synoptics omitted the story of Lazarus, since the message tends to get lost in the story of so great a miracle, so they only mentioned Jairus’ daughter; and then John, seeing what the Synoptics did, omitted the story of Jairus’ daughter but included the story of Lazarus, only, to make sure that the story wasn’t lost but talking about one death-to-life miracle only for the same reason.

I believe it is simply because when Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote their respective Gospels, Lazarus was still a living testimony to Christ having raised him to life. They had no need to mention the miracle because it was so well known and could easily be confirmed by Lazarus himself. John wrote his gospel much later and by this time Lazarus had once more gone to the grave, so it was necessary for John to give an account of this particular miracle.


John wrote at the conclusion of his gospel:
"There are many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written" John 21: 25

John had established himself as eye-wittness of Jesus ’ life:
“This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.” John 21:24

These statements verify his veracity, and explain why not all was written do in all the gospels, indicating that there was much more that remained unwritten…

God bless you,

In addition to Jairus’ daughter, Luke also tells about Jesus, who out of compassion for the widowed mother, brought her “only son” back to life.
(Luke 7:12-15; circumstances that bring to mind those of Mary at the time of Our Lord’s death)

So, raising Lazarus (that is, bringing back to life someone who had died) was not a unique miracle.

OOOOO! That’s a good one, brother.:thumbsup:


For me, it’s been the words Our Lord spoke to Martha that have become the most significant part of the Lazarus story.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)

Could it have been for the purpose of recording these words that John chose to include the Lazarus story?
Were all the apostles familiar with the content of this conversation between Jesus and Martha? (That is, did they actually hear it - or did knowledge of it depend on Martha’s relating it to others.)

Lots of fun questions to look forward to asking Our Lord and the saints in heaven. :slight_smile:

Isaac Asimov had this question as well.
It’s never worried me because I don’t really know that there isn’t some reference in the other gospels that never made it to final draft.

A very interesting question. I am also interested in why John is so different than the Synoptics, (although the better question may be why the Synoptics are so similar to each other.)

Some have suggested that the young man raised by Jesus in Luke 7:11-17 may be Lazarus, but the details are pretty different from the details given in John. Clement of Alexandria refers to a different version of the Gospel of Mark (the so-called “Secret Mark”) that supposedly included the Lazarus story. But at the end of the day the canonical Synoptic Gospels don’t mention him. The omission of Lazarus from the Synoptics is particularly puzzling because Lazarus is an important figure in John’s Gospel. John tells us that the crowds that gathered Easter week were there to see Jesus AND Lazarus, John 12:9-11, and also that the authorities plotted to kill Lazarus. Its odd that someone that John presents as such an important figure in the last days of Christ’s life is not even mentioned in the other Gospels.

I don’t know why John is so different, but as others have mentioned I assume it has to do with the intended audience and message. John was probably written last, and even if the author had access to the other Gospels, he may have wanted to emphasize different points. It could simply be that John found the raising of Lazarus more significant than the other evangelists. Who knows?

Thank you one and all for taking the time to help answer my original question. It really helps to get more perspectives.
I think about it more and yes, perhaps the omission of Lazarus from the Synoptics, on a balance of probabilities, is due to the timing of the writing of the Gospels. It must, I believe, have something to do with the argument that John’s Gospel was written last (after the destruction of Jerusalem and Nero’s persecution). I think it isn’t just the audience each evangelist is addressing that is responsible for the respective emphases, but it must be the chronology (I think). All the Gospels agree that Jesus spent the last week of his life staying at Bethany, but the Synoptics’ omission of Lazarus I can’t explain other than by the timing of the Evangelists’ accounting.
John’s Gospel is my favorite so to speak but yes, the differences in emphasis with the other 3 at times is remarkable. I mean look at the very end of John when Jesus says of the beloved disciple to Peter that what should it matter to Peter if Jesus wanted the disciple who spoke of these things to live until His return? (but that’s another question).
In any event God Bless All for your help, and since I am new to this forum those stars I see next to others threads have peaked my curiosity and I’m really happy with the answers so let’s see what happens when I click them.

I look at John as compementary. Bishop Robinson (the Anglican) suggests that John may not have been written last but was written in stages, or underwent several revisions. And it very definitely focuses on Jesus’ mission in Judea, where the miracle took place. We also to consider the factor of ignorance. Mark and Luke were not first hand witnesses, and if they depended on Matthew and he chose to leave it out, then they would have followed suit. Plain fact is that we know nothing about the occasion for the gospels. That they were written late is pure speculation. As Robinson points out, the amazing thing is that NONE of the Gospels include an express discussion of what was for all Jews of the first century the greatest single event, the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. The simplest explanation is that All the gospels and maybe all the New Testament was written before then.

Yes, I totally forgot about that. One would have expected at least one of the Gospels to point out in writing how the Temple was destroyed, further proving Christ’s case that the Temple would fall. This is another omission which points to the compilation of the Gospels (at least orally, and with certain passages) well before the destruction of the Temple.
I mean St. Paul was already writing to an existing Christian community in Rome within 20 years of Christ’s crucifixion, a community which was already independently founded without Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. So unbelievable speed on the spread of Christianity. Thanks for reminding me of that.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.