Failure and Prospect
Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31) in the Context of Luke-Acts
This work is a revised version of the PhD thesis that I completed in 2016 at St. Mary's University, Twickenham, under the supervision of Prof. Steve Walton. It has been published in the Library of New Testament Studies, no. 603.
In Failure and Prospect, I explore the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), examining its features and functions as a narrative, considering its persuasiveness as a rhetorical unit, and situating it within a Graeco-Roman and Jewish intertextual conversation on the themes of wealth and poverty, and authoritative revelation.
The parable portrays the consequences of the rich man’s failure to respond to the suffering of Lazarus despite the directives of “Moses and the prophets,” and intimates that the rich man’s brothers will repeat his mistake. At the same time, the parable suggests a prospect for alternative outcomes in response both to poverty and one risen from the dead.
This prospect comes into view when the parable is read in anticipation of the ethical and theological concerns of Luke’s second volume, for in Acts his audience witnesses the parable’s message about mercy being concretised through charitable initiatives among the community of believers. Accounts of the preaching and teaching in Acts demonstrate that a true reading of “Moses and the prophets” is also joined inseparably to the believing acceptance of one risen from the dead. Through a re-reading of Luke 16:19-31 in its Luke-Acts context, its message is amplified and commended to the parable’s audience for their appropriate response.