Monday, September 19, 2016

Luke 16:19-31 (Lazarus and the rich man)

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C.  It last occurred in September of 2016.
 
Summary:
The story begs for a different ending, one where someone can go back and straighten out the sinners, in this case, the rich man's brothers. The story also begs for an ending because it ends in Hades with Abraham speaking a word of hopelessness. The idea though of resurrection from the dead sends us away from the story of Lazarus and to the story of Jesus. Ironically, Jesus will wear clothes of splendor; both as Herod mocks him (Luke 23:11) and finally as he comes, as the splendid morning star, who has overthrown death and hell (Rev 22.16). For me, I will emphasize that Christ has defeated death the chasm, but I don't think it would be fair to Jesus' words to let people off the hook when it comes to how we treat the poor!

This week I have some longer notes on hell which resolve little but give much to ponder...

Some words to note:

αδης (16.23; hell, hades; the α has a rough breathing mark meaning its "ha" ): This word appears throughout the New Testament. Some poking around is interesting here; it kind of makes me want to do a further discourse on what the Bible says about hell.   For more on hell, see my post on hell here.  A few levels here:

1) Luke doesn't mention the word very often, except in the context of punishment (see also 10.15).
2) The word and idea of Hades has its own meaning in the Greek mythological world. However, because the Septuagint translates Sheol so frequently as Hades, it is fair to look at Jesus comments in light of the OT.  Curiously, Matthew uses the word "geenna" instead of "Hades," but how Matthew use "geenna" and Luke use "Hades" seem the same. 
3) The Bible seems to shift/develop its thoughts on hell and resurrection.
3A) On one level, Sheol is simply the place of God's absence. Psalm 88:5 says God doesn't even remember those in Sheol. Psalm 113:25 and Isaiah 38:18 suggest the dead in Sheol cannot praise God. In this sense, Sheol simply means death as the end.
3B) On another level, however, the OT also envisions Sheol as a place of punishment: (Psalm 9:17; Proverbs 5:5). In this sense, Sheol means hell.
3C) On another level, Sheol seems not entirely absent of God or goodness: God can hear prayers from Sheol (Jonah 2.3) and still find us there (Psalm 139:8). In this sense, Sheol almost functions like purgatory.
4) Shoel and Hades become a personified force set against God in the Bible (Psalm 49:15; Matthew 16:18). At some points, it seems that God is in control of Sheol (Hos 13:14; 1 Sam 2:6). Regardless, Sheol/Hades finally loses: Rev 20.

To summarize all of this, the more you get into this stuff, the more of chasm you find yourself in. What is hell? Is it a judgment pit? It is a time of separation? In this parable, it is both. Is there rescue from it? This is the most haunting part of the parable. The rich man doesn't get out of hell.

I wonder, having heard some other interpretations on this parable, if the rich man does not get out because the sinner inside of him has not died yet! 

βασανος (16.23;28; torture; pain): This word origin is interesting: "a dark-coloured stone on which pure gold, when rubbed, leaves a peculiar mark." (Liddell-Scott)  In the NT, Matthew and Luke uses this word to imply more than simply testing, but also physical pain. One might be tempted to translate this word as "testing" here; that Hades was simply a place of testing for Lazarus, but the existence of fire in verse 24 suggests something more than simply mental anguish.

χασμα chasma (16.26; chasm): The word appears only once in the NT, but it should be familiar enough to English readers: chasm; a pit!

λαμπρως (16.19; splendidly): You will not find this word easily in concordances; that is because it is the adverb form of the adjective: "lampros" (omicron vs omega)

The word is akin to the word for "lamp" and means bright like the sun or stars. In the NT, Jesus will wear a lampros robe, but only before Herod.  Jesus will actually declare himself the morning star; the star portion here is literally "lampros." (Rev 22:16). James warns against people who wear such nice clothing thinking highly of themselves (James 2:2-3).

Sentence break-down:
BGT Luke 16:19  Ανθρωπος δε τις ην πλουσιος και ενεδιδυσκετο πορφυραν και βυσσον ευφραινομενος καθ' ημεραν λαμπρως
NRS Luke 16:19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Ανθρωπος δε τις ην πλουσιος: "A certain man was rich." You can ignore the "de"; the "tis" is the "indefinite" article in Greek, ie "a, any, certain."  It is not before the word "man" as it should be in English, but you can tell they are linked because they are both nominative singular masculine.  But even if you didn't know that, if you see some "ti..." word not at the beginning of a sentence it almost always will function as an indefinite article, you just have to find which word it matches.  Perhaps you could poetically phrase this, "There once was a rich man."
Significance here:  Lazarus, the poor man, gets a name.  The rich does not.  This is the opposite of our world.

και ενεδιδυσκετο πορφυραν και βυσσον : Verb here is imperfect, emphasizing the continuous nature. I would translate this with an adverb: "he was ALWAYS dressed in purple and fine linen."  I saw this poetically translated as "He was used to dressing in purple..."   (Side note:  Purple was an expensive cloth and reserved only for the rich and noble).

ευφραινομενος: circumstantial participle (note: no "the" near by and no "to be" verb). Easy to translate: rejoicing

καθ' ημεραν: idiomatic for "every day"

λαμπρως: splendidly, like the sun; exceedingly luxurious.

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