Is Luke 16:19-31 a parable: meaning an illustration, an allegory, a metaphor, symbolic? Or; is Luke 16:19-31 an historical account, a true event, or a real life story? Let’s examine these verses more closely! What points could be made to prove that it is a parable or an illustration?
Is Moses in the account a person or something else?
Verse 29 has the rich man requesting Abraham that someone from the dead visit his brothers to warn them so that they do not end up in the same place as the rich man. Abraham denies his request stating that they already haveMoses and the prophets and that they should listen to them. Moses and the prophets were long dead. So this cannot be taken literally. What they had and what we have is not the persons of Moses and the prophets but what they wrote. So Moses and the prophets are used symbolically of their writings. (See Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:45, Acts 26:22; Acts 28:23)
Does the context show that it is a parable?
Consider the context. Whom is Jesus talking to? Verse 14 shows that he was speaking to the Pharisees and they were money lovers. So the rich man must represent the money-loving Pharisees. Verse 16 highlights that every sort of person was trying to enter the kingdom of God. So Lazarus (Greek for the Hebrew name Eleazar was a common name amongst Jews) must represent the ordinary people whom the ruling Pharisees considered as ignorant and poor spiritually since they were viewed as not knowingthe Law. (See John 7:47-49)
Why did Lazarus merit being in a favored position with Abraham (his bosom)?
Taken literally, the account would imply that it was simply because he was a beggar. It does not give any indication that Lazarus was a righteous or god-fearing man, simply that he was poor and a beggar. If we take the story as actuality then it means that we should all be poor to be rewarded with a better place after death. Does that make sense?
What is the “bosom of Abraham" in verse 22?
Can that be taken as a literal place? If it was a literal place where the good people end up, would the Bible not have more details of such a place? The bosom is the chest area of a person and it was simply being close or in front of someone and it denoted a position of honor and favor. (See Genesis 16:5; Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 40:11; John 1:18; John 13:23)
More can be said but enough was said to see that Luke 16: 19-31 is not an historical account and should not be understood as a true life story but rather as a parable or illustration that can teach us so much.
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