Some, in their justification of a belief in an eternal hell, point to Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. In a misguided zeal to prove the unprovable, some have gone as far as to claim that the story is not a parable! However, does this particular argument even make sense?
“Jesus did not and does not lie,” goes the claim. “Therefore, since He did not explicitly state that it was a parable, it was a real story. Otherwise, He would have been guilty of telling an untruth.”
It is true that Lk 16:19 states “There was a certain …” and does not explicitly state that it was a parable. However, to state that it must be true because Jesus did not explicitly state it was a parable is quite a stretch. It assumes that the audience would not have recognized it as a parable unless Jesus stated that each and every time, which essentially means the person making the argument is looking down upon the people’s intelligence. It is similar to saying that I cannot tell a fairy tale unless I explicitly state at the beginning “Once upon a time”.
On the Life of Christ website is a page listing the Parables of Jesus Christ. It tells us, “A parable is an earthly story with a spiritual truth.” Furthermore, it explicitly lists Lazarus and the Rich Man as a parable. I would like to use this list to evaluate the stated position, seeing as this is a list that I did not come up with on my own.
The argument that Lazarus and the Rich Man is not a parable ignores other parables that Jesus spoke without explicitly stating that they were parables. So, using the above list, I took the liberty of slashing out those in which Jesus explicitly stated that it was a parable. Furthermore, if there are parallel accounts in the other Gospel records, I still removed it even if only one stated it was a parable. What I found during this exercise is about half of the time, we are not even told explicitly it is a parable! I honestly got tired of going through them because there were so many, in fact, so here are just a few, which include some of the most famous parables we know:
|Bread of life
|Children in market
|Friend at midnight
|Pearl of great price
|Sheep and goats
|Sign of Jonah
|* Notice that we are not told by Jesus it was a parable, but John does tell us after the fact!
When you read just Mt 13, you see quite a few parables, yet only half of them actually say they are parables, much aligned with what I found above. What is interesting is that people who make the argument that a parable must be explicitly stated gloss over a very key verse in the NT.
When you look at Lk 16, though, you see Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. Would they not be part of the crowd in which He did not speak to except by parables?
Stating that Lazarus and the Rich Man was not a parable just because Jesus did not call it a parable is a superficial argument at best.