The First Great Parable in the Jesus Tradition: Dives and Lazarus

Luke 16.19-31 is attested word for word in Greek in the Adamantius Dialogue, a key source to reconstruct the Gospel of Marcion. This passage thus offers one of the best occasions to see how a maximalist reconstruction of Qn (50-65) as transmitted through Early Luke / Gospel of Marcion (80s) sizes up against Late Luke (117-138) and prior reconstructions of GMarc. My new scientifically useful, critical edition of GMarc, not based on the faulty and unscientific assumption that Late/Canonical Luke was its source, is restoring numerous readings to a higher level of confidence, eleven altogether by my count in this passage alone, which I have surrounded with asterisks.

Occasionally these restored readings lend new intertextual possibilities. The original term “wounds” / τραύματα in Qn 16.21, for example, also shows up later in the parable of the Good Samaritan created by LkR2. To my mind, this suggests that the Qn parable of Dives and Lazarus was a notable influence on the creation of that later parable, and that from its inception the Good Samaritan parable carried common Greco-Roman connotations of an underworld journey, and thus a christological reading of the Good Samaritan as Jesus, the one who finds humanity in its woundedness and restores us to a place of safety and peace.

Now that the parable of Dives and Lazarus is established as the first great parable of the Jesus textual tradition, it opens other possibilities as well. For example, while the Gospel of Matthew left out this parable, its parable of the sheep and the goats carries a similar eschatological framework (more chronological than geographical, admittedly), a similar division of people into two communities, and a similar moral appeal to take care of the needy and the destitute in this life lest we suffer eschatological consequences. The influence of this early story about an underworld Lazarus also had an obvious influence on the narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John.

Now that the Qn puzzle pieces are put in their proper place, all kinds of connections and relationships are becoming clear for the first time in New Testament studies.