Playing tennis with my brother – Refuting the refutation of my refutation (concerning Lazarus and the rich man)

My brother and I have different views about Jesus. For now he remains an avowed follower of the Jesus of mainstream christianity (one of the members of the godhead), whilst I, as you may guess, do not. He decided to attempt to give his point of view on my article about Lazarus and the rich man and it was a fair attempt. It can be found here.

But there lies strong flaws in his disagreement with me which would be important to note for others to see. It’s important because he does what my article already anticipated and thus I can highlight and expand on parts of my article that already hold the key to answering his rebuttals.

The two linked questions

In my brother’s article he only attempted to answer the question: what was the sin of the rich man? I’m not going to deal with whether he suceeded or not right now, but he only tried to answer that question. The problem is that wasn’t my question, or at least all of it. And he only tried to answer one fraction of my issue and not all of it. Here’s exactly what he said:

“A key question that I believe my brother asks is – what is the sin of the Rich Man?”

But that isn’t the key question I ask. Again, it was only a fraction of the fundamental problem with Jesus’ parable. My questions were and my issue was:

So here’s the problem. Based on the words of Jesus’ parable, what exactly was the sin of the rich man that merited him being continually roasted alive, kept alive in a flaming torment? What exactly did the rich man do that was so wrong, based on the text? In fact, another fantastic question would be this: what good did Lazarus do to merit the heavenly bliss that he received? What made Lazarus a good person, based on the text?

Even if I believed that my brother successfully answer the section of the questions that he did – and I don’t – he didn’t answer the opposing question about the mystery of Lazarus’ righteousness.

You see, my issue wasn’t whether we could find some sin in the rich man. Everyone’s human and thus we make mistakes. But my question was not “did the rich man do anything wrong?” My question was what merited being roasted alive in a living torment? And this has to be balanced with what good Lazarus did to merit such bliss. There is nothing in the text to warrant such punishment and such reward. If we just go by my brother’s reading of the text, Lazarus’ only benefit was that he was poor and that supposedly the rich man ignored him. But that simply implies that I could be as evil and wicked as the blackest sin, but as long as I’m at the right gate and some rich guy ignores me I’ve made it into heaven. Is God really so arbitrary, basing such rewards and punishments on whether I’m ignored by a rich man or not whilst being sick, rather than the totality of the contents of my life’s deeds?

But based on the text of Jesus’ parable, that’s all we have about Lazarus’ life and reward. Why do christians insist on looking deeper than the text to find the sin of the rich man? Actually that leads to the next section.

The invisible sin

Here’s a quote from my brother as he tries to show us the sin of the rich man:

My dear brother suggests that to say that the sin is ignoring the plight of Lazarus cannot be deduced from the text. I would suggest implicitly that my brother is wrong.

First, did Lazarus’ condition improve before he died? No. Second, what Abraham informs the Rich Man of is that when he was alive he was rich and Lazarus remained in his poor estate. Now that’s not just a statement of information. That is an indictment on the Rich Man’s neglect.

Hmmm … Really? Is this the basis of what shows us the rich man’s sin that warranted torment in flames? What exactly were Abraham’s words again?

But Abraham said [to the rich man], Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.

Note what Abraham doesn’t say. He doesn’t say “you neglected Lazarus.” There is no word in Abraham’s phrase that means neglect, abandonment, ignorance, etc. All Abraham said was, to paraphrase, “you, rich man, had it good and Lazarus didn’t.” It’s a bit of a stretch to say that this means the rich man ignored Lazarus. It’s even more of a stretch to then take this “positively proven indictment” against the rich man and then apply it to the rich man’s family later in the parable as my brother does in his article. But the way my brother worded his paraphrase – “when he [the rich man] was alive and Lazarus remained in his poor estate” – is quite leading, adding a concept to Abraham’s words that makes a person think that as Lazarus stayed in such a position, therefore it’s the rich man’s fault.

Just to enhance that point a bit more, understand that exactly the same words of Abraham can apply to people who have absolutely nothing to do with one another but one is rich and the other is poor, having nothing to do with one ignoring the other. There could be rich in Japan and a poor person in Brazil, having no knowledge of one another, and exactly the same words could be used: “you had good in your lifetime and he had evil things.” There is nothing to strongly point to any ignorance on the part of the rich man. In fact, just as there is nothing said about the deeds of Lazarus, nothing is said about the deeds of the rich man. There is nothing to say whether he dealt wisely and righteously in business, whether or not he gave good and timely wages to his employees, whether he helped another other poor person or not. A christian has to build a whole case against the rich man based simply on location: Lazarus was at his gate. Anyone who thinks things through will know that there is a lot more to any story than just location. And people who know the human condition that it is easy to fall into the trap of helping people far from you but not thinking too much about the ones close by. It doesn’t make you wicked!

I mentioned it in my article once and it is important to mention it again. Whenever a protestant christian, like my brother, comes and tells you what the parable meant, what Jesus’ intention was, you have every right not to accept a word he says. Why? Because many times Jesus didn’t explain himself. He left no tradition for his followers to pass down in a reliable way until today. So Jesus’ intentions and meanings, which are beyond the text, are unknown. It’s for the christian to use detective work to find the most plausible answer. What Jesus actually meant? Not a clue. Just gotta go with what’s plausible or probable. Or whatever the “spirit” tells you. But there are so many spirits in each denomination of the christian church … well … good luck with testing them all out.

So to ask the question – “did Lazarus’ condition improve before he died?” – doesn’t cut it, has no weight with regards to the rich man’s “crime”. And to rely on what Abraham said is weak.

And also, I said in my previous article, take note what my brother used to get his accusation against the fabled rich man. There was no explicit mention made in the text of the parable that states that the rich man ignored Lazarus. It is empty with regards to the character or deeds of each man. So my brother didn’t have clear text to back up his claim. Here’s what I said in my previous in my previous article:

Look, it’s really easy to make up stories and explanations and possibilities based on hints and allusions, not just looking at what the text says but also what it doesn’t say. I know that. Part of me wanted to do it too. If the text were a person, we could ask it questions as a counsellor to get more information and get intelligible answers back. But text can’t do that. You get what you get and that’s it (unless there’s an explanatory text elsewhere, which we don’t have in this case).

Since the text doesn’t explicitly state what the sin of the rich man was, all that can be used by the christian is to make guesses based on things hinted by the text. That’s what my brother did: unable to find an explicit statement of guilt he relied on a question about the lack of improvement in Lazarus’ condition, the cause of which could be many, and the statement of Abraham that doesn’t explicitly show any guilt on the side of the rich man, only mentions that he got something whilst the rich man got something else. Remember, all Abraham said was that the rich man received good things in life whilst Lazarus did not. This is not, as my brother would suggest, a statement saying “You, rich man, should have done something.” He didn’t say “You, rich man, are burning alive in tormenting flame because you didn’t help Lazarus.” You have to add something to get to that conclusion. Some may say that what Abraham said was the next logical step from saying “you had this whilst he got something else.” But it’s not. The question has to be why is a next logical step needed? Why not take the text for what it says, that as the rich man had good things and Lazarus had bad things, and that based on that the rich man gets horrible torment and Lazarus gets bliss? Why not accept that statement as the morality Jesus portrays in the parable, however horrible and arbitrary? The reason is not because the text demands it, but rather it’s because the christian’s belief that Jesus was who christians think it he is demands it. So it’s not dependant on the text, but on christian beliefs. But they have no divine tradition. Jesus didn’t tell them any differently. And Jesus’ view on morality can’t be that bad …. can it?

And one last important thing. My brother pointed out that Abraham told the dead rich man that his living family had Moses and the Prophets to teach them (Abraham doesn’t say what it would teach them). He was still relying on the weak premise that the rich man was guilty of ignoring Lazarus. Now despite what the Torah teaches about the poor, it’s important to ask whether failing in this warrants fiery torments after death. There is nothing in the Torah or the Prophets that shows that the sin of neglecting the poor means you get fiery torment. So on what premise in the Torah and the Prophets does any justify the rich man’s self-barbeque torment for the claim that he neglected one poor person? There is none in the text of the Jewish Bible to help a christian out.

All in all, everything to do with the finding the rich man’s sin is fundamentally flawed.

Conclusion

I’ll say nothing in this article about my brother’s mistake of thinking the following:

After all, spiritually we are all like Lazarus – we are poverty stricken. We have nothing to offer. We are bereft and empty and actually as good as dead.

Part of me is inclined to say “speak for yourself,” except I know for a fact that this isn’t even true about my brother. But his belief in the words of Paul means that he has accepted this part of christian theology wholeheartedly unfortunately. I’m hoping to write an article about that too. The series I’ve done going through all of Paul’s usages of the Hebrew Bible may be a bit big for my brother to go through to see what the Jewish Bible actually has to say about the condition or potential of man. But as I’m not dealing with that now, I’ll leave that for the other upcoming article.

But with regards to the text of the parable of Jesus, we still just have a parable empty of proper morality. You have to rely on what is not said or what is not clearly said to build whole stories and cases against the rich man of the story. And christians have to make up these stories because without them we just have what the text says, which is that the rich man was only punished because he was well off, and Lazarus was only in bliss because he was poor, and the christian mind knows there is something morally wrong with a parable like that.

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About hesedyahu

I'm a gentile living in UK, a person who has chosen to take upon himself the responsibility God has given to all gentiles. God is the greatest aspect of my life and He has blessed me with a family. I used to be a christian, but I learnt the errors of my ways. I love music. I love to play it on the instruments I can play, I love to close my eyes and feel the groove of it. I wrote my songs when I was single and not so happy and since I've been married, I haven't written as much. I guess that shows how happy and blessed I am. What else is there?
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8 Responses to Playing tennis with my brother – Refuting the refutation of my refutation (concerning Lazarus and the rich man)

  1. Chad says:

    “The series I’ve done going through all of Paul’s usages of the Hebrew Bible may be a bit big for my brother to go through to see what the Jewish Bible actually has to say about the condition or potential of man. But as I’m not dealing with that now, I’ll leave that for the other upcoming article.”

    You mention a series you’ve already done – then say you’ll leave it for “the other upcoming article.” Maybe you were referring to some videos you’ve done already though?

    Again, thank you for all that you bring.

    • hesedyahu says:

      I appreciate your comments.

      The series about Paul that I was talking about was a series of articles I wrote on my website that I’m making into an e-book. I went thru all the epistles of Paul, including Hebrews, and looked at all his quotations and references to the Jewish Bible and some of his doctrinal points and critiqued them using the the context of the Jewish Bible. I learnt a lot going through it and gained a deeper resentment for the Paul characterized in the new testament. I’m currently proofreading it.

      • Chad says:

        Well once you have it packaged up – not that I don’t already have tons on my plate for reading – but I’d love to have another resource in such arenas.

        More and more I’m trying to read Paul as less contradictory to Torah than most take him to be. I know Jacob Emden wrote of Jesus, but want to look again and see what he has said of Paul.

        Peace

      • hesedyahu says:

        If you want the url for the raw article series on Paul, let me know how to send it to you as a private message.

        I make no attempt to harmonise the NT depiction of Paul. Going thru his epistles as I did gave me an informed dislike of the character. But everyone has their way of understanding.

        Peace to you too

  2. Chris says:

    There is a few things you missed out on and can be found in scriptures about this parable. He is telling us that if we do not have any compassion or patience with others that we have no love in us. Look and see how the Lord defines love in 1Corinthians13:1-13 He is also telling you a similar story in the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
    Matthew 22:37-40
    37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    The rich man had no love for anything other then the material world creating idols with his wealth. worshiping money clothes and food more then His God and putting carnal items before his neighbors. He had his chance before he died to work on repenting from sin but there are many that give bad information because miserable people do not want to suffer alone.
    Trying to persuade others into that type of thinking when all know that it is wrong. Your “conscience” tells you that it also lets you feel guilt when you lie steal or cheat. It maybe getting harder today with all the desensitizing in all the media platforms to listen to your “conscience”.
    Heaven is real as is hell and God is very much alive and very real whether you choose to believe or not I am not sure if you can choose unless you are willing and starting to repent first? There are only 2 choices in the universe, light switch is on or off, hot or cold, day or night black or white yeah you can muddle things up with saying “gray area”, but them are rabbit trails to leave alone. Take a good hard look at the world hopefully you will be able to pull your self up out of the box enough to see what is taking place around you. All stories have a beginning, middle and ending except one.

    http://www.gotquestions.org/rich-man-and-Lazarus.html

    Why did Lazarus get into heaven and not the rich man? read John11:1-44 the Lazarus is the same in both books.
    If I was not recently saved I would still be that atheist with the same arguments damning myself to hell. But today I can tell you from experience, I know I am saved and I do not worry about my salvation but everyone else now.

    A very good website to look at http://www.gotquestions.org

    Hope that helps,
    Chris

    • hesedyahu says:

      OK, 1 Corinthians 13? Irrelevant. That was Paul speaking, not “The Lord” whoever you believe that to be.
      Luke 10:25-37 irrelevant, no clear link between that parable and the rich man and Lazarus parable.
      Matthew 22:37-40, again totally irrelevant. Nothing to do with this subject.

      What you say about the rich man’s character has no overt basis in the story, so that’s just fairy story telling.
      Your paragraph about “Trying to persuade …” and “your ‘conscience’ …” is again irrelevant.

      Jesus himself made no link between the Lazarus in his story and the Lazarus that was Mary and Martha’s brother. You did. So again, you’ve said nothing.

      I’m glad you’re not an atheist anymore. Whether you’ve put yourself into a better place will depend on whether you bow the knee to Jesus, worshipping him as God. If you do, then you’re in a worse position than you were as an atheist. Where truth is concerned, your conviction that you are saved is the same as a man with a loaded gun to his own head pulling the trigger saying that he KNOWS that bullets can’t hurt him. Of course the blood splatter and hole in the head afterwards isn’t much evidence to that man because it’ll be too late. So when you’ve got a case with merit and evidence, at that time it may be beneficial for you to return. But for now, everything you’ve said is either baseless or relevant and no grounds for discussion or persuasion.

      You’re offering Jesus? Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer God and Torah.

      • Chris says:

        “Jesus himself made no link between the Lazarus in his story and the Lazarus that was Mary and Martha’s brother. You did. So again, you’ve said nothing.”
        John 11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
        John 11:2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.
        He is the only Lazarus in the bible if there was another there would be a last name to make the distinction with as is the case with Mary.
        Mat_27:56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
        There is only one Lazarus in the bible one Mary Magdalene and above all this there is only ONE GOD.
        John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
        John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well,
        John 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
        Lazarus was a follower of Jesus our God. 1 Corinthians 13 is defining what love is to check ourselves with if we forget. This is how we are supposed to be with one another.
        “I’m glad you’re not an atheist anymore. Whether you’ve put yourself into a better place will depend on whether you bow the knee to Jesus, worshipping him as God.”
        John 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
        John 20:24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
        John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
        John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
        John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
        John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
        John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
        John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
        John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

        Jesus did not correct Thomas and say He was not God , He instead blesses all those that have not seen Him and believe in Him.
        “If you do, then you’re in a worse position than you were as an atheist.”
        What could be worse than being away from and turning your back on God? Not knowing who He is and robbing Him maybe?
        “Where truth is concerned, your conviction that you are saved is the same as a man with a loaded gun to his own head pulling the trigger saying that he KNOWS that bullets can’t hurt him. Of course the blood splatter and hole in the head afterwards isn’t much evidence to that man because it’ll be too late.”
        I stand by my convictions because I know them to be true and if I was shot dead today I would be with our God our Lord Jesus. Where would you be? Since you want to follow the Torah you must be perfect and not sin? You must be following the 613 laws exactly right because if you don’t?
        http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm
        http://www.gotquestions.org/ceremonial-law.html
        “So when you’ve got a case with merit and evidence, at that time it may be beneficial for you to return. But for now, everything you’ve said is either baseless or relevant and no grounds for discussion or persuasion.”
        Instead of copy and pasting another answer to this redundant argument since Jesus walked the earth. I would rather give you a link that answers this.
        http://www.gotquestions.org/signs-and-wonders.html
        “The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones. They were also known as chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God – extremely ironic in view of the fact that …they made themselves the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus …[1] Wayne Blank, “Who were the Pharisees?” http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/pharisee.htm.
        John 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
        John 20:24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
        John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
        John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
        John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
        John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
        John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
        John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
        John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

        “You’re offering Jesus? Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer God and Torah.”

        I am not offering you anything I am not God nor can I grant you salvation. Only Jesus can do that because He is the Lord and Savior and He is offering you salvation and eternal life with Him.
        John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
        Hope that helps,
        Chris

      • hesedyahu says:

        In a way, I’m sad for you. Created in God’s image, a majestic creature, and yet we humans have our imperfections and limitations. What could be worse than atheism? Idolatry, worshipping a man as God. I know, I know. You’ve given your heart to Jesus. But it’s that devotion that hinders your vision. I can’t argue with emotion. So I won’t. When you get the chance, step back and learn about the God spoken of in the Jewish Bible, the “old testament”. And then compare him to the man Jesus. I’ll say no more on that … for now.

        Now the notion that the Lazarus in the story of the rich man and the Lazarus of Mary and Martha are different people doesn’t originate with me. Check all of your xtian commentators to see. And the name Lazarus is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew name, Eleazar. Check for yourself. It wasn’t an uncommon name in those days. In fact, there aren’t many unique names in your bible, like James (find out the name behind “James”) and John and Zebadee where there was more than one person with that name. So having Lazarus in one place in the new testament and someone having the same name in another doesn’t make them the same person. You need a strong link, one that Jesus doesn’t give you. Even the proposed Hebrew or Aramaic name for Jesus, shows that his name wasn’t unique. His name was popular in his day. Find out what “barjesus” or “bar-Jesus” means. It’s from Acts.

        Look, you unfortunately don’t know enough about the issues to make a case here. If you can’t grasp names, if you can’t grasp the incompatibility of finite and infinite, then there is no point in discussing law or Pharisees with you. I’m not going to waste our time attempting to discuss multiple issues when you haven’t even understood the basics yet.

        Go and study some more, not just to combat what you see as false teaching, but because truth and the pursuit of it isn’t so superficial. I hope you were the type of atheist that liked to research. If you were, you’re doing yourself no favours with your current approach.

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