Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, MA

First Advisor

Laurentiu Florentin Mot

Second Advisor

Zoltan Szallos-Farkas



The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, in terms of its complexity and construction, is one of the most difficult decipherable parables that Jesus uttered during His time among men. With much tact, we will try to answer a question that has profound implications: Does the narrative in Luke 16: 19-31 support the existence of life after death?


We carefully examine the Christ’s discourse in Luke 16: 19-31 in order to identify those suggestive parallels between this account of Jesus and the culture of the time, which would help us to decode more clearly both the reason and the message of this story. -- Method. The preamble of our démarche proposes the stylistic analysis of this biblical passage where we will examine if the narrative is indeed or not a parable. Moreover, in order to decode precisely the Christ's message, we will take into account the issues that precede the prologue of this narrative; in contrast with the descriptions of the rich and the poor before passing out of existence, but especially after death. The subject of analysis in the middle section of the research will have to analyze the claim of the afterlife. Once arrived at the apparently hot topic of the research (hell) will be analyzed in detail the four biblical terms that are shaping the geography of hell besieged by the Judeo-Pagan cultural converge. Beyond the timeliness of this fundamentally recurring theme, the epilogue depicts, in what way the sublimity of Christ's discourse, through intrinsic biblical truth itself, unanimously discloses the aspects that decisively influence the individual [and the neighbor] both in this life but especially in the afterlife.


The parable with the rich man and poor Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31) is not intended to portray the afterlife. This parable instead of building a positive teaching about the conditions of the afterlife is set out precisely to deconstruct popular views on the afterlife, and functions as a parody on popular tales about communication with the dead. Therefore, this parable cannot be used as a definitive statement about the afterlife, since parables were told to illustrate a point, not to give a systematic account of any doctrine. The more the Greek philosophy grew in influence, the more the unbiblical conception of the immortality of the soul had to be (re)adapted. However, by separating the soul from the body, new pretensions of interpreting hell appeared. Due to that fact, Jesus, instead of telling the reality about the afterlife directly, uses these complex figurative images precisely to meet people in their field. Jesus was the Son of God, a brilliant thinker and also the greatest communicator. Therefore He chooses to illustrate with a caricature: what would later be called hell. Observing the errors of interpretation of this recurring theme, Jesus analyzes the claim of the afterlife! In order to save the core of this great theme, given the socioreligious context of that time, Jesus will untie it! To accomplish this difficult task, Jesus masterfully chooses to introduce it into the concepts of Jewish tradition and Greek philosophy that were deeply rooted in the minds of His listeners. Looking at the last instance to the four terms that refer to the afterlife, we conclude that despite efforts to harmonize this doctrine satisfactorily, if we stick to the OT concept of this term we are not put in the situation to force the primary biblical meanings only to be able to adapt it to the motives and pretensions of the Persian and Greek culture that were fashionable in those times; even if they have familiar echoes today. As explicitly stated in the last part of the parable, Jesus leads His listeners to embrace exclusively the teachings of the Old Testament. By accepting (only) the Scripture of that time, Jesus is convinced that hell, with all its attached phraseology, will simply be demystified. Moreover, a faithful Scripture approach not only extinguishes your fear of an eternal fiery hell —the hottest point of the narrative — but with the appeasement of this fear, it practically quenches the very flames of hell.

Subject Area

Future life; Bible. Luke 16:19-31--Criticism, interpretation, etc; Rich man and Lazarus (Parable)