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To extend this previous question, what about the text of the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man indicates whether it should be considered a parable or an "actual" account?

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I would be interested in answering why it should not be considered a parable. –  Narnian Oct 29 '12 at 15:47
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@Narnian - go for it :) ... as it reads, there is no introduction to it being a parable vs a "real" story –  warren Oct 29 '12 at 15:48
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Better on Biblical Hermeneutics –  DJClayworth Oct 29 '12 at 16:03
    
This isn't an answer, but a huge majority of Christian commentators consider this a parable: google.ca/… –  DJClayworth Oct 29 '12 at 16:05
    
I agree with Narian. This story reads like a parable, and it's in the middle of a whole sequence of parables. Why would it not be a parable? –  DJClayworth Oct 29 '12 at 16:15
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To add to the answer @Narnian gave, the one thing that stands out to me is that it doesn't preface it as a parable like it does in the following citations for example:

Matthew 13:18
Luke 6:39
Luke 12:16
Luke 15:3
Luke 18:1
Luke 18:9
Luke 19:11

So, you of course have to decide, but if The Bible stated the aforementioned as parable's, wouldn't it have here as well?

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One thing that seems to distinguish parables from accounts of actual events is the absence of specific names for the people in the parables. In the parables we read, "A sower" (Luke 8), "A rich man" (Luke 12, 15), "A man" (Luke 13, 14), "A Samaritan" (Luke 10).

However, in the account of the Rich Man and the Beggar, we are actually given the name of the beggar. This is quite a distinction from all the other parables. In addition, Jesus tells us that the rich man saw another specific man--the patriarch Abraham.

So, the fact that the rich man's name is withheld does support the idea of this being a parable. Yet, the fact that two other specific people are identified by name seems to be stronger evidence to support the idea that this was an actual historical event with actual people.

The significance of this story comes in the reference to someone rising from the dead, as Jesus states that even if someone rises from the dead, some will not believe. This is fulfilled in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, and even the chief priests of the day continued in their refusal to believe in Him.

For reference:

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side.The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31 ESV

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I don't think Abraham's name counts, actually. –  TRiG Oct 30 '12 at 9:38
    
@TRiG, can you expand on that a little? –  Michael Perrenoud Oct 30 '12 at 10:51
    
@BigM. He's a character from myth, imported into the story to make a point. Lazarus' name could have been left out of the story without making any substantial change, so the inclusion of his name was a choice, and therefore relevant. Abraham's name could not similarly have been omitted. –  TRiG Oct 30 '12 at 11:13
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@TRiG Abraham is a myth? Such a statement would need to be supported with a very substantial amount of evidence, given the evidence of the historicity of Abraham. If he were a myth, then what would be his purpose here? Makes no sense. –  Narnian Oct 30 '12 at 14:42
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@TRiG You are welcome to your opinion, but should it not be stated as such instead of as an indisputable fact? –  Narnian Oct 30 '12 at 14:50
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