In the story of the rich man and the poor man (Luke 16:19–31), Jesus did not name the rich man. The name Lazarus that Jesus gave to the poor man is said to have originated from a Greek word meaning 'God will help' or 'assistance of God'.

My question is: According to Catholicism, why did Jesus not name the rich man? Was it in order to convey a message that His affinity was more towards the humble underdogs than towards the proud rich?

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. At the moment this question is too broad and invites a wide range of opinions. It would help if you could identify a particular Christian tradition or denomination from which you would like an understanding of the passage. Sep 3, 2015 at 7:01
  • I don't believe that there is difference of opinion among the denominations on the interpretation of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus could not have been more clear in His message . However, as the reverend coordinator has suggested, I would first like to know what the views of the Catholic church are . Thanks. Sep 3, 2015 at 7:17

2 Answers 2


During his Thursday [Oct 8, 2015] morning homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis may have answered your question:

"It is curious: that [rich] man’s name is never spoken. He is just an adjective: he is a rich man (It. ricco, Gr. πλοσιος). Of the wicked, in God’s record book, there is no name: he is an evil one, a con man, a pimp ... They have no name. They only have adjectives. All those, who try to go on the way of the Lord, will rather be with His Son, who has the name: Jesus Saviour. It is a name that is difficult to understand, inexplicable for the trial of the Cross and for all that He suffered for us.” - Pope Francis at Santa Marta explains why good things can happen to bad people | ROME REPORTS TV News Agency.


According to Catholicism, why did Jesus not name the rich man in the story of Lazarus and the rich man?

There is no reason in particular, according to the Church, why Our Lord did not name the rich man in the parable about the rich man and Lazarus.

Or is there?

It is interesting to note that neither Jesus nor any of the popes (as the Vicars of Christ) have ever named someone as being in hell. They have not even pronounced on the question as to the demise of the Apostle Judas Iscariot Was and we all know the grave words that Jesus spoke about him shortly before the Passion: "Better for this man that he had never been born" (Mark 14:21).

Michelangelo (1475-1564) in his Last Judgment placed the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Baigio da Cesene (1463-1544) in hell. When he complained about his image being in hell, it is widely believed that Pope Paul III (1534-1549) responded: "That his jurisdiction did not extend to hell and the portrait would remain" as it is!

The Church in the Middle Age, at least in some countries, did give a name to the rich man of this very parable. According to legend and/or tradition his name was Dives. For the Church in some regions in the Middle Ages, this is an actual event because the poor man in the story is named: Lazarus.

As a literal historical event

Some Christians view the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, not as a parable, but as an actual event which was related by Jesus to his followers. This was generally the view of the medieval Church.

Supporters of this view point to a key detail in the story: the use of a personal name (Lazarus) not found in any other parable. By contrast, in all of the other parables Jesus refers to a central character by a description, such as "a certain man", "a sower", and so forth. - Rich man and Lazarus (Wikipedia)

This is the only parable that gives a proper name to someone, it is simply that a story told by Jesus to express certain truths. The other parables do not name any participants by name, including the parables of the Ten Virgins, Prodigal Son, and Good Samaritan. It is also the only parable with someone in hell. Possibly these two elements may hold the secret to the question. , according to Catholic tradition.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .