The parable I'm referring to is 'The Rich Man and Lazarus':

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.

20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores

21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,

28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19–31 (NIV)

It seems, unless I'm mistaken, that in every other parable that Jesus taught the characters or actors were always just a generic description of the person (the widow, the land owner, the manager, the rich man, etc...) In this parable, however, Jesus does actually refer to the beggar as Lazarus. Is there any significance behind this?

  • 2
    I've always thought that is was interesting that in this parable, the rich man begs that Lazarus be sent from the dead in order to convince others, when the Gospel of John tells of a man named Lazarus being raised from the dead and "continu[ing] to bear witness" (John 12:17)
    – Steven
    Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 21:53
  • This and other related questions about Lazarus has made me wonder about how common the name Lazarus was during that time. Maybe I should post it as a question itself. Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 22:00

3 Answers 3


I think it is significant that the rich man knows and uses Lazarus's name for the same reason that it's significant that he knows Moses name. It clearly shows that he knew who the man was and had been aware in life of his condition and done nothing about it -- in the same way he did not heed the teachings of Moses and the prophets.

Leon Morris also suggests in his commentary on Luke that the name Lazarus (i.e Eleazar) may be significant because it means God has helped, thus adding more weight to the part of story where the poor man received no comfort from men in life.

In contrast is the poor man, called Lazarus (i.e. Eleazar; the name means 'God has helped' and may be significant; certainly man did not help this unfortunate). He is the only character given a name in Jesus' parables. -- Leon Morris; Pg. 276, V. 3, Tyndale NT Commentaries


Additional information.

There is the possibility that this was a cultural "stock" parable that Jesus used for his own purposes. Think along the lines of Hansel and Gretel or something along those lines. As such, this common lore would be used by teachers to develop a lesson that suited the particular teaching situation.

Sources: Interpreting the Parables (Craig L. Blomberg) p. 86

An Afro-Sociological Application of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) in Black Theology: An International Journal, Vol 4, No 1 (2006) by Olubiyi Adeniyi Adewale


It is unclear whether this story is parable or not. The fact that Lazarus is named causes some to suggest this isn't a parable at all, but rather an actual account.

The fact that this text follows the Parable of the Dishonest Manager leads some to believe that it is in fact a parable, but that analysis is by no means universal.

  • What is a parable and what is the alternative? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 17:40

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