471 Parallels

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This page forms part of the resources for 471 Rich Man and Lazarus in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

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Rabbinic parallels

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament, 312ff] notes that there are many parallels in world literature to this tale that contrasts the fates of a rich man and a poor person in the next life. He cites two Jewish parallels as of special interest:

Two godly men lived in Ashkelon. They ate together, drank together, and studied the Law together. One of them died and kindness was not shown to him [i.e., nobody attended his funeral]. The son of Ma'yan, a tax collector, died and the whole city stopped work to show him kindness. The [surviving] pious man began to complain; he said, "Alas that no [evil] comes upon the haters of Israel [i.e., the wicked in Israel]." In a dream he saw a vision, and one said to him, "Do not despise the children of your Lord. The one had committed one sin and departed this life in it, and the other had performed one good deed and departed in it. What sin had the one committed? Far be it that he had ever committed a sin. But once he put on the tephilim for the head before the tephilim for the hand. And what good deed had the other performed? Far be it that he had ever done a deed. But once he had arranged a meal for the bouleutai [municipal councillors] of the city and they did not come. And he said, "Let the poor eat that it not be wasted." Others say, He once went through the market-place, and he dropped a loaf, and a poor man picked it up, and he said nothing so as not to make him blush or shame. After some days the pious man saw in a dream his companion walking in the Garden under trees and by wells of water; and he saw the tax-collector, and his tongue sought to drink at the brink of a river; he tried to reach the water but he could not. [TJ Sanh. 6.9,23c]
Consider two wicked men who associated with one another in this world. One of them repented of his evil deeds before his death, while the other did not, with the result that the formers stands in the company of the righteous,while his fellow stands in the company of the wicked. And beholding him he says, "Woe is me ... is there then favor shown here? We both of us committed robberies, we both of us committed murders together, yet he stands in the company of the righteous and I in the company of the wicked!" And they reply to him and say, "You fool! You were despicable after your death and lay for three days, and did not they drag you to your grave with ropes? ... And your associate understood and repented of his evil ways, and you, you also had the opportunity of repenting and you did not take it." He thereupon says to them, "Permit me to go and repent!" And they answer him and say, "You fool! Do you know that this world is the Sabbath, and the world whence you have come is like the eve of the Sabbath? If a man does not prepare his meal on the eve of the Sabbath, what shall he eat on the Sabbath?" [TJ Hag. 2.2, 77d]

Muslim sources

Tarif Khalidi [The Muslim Jesus] provides the following traditions relevant to this cluster.

[125] They asked Jesus, "Show us an act by which we may enter paradise." Jesus said, "Do not speak at all." They said, "We cannot do this." Jesus replied, "Then speak only good." [late Ninth Century CE]
[144] In the time of Jesus, there was a man nick¬named Mal'un (Damned) because of his avarice. One day a man who was going on a military campaign came to him and said, Mal'un, if you give me some weapons to help me wage war, you will be saved from hell-fire." But Mal'un shunned him and gave him nothing. As the man turned away, Mal'un regretted his decision and called him back to give him his sword. When the man returned home he was met by Jesus, accompanied by a devout man who had worshiped God for seventy years. "Where did you get this sword from?" Jesus asked. The man replied, Mal'un gave it to me," and Jesus was pleased with his charity. The next time Jesus and the devout man passed by, Mal'un, who was sitting at his door step, said to himself, "I will go and look upon Jesus' face and the face of the devout man." When he did so, the devout man said, "I will flee from this Mal'un before he burns me with his fire."

Then God inspired Jesus to say, "Tell this sinful servant of mine, 'I have forgiven you because of your charity with the sword and your love for Jesus, and tell the devout man that you will be his companion in heaven." The devout man replied, "As God is my witness! I do not want heaven with him and I do not want a companion like him." God Almighty inspired Jesus to reply, "You are not content with my decree and you have denigrated my servant. Thus, I will see you damned in hell. I have exchanged your places, and have given your station in heaven to my servant and his station in hell to you." [Tenth Century CE]