Wednesday, October 8, 2008

LAZARUS AS A BIBLICAL AND NON-BIBLICAL MOTIF: Thesis, Intro And Background---Biblical Matters

Thesis Statement: Lazarus is viewed as a symbolic figure in the context of the bible and in non-biblical sources.

Lazarus is an interesting figure of the bible in the fact that the narrative about him suggests that he serves two different main purposes. These two main purposes are: Lazarus being a witness for Christ and Lazarus being a symbolic figure that represents aspects of God’s mission to humankind through the life and death of Jesus. These purposes are major factors of the reason in which John included the Lazarus narrative in his Gospel. Lazarus is also viewed as a symbol outside of the biblical context of the narrative about him as well. Lazarus appears as a metaphor for many different themes within literary sources. He also is utilized in art in more indirect and subtle ways. The symbol of Lazarus creeps up into music as well---mainly the lyrics of songs and not so much straightforward instrumental songs.
Some background on the Lazarus figure can be found not just in John, but in the synoptic Gospels as well. Arthur C. Headlam, in his book on the miracles of the New Testament, portrays the synoptic Gospels as watering down the Lazarus narrative. He states that the differences between the synoptic accounts of the Lazarus narrative from the Johannine account makes the synoptic accounts seem rather unbelievable.# The most reliable source for a background on the Lazarus narrative if this is the case then is the Gospel of John. The text itself is the main way to gain an accurate background on the Lazarus story.
The placement of the Lazarus narrative in the Gospel of John is in the eleventh chapter of John in most bibles (pretty much all of them). The Lazarus narrative seems to be the last of the major miracles of Jesus before the Passion takes place. According to Maclaren, “the series of Our Lord’s miracles before the Passion, as recorded in this Gospel, is fitly closed with the raising of Lazarus.”# Another important
# - Headlam, 226. (Loosely Paraphrased)

# - Maclaren, 98.

facet of the Lazarus story goes hand and hand with the placement of the Lazarus narrative in John’s Gospel. This is the number of times Lazarus is mentioned in the bible and the importance that that has on one’s reading of the Lazarus narrative.
The number of times Lazarus is mentioned in the bible conveys the message that their are two different Lazarus figures in the bible. Lazarus is mentioned in all four Gospels, but functions in different ways each time he is mentioned. Lazarus is found in a parable of Jesus as well as the narrative about the raising of Lazarus. These two figures could possibly be the same person, but most scholars believe that they are two different figures. The figure of Lazarus mentioned in the parable could possibly be a fictional character. The only mention of Lazarus in New Nave’s Topical Bible is in connection with sickness and death with a resurrection. He is, also, mentioned as being Mary and Martha’s brother. Who knows whether or not these two different Lazarus figures are the same or not? This is a question that can only be answered by Jesus Himself.
Lazarus is considered as a possibility for being the ‘Beloved Disciple.’ Some biblical scholars have set up several arguments to point towards this question. It is unclear, however, whether or not a valid case can be used to find the truth of this matter. This is another one of those questions which only Jesus Himself can answer. There are several factors which lead to Lazarus being considered as a possible candidate for the title of ‘Beloved Disciple’ though. Some of which are pointed out below.
Several factors pointing to Lazarus as ‘Beloved Disciple’ are: Lazarus being a witness to Jesus’ power and the fact that Jesus says that He loved Lazarus. These two examples seem to point to Lazarus as being a possible choice for the ‘Beloved Disciple’ which John mentions in His Gospel. This could come into one of the reasons that Lazarus was so important to John’s Gospel or it could also suggest a possible reason why Lazarus for the synoptic Gospels is seen as the cause for the plans to put Jesus to death. Headlam says that Lazarus is sometimes misrepresented as a premature burial, which may help clear up a reason why Lazarus wasn’t a part of the cause of Jesus’ death nor was the ‘Beloved Disciple.’#
# - Headlam, 334. (Loosely Paraphrased)

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